We were all happy to see the Times Square ball drop to close out 2009. It was a tough year for everyone, especially businesses in the construction and real estate industries. Budgets were static or contracting, new project starts were down, and technology spending was focused primarily on maintenance rather than strategic growth. Many businesses took a “wait-and-see” approach to technology plans and investments.
With the dawn of a new decade, 2010 is poised to be a year of recovery. Businesses that make wise decisions and align IT investments to business strategy will be positioned to prosper in times of economic recovery. Those that don’t plan and prepare may find themselves in a reactionary downward spiral. As businesses are planning for 2010, it is important to understand the top trends and products that will impact future investments.
- Mobility will be leveraged for business. According to Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, by the end of 2010, 1.2 billion people will be carrying mobile devices with web access. Opportunities abound for smart businesses that can take advantage of the convergence of mobility and the Internet. As mobile carriers such as Verizon and AT&T deploy 4G coverage throughout 2010, mobile users will benefit from increased performance and greater coverage areas. Whether for immediate access to email or to use applications from a jobsite, mobility will play a role in most businesses.
- Security will evolve into a continual process. Rather than putting up a firewall at the edge of their network, businesses will monitor data and security constantly. As more businesses opt for laptop computers and other mobile devices, new security threats must be identified and addressed. What is the data on a laptop worth—especially if it falls into the hands of a competitor or a customer? Data encryption tools and remote management products should be planned with all new “mobile product” purchases. Replacing the old, static firewall with a unified threat management device that secures internet content, web applications and malicious code should also be considered.
- Windows 7 will be adopted and appreciated as the prevalent operating system. As companies replace desktop and laptop computers, Windows 7 will be an attractive replacement for Windows XP. While few businesses will upgrade existing computers from Windows XP, Windows 7 will be the product of choice for new systems. Microsoft also plans to debut Office 2010, Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint 2010.
- Desktop virtualization will go mainstream. 2009 saw a significant increase in the processing power of servers and an explosion in the use of server virtualization. In 2010, businesses will harness this power and begin “virtualizing” desktops. By “virtualizing” a desktop and running it on a central server, it’s possible to make the end-user experience easier and more uniform, enhance security over applications and data, minimize network support requirements, and survive disruptions with minimal downtime.
- Cloud computing became a buzzword in 2009, and in 2010, businesses will start to see its value. Cloud computing allows businesses to use specific resources (applications, networks, storage) and collaborate on demand. As employees are working everywhere (at the office, at home, on the jobsite), they need to securely access up-to-date resources. Throughout 2010, expect to see significant consolidation in cloud computing as the more dominant providers acquire smaller players that possess technical advantages. IDC, a leading research firm, expects cloud computing services to grow threefold, reaching $42 billion by 2010.
- Social networking isn’t going away and everyone will be online. Businesses need a strategy to deal with social media. If you wait until 2011, it’s too late. Businesses that strategically use the Internet to market themselves will find more prospects and keep more loyal customers. Most importantly, businesses need to update their business policies to address the use of products like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and instant messaging products. Additionally, security tools need to be in place as hackers figure out how to invade social networks (see No. 2 above).
- Unified communications tools will be leveraged for efficiency. Companies everywhere are investing in telephony solutions from Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya. Businesses will utilize these integrated communications tools to save money and for competitive advantage. Many companies slashed their travel budgets in 2009 and were surprised by just how much business they could get done over the phone and on the Web. With the increases in bandwidth and the need for cost-effective collaboration, there will be a rise in video conferencing technology in 2010.
- Business analytics tools will be leveraged like never before. Through SQL reporting tools and business analytics packages, raw data can be turned into information. Construction companies have implemented business software systems over the past few years that use open databases and are seeking to get more information from their data. In addition, businesses have fewer human resources to perform these tasks. Business intelligence and reporting tools that integrate data from accounting systems, estimating, time entry systems and CRM products will be implemented.
- Managed services will become the standard for technology support. With new developments in monitoring and remote support tools, companies will find that these proactive IT services offer a reduction in support expenses, while providing more timely support. Managed service agreements allow businesses to outsource the day-to-day technology support tasks and focus their resources on strategic projects. With managed services, businesses get a wide level of expertise at their fingertips without expanding their staff.
- Off-site data backup will finally eliminate tape drives and other methods of backup. With technological advancements in “data de-duplication” (compression method where redundant data is eliminated) and improvements of the “cloud,” businesses can cost-effectively and securely backup their information online. In addition to having off-site backup capabilities, some solutions also address disaster preparedness by providing the ability to immediately virtualize a failed server. Businesses should consider the new off-site backup options before investing in traditional backup methods.
Rather than concentrate on the 10 latest trends or hottest gadgets, this list represents real and affordable technologies that should be considered, just as the competition is already doing. Technology means nothing if it doesn’t help a business owner make money, save money or sleep better at night! iBi
Scott is a partner with Clifton Gunderson’s technology solutions team and has more than 20 years of business and information technology experience.