As 2017 starts to unfold, predictions about this year’s hottest new trends, developments, gamechangers and disruptive technologies abound.
There’s no doubt that among the most fascinating is the widely trumpeted “Internet of Things (IoT) which has the potential to pervade through every walk of life, from going to work to going to bed.
Yet to us, while the IoT is very exciting and holds a multitude opportunities, the fundamental IT technologies and functions that underpin most business processes are still really key.
And within these there are three that we think will continue occupy an increasing amount of time for business owners and managers:
- Cloud computing
- Network Security
- Document and content management
1) New efficiencies from cloud computing
It’s been around for some years now, so in 2017 cloud computing is no longer the big strategic decision it used to be.
From being a choice, cloud computing has now pretty much become a de facto must-have for most businesses in some shape or form. Indeed any organisation that isn’t using the cloud for at least some its software requirements, in either infrastructure or applications, for operational software, processes such as backup, file sharing and storage or for ‘departmental’ software such as accounting or CRM will, in 2017, be seen as disadvantaged compared to its peers.
Many of the concerns that existed even 3 to 5 years ago about security, location of data storage facilities and dependence on a single vendor can now be banished – with the range of solutions available.
Of these, software as a service or SaaS is the largest and most commonly used, with everything from accounting software, warehouse operations, logistics, CRM and online backup applications now firmly in the cloud alongside email.
According to a survey conducted by technology media company IDG in 2016, cloud computing is increasingly seen as the default way for businesses to run applications, with 70% of all organisations running at least one cloud-based software application (up from 50% in 2011).
Availability of cloud-based data storage is seen as a big driver for businesses moving operations to the cloud, the survey says, and it is predicted that the rate of adoption will increase in 2017 as more businesses favour cloud in place of the traditional in-house client server-based approach to application management.
Interestingly, the IDG survey also predicts that most organisations plan to shift their cloud operations to a public or hybrid model from private only cloud operations, as perceptions about security risks change.
2) Data security
It’s sobering to think that in July 2016, NATO recognised cybersecurity as a “domain of war”.
With the furore following the US presidential election about claims of state sponsored hackers influencing the outcome, it’s not really very surprising.
No wonder also that – while the UK’s future role in the European Union is still being debated – cybersecurity specialists point to the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) as one of the most significant developments in data regulations in decades.
Introduced in May 2016 and due to be enshrined in formal law when the regulations come into full force in May 2018, GDPR has far-reaching implications for the way in which businesses manage their data, with stiff penalties being meted out to those that fail to comply.
If you’re not already doing so, you need to be assessing whether yours is the sort of organisation that will be required to embed data protection compliance “by design” into the fabric of your business’s organisational processes, procedures and policies.
How to you know if you need to act? The GDPR specifies that any organisation which handles and stores sensitive personal data must appoint a Data Protection Officer to oversee data compliance and security.
Many organisations are already taking steps towards GDPR compliance by auditing and testing their IT systems and network defences in order to ensure that they have sufficient and rigorous security measures in place to safeguard data.
Yet for some organisations, the regulations also require massive cultural and professional changes as well as technical ones, ultimately ensuring that their employees are trained to understand and accept their accountability in the protection of data, and their roles in following rigorous procedures both to prevent, and in the event of a data breach.
More information on GDPR can be found on the UK Information Commissioner’s Office website.
3) Enterprise content management
Content Management, or put more simply, the management of documents across the organisation, is a constantly and rapidly evolving business process for which a range of highly efficient and intelligent software systems are available.
Uptake of ECM systems has accelerated with the relentless rise of cloud computing, and in particular with the need for trackable, auditable document histories.
Should your organisation invest in ECM in 2017? Certainly, give it some thought if you are keen to see any of the following:
- Streamlining your operations by reducing paper use
- Improving compliance and reducing security risks (see GDPR above)
- Enabling tighter version management, synchronization and trackable sharing of documents
- Empowering workers to be more productive, for example by speeding up document search and retrieval processes and providing greater visibility
- Managing document lifecycles from creation through to deletion/destruction
- Delivering customer service improvements by speeding up processes.
Taken together as a whole, a properly integrated ECM system has the potential to make an organisation more competitive, because of the potential is offers to save massive amounts of employee time on document search and retrieval, capitalise on the benefits of shared visibility and provide better customer service.
At Alliance Solutions we recommend, install and integrate M-Files Enterprise Content Management for our clients.
M-Files is a comprehensive system for creating, storing and managing content such as emails, invoices, contracts, purchase orders and employment records – and making that content available to authorised individuals at any time and at any location.
What’s more, M-Files was included by Gartner, Inc. in the 2016 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management based on its completeness of vision and ability to execute.
IT budgets come under the spotlight regularly and as much as any other operational business area – and indeed has to fight for its right for investment alongside everything else.
By getting the building blocks or organisational IT efficiency in place and implemented correctly through cloud, security and ECM, most organisations stand a great chance to gain new operational improvements and efficiencies and, potentially, even to yield ROI on their IT investment.
For more information about your cloud, security and enterprise content management requirements or any other aspect of your IT systems – please contact Alliance Solutions on 0800 292 2100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us for a for a free IT Systems Audit.