Along with saving money whenever possible, saving time is a major goal for every organization. After all, the time you save could be spent strategizing and increasing profits. Here are some of the technologies expected to be major time-savers in 2008:
Mobility. All types of mobile and wireless solutions can be great time-savers. As Kathryn Weldon, principal analyst of Current Analysis, puts it: “Saving time is almost synonymous with wireless-enabling business processes.”
Mobile technologies can save time in many areas of business. For service workers on the go, for example, real-time task scheduling is a real time-saver. For salespeople, accessing critical data at the customer site can help close a deal more quickly. Mobile technologies also allow for faster decision making and higher productivity, because users don’t have to travel to the office to retrieve information.
Many companies are struggling with individual mobile projects or trying to link mobility to a broader IT strategy.
Another time-saving mobility solution is managed mobility solutions—in essence, outsourcing management of mobile phones, PDAs, pagers and other wireless assets to a third party. There are many vendors of managed mobility solutions, including Integrated Mobile and Movero. These approaches save not only time but money as well, by eliminating redundant, unnecessary and underutilized equipment and services.
Consolidation/virtualization. Both server and data center consolidation, usually via virtualization solutions like those provided by VMware, is a major time-saving trend. “Organizations save significant time on new system deployments when servers are deployed as virtual machines,” notes Chris Wolf, senior analyst at Burton Group. “And administrators can perform maintenance during normal business hours instead of having to reserve a time over the weekend.”
Smaller companies might not even have sufficient data backup in place, but virtualization is one budding technology that can help skirt data disaster.
Virtual lab automation software like VMware Lab Manager also is a major time-saving technology. Lab Manager provides self-service provisioning of virtual resources, so users in need of a test system can deploy it themselves in a matter of minutes. Lab Manager also allows users to share their virtual environments with other users.
Storage consolidation, enabled by data deduplication technologies, also cuts time significantly, while improving power consumption and cooling management.
Close on the heels of Microsoft announcing Hyper-V, its hypervisor-based server virtualization technology, VMware went on the attack, claiming its ESX Server is better.
Unified Communications. The combination of VOIP (voice over IP), instant messaging, e-mail, cell phones and PDAs into a system of real-time communication is a tremendous time-saver. With one contact, users can find whomever they need to contact immediately through real-time redirection and delivery of voice, text and e-mail messages. This type of flexibility and demands of increased productivity is a great match for this type of technology.
Western States Insurance is using unified communications to stay in touch with customers and manage its growing business.
Collaboration. By its very nature, collaboration saves time, and technology has taken collaboration to the next level. One tool catching on as a productivity booster in the corporate world is the Wiki—software that allows users to create and edit Web page content via a Web browser. Wikis are flexible and versatile and can be used for collaboration between team members, such as Web-based project management.
Another emerging collaboration technology is enterprise e-mail and collaboration tools. These Web-based tools, such as Google Apps and similar offerings from companies including Microsoft and Yahoo, offer chat, e-mail, calendaring, word processing a spreadsheet and a Web page builder, all for a very low price. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2010, 30 percent of enterprises in North America will approve the use of such technologies for at least some of their users.
Yet another area where collaboration saves money is telepresence. These systems, from vendors like Cisco, Polycom, LifeSize and Teliris, use the latest technology to help users feel like they are in the same room even if they are on different continents, increase productivity and save time by avoiding the time drain of airplane travel.
“The most productive worker is the one who doesn’t have to travel and can maintain collaborative activities without having to get on a plane,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. Most importantly, these systems have improved dramatically over the last year and have reached an attractive sub-$10,000 price tag.
Can businesses harness the free-flowing technology of wiki to make it work as a corporate collaboration tool?
e-Learning. There are many types of e-Learning, including real-time collaboration-based learning, mobile learning services, self-paced e-Learning, exam and assessment services, and simulation and game-based learning services.
E-Learning can be a great productivity booster and time-saver for businesses. Not only can employees learn what they need to know at their desks instead of traveling to expensive seminars, but the tools can be used over and over for numerous employees.
According to Ambient Insight, the U.S. corporate market for learning services is growing at about 35 percent annually and will near $10 billion by 2012.
Ambient also notes that the demand for learning services is growing fastest in the small and midsize business market.