Making the right tech decisions for 2014

JAMES VALENTINE
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013

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OPINION: At the beginning of a new year, many of us prepare to better ourselves. Like people, companies are also capable of improving themselves and the January is the perfect time to make a change for the better in your technology decision making.

Here are three principles that should guide your technology decision making.

Mobile first
The unstoppable rise of mobile device usage is dramatically changing the way people work and how companies do business.

IT departments are being challenged to effectively manage resources and infrastructure to support the mobile enterprise.

With more people accessing services from a mobile device, the pain of interacting with a desktop focused website means many businesses lose customers to those that have a mobile offering. Furthermore, digital channels allow you to automate processes and drive down costs in your business.

For the services your company delivers, your technology focus should be - Mobile First. This does two things - it ensures digital channels are prioritised and, secondly, ensures mobile access will be usable.

Anywhere, Anytime, Any device
The non-negotiable test for any technology is that it can be used "Anywhere, Anytime, Any device". This is the simple and most important benchmark for judging the merits of any technology investment. Staff can access their key services like

Email or, depending on their role, finance, HR and planning tools from wherever they are - the office, home or the beach.

The utility of those applications or tools should be the same regardless if accessed in the office or from another location and from a desktop PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Features and functions should gracefully adapt to suit the device you're on - rather than foisting a desktop application experience onto a 4.3" smartphone screen.

Why is this so important for your business? Meeting this objective will deliver greater productivity and increased flexibility. It will mean staff can complete activities remotely, letting them work off-site and with flexible hours. Critical business processes - such as approvals and escalations - can be progressed with fewer delays and overall business friction will decrease.

Cloud first
To ensure even greater benefit - the next principle to apply is "Cloud first". This means that your primary preference will be to use a service from a public cloud provider. Backups, high availability, server procurement is no longer handled in-house and you don't own the infrastructure or datacentre it runs on. Rather a cloud provider will take care of this for you freeing you up to focus on the critical success factors in your business.

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Most line-of-business applications such as Email, CRM or financials can all be purchased as Software-as-a-Service - meaning you simply consume the service on a "pay-as-you-go" basis typically related to the number of users. This means that the cost will be scaled up or down to reflect the size of your business at any one time. The benefits are numerous, ranging from not having the hassle and cost of managing your own servers, to always having the latest version of software through automation and, being able to turn capital expenditure into an operational cost.

For growing businesses, cloud computing democratises access to enterprise-level software meaning a three person business can use the same financials or CRM platform that the largest businesses in the world use, but only pay an amount relative to their size. This makes it easier to compete at a global scale and deliver a great customer service.

As with all New Year's resolutions, companies are no more capable of attaining perfection than people but applying these guidelines to your IT decision-making for 2014 will not only deliver a real return on investment but it will future proof your technology for years to come.

James Valentine is Fronde chief technology officer. He has over 12 years' experience in senior technology roles and a Bachelor of Technology degree from Massey University in Manufacturing and Industrial Technology.

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