by Jonny Evans

12 for ’12: Tech Trends to Jolt a CFO, Part I

Jan 10, 20126 mins
IT LeadershipMobileSmall and Medium Business

It's the Year of the Mobile Enterprise; time to adjust to it.

You are an executive. You’re driven by what you do and give 110%. You care about your company. That’s good. Now as we shake off the post-party season blues, its time to take a moment to think about what will be worrying you this year. Here are 12 tech topics — in two installments, starting with a half-dozen today — that should turn your hair just a little grayer in 2012, Year of the Mobile Enterprise.

1 — Unified Communications

Email, snail mail, online meetings, video conferences and VoIP. Fax and phone, presence indication, remote collaboration, multi-site workflows and bring your own devices.

No. These aren’t the words to some bastardized (and very poor) alternative lyric for Julie Andrews to sing to the tune of “My Favorite Things.” These are the disparate solutions designed to make the online world more productive for the enterprise.

This year’s big question for CFOs will be if it’s worth the investment it will take to create a unified solution to enable all your people to make effective use of the online opportunity. For this we need a Unified Communications suite — a single portal for all our communicative and collaborative needs.

Right now it’s a torrent of data and services meaning 43.2% of knowledge workers answer texts or emails when out on dates or other social occasions. That’s where work steals personal time. Did you know that people working for firms using Unified Communications clients save an average of 32 minutes each day, just because they can reach others on their team first time? But you need fully integrated tools to get the best benefit. You’ll be striking the balance between better implementations of these solutions and your budgets this year.

2 — Bring Your Own Device

They call it BYOD. The tech support department calls it a nightmare. Things are changing in most enterprises where highly placed executives are demanding the right to bring their own iPhone or Galaxy device to the office party.

This is the trend: “By 2016, at least 50 percent of enterprise email users will rely primarily on a browser, tablet or mobile client instead of a desktop client,” says Gartner.

This sounds great, right? All those devices, some of them personally-owned. But what about data protection? What about security (see later)? What about retrieval of stolen devices.

For this you need device management solutions, and you can be sure your CIO will want to take a look at solutions like these this year, integrated suites designed to control devices from different manufacturers, capable of assigning access privileges.

3 — Microsoft: Yes or No?

The enterprise has mainly been a Windows shop, but with Windows 8 still unavailable, enterprise users will be frustrated at the wait. In any case, Microsoft has a negligible footprint in the mobile space. This means enterprise users will be considering Android devices (security? support for VPN?) and those from other vendors, including Apple.

Should your enterprise choose to move away from an all-Windows ecosystem, then what will it cost? Is it really true that Macs are less costly to maintain and run than their Windows brethren? And do PCs matter at all any more? If they do, will your firm involve itself in costly Windows 8 upgrade licenses, or skip that expensive chore in favor of new solutions for a new century.

This will be a debate at any senior level executive table, including IDC, where analysts say the OS release will be a “major test” for the companys future.

4 — Hitting the Growth Spots

Recession everywhere. Euro in turmoil. Stock markets are jittering worldwide as news hits that developed nations are running out of money. If nations are out of cash, then where do you spark future growth?

“In 2020, half of the world’s middle class population will come from Asia,” writes one report. There will be three billion mobile subscriptions in the region by the end of the month. This is a growth sector.

Is your company in position? If not, how do you find the alliances and build the relationships you need to focus at least some of your business on these emerging economies: China, Russia, India, Brazil.

5 — Talking Machines

Are you involved in medical equipment? Stock control? Rental? Ticketing? Online sales? If you are then youll already have spent time considering NFC and RFID-based solutions.

This was a market sector some had hoped would evolve into life with the introduction of NFC support within some Android handsets. The promise hasnt been delivered at this time, but with LTE networks switching on in most key territories in 2012-14 and Apple expected to bring NFC to iPhones this year, the question for a CFO in many sectors this year wont be, “Can we afford to field RFID-based systems in our industry?” The question will be, “Can we afford not to?”

The advantages of NFC extend far beyond consumer markets. Imagine warehouse stock quietly letting you know when it needs replacing, or instant and immediate access to key sales information, including the locations in which most sales are taking place. Immediate access to fast-moving yet essential data could be part of the new wave.

The ripples are spreading. Already mobile carriers are making strategic investments in firms capable of providing the kind of infrastructure opportunities that might benefit this thought-to-be-soon, very, very hot market sector.

6 — Up, Up and Away

The cloud. What is it? Is it new? Not really; the Internet is all about data hosted on remote machines accessed by other machines. But the cloud is something very different, this is the place where all your data will go — but who will it belong too? Who will run it? Will it be secure?

The potential is good: all your company systems available to all your mobile workers at any time using all kinds of device. Theres a potential security benefit too, because you can control what happens. Thats great. Or is it? Gartner warns us to expect new breeds of malware designed to attack tablets and smartphones.

Malware authors will be focusing on cloud-based services in the months ahead. This will drive a move to hire in outside help to run this side of enterprise infrastructure, so dont forget to ask vendors fro proof of independent security tests. And ensure you have good protection against a dizzying array of attacks set to break out in the months to come.

As part of all this, you need to consider the big debate for 2012. My next post starts with that debate. The topic? Security.

Jonny Evans became one of CFOworld’s bloggers in December 2011. Here is his first post.