8 Blazing Hot Technologies for '08

Master these and move ahead in the new year.

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4. Real-time collaboration

Like it or not, workers throughout your company are using outside collaboration tools, such as Google Docs. That means sensitive corporate information may be sitting on outsider servers, rather than behind your firewalls. People are drawn to these tools because they're easy to use, says Andrew McAfee, an associate professor of business administration in Harvard Business School's Technology and Operations Management department. IT's job is to help formulate a policy for using these tools or to implement internal alternatives that are equally user-friendly, McAfee says.

5. Web 2.0

Lots of people spend their personal time blogging and using other Web 2.0 technologies. Many expect to use the same tools at work, and some already are, with or without IT's blessing. IT needs to be a leader in championing these tools, McAfee says, by folding them into the existing infrastructure in a way that is convenient for users and works in conjunction with corporate security and privacy requirements. "The smart choice for both the line and IT side is to be positive about this development," McAfee says.

6. Ideation

The knowledge economy grows on good ideas, and IT needs to provide the tools to help foster and manage them. The good news is that those kinds of tools are increasingly available. "There are online tools that let people post ideas and work on each other's ideas, and we're seeing more and more organizations put together platforms to push and develop ideas," says Jackie Fenn, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

But IT groups should do more than implement their chosen idea management software, Fenn says. Considering that most innovations have significant IT components, Fenn says, it behooves IT workers to be leaders in the ideation process. You can help manage the process by working with business leaders to pose and frame the right questions to get useful responses and drive innovative thinking.

7. Consumer-oriented devices

Employees are increasingly bringing their own hardware, software and wireless devices to work, says Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at JupiterResearch LLC in New York. "The gadgets that consumers are buying today are more powerful than the PCs that IT had to manage just a few years ago, and IT has to be able to respond in a positive way and not just say no," he says.

That's not to suggest, however, that IT should bless everything the cat drags in. An IT department must understand what it can integrate and support, and it must know what poses a risk to the organization. "They need to be prepared to integrate some and ban others," says Gartenberg, who is a Computerworld columnist.

8. Unified communications

Unified communications tops many IT radar screens, and Gartner predicts that most companies will implement unified systems over the next three years. But the move to unified communications won't involve just telephony and messaging, says Sam Helmich, vice president of technology at ADM Investor Services Inc. in Chicago. It means tying together traditional telephone features, desktop videoconferencing tools, customer relationship management systems and other applications to create efficiencies in various business processes.

There's a shortage of skilled workers in this area, but Helmich says companies can get the training their workers need by partnering with vendors -- something he did at his company. If that's not an option, you can still get started. "There's enough stuff on the Internet that workers can go out and read how the different systems work," he says.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Forecast 2008: IT Trends & Predictions for the New Year

How'd we do in '07?  See last year's Forecast 2007.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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