Over 2013, and indeed even in 2012, vendors and analysts have been highlighting the same few trends that will impact all businesses: the rising use of mobile devices, increasingly popular cloud services, social technologies that have become more and more common, and 'big data', or rather the potentially valuable business insights that can be afforded by the large volumes of data that are collected about customers by businesses today.
And the owner of a smaller business might snort and think, "Yet another forecast for large firms. What does this have to do with me?" As usual, the real-life answer is: "it depends". They might not generate enough data to call it 'big data', but small companies are very often already making use of cloud services, mobile devices and social technologies.
Today, every employee has a mobile phone, maybe two (or more). They probably store documents in the cloud. They can check email from their devices. And at the very least, they are chatting about work, company policies and the boss somehow: through those phones, or on the computer through an online chatting method, so that nobody hears any of the chatter (especially the uncomplimentary bits).
The scale and scope of how the technology is used might be different, but any business with three or more staff does need to think about how staff make use of personal mobile devices in order to get work done, and what policies it should put in place for such practices.
Such businesses need to consider if they should invest in an enterprise version of a technology. A cloud storage system for anyone is not as secure as an enterprise version of cloud storage for example.
But most important of all, they should make it easy to get work done to ensure that customers are served as quickly as possible. If mobile devices are not supported in the basic business infrastructure, for example, perhaps they should be.
Research firm IDC refers to the combination of mobility, cloud, social networks and big data as the 3rd Platform. Some aspects of this platform may look less relevant for small businesses, but others are already relevant today. The start of a year is a good time to think about #4 and #10 below for example, to prepare any business for the future.
IDC's top 10 predictions for 2014 are:
#1: In two years, over 70% of CIOs will change their primary role from directly managing IT to become an innovation partner
#2: Before 2017, only 40% of CIOs will rise to produce business enhancing insights from big data and analytics
#3: 70% of CIOs will increase enterprise exposure to risk to accelerate business agility through increased cloud adoption
#4: Enterprise business mobility will require 60% of CIOs by 2017 to support an agile architecture with next-generation mobile applications
#5: The demographic shift to young and mobile customers will require 80% of CIOs in consumer-facing businesses to integrate IT with public social networks by 2015
#6: By 2015, 3rd Platform requirements will drive 60% of CIOs to use enterprise architecture (EA) as a required IT tool, but only 40% will deploy EA effectively.
#7: By 2015, 60% of CIO security budgets for increasingly vulnerable legacy systems will be 30-40% too small to fund enterprise threat assessments
#8: By 2017, the transfer of 3rd Platform investments from IT to line-of-business budgets will require 60% of CIOs to focus the IT budget on business innovation and value
#9: By 2016, 80% of the IT budget will be based on providing broad portfolio of IT and business services
#10: By 2018, adoption of 3rd Platform IT technologies will redefine 90% of IT roles