The New Year is an obvious time for consideration of what’s
to come, and the first days of 2014 have already offered some interesting
glimpses into what technology and business trends IT and business leaders
should be aware of. Here’s my take on the five technologies and trends to watch
in 2014.

The thing about “Things”

If you’ve followed the news out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, you know that the Internet of Things is a
hot topic. Products range from phone-controlled Wi-Fi enabled toys to a
connected gadget called “Mother” that purports to do anything from
reminding you to drink more water to nagging you when you visit the fridge too
often. This market has been developing for a few years, and it still lacks
maturity or a compelling business application. But it’s a certainty that a
proliferation of connected devices will be entering your enterprise, from products your company makes that “phone
home” to report diagnostic data or get software updates, to office
chairs that track their location and monitor employee productivity and
conference room usage. It’s worth considering now how you’ll accommodate
this army of devices, each potentially providing valuable data — and another security
hole in your infrastructure.

Security

Security is a burning topic as we enter 2014. Between
high-profile data thefts like the Target breach, nefarious government-sponsored
hackers, and US-driven spying at the hands of the NSA, even the least tech-savvy
denizens of the C-suite are asking questions about IT security. It may be tempting to capitalize on this unrest to grab a bigger
security budget, but you’ll build long-term credibility if you can rationally
and thoughtfully articulate how these external factors affect your company.
Whatever the impact to your company, you’ll need a compelling response to
questions from “Are we the next Target?” to “Is the NSA bugging
my iPhone?”

Enterprise Apples and Androids

If 2013 proved anything, it’s that Bring Your Own Device
(BYOD)-style programs are here to stay. With BlackBerry effectively out of the
smartphone game, devices like the iPhone have become the standard mobile device
for entities ranging from governments and banks to small businesses. If you’re
still resisting BYOD programs and insisting that employees use ancient devices
with all features beyond email and calling locked down, you should know that there’s
increasing evidence that this is compelling current and potential employees to
look elsewhere. While this may seem shallow on the part of those employees, our
smartphones are no longer business tools — they’re extensions of our
personality. If you’re terrified of managing “unwashed masses” of
consumer devices, consider moving security to the application layer rather than insisting it be on the
device itself.

You are Facebook

A major emerging trend is that enterprise users are becoming
highly critical of usability and design in enterprise applications. Many
consumer-focused web and mobile applications are literally works of art, and
the thoughtful and beautiful interfaces that are analogous to a Monet are in
stark contrast to the crude stick figure that represents the state of most
enterprise applications. While it may be unfair to compare your ERP system’s
interface and usability to Facebook, rest assured that your users are doing it.
Combine this with the prevalence of cloud-based services, and users are simply
forgoing company IT tools if there’s a more effective, preferred, or merely
better-looking alternative available. Consider how many times you’re heard
quips like, “Oh, just send that to my gmail/DropBox/Box.com since my
company email only allows 2MB attachments.”

IT can’t drive 55

Another major shift that will accelerate in 2014 is the
perception of the time required to deploy new IT capabilities. Just as users
are becoming increasingly aware of design and usability as they’re exposed to
consumer technology, they’re also exposed to the extremely rapid iteration
cycles in this space and expecting similar performance from enterprise IT.
While the old excuse of “We’re way more complex than that consumer stuff”
used to work, it’s becoming less effective as companies release something like
new smartphone hardware and totally revamped operating systems on annual or faster
cycles.

The silver lining to this increased expectation of speed is that users
are more tolerant of new release bugs, as long as they’re assured they will be
quickly fixed. Many also prefer targeted tools that perform a limited number of
tasks well, rather than monolithic “do it all” applications, allowing
you to break a business problem into digestible chunks. If you haven’t already
done so, start considering how you’ll speed the reaction times of your IT
department on fronts from dev ops to customer service.

Trend watch

Like much of the past decade, technology change has been at
the core of several business innovations. Whether you’re a CIO or tech leader
or an executive with only a tangential relationship to IT, it’s worth being
aware of these trends and discussing how they might affect your organization
and boost its performance in 2014 and beyond.

Other developments?

Are you keeping an eye on other trends and innovations that
are likely to affect your business? Share your concerns with fellow TechRepublic
members.