This is the time of year when all columnists climb out on a limb and make all sorts of predictions for the upcoming year. But for 2006, I have only one prediction, really, and that is that your customers will continue to crave more predictability.
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If you think about some of the most heated dialogues of the past few months, they all center on a common theme: Businesses are being held to higher standards of accountability by shareholders and the government. Likewise, they are holding IT solution providers to a higher degree of accountability.
In essence, the promise of managed services offerings is that they provide companies with more proactive control over what&'s going on in their networks and data centers, enabling them to predict outages or peak usage periods. Predictability also comes in the form of service-level agreements, which provide a pretty black-and-white view of what happens—and who&'s responsible—when things go wrong.
The notion of predictability also is at the heart of the software-as-a-service phenomenon. The idea that you can offer an application as a bucket of bits and features that can be tapped as needed is very appealing to smaller firms that want the power of enterprise business software without the headaches of investing in the back office. Their ability to budget that expense over time is, of course, just as compelling.
Indeed, I believe the desire for IT predictability also will spark deeper conversations this year in the area of financing.
It&'s a well-known fact that the majority of technology spending goes toward maintaining existing infrastructure. Mobility brings a whole new twist. As notebooks move from home to office and back again, they&'ll be used for more than just professional purposes. In fact, Gartner even predicts that by 2008, 10 percent of companies will require employees to buy their notebooks themselves, providing them with some sort of allowance to compensate.
While I&'m not sure things will be taken to that extreme, I do believe that coming up with an easy, predictable way for small or midsize businesses to invest in IT to be more competitive seems like a value-added service to me, one that I think more solution providers need to study in the year ahead.
What do you predict for 2006? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, is interested in your ideas and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.