Forecast 2014

Forecast 2014: How to master disruptive technologies

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Upsetting the status quo is exactly the point, as companies dive into social networking, the cloud and more.

Social, mobile and analytics technologies are disrupting business as usual at companies in all industries. In 2014, the disruption will continue, morphing into a new kind of business as usual with enterprises expanding their reliance on the cloud, mobile technologies, social media and, increasingly, predictive analytics. The goals: reducing costs, creating new revenue streams, boosting customer satisfaction and beefing up brand awareness, to name a few.

In the next three to five years, the five technologies most likely to upset the status quo are social networking, the cloud and software as a service (SaaS), self-service IT, predictive analytics and mobile payments, according to Computerworld's Forecast 2014 survey of 221 IT executives.

At Washington-based Special Olympics, that disruption is already well underway and yielding significant benefits, according to Noah Broadwater, head of digital products and technology.

"In the past, the mindset was to fix a machine when it breaks," says CIO Raman Mehta. That meant waiting for a failure to occur, then interrupting production -- which could involve bringing down an entire assembly line -- to make repairs.

Cloud and analytics technologies are now disrupting that way of doing business, enabling EWIE to shift to "condition-based monitoring," which entails machines continually streaming data about temperature, vibration levels, scrap production and other factors to a cloud-based EWIE system, so EWIE engineers can proactively intervene before a problem occurs.

"We are one of the first companies trying to get in to the core of manufacturing with a cloud offering," Mehta says. "It's one of our important growth opportunities," he says, noting that the new cloud-based monitoring and diagnostic service offering positions EWIE as a single point of contact with manufacturing customers for diagnostics, parts and repairs.

"It's easy to take your enterprise to the cloud, but very difficult to bring the cloud to your enterprise," he says. "We are not a greenfield company, so any cloud offering has to integrate and interoperate with existing information assets." That's why Mehta advises others looking to implement cloud technologies to focus on integration and the architecture behind the integration. "Integration is absolutely critical," he says.

His other advice is to work closely -- perhaps more closely than before -- with leaders in the business units so they understand that moving to the cloud involves trade-offs. For example, to collect information on mobile devices, EWIE had to change its established workflow to accommodate the software.

"The business gets speed and agility, but you also give up some customization," Mehta points out. "Once in the cloud, you are working with constraints that the software imposes. There needs to be a willingness to align our business processes and adapt."

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