Our annual trends report, Look Out 09+, spotlights themes we are seeing across our primarily European market and client base. Perhaps surprisingly, many of the issues extend across different industries, where their impacts may vary considerably.
We found that, despite the downturn, business and civil leaders are still paying attention to issues besides cost.
C-level executives are worried about the downturn, retaining talent, risk management, customer intimacy, carbon legislation and the challenges of the post-downturn world.
However, they are also keen to embrace net-enabled working to gain competitive advantage, with a focus on Web 2.0, mobile workers and open innovation.
R&D is being squeezed, but there is also an unprecedented demand for new innovative answers. Each technological advance must have a clear, defined business purpose. Lag time is becoming less acceptable, especially for IT.
Developments such as cloud computing reflect a desire for cheaper hosting and a need to fulfil business requirements cheaply and quickly.
Consumer IT will lead to many employees finding it especially difficult to understand why the technology they use at home is not available in the workplace – and in some cases take this into their own hands.
Part of the legacy of the banking crisis is erosion of trust in big businesses. Customers cross-industry are looking for more transparency and a human touch.
Our study suggests that organisations need to demonstrate a desire to build genuine relationships with customers by listening and acting on the information shared with them through existing and new channels, such as social networks and blogs.
A challenge is the multi-demographic workforce. As the retirement age extends and so-called "digital natives" enter the workforce, organisations must create cohesion between these groups, which may work very differently.
Generation Ys entering the workforce will pose new challenges as they will not fit with induction strategies. The average Gen Y employee will be looking to leave an organisation within two years – before most graduate training programmes have even been completed.
Everyone in the 21st century knows what it means to be drowning in data. With huge bandwidth increases and constant, easy communication, data management is under pressure.
Improving IT infrastructure may not be enough. Perhaps emerging technologies such as wearable computing could help, by enabling us to gather and sort data as we go about our daily lives.
Our study also looks at futuristic technologies that may play a part in business eventually. These include plastic transistors for flexible displays – which could support all sorts of applications, such as cheap, supple monitors that could one day adorn every flat surface – or nanowire power generators through to bionic lenses.
Businesses everywhere are focusing on the future despite the downturn. This is driving increasing evaluation and adoption of new technologies.
This tough period will end, and when growth returns, the world will be a different place. The old ways may offer no certainty of success and new challenges will be faced – especially around freedom versus control.
Will Hyams is CIO adviser at Atos Consulting
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