Top IT Trends for 2012 and Beyond

by Neil Saward and Deepak Bharathan of PA Consulting Group

What top trends in IT are in store for 2012? Well, expect a number of trends that have emerged over the last few years, such as cloud, mobility, enterprise social media, the “Internet of things” and Big Data, to continue to gain traction with IT and business leaders, as well as industry-specific trends such as location shifting and increased adoption of mobile payments.

Here is a quick look at some of these IT trends in more detail and reasons these will be critical in 2012:

Cloud – There will continue to be increasing acceptance of cloud computing as an alternative to more established hosting models. Cloud enables organizations to conveniently access a shared, scalable pool of computing services, which in turn can help the organization be more agile and drive down deployment costs. However, as organizations experiment with the cloud, careful consideration will need to be given to system integration, data integration and security, particularly between cloud and on-premise solutions.

Given Amazon’s widely reported cloud outage in 2011, organizations will still be cautious and take a risk-based approach to assessing the types of solutions they consider appropriate for the cloud.

Mobility – Mobile will continue to build on its strong 2010/11 with a greater number of organizations considering supporting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and expanding the corporate services available for smartphones and tablets. BYOD enables an organization’s staff to use their own laptop, smartphone or tablets in the corporate environment rather than rely on ones provided by the IT organization. This provides greater convenience for employees but can present a security challenge for organizations.

Enterprise social media – Enterprise social media are tools that let employees share and connect with coworkers in private enterprise-only social networks. In 2012, enterprise social media will gain wider acceptance as organizations seek to facilitate collaboration and foster innovation.

Internet of things – Organizations will continue to explore and begin to benefit from the Internet of things (i.e., uniquely identifiable technologies, connected by the internet). This includes smart meter technology installed in homes or medical devices that connect directly to mobile devices. For consumers, this will enable individualized services based on real-time data and for businesses, it will provide critical insights on customer behaviors (see Big Data below), which will help drive business growth.

Big Data – Data continues to be a critical source of competitive advantage for organizations, whether to better understand their customers or to better manage their products and services. However, as a result of the increasing volume of data in our everyday lives, created by everything from Internet searches and social media to smart-technologies, Big Data will continue to become increasingly prominent in IT discussions over the next few years.

Huge datasets are challenging to search, store, share, and analyze but they also have the potential to deliver tangible benefits, allowing analysts to identify trends and harvest insights from the data. Companies such as Google were founded on their ability to manage and analyze huge datasets effectively and organizations across many industries are now starting to examine their own data sources more carefully.

Cybersecurity – We’ve seen a growing number of headlines related to digital attacks on both corporations and governments. Due to increased levels of connectivity, virtually all business assets now vulnerable in cyberspace meaning that the scale, scope of threat and potency are now more significant than ever. In 2012, we’ll continue to see organizations developing cyber security strategies and focusing their investments on their most valuable asset: information.

Industry specific trends

Saward and Bharathan expect to see a number of industry-specific trends that will cause substantial change in certain industries but have limited impact on others:

Location-shifting of media becomes main stream – In the same way that “time shifting” has become common in households, in 2012 we’ll see “location-shifting” become mainstream. “Location-shifting” means that we’ll be able to watch TV shows and movies where we want to, rather than required to be at a TV or a movie screen.

Where the growth of electronic storage media like DVDs and DVRs enabled time-shifting to become mainstream, the key players in the location-shifting arena are hardware makers, media conglomerates and social networking companies, who all have vested interests in getting this right.

Mobile payments finally start to fulfill promise in U.S./Europe – Residents in many Asian countries have had e-wallets on their cell phones and been using contactless payment systems for a number of years. This gives them the ability to pay for purchases by placing their cellphones in the proximity of a payment terminal and can be used to pay for everything from train fares to groceries. In the U.S. and Europe, organizations have been slower to adopt near field communication (NFC) or similar enabling technologies, but we expect 2012 will be the year that brings it much closer to consumers.

Neil Saward is an IT expert with PA Consulting Group with over 15 years of experience in planning, executing and managing technology-enabled transformation initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. In his work, Neil engages closely with business and IT leaders to define technology strategies and roadmaps, evaluate and implement technology solutions, define target operating models and optimize processes with the common aim of delivering improved business outcomes.

Deepak Bharathan is an IT expert at PA Consulting Group whose core experience is in conceptualizing and implementing transformational business strategy for Fortune 500 companies. His work has focused on technology, growth strategy, and financial modeling across diverse verticals like private equity, financial services, telecommunications, technology, manufacturing, and life sciences. He has delivered strategy assignments for a variety of clients across three continents – examples include development of corporate vision and strategy for a global pharmaceutical company, development of investment strategy for an investment board, and development of technology strategy for a large telecommunications provider.