The New Business as Usual

Vince DeLuca

In the U.S., midmarket companies employ approximately 43 million people, earn revenue between $10 million and $1 billion apiece, and represent about one-third of private sector gross domestic product (GDP). This makes them a fairly solid indicator for market trends, including employment, revenue growth and spending on a range of products and services.

There are a few key trends we have seen in the midmarket that are focused on the way companies obtain and consume technology and how this affects the way these companies conduct business moving forward. These trends are not unique to the midmarket however, and we are seeing them begin to take shape in the small business and enterprise markets as well.

Among these are three key trends of particular interest to CIOs and IT professionals:
1. Flexible consumption models
2. Customer intimacy, experience and communities
3. Workplace and device diversity

Flexible consumption models
The first of these key trends is the adoption of a flexible consumption model for technology. Using this model, businesses consume the type and amount of technology they require whether it is computing power, storage, bandwidth, or applications as it is required to operate their businesses, while paying for technology only as it is consumed. This is pay-as-you-go model is contrary to traditional technology consumption, which often requires large upfront capital expenditures and over-subscription of technology to meet peak needs.

Driving adoption is the unrelenting requirement for all companies to manage technology costs while increasing process and operating efficiencies, while at the same time increasing their agility. This may be viewed as the classic do more with less mantra, except these organizations are keenly aware they need to drive their businesses forward through innovation and at the same time deliver on-time and on-budget projects. Companies in highly regulated markets also need to reduce compliance efforts while maintaining compliance goals. Across the board, this balancing act has companies exploring flexible IT consumption models that can help them meet enterprise requirements without locking them into traditional IT infrastructure pricing models.

To accomplish this, most companies with any kind of technology infrastructure today are looking at maintaining a hybrid IT infrastructure as the end state for the way they will operate their technology. This includes hybrid cloud computing, where some portion of a flexible and agile cloud computing system exists on-premises, while another portion relies on scalability in a public or private cloud.

A flexible consumption model using hybrid cloud technologies can have significant impact for many businesses, especially those with seasonal or cyclical sales. For example, a retailer that earns the majority of its revenue during certain months of the year or spiky promotional periods doesn’t need maximum IT capacity all year long. Instead, a hybrid IT environment gives them a solid foundation to operate at a baseline during non-promotional cycles and quickly scale up technology usage during heavy sales cycles.

Customer intimacy, experience and communities
The second among these key trends is the need for companies to use technology to increase and improve the level of customer intimacy and experience while building and supporting narrower communities within the industries they serve. For example, technology professionals are looking deeper into the various communities that make up the health care industry payers and providers, clinicians, practitioners, administrators and so on.

This trend is being driven by a number of business requirements, including stronger alignment with industry-specific needs, increasing industry compliance and government regulations, and requests to provide better and faster access to customer data. IT needs to enable community support and develop new revenue streams for their organizations.

Companies are using a wide range of technologies to do so, many of which overlap from big data to mobile apps to social media. Big data is enabling companies to make faster real-time decisions based on structured data like point-of-sale and demographic information, and unstructured data like website comments and photos.

Moving forward, technologies such as the software-defined data center, where all infrastructure is virtualized and delivered as a service, will support attributes that align to a particular industry, community or business. These technologies will understand and adapt to the way industry communities and sub-communities work.

Workplace and device diversity
The third of this trio of key technology trends focuses on the way businesses communicate. Today’s workplace increasingly exists beyond the typical borders of the office to include the home and customer workplaces. And today’s workforce and customers demand the ability to access any type of data, from any place in the world on any type of device. This last part is critical there is no single device, but a range of devices and apps that employees and customers expect IT to support.

Driving this need is the obvious point that connecting employees, partners, vendors and customers is a critical function for most businesses, especially as we expand outside regional boundaries. Businesses are extending those boundaries with network, voice, video and collaborative application services. This has led to the need to support bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies as employees mix personal and professional data and devices.

Managed correctly, providing a flexible level of workplace and device diversity can result in improved productivity, lower costs and true collaboration and sharing across any device.

One example is the use of unified communications or single inboxes for email, IM, video and collaboration whether at a desktop, on a mobile phone or using a tablet. Utilities and services companies are increasingly using these technologies to provide on the spot customer service and to aid in repairs and billing.

The new ‘Business as Usual’
Businesses are responding to many forces in today’s marketplace and while each of these is a distinct trend, with its own set of technologies to service and support it, together they are forming a new normal for business and IT working together. Hybrid IT flexibility and agility is enabling companies to provide access to data and computing power cost-effectively and in real time. This in turn enables companies to learn more about the needs of their customers enabling them to improve the customer experience. And companies are increasingly using mobile applications and BYOD to support anytime, anywhere, any way business collaboration.