Now that 2014 is done and dusted, it's time to look ahead and start thinking about what this year has in store.
We recently had the chance to hear from Getronics CIO Tim Patrick-Smith, who shared his thoughts on what will be some of the key IT trends in 2015.
Work life balance could prove a problem for IT
Despite the sustained demand for BYOD and flexible working, challenges associated with work-life balance threaten to take IT departments by surprise.
In the UK workers are increasingly ‘always-on’ and 2015 will continue to see the barriers between online and offline continue to break down.
However, in France and Germany there have been initiatives introduced that impose restrictions on out-of-hours working and we may start to see similar moves here too. For example, recent legislation could see overtime result in additional holiday pay, a development that would see employers reconsider the value of staff working outside traditional office hours.
IT and HR departments will need to start considering how these developments will impact their wider business. While there will still be a need for technologies that facilitate flexible working, businesses may also start to see a need for mechanisms to better manage the extent to which work impinges on the personal lives of employees.
Expect to see an increase in demand for control services that support this, such as workspace solutions that restrict access to certain applications depending on time, day or device used, as well as a rise in consultancy to guide the process of purchase and implementation.
Data, automation, and the rise of AI
Trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) are set to exponentially increase the volume of data that businesses have to manage.
Those organisations that find effective strategies to analyse and extract value from this data will be in the best position to both compete and succeed. The large volumes involved mean the integration of automated processes will be necessary to do so cost-effectively.
Fortunately, the IoT itself provides the feedback loops required for this automation to work. One example is the IT service desk, where Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications can proactively monitor systems and devices, providing intelligent updates before users themselves notice or report a problem.
The result is a more efficient and pre-emptive service desk, cutting the time and cost of investigating user-reported errors. If 2014 was the year when the IoT entered the wider public consciousness, in 2015 we will see many organisations begin to deliver real insights and ROI from the technology.
Next generation projects will integrate the power of cognitive computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop systems that learn incrementally and increase efficiencies across the entire IT estate.
Data is changing the role of the CIO
Throughout 2014 there has been a continued shift in the responsibilities of the CIO, evolving from a role focused on the provision and maintenance of physical infrastructure and devices, to one that is primarily concerned with the management of data.
This development has been fuelled by trends such as the ongoing maturation of cloud services and the growing popularity of BYOD policies.
2015 will see a continuation of this evolution - cloud will continue to minimise the need for day-to-day management of complex internal IT systems, while increased use of the IoT is set to reduce staffing requirements and increase automation.
While this sounds like it will make the IT professional’s job easier, there are a wide range of new challenges which will need to be addressed if user experience is to be maintained. IT needs to start thinking now about how automation and artificial intelligence will plug into existing systems.
In addition, it will need to accommodate a growing number of user devices, manage issues like cloud sprawl, devise strategies to manage end-to-end data analytics and outline best practices to ensure the insight provided delivers value to the wider business.
Mid-market the proving ground for disruptive IT
While larger businesses have pioneered the development of Internet of Things (IoT), it will be mid-market firms that discover the most exciting IoT innovations in 2015.
Large enterprises, likely constrained by the complexity and cost of reforming longstanding IT infrastructures, will be hesitant to invest at this stage.
Similarly, data privacy issues will also discourage large-scale IoT and Data Analytics implementations that are likely to present complex legal, compliance and moral issues. Mid-market firms, on the other hand, operate on a smaller scale and are less encumbered by legacy technology.
These issues position the mid-market as the perfect proving ground for IoT and other disruptive technologies. Experimentation makes a lot of sense for firms in this space, as the ubiquity of cloud services means initial investment is minimised and any success they experience helps them to hold their own against larger competitors.
In the case of IoT, we will see well-executed implementations help to automate a range of processes, freeing up the time of employees across the business to focus their attention on other areas that more directly impact the bottom line.
Businesses keen to integrate disruptive technologies should look to mid-market firms for examples of best practice implementation strategies.