Technology is like a black hole. Not in the terrifying fictional sense of the black hole where a semi-sentient destructive force moves through space, sucking up everything in its path, but rather in that technology exists, and by coming close to it, those around technology get caught in its gravity and pulled toward reliance upon it. Technology has its own gravity. The more technology grows, the more companies and individuals rely on it to power daily tasks, and the bigger it grows.
Business has passed technology’s event horizon: the gravitational pull of technology has grown so great that business cannot move in any other direction but toward and with technologies. This is especially true for enterprise business. Understanding, using, and innovating on current technology drives enterprise companies and keeps them competitive in this rapidly changing world.
All companies like to think that they’re at the forefront of technology adoption, but enterprise corporations live in an interesting zone between caution and innovation. They have to move quickly to avoid destruction, and they often have the available capital to take big risks on new technology. But due to their size (and the resulting gravitational forces that rule companies of this size), enterprise companies often find fully adopting new tools and processes difficult. Without careful balancing, the opposing outside and internal forces of technology, innovation, stability, and familiarity could tear a company apart.
And yet, it’s no longer financially sound to wait until a technology is proven before jumping on board. By the time many companies can get up and running with a technology, it’s outmoded, so it’s important to keep an eye on what might be the next big thing.
These 5 trends have passed the event horizon for enterprise software. There’s no escaping them, so it’s time to figure out how to integrate them into business.
Cybersecurity has been all over the news, from giant data breaches at multinationals and widespread Ransomware attacks to how to keep your credit card safe when shopping online. With big data comes big responsibility, and Big Data is growing fast across enterprise companies. How do these companies ensure that they’re ready to handle it?
Thankfully, the growing DevOps movement has helped many companies begin to think about security strategy as part of the fabric of technology, rather than dealing with patching up security holes after the fact. In addition, IT security professionals have become indispensable to the entire development process. Enterprise corporations will consider security to be part of the infrastructure, as elemental to success as payroll or supply chain management tools.
The next several years will see continued interest in encryption strategies, adopting blockchain technology for data security, and using new security software for structurally sound IT all across the enterprise.
Because of the abundance of resources and need to stay far ahead of the competition inherent in enterprise business, enterprise companies have been some of the first to adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools into daily work. Large tech companies with resources to invest in AI generally do so by acquiring AI firms in their entirety to integrate into the existing company technology. A whopping 37 AI companies were acquired in Q1 of 2017 alone.
But those big hitters don’t take into account the rest of the enterprise market, where cultural concerns make adoption slower. More than just a deep-seated fear of the Singularity, many companies wonder how AI will change human-held jobs and the company’s focus as a whole. A 2017 survey by SAS found that only 12 percent of European companies felt their teams were ready to implement AI, and a full 45 percent of respondents felt that cultural challenges within their companies would cause adoption to stall out.
So why is AI included on this list? As with anything, those big tech companies like Google, Baidu, Uber, and Salesforce lead the charge because they have the resources, but by doing so they also drive competition and interest, both of which make AI better, faster, cheaper, and more accessible for all the other companies who sign on in the coming years.
While we might not have androids taking our lunch order any time soon, automation has far surpassed AI in adoption rates. Think of all the things in modern life that depend on a trigger/action system, and there’s probably some way out there to automate it. If a company doesn’t automate data uploads or sales and marketing response emails, they’re losing valuable productive hours and putting their bottom lines at risk.
Companies looking to automate should start small. Try out basic autoresponders for password reset emails or newsletter sign-ups. Set Slackbot or Apple reminders to pick up the dry cleaning Wednesday at 5:30pm. The more tasks delegated to automation, the more natural they’ll become. Soon enough implementing IFTTT or Zapier automations in the office will come as second nature, and purchasing a marketing automation platform won’t seem so scary.
Again, we have the DevOps movement to thank for a lot of enterprise adoption of automation. As developers have more say in the ways that businesses run, they’ll continue to ask, “Why isn’t that automated?” Business has grown to the point where if professionals in all industries don’t have a basic understanding of how technology can make business run faster with fewer manual tasks and more automation, they’re not even in the race anymore.
With more and more work done within software and online rather than on the phone or on paper, enterprise companies accrue millions of data points every day. Movement to cloud software, marketing and sales automation, internet and device security, and the Internet of Things (IoT) make up a vast chunk of our collected data. In 2016, Northeastern University estimated that we create 2.5 exabytes of data a day, equal to 250 Libraries of Congress or 2.5 billion gigabytes. Remember when documents were saved on a 1.44MB floppy disk?
Full industries were spawned to develop ways to harness, store, track, and use all of that data. One of the most common ways that we use data is within data visualization and analysis tools. Humans don’t process thousand-line spreadsheets very well, but they can understand trends when software depicts data in a chart.
Because of how helpful they are, visualization tools, reporting, and analytics have all become standard fare in the technology we use every day. Even more important in the future will be taking data points from lots of different systems and connecting them together to analyze side by side in Business Intelligence (BI) software.
BI tools will become mandatory for forward-thinking companies who want to compete, as they help identify inefficiencies, new markets, or opportunities for growth. Expect visualization to take new forms, too. While we probably won’t be moving data around Minority Report-style anytime soon, virtual and augmented reality software (VR and AR, respectively) hold promise for new ways to analyze, visualize, and explore in data.
Enterprise-level communication means both transparency of goals and projects across the company and interconnectedness between and amongst teams. Departments are more connected than ever and the architecture of teams is evolving to include multiple specialties and even industry focuses on the same teams as structures move out of the silos and into the organizational pod.
Transparency means more than just presenting quarterly reports to our stakeholders. Enterprise companies of the future build upon the idea that the knowledge of the group drives innovation and hoarding information leads to stagnation. More teams have become multi-disciplinary just to survive.
Teams include marketers, sales reps, customer success agents, developers, and designers all working together to produce outcomes on shared revenue goals. These teams rely on technology to bring projects, goals, communication, and results together in a single interface that everyone can understand.
Currently filling this technology gap are messaging and project management tools or technology collages of several pieces of software cobbled together that don’t quite do all the things we need them to do. In the next several years, enterprise software that truly provides transparency into the workings of separate parts of the company will become critical.
Separately but equally important are the ways we connect as teams and individuals. While enterprise has long been business code for global or multinational, time zones, languages, and oceans still stand in the way of truly collaborative companies. Communication tools like GoToMeeting, VoIP, and Slack all provide real-time and asynchronous communication opportunities, but even the most sophisticated companies struggle with communication. These tools will continue to evolve and shape the ways we talk to one another.
Prediction pieces are always so bright-shiny hopeful, but even as quickly as technology progresses, it still takes time. This time next year it’s unlikely that many of us will be taking a self-driving car to work, but more companies will communicate better and automate more of their tasks than today. And as these software trends make home lives easier with smart speakers who run on AI and collect exabytes of data points every day, the gravity of technology in general and business technology in particular will continue to grow.
So, continue to watch what comes next, and keep trying new things. Software and enterprise technology has passed the event horizon where businesses might have escaped its pull. The only thing left to do is continue to look toward the future and try to keep up.