Thursday, 27 January 2011

Four technology trends to watch in 2011

This came through the email today; it looks at how IT will affect business this year and what new technology could give you an advantage

1. It’ll be easier to run your business using free services
Paul Lewis is head of marketing at
MOO, an online printing firm that specialises in business cards. He thinks 2011 will be the year of “freemium” tools, which offer a basic service free and charge for more advanced functions.

“Freemium tools such as project management service Huddle and online backup tool Dropbox will gain more awareness,” he says. “They help new companies take the first steps, whereas before people didn’t know how to do those things or couldn’t afford the outlay.”

Lewis also thinks it could become easier for businesses to start accepting card payments. “In the US there’s a company called Square that lets small businesses accept credit card payments remotely,” he explains.

“You get a free gadget that plugs into a smart phone or iPad. You don’t need a business bank account and it’s ‘plug and play’ ― so anyone can start selling at events and on the road.” Square is cagey about its international expansion plans, but it could be a sign of what’s to come.

2. Quora will be the social media star of 2011
Quora is essentially a cross between Twitter and Yahoo Answers,” says technology and PR blogger Phil Szomszor. “From a business point of view, it provides exciting possibilities.

“It’s a great opportunity for businesses to answer questions in their field of interest and demonstrate their expertise. I’ve also noticed journalists using it to source information, so it could be a good way to find PR opportunities.

“Companies could also use Quora to offer customer service ― for instance, by responding to questions and complaints as many already do with Twitter. However, the challenge is how to integrate it with other customer service channels and distinguish those people who really want help from those who just want to vent.”

3. Potential customers will expect you to respond immediately

“As smart phones become even more common and more people use the internet on the move, mobile commerce will become embedded in everyday life,” predicts David Hill, chairman of small-business phone company Cloudnet Telecommunications Ltd.

“As a result, customers will expect information to be available instantly. Whenever they think of a question, they will expect their iPhone or iPad to answer it, there and then. So in order to succeed, businesses must be geared up to provide fast responses which are specific to each individual customer’s query.

“For example, if your customer wants a black computer that runs silently and has a one terabyte disk, you’d better make sure that exact computer comes top of the results when they search for it on your website. And if they can access the details on their phone, that’s all the better, because they might be checking out online prices while visiting high street retailers."

4. You won’t pay for software in one lump sum
Ciaran Kenny is managing director of
Macnamara, an IT services company. “In 2011 we’ll start to see the elimination of upfront software costs,” he says. “We’ve already seen companies reduce onsite servers in favour of cloud computing. Now we’ll start to see businesses moving their desktop software — like Microsoft Office ― into the cloud too.”

This means that instead of paying a hefty fee to purchase software, you’ll pay a small monthly charge to access it over the internet.

“Everyone’s watching how Microsoft decides to sell Office” explains Kenny. This software includes Microsoft Word and Excel and currently costs around £400. “I think we’ll see them switch to a model where it costs about £10 a month for each person in your business,” he continues. “When in 2011 that’ll happen is anyone’s guess, but I think they’ll have to do it.”

What do you think of these trends?

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