Forecast 2014

Forecast 2014: How to master disruptive technologies

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.

"We have no real data center, and most things are cloud-enabled. We're already entirely on Office 365," Microsoft's SaaS-based suite of tools, says Broadwater.

Additionally, the nonprofit international sports organization, which has seven offices around the world and program offices in all 50 states, has hired a social networking expert and significantly expanded its presence on dozens of social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest. Broadwater measures the return on this investment not in dollars, but in doers.

"As a nonprofit, it's all about getting volunteers and getting people to come to events," Broadwater explains. "Social media is perfect for that. We use it as a means to get the word out and get people involved." The medium has been instrumental to the success of an initiative called Project Unify, which aims to include people with intellectual disabilities in established athletic events.

"We use social media to get people to be ambassadors for the program, and it has been phenomenal how successful it has been. We are targeting millennials and the generation after millennials, and social media is where they are," he notes.

Leveraging the cloud for data collection and analysis is another key initiative for Special Olympics, which, according to Broadwater, maintains the world's largest online database of health records of people with intellectual disabilities.

Looking ahead, the plan is to build data marts that integrate health data and competition data with a goal of understanding if and how health and participation in competitive athletics are related. "We're also tying in clinics that do nutritional studies," Broadwater says.

A New Approach to Manufacturing

At EWIE Co., an Ann Arbor-based commodity management and manufacturing services company, the goal in combining cloud and analytics technologies is nothing short of changing the $340 million company's strategic approach to its core business -- machine maintenance.

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