AAx Where is Information Technology Headed?

To chart a course, you must know how the wind is blowing.

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A couple years ago, this question would get a much different answer. The future, all the pundits assured us, was Windows based Client Server Computing, and if you weren't deep into converting your business to Client Server you were simply calcified and ready for death. All powerful Microsoft held the keys to the future - everyone else was an "also ran".

Today, Client Server is nearly dead (our article on Technology Failure explains what happened) and many radical trends are glaringly obvious. Here are a number of them.

  • The Internet is the center of the known universe and its importance will continue to increase rapidly. It's performance and security flaws are painfully obvious, so we have to work on improving them.

  • Microsoft Windows totally dominates the desktop, running on almost every PC - but it's the walking dead, a zombie. Windows is a relic of the programming practices of the past and the single user computer. Trying to move it into the future will be frustrating and painful.

  • The PC era is over (leading industry weekly PC Week just renamed itself e-Week). For general computing, the PC is too complex, too fragile, too expensive to support and it limits mobility too much (even notebooks). It will be around a long time, but its use will increasingly be limited to only those who really need one. The Internet is the computer now, and it can use a cell phone as a terminal, or a supercomputer, or anything in between.

  • The Web browser is the application platform. A person will be able to sit down at any Web / Java capable device anywhere in the world, log onto the Internet, and call up their own familiar environment and programs, and work with their own data.

  • Java, Python, and other platform agnostic Internet enabled languages are bringing business applications to network computers, internet appliances and other non-PC devices (and PCs too, incidentally).

  • Linux will become a major operating system platform due to its flexibility and low cost. It can be fit into everything from cell phones to supercomputers and is about to challenge Windows on the desktop PC.

  • Security will be issue No.1, not the afterthought it is now. With everything connected to everything else, your confidential data will be available to everyone everywhere if you aren't careful (and might already be).

  • Company internal networks are rapidly extending onto the Internet - they have no choice. It is extend or be left behind.

  • XML based open Internet protocols like UDDI and SOAP will transform company to company communications. EDI will suffer a slow, lingering death.

  • ADSL / Cable is fast becoming minimum Internet connection speed for a business of even the smallest size. "Always on" will be essential. Locations where this service level is not available will become economically distressed unless wireless satelite links come to the rescue.

  • Voice and Fax will be carried over the Internet, but not universally, the convenience and reliability aren't there. It will be used where the cost of standard telephone is unacceptably high.

  • Wireless communications devices will continue to become more important. Broadband satellite will become an important service for mobile users and where wired service is inadequate.

  • With the Internet as the company's data system, businesses will find they can't afford offices (once their competitors start dropping them). A critical scarcity of time (and coming scarcity of gasoline) will make today's long commutes impractical. New ways to measure employee effectiveness will have to be evolved. This will precipitate a crisis for middle managers.

  • This is a magical transition time. Nobody can predict how it will shake out, but it isn't going to be easy and isn't going to go away. Business fatalities will be very high, but that's how evolution works. The survivors will rule, and those that didn't play will fade to the background.

"OK, but my business is simple. We just need a couple of PCs, QuickBooks, and Microsoft Office. What does all this mean to me?"

It means you must carefully evaluate if technologies you are considering will tie you into a corner that maybe isn't going to be there in a while. Look at everything as a communications issue, because communications is now the dominant factor in our business society - in many cases the only factor.

Getting information into the hands of those to whom having it is to your advantage - and protecting it from all others - must be your top priority. Even if you think your business is building cabinets, information about cabinets is your primary focus. Information about how to build cabinets, suppliers, new materials, laws, trends and competitors must be in your hands, and your employee's hands. Information about your cabinets must be in the hands of those who would buy them. This information must be clear and easy to find when needed, or some more savvy cabinet builder will eat your lunch.

Right behind the importance to information is delivery. The ease with which information is available encourages a "want it right now" attitude, so you must apply the full capabilities of information technology to improve speed and accuracy of delivery - and to maintaining quality in a "rush rush" environment. Time is getting compressed, and patience is becoming a lost art.

Knowing what all that information is and who needs it is your business. Enabling you to handle it effectively is Automation Access' business.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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