In this article I’d like to share my top five predictions for 2014 as businesses look to drive availability and establish an ‘All-time’ mentality both at a customer and enterprise level. This forecast is what I believe will be the key talking points.

  1.  All-Time Availability

‘Availability’ as a term has crept up the C-Suite agenda and is now increasingly acknowledged as a key factor in growing and maintaining a successful business, with 52% of organisations claiming that by adapting availability and ensuring an ‘always on’ mentality, they have increased customer satisfaction, with 45% noting an increase in competitiveness. Availability is now a hygiene factor, or at least should be, in every part of the organisation. It will be primarily the task of the CIO to make sure that this key expectation is actually delivered.

It’s difficult to argue with the idea that customer loyalty is vital to business success. This is true now more than ever; with the internet offering consumers unprecedented levels of choice, businesses have to do all they can to retain loyalty. The numerous high profile examples of outage and downtime that we’ve seen this year have offered a stark lesson and it has become increasingly evident that availability is a term that needs to become deeply embedded in the thinking of every organisation. Not just as a hygiene factor for systems availability, but as strategic driver to help secure tangible business outcomes.

  1.  Collaboration

The relationship between the IT department and the rest of the business has been described as a ‘troubled marriage’. Almost two decades ago after this phrase was coined, this strained relationship continues to plague businesses both large and small. As we head into 2014, collaboration is set to play a greater role.

The best indicator of alignment is the quality of the conversation between the IT and business staff. If the relationship is strong then this will mirror itself in the corporate strategy and in turn, the investment portfolio. A recent study from SunGard highlighted that 97% of UK business decision-makers believe closer alignment between business departments and IT will yield competitive advantage. Collaboration was highlighted as a more important factor than cost-cutting measures, which can definitely be seen as a step in the right direction in curing this unhappy relationship.

  1.  The Role Of The CIO

The definition and expectations of the role of the CIO is one that varies from one organisation to another. This difference of opinion has created ambiguity around the role. Is it strategic, or operational? This dichotomy has filtered down through the C-Suite and across all aspects of the business.

As the influx of technology demand wrought by the consumerisation of IT is only set to increase, the role of the CIO is set to become increasingly important in order to drive innovation and business growth. The businesses that are set to succeed over the next year will be those who embrace and truly understand the role of the CIO in their organisation and who recognise their ability to look beyond the technology hype to isolate the business benefits.

  1.  Hybrid IT & Cloud Services

The hybrid model is set to continue defining the industry over the next year. Gartner has identified the bringing together of personal clouds and external private cloud services as an essential trend for 2014. Organisations should be looking towards hybrid IT solutions and tailoring their cloud deployments to best suit the needs of their business, whether this is done alone or through a technology partner.

If the latter, it is essential that the chosen partner is willing to take the necessary time to really understand what the business is trying to achieve. They must then use their expertise to create – and possibly manage – the environments that offer the best strategic fit.

  1.  De-Centralisation To Deliver An All-Time World

The age of All-time is upon us. So much so that it is no longer good enough to have just disaster recovery or business continuity plans in place, but to ensure a mind-set that prevents a disaster or downtime from ever occurring. As customers we expect services to be available all the time, wherever we go. In order for businesses to thrive in 2014, they need to adapt the same mentality as their consumers. In the age of All-time, everybody in the business will need to make sure that they share the same collective sense of availability- it will be just as much about the mind-set as the technology.

Joe Peppard, Professor of Management, European School of Management and Technology commented: “After a long period of uncertainty, the economic outlook for 2014 appears considerably brighter and businesses are once again optimistic about growth. I believe that we’re going to see innovation regain priority over cost-cutting in the board room as organisations look to take advantage of new market opportunities.

“Technology trends including cloud computing, social media, big data and mobility are putting the CIO at the centre of this push for growth. But they will be expected to collaborate closely with the rest of the C-Suite if they’re to successfully update outdated business processes, open new revenue streams and ensure consistent customer experiences through digital channels.

“However, while these rapid developments in technology have benefitted the most digitally-savvy organisations, they have also presented some challenges. Customers and employees now expect a higher level of access to businesses and services than ever before – and the ability to meet these demands will often be the difference between success and failure for an organisation. Businesses will require high levels of agility to make sure they can meet these needs.

“As pressure heightens to deliver against increasing and often unpredictable targets, the so-called ‘troubled marriage’ between the IT department and the rest of the business will have to be resolved so that everyone pulling in the same direction – or it will risk losing an edge over the competition.”