Software Trend-Watch 3: Vertical Trust

The future of mobile and your business

In this series of articles we ask industry experts for their view on the key business software trends that will define 2012…

When Kevin Armstrong first got into the technology business with Xerox back in the mid-1990s there was a common mindset: real data, real information, even about how the business was operating, was best left to those in charge.

“Information gained from analytics was typically reserved for the highest level of executives,” says Armstrong, who is now Vice-President of U.S. Sales for ePartners. Information was power, and management clung to that information like it was gold. Today, that pyramid structure has been flattened out so that everyone at every level in business can have access to relevant data – often through cloud software. This allows them to not only do their job, but more importantly, make independent and informed decisions. It’s a critical component in an age when flexibility and mobile access matters.

“What people are looking for from software today is agility – that’s the new buzz word. And this can only be achieved when everybody can actually access data, in other words – information — at their fingertips, and when management empowers employees to act and take calculated risks, when necessary, to keep the business moving forward.”

The Speed of Trust

Armstrong, who recently read Steven Covey’s The Speed of Trust, says wide-spread access to information is shifting business culture to one where trust becomes the highest quality needed among not only top executives, but all employees.

“The trust has to be there in the organization to enable people to do their job. If a decision has to travel all the way back up to the top to get action, you can imagine what will happen: inertia. And the last thing you want in a competitive marketplace is inertia, because you know that if you don’t move quickly, someone else will. You don’t want the troops in the field to be immobilized. You have to mobilize them and provide them with trust and empowerment to do their jobs. If you can’t do that, you’ve got the wrong people.”

As more and more software becomes available through the cloud, workers will be able to access data in the field, making them more agile, and more able to assess and determine next steps on the fly. But Armstrong reckons that this new found agility needs to come with a caution.

Calculated Risks

“Simply having an ability doesn’t always mean that it’s a good one. You still need to be thoughtful, take the time to make a good decision and then move forward.” Armstrong also foresees the trust factor growing in industries that previously shied away – like financial services and health care.

“What they’re finding is that these new environments are more secure and more responsive than their own internal environments, which means they can do more with less.” They’re also starting to see that there are realistic advantages of storing valuable data off-site, especially as so many businesses have suffered from the likes of natural disasters – whether hurricanes in the South or earthquakes in the West.

Finally, the father of three says businesses now trust the instant communication instincts of the under-30s, allowing them more freedom to stay connected, even in the workplace.

Instant Messaging, Instant Decisions

“Instant messaging and texting is a powerful shift that’s taking place,” Armstrong says. “It’s not just for teenagers any more. Again, it’s about agility. You can be in a meeting, while a contractual discussion is underway in another State, and you can still answer any last minute questions without interrupting the meeting going on. There is a new etiquette required – you need to let people in the meeting know you might need to answer the text, and generally, the rationale is accepted.”

Clearly, doing business in 2012 won’t be the same. It will be faster, more fluid, more responsive, and yet more robust. Change is swiftly putting information into the hands of the many, rather than the few. Follow suit in your business, and expect a more productive, eager and fulfilled workforce to follow. That’s a powerful tool for 2012.

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