As the market enters its first extended period of growth for half a decade you would be forgiven for thinking that the hard work is all but done. After a turbulent five years UK businesses have now reached a cross-roads - they understand the need to spend, but are fearful that one wrong move may mean ruin.
It's unsurprising when you consider how investment in the organisation slowed down during this time of uncertainty as cautious CFOs looked to limit as much spending as possible. It's long often been the mantra for the CIO to hear the words "more for less", but during this time we have seen a real culture shift in consumer and employee demands that highlights how this approach will only have negative outcomes. The UK has reached a point where constant availability of both data and services is now the expected norm. The opportunity for growth is there; businesses must reach out and take it.
These sentiments are echoed by the majority of businesses, according to new research from SunGard Availability Services. The report highlights that just over three quarters of organisations are planning to overhaul their current technology estates within just 36 months. With the market's health currently balanced on a knife edge, the choices that businesses make now in their IT investment are likely to reverberate for some time to come. From this moment on IT can serve as the foundation for any business looking to move forward in this cloud-enabled round-the-clock 'all-time' era.
SunGard's research is hardly surprising - and it tallies perfectly with the technology predictions Keith Tilley SunGard's MD for UK&I and European EVP and I discussed earlier this year. The millennial generation is now completely at ease with a technology-focused world, having grown accustomed to living and working within an IT landscape that delivers constant availability- if they can't access a specific service as and when they require why would they wait? Customer loyalty is increasingly becoming harder to achieve - every market is crammed with choice and consumers are all too happy to take their money elsewhere at a moment's notice. There are too many examples of companies suffering substantial losses due to their inability to keep up with the technological demands of their target market - it's vital that businesses remember the old maxim: 'out of sight, out of mind.'
And it's not just the consumer demand that is driving the need for businesses to update their IT estates: employees are also pressuring CIOs to offer an infrastructure that can support the ever more common practice of flexible working and BYOD (bring your own device) trends. Employees want to experience the same freedom of technology in work as they do in their everyday lives. Recent research from Gartner, showing that the majority of professionals will be working from their mobiles by 2016, only serves to reinforce the point that this is more than just a passing trend. In fact we are a mere year away from mobile browsing becoming the dominant force in internet usage.
However, while the benefits of such an overhaul are plainly obvious, it would appear that there are still obstacles preventing organisations from making these much needed updates. For many of the more conservative businesses funding is still a major issue and it's undeniable that an overhaul of this nature will require a significant investment. However, what is equally clear is that failure to refresh the IT infrastructure at such a crucial time could also be extremely costly.
"Resistance is futile." This quote may have been taken out of context, but I can imagine that Star Trek's Borg would utter this famous line again given the latest findings surrounding the future of business technology. Availability will prove itself to be key: constant web presence and 24/7 accessibility of service are two essential components in any technology refresh. It will be interesting to observe which organisations will now take the plunge and invest in their future. Without a doubt, the decisions made by CIOs today will have a lasting impact on their businesses for years to come.