10 strategic technologies your company needs to seriously consider investing in

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Battle strategy

Business is war. And as is this case with most wars, there are arms races: in strategy, advertising and perhaps most importantly, technology.

The technologies that can make a big impact on business tend to bring with them a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

Those qualities can come from an existing technology reaching maturity, an emerging technology that could give early adopters a distinct advantage, or one that has potential for significant market disruption in the next five years.

Tech research company Gartner reckons it has come up with an accurate shortlist of 10 technologies that will completely change the way we do business in the next few years. All of the technologies come from its Nexus of converging forces — social, mobile, cloud and information.

“We have identified the top 10 technologies that will be strategic for most organisations, and that IT leaders should factor into their strategic planning processes over the next two years,” says David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “This does not necessarily mean organisations should adopt and invest in all of the listed technologies; however companies need to be making deliberate decisions about how they fit with their expected needs in the near future.”

1. Mobile device battles
Gartner predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide and that by 2015 over 80% of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones. Around 20% of those handsets, it says, are likely to be Windows phones.

By 2015, says Gartner, tablet shipments will reach around 50% of laptop shipments. In the tablet space, Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Google’s Android and Apple iOS operating systems. “Windows 8 is Microsoft’s big bet and Windows 8 platform styles should be evaluated to get a better idea of how they might perform in real-world environments as well as how users will respond,” Gartner says.

Consumerisation will also mean companies won’t be able to force their employees to give using devices. Businesses will need to support a greater variety of form factors, reducing the ability to standardise PC and tablet hardware.

According to Gartner, this signals the end of Windows PC dominance in the workplace. Instead, it will become just one environment that the company’s IT department will need to be able to support.

2. Mobile Apps and HTML5
The market for tools to create consumer and enterprise facing apps is complex. For the next few years, there won’t be single best-fit when it comes to developing apps, so expect to use several.

Six mobile architectures — native, special, hybrid, HTML 5, Message and No Client will remain popular. However, it’s likely that we’ll eventually shift away from native apps to web apps as HTML5 becomes more capable. That does not however mean that native apps will disappear. They will after all always offer the best user experiences and most sophisticated features. Developers will also need to develop new design skills to deliver touch-optimised apps that operate across a range of devices in a coordinated fashion.

3. Personal cloud
The personal cloud will gradually replace the PC as the location where people keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and centre their digital lives. It will be the glue that connects the web of devices they choose to use during different aspects of their daily lives.

The personal cloud will entail the unique collection of services, web destinations and connectivity that will become the home of their computing and communication activities. Users will see it as a portable, always-available place where they go for all their digital needs.

In this world, no one platform, form factor, technology or vendor will dominate and managed diversity and mobile device management will be an imperative. The personal cloud shifts the focus from the client device to cloud-based services delivered across devices.

4. Enterprise app stores
Organisations face a complex app store future as some will limit themselves to specific devices and types of apps forcing the business to deal with multiple stores, multiple payment processes and multiple sets of licensing terms.

By 2014, Gartner reckons that many organisations will deliver mobile apps to workers through private application stores. With enterprise app stores the role of IT shifts from that of a centralised planner to a market manager providing governance and brokerage services to users and potentially an ecosystem to support apptrepreneurs.

5. The Internet of Things
The term Internet of Things essentially refers to uniquely identifiable objects (things) and their virtual representations in an internet-like structure. Key elements of the IoT which are being embedded in a variety of mobile devices include embedded sensors, image recognition technologies and NFC payment. As a result, mobile no longer refers only to use of cellular handsets or tablets.

Cellular technology is being embedded in many new types of devices including pharmaceutical containers and cars. Smartphones and other intelligent devices don’t just use the cellular network, they communicate via NFC, Bluetooth, LE and Wi-Fi to a wide range of devices and peripherals, such as wristwatch displays, healthcare sensors, smart posters, and home entertainment systems. The IoT will enable a wide range of new applications and services while raising many new challenges.

6. Hybrid IT and cloud computing
As companies ask their employees to do more with less, IT departments must play multiple roles in coordinating IT-related activities, and cloud computing is now pushing that change to another level.

A recently conducted Gartner IT services survey revealed that the internal cloud services brokerage (CSB) role is emerging as IT organisations realise that they have a responsibility to help improve the way complex cloud services are presented to their internal users and external business partners.

The internal CSB role represents a means for the IT department to retain and build influence inside an organisation and to become a value centre in the face of challenging new requirements relating to increasing adoption of cloud as an approach to IT consumption.

7. Strategic Big Data
Big Data isn’t just something that can be addressed with individual projects any more. In the next few years it will actually inform the way big companies do business.

Dealing with data volume, variety, velocity and complexity is forcing changes to many traditional approaches. Companies are progressively realising that it’s impossible to store all the data they need to make decisions in a single place.

Instead they are moving towards multiple systems, including content management, data warehouses, data marts and specialised file systems tied together with data services and metadata, which will become the “logical” enterprise data warehouse.

8. Actionable analytics
If you’re still getting your analytics in raw numbers and waiting for reports, you’re doing it wrong. You should be able to learn what you need to know immediately and with context. With the improvement of performance and costs, IT leaders can afford to perform analytics and simulation for every action taken in the business.

The mobile client linked to cloud-based analytic engines and big data repositories potentially enables use of optimisation and simulation everywhere and every time, enabling even more flexibility in decision-making.

9. In memory computing
In memory computing (IMC) is essentially the storage of information in the main random access memory (RAM) of dedicated servers rather than databases operating on slower hard drives.

The execution of certain-types of hours-long processes can be squeezed into minutes or even seconds allowing them to be provided in the form of real-time or near real-time services that can be delivered to internal or external users in the form of cloud services.

Millions of events can be scanned in a matter of a few tens of millisecond to detect correlations and patterns pointing at emerging opportunities and threats “as things happen.”

10. Integrated ecosystems
The market is undergoing a shift to more integrated systems and ecosystems and away from loosely coupled heterogeneous approaches. Driving this trend is the user desire for lower cost, simplicity, and more assured security.

The trend is manifested in three levels. Appliances combine hardware and software and software and services are packaged to address infrastructure or application workload. Cloud-based marketplaces facilitate purchase, consumption and/or use of products from multiple companies. In the mobile world, the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft drive varying degrees of control across and end-to-end ecosystem extending the client through the apps.

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