Why Technology is Forcing Business Infrastructures to Adapt

Simple fact of evolution: when change occurs, you either adapt to it and survive, or don't - and perish. In business, change is ongoing, and an organisation frequently relies on IT’s ability to develop and adapt technology to support new and improved processes.

Game-changers

In their 2013 report, "The Search for Creative Destruction," analysts at Goldman Sachs identified 8 products or processes set to impact the business arena, with evolutionary consequences.

1. E-Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes (a.k.a e-cigarettes or e-cigs) could grab 10% of the global tobacco market ($10bn), over the next several years. Offering the "good" aspects of smoking, with "none" of the bad (also, not subject to excise taxes or settlement payments), the technology will offer high margins for manufacturers and retailers.

2. Cancer Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy trains the immune system to attack cancer cells, unlike chemotherapy (which can kill healthy cells) and "targeted" therapy (which cancers often develop resistance to). Combination therapies may earn $10-15 billion by 2025, with lung cancer as the primary sector.

3. Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

With energy savings of up to 85%, longer life-spans, and programmable capabilities, LED lighting could dominate the commercial sector by 2020.

4. The Reinsurance Market

With rapidly ageing populations, pension funds could grow, up to a third of the market. Third-party investors will be prepared to accept lower returns than traditional reinsurers.

5. Natural Gas Engines

Compressed and liquefied natural gas engines will make up 10-15% of heavy goods vehicle sales, by 2020.

6. Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

A smarter way for electronic components to send and receive data, with more of the intelligence at the software layer. SDN is expected to keep pace with advances that have been made in cloud computing.

7. 3D Printing

Products are formed layer-by-layer (cheaper than many regular manufacturing methods), with scope for more complex designs. Currently a $2.2bn market, revenues are expected to reach $10.8 billion by 2021.

8. Big Data

The overall market stands at $11 billion, and is expected to grow at 32% over the next five years.

Meaningful use of Big Data requires tapping into silos, warehouses, and external systems, with new techniques. Plus a lot of co-operation across a business, and with external vendors. Infrastructure, operations, and development must be part of the same team - and get used to working together.

With advances anticipated in mobile, social, consumerisation, and cloud, IT departments will need to adapt, as these changes make their way into the front lines of service delivery. 

Staying Mobile

With tablet sales gaining ground over PCs, enterprises must start treating them as equal citizens in their IT strategies. But mention "app stores" to a structured IT division, and you'll trigger a security lockdown.

A likely path is to provide a framework for users to bring their own mobile devices to work (BYOD), including use of apps with business data under certain prescribed (safe) conditions.

Being Social

Organisations will need to become social enterprises, using networks and other social media-based services to communicate, and collaborate. But maintaining a Facebook page and Twitter account aren't enough to generate significant growth, revenue, or profits.

Higher order aspects like peer production, product development, customer care, and marketing will require a rethink of business processes. Company managers and their top representatives must take the lead, engaging in social channels to demonstrate how they'd like those changes to occur.

The Consumerisation of IT

The consumer world is now a source of innovation for technology; demand is driving development.

Complexity is out. Ease of use and access, with radically low barriers to participation, are key.

As with mobile, workers will need to be given access to third party apps that are deemed safe and secure. Vendors will have to overhaul their apps (which are often on lengthy upgrade intervals), to help make this happen.

IT departments may be called upon to start programs in partnership with other large companies (distributors), to certify Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud, and mobile apps - and to train workers on data safety, backup, and integrity. In turn, the consumer world may inject fresh ideas and design approaches, gleaned from user experience.

Clouding the Issue

Consumerisation of IT and movement of data in the cloud go hand-in-hand. Cloud technology can transform old phone systems, data storage repositories, analytics and countless other projects, simultaneously.

The flexibility of a hosted environment offers organisations new opportunities to exploit innovative collaboration tools, without worrying about performance obstacles. Enterprises will also be implementing cloud services to support their mobile endeavours. But companies have varying demands, so there's no "one-size-fits-all" strategy.

Decision-makers are having to develop new approaches in order to adapt. And IT departments are having to rethink how they use technology to complete mission-critical tasks. Investments are being made to adapt internal infrastructure, and in adopting public infrastructure to respond on demand - while managing compliance issues and regulation through hybrid set-ups.

Managing Change

Organisations will need to be staffed by good communicators who have the skills to negotiate a path between the unstoppable force of change and the immovable object of IT operations. Support from management will be critical in giving these people the authority to enforce these processes.