Five key technology trends set to change your service management business

The future is coming towards us, fast. Will you be ready?

“I never make predictions—especially about the future” American columnist H.L. Mencken once observed. He had a point, perhaps. But for companies with aftersales service management businesses, ignoring the future isn’t an option. They have to make predictions about the future, in order to be fully ready to meet that future when it arrives.

Because otherwise, their competitors will.

So what does the future of enterprise IT hold? Which new technologies will shape the way that service management companies go to market, serve their customers, and fulfil their customers’ requirements?

It’s a tough call. Because, as companies in the aftersales service management business know all too well, predicting the future is tough enough within their own particular industries. Predicting the future in someone else’s business—enterprise IT—may be a bridge too far.

But at Datawright, enterprise IT is our business. And it’s our job to stay abreast of the fast-changing technologies that underpin and drive enterprise IT.

So what does the future hold? Read on, for our take on five key technology trends set to change your business over the next few years.

#Wearable computing

There have been some amazing advances in small form-factor computers—just look at the smartphone that you’ve probably got in your pocket. But these are still devices that have to be carried around, can be lost or mislaid, and call for conscious action in terms of usage. You have to specifically switch them on, for instance, and actually look at them.

Now imagine a computer that’s physically attached to you, requiring just a glance. In fact, don’t imagine it: it’s here already, in the shape of the Apple Watch, and Google Glass.

The latter is wearable computing as a pair of spectacles—on sale today, although the price-tag isn’t cheap. With Google Glass, you can play music, see a computer screen, check e-mail or watch videos.

Potential usage in a service management context? Well, what about watching a video—complete with text and sound—about a repair that you’re about to undertake. Or get step-by-step instructions—live, or recorded—as you actually undertake that repair. Navigating to a customer site? A GPS will never get much more convenient that a screen that stays permanently in front of your eyes, whichever way you turn your head.

#The Internet of Things

As consumers, we’re used to using the Internet to interact with other consumers, and to access services on remote servers: Facebook, YouTube, iPlayer and so on. Now imagine using the Internet to interact with devices, instead. In a nutshell, that’s the Internet of Things.

How will we use it? As consumers, we might want to turn the heating up at home, before we get there. Or turn the oven on. Or check the contents of the fridge, before calling at the shops on the way home.

For your service management business, the use cases are even more compelling. Machines on customer premises, for instance, which ‘call home’ when they need servicing, or require consumables replacing. New billing models are another opportunity: with the Internet of Things, it’s possible to charge for machines by their amount of use, rather than per-month, or forcing customers to buy outright.

The challenge in all this? First, achieving two-way communication over the Internet of Things securely, and safely. Second, interfacing these new use cases and billing models into ERP. Rest assured that at Datawright, we’re working on both, right now. 

#Big data, analytics, and dashboards

According to well-informed sources, Amazon.com’s well-known “Customers who bought this also bought…” recommendation engine contributes to about 20% of the firm’s revenues.

It’s powered by clever analytics that mines Big Data to see the connections between millions of purchases. And in the years to come, ordinary businesses will routinely be doing the same, to spot vital clues as to instances where demand is cross-linked, enabling better targeting of offers and promotions. Your business probably isn’t doing that now—but it could be soon.

And from a management point of view, analytics-driven user-specific ‘dashboards’ will be how businesses are managed. Forget bulky reports and wading through screens of data: everything an individual manager needs to know will be presented to them on a dashboard, red-flagged or green-lit as appropriate. Plus, the ability to ‘drill down’ into exceptions, to see the underlying causal factors that have given rise to situations that haven’t gone to plan.

Leading businesses are doing this today, but only through expensive Business Intelligence applications. But in the future, this is the way that enterprise IT will work, out of the box.

#Mobile computing

The coming era of mobile computing offers an intriguing proposition: mobile devices delivering connectivity and enterprise applications at any time, in any place, and on any platform.

Because in terms of enterprise IT, the days of a Windows-only world have gone. Tablet computers powered by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems have made all the running over the last five years, with Google Linux-derived Chromebooks showing just how inexpensive mobile laptops can be.

The moral for service management businesses? Enterprise IT of the future will need to support not only a truly platform-independent mobile device, but also the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ paradigm, where employees expect to be able to access enterprise applications on their own everyday mobile devices, rather than lug around another device, just for work.

 #Social listening

What do your customers say about you? Really say, when you aren’t in the room? And—perhaps just as importantly—what do they say about your direct competitors?

Answering these questions is the purpose of ‘social listening’: jointly monitoring the Internet, CRM systems, Twitter, Facebook and a myriad other channels—some of which exist today, and some of which don’t.

Why listen? And to what end? The logic is simple: Through social listening, companies can better understand what their customers want, and—just as crucially—what they don’t want.

Such insights can play a valuable part in the development of new products, and new service offerings. Just as importantly, they provide real-time clues as to how a business is performing, as viewed through the eyes of the people best placed to judge—its customers.

And don’t down play the importance of social listening, say experts. Today’s marketing is often about trying to persuade unwilling customers to buy what a company has wrongly predicted they might like. Tomorrow’s marketing will be about persuading them to pay a premium for something that has been developed in full knowledge that it’s likely to be a hit. Which is a rather different—and much more profitable—proposition.

Roll it all together, and what do we have? Five different takes on enterprise IT, from five fast-changing technology paradigms.

Will it all come to pass, exactly as we’ve described? Probably not: no forecast is ever 100% correct, and the world of technology development takes some interesting twists and turns. After all, who predicted the iPad?

But one thing is certain: those who do take the time to think about the future will be better prepared when it arrives.