What IT trends will impact your midsize business?

From e-commerce to networking, we've got a secure grasp on the unique issues affecting technology trends and the midsize company.

More than any other time in recent history, there are numerous technological advances exerting pressures on information technology management. This is no gradual evolutionary period. Changes are afoot in which survival of the fittest has become more than a biology lesson. Midsize companies are not exempt from this technological evolution, making new technologies a necessary focus for the IT manager. But you don’t have to be placed on the endangered tech-company list; we can help you keep up with these jolting technology trends.

The first step in becoming a formidable competitor in the face of this wave of change is for the company to work as a whole to adapt to the new tech world. The entire business must understand the importance of technology to operate efficiently as well as navigate and plan for the future. E-commerce, changes in networking technologies, and new ways of doing business demand that technology be integrated into every aspect of a midsize business.
This is the first part of a series that will explore which IT trends will impact midsize companies this year. In this article, TechRepublic will explain why you should watch out for such big trends as e-business, the Internet, IP networks, and server centralization.
The Internet
A good place to begin is the Internet, according to David Schnitt, executive vice president of IT services for Resources Connection , based in Santa Ana, CA. Schnitt said, "A lot of midsize companies are a little bit behind in embracing the Internet and those related technologies. They can turn [those technologies] into a competitive weapon and a strategic advantage. It's cheaper to embrace new technology than it is to implement older technology. They should be in the forefront of trying to adopt those new technologies—more so now than ever. It used to be that you were able to have old technologies for a few years and [function] with them. That's not true any more. If you don't embrace new technologies, you might be out of business."

E-commerce integration
Making the transition to e-commerce is another trend that will dominate the agenda for IT staffs at midsize companies for many years to come. That’s a prediction from Tom Davenport, Director of the Andersen Consulting Institute for Strategic Change in Boston. Davenport said that because the transition is so complex, many companies have "not done a thorough job of it yet. There is no seamless back-to-front integration. That should keep everybody busy for the next half decade or more."

 Most IT staffs had, for the past several years, put those integration tasks on hold. It was no fault of their own; much of their resources were dedicated to Y2K compliance issues.

"Y2K forced organizations to reinvest in their legacy systems," said Liz Barnett, vice president, Giga Information Group . "We see a lot of companies taking seriously a broader application integration strategy." Whether organizations choose to buy, build, or extend their enterprise, Barnett said, "the focus is on integrating all the pieces. That demand was put on hold by Y2K...but demand is much greater now than it was two years ago."

 Beyond integration, e-business transactions also will be a necessity for midsize companies, especially if they compete with other suppliers. Christine Overby, associate analyst at Forrester Research , said, "Our research shows 90 percent of the middle market will be online by 2003. Obviously, these are the suppliers of a Wal-Mart, of a Ford." The challenge will be "helping them connect to their global partners and doing so at minimal cost so they don't have to stretch already strapped resources."

IP networks and server centralization
Don’t overlook changes in available bandwidth of IP networks and server centralization. Midsize organizations should consider those trends, said Kevin Dohrmann, vice president services integration and general manager, Inacom Networks . He said the decrease in cost and increase in available bandwidth of IP networks is the result of both new technologies and fiber and broadband networking standards adoption. "As the cost decreases, it becomes cost effective to connect systems that previously were prohibitively too expensive to connect. Universally available thin standard computing clients and Web-based clients are enabling access to applications and systems that were once only available to very large organizations," Dohrmann said.

"Increased bandwidth and universal clients are enabling large-scale, highly available servers and applications to be sold by the slice," added Dohrmann. "These server farms are being funded by large networking, software, and hardware companies to enable them to get to a smaller size customer than was ever possible before. This allows many new start-ups to take advantage of applications at much lower total costs than [it would take to] build it themselves."

How to implement new technology
How can a business implement technology effectively? "It's not an easy question," says Bruce Caldwell, outsourcing analyst at Dataquest . Executives have to choose between competing demands on the business almost instantly. "Today there is so much new activity with so few concrete results, in terms of profits, it can be difficult to decide what your strategy should be. There are plenty of other people in the same position."

Caldwell suggests relying on both experience from consultants and outside advisors as well as "collective thinking within the organization" to help move the company's technology plan forward. It's not very different from other business decisions, but, he said, "the unknowns may be greater."

Linda Dailey Paulson writes frequently about computing and technology topics as a freelance author.

Which trends do you expect to impact your company this year? Will e-business become the hottest trend in 2000? Post your message below.

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