The small-business sector is becoming more saturated and competitive with the passing of each year, as the economic recovery in the United States has heated up significantly since 2012. This presents opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs, with those who adapt to the massive transformations excelling and those that remain too bogged down in the past running the risk of quickly becoming irrelevant and subsequently unsuccessful.
"Technology is evolving more rapidly than ever before."
Technology, consumer preferences, compliance demands and virtually every other factor of running operations are evolving more rapidly than ever before, while trends take shape and become requirements with breathtaking speed. As such, entrepreneurs need to maintain a certain level of agility within their strategies, and leverage solutions that are highly elastic and flexible in nature to field new deployments as they become necessary.
One of the main themes that has impacted everything from corporate strategy to technology provisioning has been the mass digitization of processes and operations at large, driven by the availability of advanced solutions to help bolster management efficiency and productivity in one fell swoop. Studies have indicated that companies which do not embrace the digital economy will run the risk of losing ground on their competition relatively quickly, especially as corporate purchasers and consumers undoubtedly demand access to these tools.
Luckily, working with a unified communications and cloud services provider is an option that is available to all small businesess - one that can ensure they maintain flexible, agile and fast strategies over time. Two new reports have highlighted how the digital economy is beginning to impact application development and management, as well as provisioning cycles in the financial services sector.
Apps gone wild
Gartner recently released a question-and-answer report conducted by its research vice president Brian Prentice, who is also the conference chair for the firm's forthcoming Application Architecture, Integration and Development Summit in Australia. The analyst argued that digital business operations are having a more prolific impact on the best practices of application development and management than ever before, and firms need to adjust to survive in this regard.
According to Prentice, mobility is playing a more substantial role in this equation, especially since it is diversifying and building out through the Internet of Things and other relevant trends. In terms of the software itself, he believes that companies are beginning to focus more on tight alignment of investments with objectives rather than simply deploying as many apps as possible, regardless of what they might do.
"We are also moving into an interesting point in the market where just adding features and functions to applications, whether for employees or customers, isn't really doing the trick any more," Prentice affirmed. "The market is starting to shift towards a much bigger focus on user experience design. It is a huge challenge for application development teams, largely because they have designed their operations and expertise on how you can get extra functionality into products, not necessarily how you get people to have an enjoyable experience using it."
Referencing another study released earlier this month from the firm, the interviewer brought up the fact that app development is lagging far behind demand in many industries, and that this is expected to cause more strain as the years go on. Then, the interviewer asked Prentice how businesses should be approaching this matter and what they can do to ensure they do not fall behind in their provisioning and deployment cycles.
"Today's application services depend on architectures that are both stable and flexible, both reliable and agile," Prentice stated. "The rise of the Web Scale IT, consumerization, citizen developers and business units with autonomy and budgets means open architectures are critical - and SOA is not enough. Web Oriented Architecture (WOA) is now the focal point. The primary WOA model is RESTful Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and an API gateway/management tool. Done right, WOA provides a simple interoperability model that also enables a significant amount of agility and flexibility."
Finally, Prentice went on to argue the digital revolution has already happened, and it would be difficult to find a firm that has not yet made the transition into these types of operations.
Another clear sign of digitization
International Data Corporation released a report that forecast the mobile worker population to expand to 105 million by the end of the decade in the U.S. alone. This is a clear indication that companies are becoming more digital, as remote and mobile work will only be possible when an organization has embraced modern IT infrastructure, service delivery models, applications, and management frameworks.
"Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work," IDC Research Analyst for the Mobile Enterprise Device Solutions unit Bryan Bassett affirmed. "This expectation will be supplemented by new solutions specifically intended to manage the challenges associated with the growing needs of the mobile workforce."
"9.2 million more employees will be mobile workers by 2020."
As a note, this would represent roughly 9.2 million more mobile workers in the next five years, and nearly three-quarters of the American workforce would fall into this category. Companies that do not digitize their operational management structures will undoubtedly struggle to enable workers who are using their smartphones, tablets, portable computers and wearable gadgets in the next few years.
This is why cloud services and UC solutions should be high priorities for all small businesses today and for the foreseeable future, with the main focus being the optimization of infrastructure, platforms and software to truly take massive steps in the right direction toward modernized performance. With the right managed service providers that can centralize the oversight responsibilities of IT managers, converge technology and communications frameworks and support compliance efforts, small businesses can step into these types of territories with ease.
Remember, the digital economy is shaping the demands of the market, and small-business owners who are quickest to the punch in their own transformations will be better-positioned to excel in their industries.