Looking out to the future is an ambitious goal. Many weeks when you are leading an integration business you are just trying to make it to Friday.
However, when we do lift our head from the day-to-day for even a few minutes it doesn’t take long to realize how fast things change.
Remember when we made money selling projectors? It wasn’t that long ago, but today it’s almost impossible. Remember when proprietary code-based control systems were the only way to remotely control and monitor a space?
How about when companies spent a lot of money putting technology into a few “Smart Spaces,” remember that?
Wait, that’s still happening? While I would be remiss to say that it isn’t happening, I also feel quite confident saying in the future there will be less of the work we know so well.
In the future, we will still be solving the collaboration paradox, seeking to help companies communicate better and execute more efficiently with our technology. With this in mind, it will be a new set of skills that will take integrators from where they are today to where they need to go tomorrow.
1. Service Based: Gone are the days of hardware-based companies. They have long inflated our top lines and have haunted our cash flow. This is why companies like IBM, Cisco, Apple and others that we admire so much have turned to services as their bread and butter. Integrators need to think of hardware as an enabler to sell services, never the other way around.
2. Global Coverage: Not to say you need offices everywhere, but you need to be able to deploy the solutions you sell everywhere. Companies large and small are increasingly doing business on a global scale. Technology has enabled this and those that seek to deploy the technology need to have the vision to do so wherever their customers are.
3. Mobile First, Mobile Only: Perhaps mobile only is too aggressive, but mobile first is certainly the case. As I sit in Barcelona and write this while at Mobile World Congress, I have had a chance to witness the future of mobility and it is undeniably the way we will operate foremost. Work is no longer a place we go, but something we perform and the physical location is less relevant than designing mobile possibilities for the workforce.
4. Cloud Powered: While this is part of the service-based business, cloud powered is an inside out approach. Mobility, data- and customer-centric experiences are all based on accessibility, which is powered by the cloud. While not all cloud will be “public,” it will be the mix of public, private and hybrid cloud deployments that will fuel the integrator of the future AND their customer’s content and collaboration applications.
5. Digitally Transformed: I have written endlessly about the shifting way customers engage in the buying journey. It will change more in the coming years. With immersive experiences like virtual reality coming to life, we will soon expect to be able to experience a space or a solution in 4D from the comfort of our couch.
And this isn’t the fabric of 10 or 20 years from now. Anyone who saw the image from Mobile World in which Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg walked down the aisle of the ballroom with 10,000 people staring into their VR headsets knows this to be true. Companies need to create a digital experience across social, mobile and web that enables buyers to understand your value proposition. If you aren’t able to clearly articulate your value in a world where people search first, then acquiring and keeping customers may be a huge problem.
Whether it was “1984” or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the future has often been painted as a scary place. This is largely in part to the fact that people struggle with the unknown. The trends discussed above are really not surprising or shocking in any way; however, a conscious choice to dismiss these changes could be devastating.
Looking up and reflecting a bit about what is coming next shouldn’t be scary—it should be exciting. As our worlds continue to be driven daily by technology, those that use it best to solve problems are the ones that will thrive in the future.
Daniel L. Newman is the co-CEO of V3B and president of Broadsuite Media Group. Prior to this, Newman spent his entire career in various integration industry roles including CEO of United Visual, a 60-plus-year-old commercial integrator.
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