Annual Technology Forecast Contains Few Surprises

Hand-held computers will face an uphill battle for user acceptance, Web-based customer self-serve tools will become more prevalent, and CRM systems will make their mark alongside existing ERP suites.

Those are three of the predictions etched in what some consider to be the IT industry’s bible – an annual publication put forth by professional services organization PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) titled Technology Forecast 2000.

“It’s not exactly earth-shattering stuff, but it does confirm what we’ve been saying all along,” says Bill Cross, the partner responsible for systems integration in Canada with PwC in Toronto.

In addition to foretelling the progress of technology over the next three years, the 750-page, 11th edition of the Forecast provides basic background information on how a specific technology evolved, an explanation of how it works and a discussion of recent events and trends.

Terry Retter, the Forecast’s contributing editor and a director for the PwC Technology Centre in Menlo Park, Calif., says the most significant finding in this year’s study is the continued growth of computing power.

“Hand-helds are powerful enough that they’ve become increasingly useful,” he says. “In a sense, I see them as an extension of the desktop computer. I see these devices merging into Web-enabled appliances. The capabilities these devices offer will have an impact on how we live, it will affect our behaviour.”

Other notable findings in the Forecast include the prediction that there will be competing approaches to accessing Web content from mobile/wireless devices: Web clipping vs. pass-through-gateway vs. pre-selected content. The selected approach will depend on the screen size of the mobile device. User acceptance of all these alternatives will be delayed by the lack of compelling Internet applications for low-resolution, small-screen devices.

Web-based customer self-service tools, such as Web-based interfaces for billing, followed by interfaces for network and performance monitoring, will make an impact, the study finds. Comprehensive customer network management that allows customers to dynamically configure their networks will not become a reality until after the end of the forecast period (2003).

Deployment of third-generation cellular systems will be delayed by a number of factors, but 2.5-generation cellular will be well underway by the end of the forecast period, according to PwC. Adoption of different interim data technologies by different carriers will lead to market fragmentation.

CRM systems will be implemented alongside existing ERP suites by organizations attempting to shift the focus of their applications from back-office to customer-facing, the study says.

An organization’s ability to search and mine unstructured data will become essential, PwC predicts. Companies will also begin to appreciate the worth of their digital media assets, such as video and audio, and will integrate those files into their knowledge bases.

Retter adds that despite the fact PDAs and hand-helds will become more commonplace, the traditional PC will still play an active, albeit reduced, role in our daily lives.

“It certainly changes the topology of our home or small office,” he says. “But the computer won’t be going away in the near future. Why does all your work or Internet surfing have to be done in the office on the PC? We will see a shift in our building processes and shifts in behaviour processes.”