Technology Technology’s vintage harvest will go down a treat in 2004

Just like the wine industry, every so often the business technology sector serves up vintage year – and 2003 has been one of them. Everywhere you look on the business landscape there are new enabling technologies, an unprecedented degree of vendor collaboration and standardisation, and ‘commoditising’ of technologies that have been long time maturing.
The hype has largely evaporated and technology is now focusing on pure productivity outcomes, helping organisations work smarter, so that ultimately we can all work less.
It is not just about new products either. It’s also about delivery. IBM New Zealand managing director Nick Lambert views the increasing alignment of both technology and service offerings from vendors as significant industry development.
“Businesses are demanding more benefits from vendors and so vendors have to become more service orientated. They also have to align IT products and services with business needs to most effectively meet these demands,” he says. “We will see ever-increasing numbers of businesses seeking the benefits of having their technology as closely aligned to their business realities as possible with the focus on delivering the increases in efficiency and productivity that IT has long promised.”
This year has also seen the start of major shift in the way organisations use business technology, according to Steve Spain, Onesource general manager of marketing and business strategy.
“Both hardware and software have become sufficiently standardised and ‘commoditised’ for SMEs as well as large companies to really put technology to work reducing costs and enabling new products and services.”
Technology is now an embedded part of virtually every business and increasing affordability, driven by standardisation, should dramatically ad to the technology uptake in 2004. “The most dramatic visible impact will be the numerous business applications afforded by cheap network bandwidth, the growth in the integration of voice, images, data and text, and the multiplicity of handheld devices integrating smoothly with enterprise-wide corporate systems,” says Spain.
While attention has focused on technology developments beyond traditional office boundaries, such as the wireless internet, 2003 also saw the ongoing integration of core technologies into single networked device within office walls. Tony Wills, national manager for Canon’s Business Imaging Solutions Group, says this will encourage the centralisation of document workflow and change the traditional office landscape.
“Greater levels of productivity will be achieved with seamless integration between the input/output device and the users’ chosen office application programmes,” he says, adding that we can also expect user interfaces on such office devices to improve dramatically.

Stand-out technologies
Our research suggests the following trends will determine which technologies will impact most on business in 2004:

* Wireless broadband
Last year saw the emergence of the wireless LAN and the deployment of Wi-Fi technology across enterprises. In 2003, wireless broadband technology rolled out into the wider marketplace, with the addition of Access Points or ‘Hot Spots’ at public venues. Add to that the now ubiquitous deployment of Wi-Fi technology in portable computing devices, and obviously the mobile workforce has finally become reality – sales-force automation was just the beginning.
As Scott Wattie, president of the Wireless Forum points out, mobile solutions using wireless infrastructure are fast becoming mainstream – Project Probe (the government initiative to have high-speed internet access in all communities) has helped get the ball rolling. “In 2004 mobility will become an extension of an organisation’s LAN and IT infrastructure,” says Wattie. “It will no longer be separate component.”
Mobilising any business function will require huge mindshift, but it will create significant efficiencies. Wattie uses the example of business executive accessing secure intranet services via wireless broadband from hotel room. “This is how the LAN infrastructure can be easily and practically extended into the mobile and wireless arena.”
Wattie also believes 2004 will be landmark year for other wireless applications, such as mapping and positioning services, sales-force automation, vehicle tracking, and perhaps most important of all, mobile commerce. “We’ve already seen how wireless text messaging has become an accepted channel to reach new customers, particularly in the youth market.”

• Speech recognition
While other technologies hog the headlines, speech recognition software has progressed to point where it can now be deployed more effectively. According to John Ballard, director of Speech Recognition of New Zealand, sales have doubled in 2003 and the uptake has been significantly higher. He attributes much of this unprecedented growth to the arrival of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Version 7 with its improved recognition accuracy and easier operation.
“In the old days it seemed to take ages to figure out how to get started with speech recognition,” says Ballard. “With the professional edition it takes just 10 minutes to begin using the software, although we offer three-hour programme to ensure that users get off to flying start.” Organisations prepared to make the investment in speech-recognition technology never look back, he adds.
The recent sale of the latest Dragon package to intellectual property firm Baldwin Shelston Waters is good case in point. After year-long pilot, the company is rolling out the technology in all four offices. The move is expected to realise productivity gains simply by using speech recognition with email. “Authors can get on top of email rather than be slave to it,” says Ballard.
Other benefits include faster document turnaround times; the freeing of support staff for higher value work; and the reduction of RSI-related problems. The future looks promising for speech recognition – ultimately it will transform the way people interact with computers.

• Videoconferencing
Recent advances in VC technology will fuel demand for system deployment. The advent of the new H.264 algorithm (which doubles picture quality over existing bandwidth or ISDN) has already had major impact. Price points dropped further throughout 2003 – the equivalent of high-end system worth $120,000 seven years ago, sells for just $13,000 today. Add to that the advancements of VOIP networks and reduction in call charges, and it’s easy to see why companies are meeting via video.
Dave Gee, account manager videoconferencing for Canon New Zealand, says it’s misconception that VC units are hard to operate and need an IT whiz to run them. “Most units are now plug and play, with maybe just an initial set-up from the supplier.”
Polycom’s VSX7000 is one of the newest systems on the market, and demonstrates the new video/audio capability afforded by H.264 video compression. The system is said to provide “TV-like video and near CD-quality audio”, and redefines ‘entry-level’ videoconferencing. One notable feature is its ability to smooth-over video or audio errors caused by heavy network traffic.

• Office 2003
No technology review is complete without covering the latest offering from Microsoft. While we no longer form queue to invest in the software giant’s latest products, many of us will probably migrate to Office 2003 and discover the impressive improvements to Outlook.
Tony Ward, Microsoft New Zealand’s marketing manager, says it’s the first time Microsoft has seriously upgraded its email application since 1995. “The biggest improvement has been the rearranging of the screen into three vertical columns or panes – one for folders, one for mail view, and right-hand preview screen. It’s all designed to help users process email faster, and give hard-working executives more time.” He says the latest Outlook can also cull potential spam.
Office 2003 has two new stablemates – I

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today

A focus on culture

Rabobank’s 520-plus New Zealand employees work from 27 locations – places like Ashburton, Pukekohe and Feilding and from a purpose-built head office in Hamilton. Its employees are proud of the

Read More »
Close Search Window