roulette wheel illustrates the risk of uncertainty in the future of technology

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Five years ago, you probably didn’t anticipate that a smartphone would be the primary device used to help customers and employees stay connected with your company. Did you imagine that your employees would be using tablets instead of laptops, or that customers would demand custom mobile apps for accessing your company’s services? Did you even think one day you would be able to access your files at anytime, from anywhere in the world, without the need for thumb drives, emails, or CD-ROMs?

While a few futurists anticipated technologies like this, most people have not been prepared for the rapid pace of technological change. Indeed, understanding and responding to the increasing pace and uncertainty of change is one of the greatest challenges for information technology managers today.

Two management gurus can provide some perspective: Geoffrey Moore and Peter F. Drucker.

Drucker wrote that rapid change makes it difficult to anticipate what will happen in the future. Instead, Drucker argued, planning in a time of uncertainty demands that you ask, “What has already happened that will create the future?”

Geoffrey Moore is most famous as the author of Crossing the Chasm, a book that talks about the difficulty companies have in making the leap from early adopters to a larger market of mainstream customers.

In the technological arena, the shift to smartphones has already happened. Mobile tech has “crossed the chasm” to broad adoption. So how will this change, which has already happened, affect the future?

The most immediate impact will be to drive even faster adoption of cloud computing technologies, because people — customers, employees, and partners — will increasingly be using a variety of mobile devices to access information services in “the cloud.”

Right now, cloud computing is still the purview of early adopters, although chances are good that very few companies have been totally untouched by it by now. Still, mass adoption has yet to happen.

But, with the demand created by masses of mobile users, the shift to cloud computing is certain to come.

If your company is behind in this area, it’s about time to think about how you can catch up and keep up with the rapid evolution of technology.

Making the move to the cloud

Drucker, who passed away in 2005, may not have anticipated the scope of technological change in the second decade of the 21st century. He once wrote, “all a computer can handle are abstractions, and abstractions can be relied on only if they are constantly checked against the concrete.”

Recently, that “abstraction” has become cloud computing. Although the cloud has been around for a few years, 2011 was a time when many companies realized both the risks and benefits of having a company’s resources easily accessible over the internet.

Cloud computing, in short, refers to the ability to upload files, resources, software and other sharable information over a trusted data service, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and others. These files can be accessed through a computer, iPad, phone, or whatever device your employees or clients choose to bring. Bottom line: Cloud computing makes applications more accessible, more manageable, and makes it even harder for Joe in marketing to give an excuse as to why his report was turned in late.

It would be wise to begin the process of transitioning into the cloud if you haven’t done so already. Look into services such as Google (which offers Docs, Calendar, email, etc.) or Microsoft 365. Dropbox and offer cloud-based file storage (and there’s a good chance many of your employees are already using these services).

Mobile interaction

If your business cannot be accessed through a mobile app, or at least viewable through a mobile website, you honestly need to catch up … and fast.

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with mobile apps. Apple, and later on Android (purchased by Google), have worked to develop smartphones with the ability to stream news clippings, access company websites, and download almost any type of app in the market.

Mobile phones quickly became mini-computers people carry on their persons at all times. Companies realized this trend and began to figure out ways for their company to become “mobilized.”

How do you get started? First, you will need to make sure your company’s website can be optimized for any smartphone. You can also choose to have an app for people to purchase, but it all depends on your business.

You will then need to search out a mobile device management system that will help with security, app visualization and statistics of those who visit/interact with your app/website through their mobile device.

While this may sound a bit tedious, it’s important for the forward progression of your company.

As economist Florian Ramseger once wrote, “we are at the doorstep of a new era.” Keeping up with the rapid evolution of technology will ensure that your employers and business are prepared for the future.