Aldridge expects businesses to derive greater strategic value from the cloud, frequent security breaches will signal a new normal and prompt businesses to redouble their security protocols, cloud-based services and apps driven by employee behaviors will force companies to adapt, and the advantages of IT outsourcing will grow in value due to economic realities.

By Mark Glowacz of Aldridge

The Future is Here

In the 1980s, when “Back to the Future Part II” looked at the year 2015, it nailed some predictions such as flat screen TVs, drones and biometric identification. We’re still waiting for the hover board and self-lacing shoes, though.

We will not take such a bold leap today to predict 25 years into the future. But we are sitting down to look at the technology trends that are already shaping 2015 and the impact they are likely to have many years from now. Here’s the top five:

Cloud adoption is becoming more strategic and process-driven.

While 75 percent or more of Aldridge’s customers have some data in the cloud, fewer than 20 percent are actually using the cloud to improve their processes. Email was the gateway to the cloud for many companies, and Aldridge predicts many will next move to file sharing. Already consumers are becoming accustomed to shared resources such as Dropbox, and they are bringing this experience to the workplace.

Where companies stand on the cloud continuum may depend on their heritage. Aldridge has observed that newer companies, especially those formed in the past five years, take file sharing in the cloud for granted. To achieve the efficiencies and other business advantages of file sharing, more established companies that have a history of desktop and local server file storage and similar practices should test the waters in 2015.

Other examples of how the cloud will increasingly be integrated into business processes include enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Moving these to the cloud allows real-time data availability, which is necessary for the anytime, anywhere demands of the 2015 workforce.

IT Security is focusing more on human behavior. 

Security will remain a top concern throughout 2015, but despite the headlines about nation states hacking into enterprise networks, the greatest security threats that a business faces will remain internal. Employees can intentionally or accidentally put a business’ most valuable assets, such as client lists, intellectual property or proprietary files, at risk. Disgruntled employees have taken data and even deleted valuable files on their way out the door.

The key to protecting information is to apply security fundamentals. To begin, enterprises must keep software current and have a good business continuity system in place. As more information is shared, particularly in the cloud, it is important to cultivate a culture of trust. This starts with attention to hiring and includes communicating a clear data policy that succinctly defines ownership and consequences of violations. Employees must know that the enterprise owns the data and stealing it can lead to prosecution, for example.

Once expectations are set, the organization can assess external security vulnerabilities and build the right defenses.

BYOD is evolving into BYOS.

If 2014 was the year of BYOD (bring your own device), then 2015 will be the year of BYOS, or bring your own service. In a recent IDC survey, more than half of the respondent companies allow employees to use their devices — personal smartphones, tablets and laptops — for company work. Now these same employees already are gravitating to their preferred services or apps, such as Evernote and Dropbox. As they did with BYOD, smart enterprises will adapt to this movement in 2015, rather than constrain it.

These movements are requiring enterprises to carefully consider fundamental issues of information ownership and usage. While BYOD and BYOS can raise security issues, at the core they are tools that simply require appropriate security like any other business tool.

The app economy is making it easier for enterprises to experiment.

As employees naturally seek their own services, smart enterprises in 2015 will embrace experimentation. An IT department cannot assess the tens of thousands of apps that improve business processes. By giving employees permission to try new business enabling tools, IT department or consultant can focus on the dozen that could have broad application throughout the organization. Enterprises can even see which micro functions are ripe for new attention and improvement.

For many enterprises that are accustomed to top-down IT management, this bottom-up approach will be a major paradigm shift, but it will be worth it. Trying new things in an app economy typically involves low cost and low risk.

Economic uncertainty is making outsourcing IT even more attractive.

In Aldridge’s core service areas such as Houston and Dallas, the recent drop in oil prices is tempering the improving economy. Even enterprises outside the energy sector are aware that continuing softness in the oil industry will likely lead to delays in purchases and expansion in 2015. Outsourcing IT will be an important strategic option for enterprises to effectively manage vital IT services, while dynamically adjusting to the peaks and valleys of the economy.

No single year brings revolutionary change, but the combined changes in 2015 is having a profound impact on how businesses operate — and this promises to continue for many years to come. Expect businesses to derive greater strategic value from the cloud, frequent security breaches will signal a new normal and prompt businesses to redouble their security protocols, cloud-based services and apps driven by employee behaviors will force companies to adapt, and the advantages of IT outsourcing will grow in value due to economic realities.

Patrick Wiley is President and COO of Aldridge, a technology management, consulting, and outsourcing company that specializes in providing best-fit IT and cloud computing solutions to SMBs that are growing. Founded in 1984, Aldridge has offices in Houston and Dallas. The company’s unwavering dedication, superior technical expertise, and keen understanding of business processes have transformed it into a trusted partner of clients across the nation. In 2014, Inc. magazine ranked Aldridge among the fastest-growing private companies in America for the fifth consecutive year.