Determining business needs is key to navigating tech trends

Technology vendors are heralding in 2008 with a host of exciting communication technologies.

The key to keeping your head above the upcoming wave is to set your sights on your business needs and ignore the bling of shiny new devices, according to telecom specialists.

“Concentrate more on what you need the technology for and how you will use it,” advices Andy Woyzbun, lead analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

There will be no shortage of new devices and trends especially in the communication and collaboration field, but focusing on your business needs will narrow down the choices, according to Marc Parella, vice-president of the technology group of analyst firm IDC Canada in Toronto.

Some of the trends forecasted by Canadian telecom technology provider Nortel includes the following: the rise of more intelligent networks, greater deployment of 4G mobile broadband devices such as WiMax, LTE (Long Term Evolution) Ultra Mobile Broadband and IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS), the replacement of wired Ethernet by Wireless LAN systems and the growing use of Web 2.0 interactive technologies in the business space.

“It’s back to the future again as businesses are faced with these new technologies and trends,” said Ryan James, director at Nortel.

Networks, James said, will begin to have greater “awareness” and have improved machine-to-machine communications. This will be useful in real-time remote health diagnostics, automated power management for facilities and application-aware networks that automatically provision bandwidth depending on demand.

He said organization will increasingly move towards the unwired office as WLAN become the primary local area network access. “With unified communications, in-building wireless and sensor technologies, workers will no longer be hardwired to their officers. Telecommuting and tele-working will increase.”

He also said increasing emphasis on service oriented architecture and IMS tools that deliver multimedia to mobile users will change the way applications are created.

Companies that fear investment and training on such technologies would be to expensive can opt to outsource deployment and management of the system, James said.

“This way SMBs can reduce the risk of spending capital on hardware and training for in-house personnel,” he said

Parella, however, said most of the trends mentioned above “play to larger organization rather than SMBs.”

He said the two tech trends that are most likely to impact small and medium sized businesses were Web 2.0 and the idea of the unwired office.

“User generated content such as YouTube, blogs and podcasts and collaborative social networks democratize the Internet and has a huge potential for enabling SMBs to compete with larger companies,” he said.

For instance, while large enterprises can throw dollars into a worldwide marketing campaign, social networking sites enable SMBs to build “communities” that could be potential clients.

Wireless technologies on the other hand allow small operations to maintain satellite locations more economically that they would via installing expensive PBX systems, Parella said.

While they may have less significant budgets, SMBs can be more agile in adopting these trends to their advantage because of their leaner decision making structure and smaller investments in legacy systems, Parella said.

Woyzbun agrees but cautioned that small companies must learn how to smartly deploy these devices.

He suggests that SMBs study the communication challenges in their organization and then develop policies on how technology and procedures can best address them.

For instance, he said, some companies already use e-mail, telephones and smart phones but there is not agreement on which device should be used to reach certain personnel during certain situations.

“The result is that people waste time firing off messages to multiple devices and receivers double checking incoming calls on desk phones, BlackBerries and computers.”

He said unified messaging software can be deployed but a cheaper and more practical alternative might be deciding which device should be the point of contact during certain hours.

“In certain cases making better use of what you have works best.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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