From applications to clouds, 2013 saw a wave of changes that changed business as we know it. Savvy firms found success through rapid adaptation and understanding of the benefits of technologies. But 2013 is behind us now, and 2014 promises to bring even bigger changes. From an increasingly mobile and virtualized world to the development of integrated platforms, businesses are changing their practices to the benefit of both customers and revenue.
Everyone, B2B included, is realizing the value of mobile commerce. Once relegated to novelty status by those lucky enough to have a mobile-optimized website, the on-the-go nature of our society is necessitating the development of solutions that put commerce in the hands of everyone, everywhere. Responsive web design, better mobile payment options, and even tools capable of bringing sophisticated sales capabilities to a client’s doorstep, are all affecting how, when, and where we do business in 2014.
With the challenges posed by mobile sales, including the need for applications to navigate proprietary authentication, virtual currencies are poised to see a surge. As an open platform with less superfluous challenges to overcome in completing transactions, Bitcoin and the like will allow both customers and businesses to better facilitate and complete sales. The system still has some challenges to work out, but the potential to simplify mobile transactions means that developers are hard at work on solutions.
The trend of mobile isn’t limited to commerce either. Internally, more businesses are vetting the possibility of allowing “telecommuting” thanks to developments in communication and collaborative solutions. The financial and environmental benefits are staggering: according to research, if all Federal employees who are capable of tele-work were to do so, full-time, the government would save $13.9 billion dollars and eliminate 21.5 billion pounds of pollutants each year. With developing mobile technologies and the capacity to achieve equal or improved efficiency by permitting the practice, businesses are moving toward this model more than ever before.
As society continues to exist more ubiquitously on virtual platforms, Software as a Service (SaaS) will see greater attention in 2014, especially as firms innovate solutions to better serve their specific needs. Businesses already providing products and services without a digital component will benefit from applications that help with tracking, communication, billing, and feedback. While the B2C implications of this practice are already being realized, the potential for B2B businesses is, at this point, still hard to fathom.
Telecommuters, current product offerings, and SaaS are all conglomerating around a growing trend in so-called “ecosystems”. What these systems entail is an integrated approach to handling data on a company-wide scale. Sales made in the field can be reported back to the developers with detailed feedback, while customers track the progress of requests and transactions, all powered through a contiguous platform. With greater integration comes a greater understanding that connectivity requires virtual continuity instead of patchwork attempts to share information.
With this virtualization of services and platforms, IT has its work cut out for it. Fortunately, 2014 will see an improved ability to manage IT resources and security challenges, thanks to the platforms, ecosystems, and virtualization software. This means better control over devices, better responsiveness to breaches, and a better optimized approach to dealing with the myriad needs of large firms.
The cloud, despite it’s convenience, has been a large driver of better IT support, due to the inherently insecure nature of storing company data on “public” servers. Fortunately for those who recognize the capabilities of cloud computing, the convenience of tech’s latest buzz-worthy solution is seeing new life in the form of privately developed clouds. By combining the utility of ubiquitous storage and access with the ability to monitor and implement high-level security protocols, businesses are improving performance, all without sacrificing network integrity.
The Internet of Everything
Phones, computers, tablets, and laptops benefiting from private clouds and software ecosystems are not the only devices doing so. Perhaps the greatest innovation coming in 2014 is the implementation of the “Internet of Things”; devices of all kinds linked to the Internet in order to facilitate analysis and control. Mileage can be tracked through Internet-enabled company cars while customer-side hardware solutions can report usage statistics back to your business for better product development. From toasters to industrial equipment, everything is hooking up to the web in the New Year.
But the analysis afforded by this new world of web-based devices is really the goal of connecting everything to everything. With devices reporting petabytes of information back to businesses every day, “Big Data” is taking over as the model du jour. By collecting large sample sizes of vital information, businesses can respond more effectively to customers. From a B2B perspective, this means more responsive development and a better understanding of how to work with the ever-changing needs of clients.
And while all these concepts have their own idiosyncrasies and nuances, the innovation that will help them all become a reality in 2014 is the advent of effective e-learning. In the past, classes were relegated to niche topics, and the feedback mechanisms of quizzing and Q&A were primitive at best. But in their wake, places like Khan Academy and Codecademy have made vital and marketable information to both students, and employees looking to improve their skill set. While business will change rapidly in the New Year, improved training and availability of information will help it do so effectively and efficiently.
The face of business seems to change every year, and 2014 promises nothing less. With smarter solutions, better management, integration of business and client needs, and learning capabilities to streamline the transition, firms will be sleeker, more sophisticated, and more responsive. While developing brand new technologies may not be possible for your business, understanding the direction we’re headed will help you plan, implement, and succeed in the changing landscape, benefiting both your internal and external efforts in the process.