As I mentioned previously (and throughout 2012) we’ve just gone through the year of the big eating the small. This happened both on the big money front (through M&A) and on the small money front (clients moving from “consultants” to full service IT Solution Providers). This is good and it’s natural – once business matures it also becomes quite expensive to operate and shops that were once running on the fumes of passion turn to their owners being managers, leaders, motivators and obsession goes from technology and things like money and business performance. More thoughts on that later, all I have to say is that 2012 has been the most successful year we’ve ever had and most of it is thanks to the success our partners had.
With that in mind, I offer you my predictions for 2013. Keep in mind that I’m not a journalist, I’m not an entertainer, I’m not making this on behalf of any company / sponsor / etc. Just my humble opinion.
More gadgets, less IT
If you paid any attention to the trade rags, all the IT world was infatuated with MDM (mobile device management), BYOD (bring your own device, employees using their own computers/gadgets/phones to do work) and single panes of glass.
Here is the bitch – they have been trying to figure this out since the last century with Active Directory and a billion other bandages ever since then. They are further now than they were back in the days where you could quarantine XP machines from joining your domain until they applied all the required patches, etc.
Today.. you’ve got phones, tablets, PCs and Macs roaming the network with no shame.
It has gone unchecked – and it will just get worse.
For an overwhelming majority of tasks you don’t actually need a PC. All the modern stuff is being written for the mobile first (not .NET first) and with the cloud backend.
Design-wise, the more you can make something an app or service, the less people will get a chance to object to how you get things done so long as you get them done. As I mentioned at the launch of Shockey Monkey 3 people spend all this money just to setup an environment to run an app to get things done. If stuff can get done without all the setup, pain and investment then what’s the point of having it in the first place?
Things like security, regulatory compliance, redundancy, data retention/backups, etc sure are important but that’s not something that “employees” worry about, it’s something lawyers worry about once the company is sued. And business is all about risk, Vegas-style baby!
Expect more gadgets with more form factors, resolutions and operating systems.
Simplicity beats Support
Related to the topic above, simplicity will continue to be the name of the game.
Many IT Solution Providers made their buck in “support of IT” whether through blocks of hours or MSP. But a funny thing happened – people stopped wanting to upgrade to the next greatest thing. It became harder and harder to justify and the pain alone is not making it worth it anymore.
Speaking personally here, we haven’t updated to Windows 8 or Office 2013. No plans to either. No Retina MacBooks that I know of and we certainly don’t see anyone asking for the latest iPad or iPad mini.
If you look objectively (or call me biased, your call) – Mac has always been seen by the PC users as.. infantile. You can call it simple if you want to be nice but you get the idea. Turns out that all that power and complexity and flexibility that us PC users liked didn’t really thrill your average user.
Look for 2013 to take even more power from the MSP/VAR/IT department.
If it’s easier to subscribe to a service that can be canned at any time, don’t even expect to be invited into the conversation – it will just pop in. Ditto for the gadgets and other non-complex, sub $1,000 stuff.
Services, Services, Services, Cloud, Cloud, Cloud, No support, No support, No support, No support, Not even outsourced to India
One of the biggest Shockey Monkey feature requests (that we don’t have an answer for until the end of January) has been the vendor management control. Instead of dealing with just a few vendors we’re dealing with a ton of them and they all have portals, support sites, forums, control panels and dashboards. And the only person with the login credentials is the boss or whoever put the credit card down. Good luck getting into all these resources that different employees across the organization need to have access to.
This is a scenario that so many small businesses find themselves. They have a problem, they google for a solution, if it’s cheap they go with it. Loop closed.
Expect more and more services to pop up everywhere. Expect apps to fill the gap.
The whole “cloud” has gone from a total hype word to a backbone of all the growth behind apps and services.
Sounds terrible, where is the opportunity?
There will be more services, more apps, more gadgets – yet nobody will be able or willing to support them all. One of the arguments you’ll have to make with your clients is that it’s cheaper and more effective to have an IT person (service) around to deal with it all.
There will be more solutions with less reputation. Mark these words and glue them to your fridge: Your clients need to find out about the technology from you. Not from the App store, not from Verizon guy, not from a blog – you. This will require you to change the way you “market” things: more mail, more training sessions, more demo days and lunch and learns. The old tired “What don’t you like about your computers” is done.
DIY only makes sense until the problems pile up. As one of my partners told me “SMB doesn’t mean small & medium business, it means Small Minded Business. The only reason clients pay us is because they can’t be bothered to do it themselves”.
My argument is that simple problems will be solved by the users. Big problems – compliance, backups, data integrity, audits, employee monitoring, timesheet accountability, business continuity (when a DIY/BYOD mobile worker leaves, how does a new employee continue?) and so on – will be done by you.
Services, apps, cloud – and you. Embedding all this stuff people want into the overall solution is a huge opportunity. But it requires different staff and different talent.
Finally, the biggest opportunity might come from the economy itself. We just made it through the fiscall cliff. The Federal Reserve is printing money faster than ever, Japan is devaluing it’s currency and European Union is shuffling around debt pretending it doesn’t exist. At least for the time being, people might feel a little bit better about outsourcing – not quite committing to “building” stuff but catching up.
The opportunity is out there. 2013 will be the best year yet, so long as you remember that we’re in 2013 and not 2003.