21st Century IT Applications
This article will examine several emerging software applications that will have a larger role in IT/business applications for the 21st century. The areas of discussion in this article include software applications that are being developed to serve niche or vertical markets and applications that address the issues of disaster recovery/data backup and content security. IT applications that are currently under development exhibit a specificity that has not previously been seen in the business software marketplace. Generic applications that can be used interchangeably by a variety of industries will become more the exception than the rule as new IT applications target the needs of specific vertical markets. As new applications evolve to meet changing industry needs, partnerships and opportunities that help connect and enhance these markets are evolving as well. Vertical markets are often subject to government regulation, compliance initiatives and stringent data security requirements. The applications that are being developed to serve these markets must be flexible and scalable to allow for future customization. Protection of company data is a critical issue for organizations today. Business applications are being developed that provide enhanced data backup and content security and are also addressing the need for qualified users to have access to critical business information when it is needed.
Keywords: Compliance Applications; Concept Filters; Continuity Plans; Data Encryption; Disaster Recovery Plan; Emerging It Applications; Governance for Risk; Identity Management; Independent Software Vendor; Niche Applications; Partnership Relationship Management (PRM); Premium Content; Relationship Intelligence; Relationship Management; Risk Management; Supplier Connectivity; Tacit Knowledge; Value-Added Reseller (VAR); Vertical Market Application; Channel Partners
Generic IT/Business applications have become standard tools for today's knowledge workers. Almost without exception, today's employees have access to email, spreadsheets and contact management databases that were not as widely available even a decade ago. The last quarter of the 20th century heralded not only the era of the desktop computer, but also the standard software that allowed for the creation and distribution of digital content. Generic software solutions enabled major corporations and small businesses alike to deploy standard solutions that allowed for interoperability and collaboration.
The first decade of the 21st century has already revealed major shifts in the ways that companies are seeking to use software applications. Most companies still have a need for generic and widely used applications for document creation and financial analysis. Companies are increasingly demanding specialized applications that allow for optimized business operations. Too many organizations have defaulted to using spreadsheets for tracking projects and critical information when a database is really a more appropriate tool. Interoperability now requires that businesses interact with customers and suppliers through supply chain integration which requires more sophisticated custom applications for data sharing.
Industries such as healthcare, financial services and government agencies now require custom applications that speak to the kind of business they are in. Additionally, each interface between a company's internal and external applications and supply chain links may require the implementation of custom applications or solutions. The developing symbiosis within organizations (application to application) or outside of organizations (supply chain sourcing to customer) is currently determining the trends in the development of highly customizable and specialized software applications that are already emerging in today's market.
Closely related to the software applications that serve today's organizations are the issues that surround the protection of the data that is necessary to run an organization's business applications. Two areas of data security are being closely scrutinized today from the applications standpoint. The first data protection issue has to do with insuring that company data and information is replicated (backed up) in the event that a natural or man-made disaster should occur. The other areas where data security applications are emerging with new solutions are concerning internal intellectual property and premium content protection.
The Emergence of Vertical Markets
Industry consolidation and aggressive market competition are driving the emergence of software applications to support vertical markets. Vertical markets focus on serving clients in very specific industries such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare, banking and retail. Vertical industries are finding that managing relationships with customers is often as important as the service that is provided to the customer.
Examples of relationship mapping are:
- A vendor relationship with a company's product development department
- A service (online banking) and a customer's access to information
- Employees (sales associate) and shared clients (overall customer database rather than one specific client).
Data sharing between employees, customers and partners is critical to agile response in the marketplace where "customer management is a strategic initiative" (Gold, 2007). The capture of internal knowledge (tacit knowledge) insures that information about a specific customer or client is not lost even if client turnover happens. Financial services organizations have been early adopters of technology that caters to their specific customer base. A generic CRM (customer relationship management) database may not allow for the capture of information that the industry requires. A rapidly shifting customer base doesn't eliminate the need to capture specific information that will help to enhance the customer experience. Shared connections and relationship mapping between clients and service providers have now become as important as the service provided to the customer.
The customization of software applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) applications gives a company an advantage in managing customer information in ways that were never possible before. According to Gold (2007), a "recent study by Forrester Research Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based think tank, 60 percent of senior executives at 176 companies surveyed felt that improving the customer experience was 'critical.' Relationship intelligence, and all of the contacts and relationships that company professionals have in the marketplace, gives you the ability to really leverage that information to put together much more focused and targeted business development and marketing initiatives" (p. 5). The current company professionals want to know more about their customer and want to have a record of sales and relationships so that if a salesperson leaves, the knowledge doesn't leave with them (Gold, 2007).
Software applications under development to serve vertical markets and market segments will have robust capability to manage data about customers, services, and vendors. In increasingly competitive markets, the management of key relationships and enhanced customer service are seen as strategic differentiators for business.
Data Recovery Applications
Another emerging trend for 21st century software applications deals with the issue of how companies will protect their critical data and processes in the face of natural and man-made disasters. The interruption of business is of critical concern to many organizations today. Power outages, severe weather, earthquakes or terrorist attacks are all viable threats that could interrupt business operations. Lack of preparedness and the poor responses that were so well documented following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 and Hurricane Katrina have left many companies wondering how long they can dodge the bullet before a disaster (large or small) may strike. The loss of key data and business interruption are only part of the concern; documented cases show that many companies were not able to continue operations after a disaster struck. Many companies have some type of disaster preparedness plan in place; though it is often only specific to a company's IT assets. Loss of access to data now poses a serious risk not only to a company, but also to a business' partners who are linked in the supply chain. A decade ago, loss of data would have impacted the internal processes of an organization almost exclusively; today data loss and business disruption has the potential to interrupt an entire supply chain.
Continuous data protection (CDP) is a term that describes how...
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