Business software developer The Access Group predicts that businesses are in for some radical structural changes. Are you prepared? Natalie Brandweiner, at our sister site, AccountingWEB.co.uk, filed this report.
At the recent Softworld event in London, The Access Group released the findings of a study from the University of Kent's Centre for Future Studies commissioned as part of the group's 20th anniversary celebrations.
The Future of Technology report identified key technological trends affecting that would affect small and medium-sized business between now and 2020. It anticipated that 50bn devices will be connected by 2020, with smartphones overtaking PCs as the most popular platform to access the web by 2013. Combined with the rise of Cloud computing, the mobile internet will see an explosion of business-ready, self-service technologies.
The Access report focused on the following key technological mega trends:
- Cloud computing - mainstream place for everyday computing by 2020
- The mobile cloud - the intersection of mobile tools and Cloud computing will create opportunities for new applications and business processes
- Virtualization - Moving physical servers to virtual ones will underpin the growth of large data centers supporting a multitude of Cloud services. In theory, this should be more environmentally sustainable that businesses running their own machines.
- Social media - paving the way for more business transparency and engagement, where customers demand a direct relationship with the companies they do business with. It will also infiltrate business software systems.
Economic volatility and the demographic shift from the Baby Boomer generation to Millennials who have grown up since the internet revolution took hold will accelerate changes in the business landscape, the report argues.
Used to choosing their own tools and forms of communication, Millennials will force Boomers used to “command and control” management methods to adopt more cooperative leadership models that provide greater autonomy and freedom of choice in the way work is performed.
The combined effect of these changes will create more chaotic, less routine workplaces, the study predicts. Work will be modular and based more around specific projects, often carried out by “swarms” of loosely connected workers.
“Work will be more like Hollywood’s film industry, gathering the right team for the right project, and having more than one “picture” on the go. This will require a lot more self-organizing and a lot more self-discipline, but organizations who define work around the unit of “project” instead of the unit of “job” will have a better chance of succeeding.”
In this “hyper-connected” business environment control and responsibility will be hard to identify. How employers contract and manage their employees will change, and so will the IT that supports and augments the work. To provide a handle on such fluid engagements, real-time workplace performance measuring will become increasingly important, while senior managers will need to develop more emotional intelligence to draw the best out of their teams and businesses.
As well as changing the way staff are sourced and managed, workplace trends will have an impact on accountancy software, which will need to support accountants from across the globe on a project or modular basis. The next generation of Enterprise Resource Planning systems will need to let firms continuously maintain audit trails of all transactions, billings and payments.
Chris Bayne, CEO of Access, said the report was designed to help accountants prepare for the new opportunities and challenges. While Cloud computing would continue to infiltrate business, Bayne commented: "Security is one of the real stumbling blocks for our customers as they struggle to decide where to keep their data. People are very conservative about people data and finance data. They don’t necessarily trust that it’s going to be as secure when it’s up there in the Cloud with everybody else’s data.
“Unfortunately it becomes a hacking target, as in the case of Sony's Playstation network. People’s internal infrastructure will be more vulnerable than the big players, but nobody goes hunting out for ‘Shoe Manufacturers R Us’ to try and break their network and steal their 50 employees’ data", he said.
To address these concerns, hybrid Cloud models will allow businesses to move part of their data into the public Cloud and maintain the rest on site until consumers are ready to wholly adopt Cloud.