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Does your business have an IT thought leader?

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If you are still using computers today the way you were five years ago you may have a bigger opportunity for improvement than you think.

The IT industry spends so much time looking forward it often fails to consider how far it has come in the past five years and who it may have left behind. By looking back a few years we can be reminded that change has happened and has modified the way we work and live in a short space of time.

Of course we do not want to dwell on the past nor do innovative growth businesses want to live there. We just want to appreciate that in 2008 the iPhone was on version 1, the GSM version, and was six months old. Only the very trendy had one but we were all pretty sure it was cool. The "app developer" was not cool and probably had very few friends: certainly no one was "liking" him on Facebook yet.

Today the features and functions of the iPhone and now the iPad have improved massively and the world of apps has taken off. The world communicates differently today because we all partake in texting, some of us use MMS for sending photos and video chat has become an everyday reality, not something on Star Trek.

Twitter was started in July 2006 but only became popular in mid-2009. We are of course still debating whether that is a good thing or a bad thing but it has changed global communication, speed of news and service expectations globally while we wonder is it a #fad or the new way. LinkedIn has gone from a few million users globally to a few million users just in Australia.

Need I mention that many magazines have stopped printing and gone digital, with examples such as Anthill and more recently BRW; of course led by industry leaders like SmartCompany, which is only six years old. Today we would say the writing was on the wall yet the start-up SmartCompany had to have wondered if they were off the wall or out of their tree. No doubt it took guts to get it going and stick to it, grasping new technology as it emerged and evolved.

Yet there are opportunities to deploy technologies in business today to work smarter or communicate better that can reduce costs or improve functionality, product range, geographic reach or desirability of a product. There are clear signs that technology is being under-invested in and outside of technology companies. This is leading to great opportunities for those who do choose to innovate.

Gartner has told us that one of the biggest trends for IT this year will be data mining and business intelligence, which is typically for the top end of town and does not have such an impact on the SME business environment. But it may well be time to do more about data capture across all aspects of the business to be ready for scaled down versions of Business Intelligence (BI) tools that will be made available to our sector soon. I suspect I will be saying more about this soon.

Other clear areas for innovation are around communication systems and especially Unified Communications (UC) which integrate emails, messaging, and voice systems with information from our applications to bring communication of ideas or sharing of information to life. Linking this to web-based documents for real time collaboration within an office or across the world is also modifying how we can build project teams to resolve large problems quickly.

There is almost no industry left untouched by the opportunities presented even if there is no computer in your business. For example, while the fruit shop I wrote about last week just did not need one, there are a myriad of opportunities to market differently and provide a new service like online ordering for the office fruit box.

If you have an innovative idea please share it with a comment to this article so we can all gain from new ideas that improve business productivity to drive a thriving community. If you are in business but have no idea where to start, please find a digital guide to assist with your business growth.

David Markus is the founder of Combo. If your IT environment is slowing you down, contact Combo on 1300 726 626 to organise a complimentary consultation with David.

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