Microsoft: Enterprise Social, Big Data Among Top IT Trends for 2014

In the new year, enterprise social networks will grow up, and businesses will find themselves challenged by managing a deluge of data caused by the Internet of things.

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New challenges and opportunities await the IT industry in 2014, according to Susan Hauser, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Enterprise and Partner Group. And in her interactions with customers, she has identified some areas the company expects to have a big impact on how enterprises devote IT resources in the coming year.

Enterprise social is maturing, and organizations are waking up to the business-boosting potential of embracing social-enabled modes of employee collaboration and customer communications, wrote Hauser in a TechNet Blog post. Compared with two years ago, when businesses were cool to the technology, "today I have a conversation on enterprise social in almost every meeting," she reported.

"Business differentiation for many customers comes from the ability to quickly respond to changing customer sentiment in a meaningful way," Hauser wrote. She cited restaurant chain Red Robin and its success in sparking conversations among workers in all levels in the company. (Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion.)

"Flattening internal communication like this can save money, make companies more responsive, and course-correct quickly," said Hauser. The effects can also spread beyond the bottom line. "Some companies even note large improvement in morale when communication is open and widespread," she added.

Big data will continue to challenge businesses. This time, a growing Internet of things will add new urgency to how businesses manage their data.

The Internet of things, characterized by an explosion of connected devices and sensors, can help businesses glean ROI-improving insights, but Hauser warned that "equally important is ensuring businesses are analyzing the right data sets, absorbing some data in real-time and leaving other data at the device or allowing machine-to-machine communication."

Some intelligence is in order. "This strategy—understanding what data needs to be absorbed vs. ignored—is where the 'Internet of things' becomes real. It will be a big deal in 2014," stated Hauser.

Also on the horizon is the concept of "reverse BYOD," said Hauser. Businesses are taking charge of their mobile environments in the wake of explosive consumer smartphone and tablet adoption, which sparked bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives among corporations. "In my conversations with customers, business-ready, secure devices are getting so good that organizations are centrally deploying mobility solutions that are equally effective at work and play," said Hauser.

Cloud computing will continue to influence IT decision-making in 2014 and give rise to new business models that harness the cloud's inherent benefits. "The cloud provides a unique and sustainable way to enable business value, innovation and competitive differentiation—all of which are critical in a global marketplace that demands more mobility, flexibility, agility and better quality across the enterprise," wrote Hauser.

As always, capitalizing on new trends is a balancing act. For forward-looking organizations, "success will lie somewhere between their ability to embrace disruption while leveraging new technologies to realize better business outcomes," concluded Hauser.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...