As 2014 comes to a close, businesses big and small are going through year-end planning as they forecast and strategize for the year ahead. From where we sit, one of the most notable trends in business is the reshaping of the enterprise. We are in the midst of a transformational moment as the makeup of the workforce changes, as does the outright speed in which business is done — all of which impacts enterprise technology development and solutions.
The enterprise of the future will look very different than where it is today. For example, even as close as three to five years out:
The enterprise will need to compensate for the brain drain
Our nation’s workforce is aging rapidly, with an average of 10,000 baby boomers retiring daily, resulting in the loss of some of the most significant contributors to the brain trusts of enterprising organizations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a shortfall of 10 million workers. As baby boomers retire, critical knowledge, experience, and business savvy will leave with them. Enterprises will need to address the challenge of preserving and leveraging institutional knowledge.
The rise of the millennials
The shrinking workforce is further complicated by the fact that the millennial generation is expected to take the place of baby boomers. Millennials grew up in the internet age with the ability to find answers to problems in an instant. While millennials are rising to leadership positions, they are not yet proven as leaders of complex enterprises. Moreover, millennials value autonomy and flexibility, which doesn’t always equate to long-term relationships with organizations. (For example, 72 percent of workers still at a “regular job,” want to quit, and 62 percent say they will within the next two years.) The impact of the millennial workforce is only magnified by the brain drain.
Rapid pace, and too many tools
Another important trend to note is how quickly the business world is moving and changing.
For example, the mergers-and-acquisitions market in the U.S. is surging. The first quarter of 2014 year saw the busiest start in seven years, and the second quarter had the highest historical value of deals, at $548 billion.
With so much business acceleration, enterprise employees are using a staggering number of tools to keep up. According to Skyhigh’s Q2 2014 analysis of 10.5 million enterprise employees, an employee uses an average of 738 cloud applications. With such a flood into the market, it’s no surprise that employees cannot keep up with the sheer number of enterprise tools, let alone adopt them as part of their jobs. Employees are struggling to keep pace with the ever-changing business world and the volume of tools designed to make their jobs easier, not more overwhelming.
What will the future of enterprise technology look like?
All is not lost, however, as the next generation of enterprise technology will help companies survive and thrive in this future.
Big data for employees, not just data scientists
Big data has been one of the biggest trends in enterprise software in the past few years, providing important, new insight for data scientists. We’re reaching a new stage, where big data can help front-line employees themselves do their jobs better, not just pure data scientists. You already see this in the consumer space with more “smart” apps providing contextual assistance or deeper personalization, especially in mobile. Companies like Qlik make it easier for enterprises to analyze the plethora of data enterprises amass. We’re finally starting to see “smart” enterprise apps that accomplish more of the “busy work” for employees, thereby freeing them up to complete higher-value tasks. The biggest success so far has been with RelateIQ, a Salesforce.com company that automated much of the manual data-entry activity to optimize customer relationship management.
With all the credit card and privacy leaks making headlines, personal privacy is top of mind for every employee. Enterprise applications require more data to get smarter. Thus, a more open dynamic will evolve between the computer and the user. First, employees should always be in control of all of their data. However, if there is clear value and help available, then users will be more willing to share personal information. For example, would you be willing to share all of the documents you’ve uploaded to your Intranet in order to have a solution derive expertise and skills about you to improve how you look to the company? As the enterprise continues to be consumerized, employee-centric privacy will become more common.
Enterprise mobile has made progress but still has a very volatile future. Most people agree that a mobile-first future is coming, even for enterprise. (The bring-your-own-device market will increase to $181 billion by 2017.) Users experience application overload. In the end, will your phone be just like your laptop, where each user has too many applications to go to in order to retrieve the information they need? Android users have an average of 95 apps installed on their phones. But nobody truly knows what it will look like. How do I keep my personal life separate from my work life? How does a consumer device comply with enterprise security standards? In the end, will your phone be just like your laptop, where it’s issued and secured by the company, but you can continue to use it for personal use too? Mobile device management providers like MobileIron and Good are working to find the balance.
Permeable and extended enterprise
Most companies have an ecosystem of partners, suppliers and customers that comprise their extended business. However, there is very little collaboration across those company firewalls today. More and more companies are looking to harness that extended network in more meaningful ways. What if I could more easily tap into the expertise (and connections) of my partners or suppliers to help my initiatives? What if I could help my customers by giving them more access to the tools and insights my company provides? The future is a “permeable” enterprise, where you can securely provide limited access to select partners to your own internal people and services.
Beyond the social enterprise
Social enterprise has been the hottest trend in enterprise collaboration for more than seven years. However, many deployments are suffering engagement and adoption issues. The reason is that these tools force users to change how they work. Do I email this document? Post it to Jive? Upload it to Box? It’s the classic paralysis from too many overlapping options. The future will be a more seamless, interconnected experience, where users can work with their preferred tools without having to learn and bookmark new apps every year. What if I could search Google and have my Intranet content show up as well? What if the best colleague that could help me was recommended when I was researching on Wikipedia or StackExchange?
The enterprise world is a dynamic and changing space, reliant on a smooth transition from baby boomer to millennial leadership and efficient management of a plethora of software tools. As a new generation of enterprise software emerges, my crystal ball helps me make an unclouded prediction — enterprise technology will continue to meet the demands of today’s businesses by changing and re-shaping itself right along with them.
Chris Macomber is chief executive of WhoKnows.
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