What’s in this year’s crystal ball

We may not be able to tell you who will win this year’s Stanley Cup, but we feel we’re on firmer ground in predicting the IT future for 2006. Here are seven important IT trends for the coming year, as divined by the editors and staff of IT World Canada.

Outsourcing eyes smaller target

The practice of handing off a range of IT infrastructure and IT-enabled processes to third-party service companies is poised to move significantly down market to smaller business customers. This is the new frontier for outsourced IT services in 2006.

However, that service delivery will need to come through a range of new and unique types of service offerings and approaches. Expect traditional IT service providers, communication service companies and potentially a new breed of IT utility service provider to push hard on a concept that’s been much discussed but marginally executed.

Less IT-Business friction

IT and business will work far more collaboratively. Real-time analytics is one area that demonstrates the opportunities inherent in IT-business alignment, and the dangers when that alliance is absent. This is clearly a space where business and IT must work together, and where the CIO and CEO must join forces.

The stats indicate that folks on both sides of the divide are getting this message loud and clear. Last year, 75 per cent of CIOs surveyed by CIO Connect said they were the source of new ideas for business products. Likewise, two-thirds of business managers asserted that their knowledge of IT was improving.

Smarter tools for mobile workers

Technology that can transform the handheld into a virtual mobile workspace will be the direction for enterprise mobility in 2006.

Field service agents are plagued with forms and reports to be submitted to head office for invoicing and database updating. The handheld devices of 2006 will enable mobile workers to accomplish all these tasks wirelessly.

Late last year, Rogers and HP announced mForms, an iPaq-based mobile tool that transforms paperwork into electronic forms. Expect more telecom companies to partner with vendors such as RIM and Palm.

Faster data on the fly

The wireless market — with two emerging high-speed technologies set to take off in 2006 — holds promises of innovation and invention over the next 12 months.

The new Bell, Telus and Rogers 3G cellular networks, offering peak speeds of 2.4Mbps, will give mobile workers broadband access to more data on the go, as well as videoconferencing over cell phones and other handheld devices.

Eventually equipment providers will offer devices that can roam between Wi-Fi, Wi-Max and 3G networks, giving business users wireless services in almost any given geographic area.

Umbrellas for spit storms

IT environments in 2006 will need bigger umbrellas for a safer shelter. Viruses will continue to wreak havoc on PCs and laptops, and cell phones and PDAs will also be targeted. We expect an outbreak this year of the mobile virus, commonly referred to as a “spit storm.”

Another developing threat is that of the router worm, which can be embedded in the routers residing on networks and cause considerable damage to traffic even before it reaches an end-user’s system. Virus writers will increasingly turn towards these relatively untapped points of entry.

More P3 partnerships

Public-private partnerships (P3s) will give a distinctly competitive edge to government IT contracts in 2006. P3s are arrangements between government and the private sector to provide public infrastructure, community facilities and related IT services. P3s are characterized by the sharing of investment, risk, responsibility and reward between the partners.

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