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By Bray J. Brockbank

Welcome to a new era in business. In a marketplace more competitive
then ever, with diminishing gross profit margins, organizations are
looking to form and sustain relationships with other businesses that
will help them keep their competitive edge. Welcome to the future.

Although most of us realize that the future is not easily predicted, we
do know that the future tends to follow a predictable rhythm or pattern.
With an understanding of the past, we can gain a better understanding of
the possibilities of the future - that is, what might happen.

By knowing future possibilities we are more capable of making educated
decisions before the future becomes the present. Once the possibilities
are identified, we can better choose to make the desired possibilities
become realities - while preventing the undesirable from happening.

For the past few years, I've had the opportunity to study many of the
current trends, opportunities, and much of the available research on
business, technology and economics. What I've seen can be
summarized into eight general 'catalyst' categories that I believe
will shape future business activities over the next three to five
years - and possibly beyond.

For each of the 'catalysts' described below, I offer a few "future thoughts"
to support my conclusions - and "future business opportunities" likely to
occur. Also, note the connection or interdependence of each catalyst
to another.

1. Open Architecture

Enterprises, organizations, and governments are increasingly seeking
interoperability and faster integration between their internal and
external systems - while offering openness to integration with future
systems and emerging technologies. Openness and connectivity
will be the standard by which intelligent enterprises operate.

Proprietary, closed systems will no longer survive in the business
world. There will no longer be the "Microsoft way" - openness of
systems and connectivity will drive future success. "Open" architecture
is much more than a trendy "buzzword" - it's a philosophy supported
and internalized by the "fast, brave, and innovative" leaders of the
knowledge economy.

Open systems will be modular in concept and practice - where all the
modules, components, or systems communicate and work together -
without dependencies on each other. This allows unrestricted addition
and removal of components and modules - with the capacity to work
with new or emerging technologies yet to be marketed or conceptualized.

Bottom Line: Those seeking to preserve or maintain their market space
or dominance by holding on to their proprietary, closed systems
(and processes) will see them rejected through difficult and failed
integrations. Eventually, their products, services and market share
will vanish away.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

For decades, artificial intelligence (AI) has been touted as cutting-edge
technology. It's true, but for the most part, it's still a lot of 'hype'.
Though, I see significant breakthroughs in AI development within
the next five years. These significant breakthroughs will not give
us the sci-fi artificial intelligence that we have dreamed about or
grown to fear, but we will eventually see AI emerge as a viable
commercial product and service.

Breakthroughs in voice recognition (VR), biometrics and adaptive intelligence
systems (AIS) will provide significant victories in the AI battle. AI could
easily present itself as a replacement for many of the technologies that
we currently use in our daily work and living.

Bottom Line: Artificial intelligence will allow technological "programs" to
question their own underlying logic and related assumptions. AI will give
programs the ability to sense dynamic changes occurring around them -
that they have not been preprogrammed to detect. Technology will no longer
be programmed to act from a list "memories" or "experiences" based on
accumulated (past) data, but will have the ability to act with an "adaptive
and predictive" response.

3. Global Connectivity (GloCon Era)

As technology develops, the need for connectivity 24/7/365 becomes
the mantra. All of the new technology being introduced is leading to
connectivity - anytime, anywhere. This is self-evident with the
emergence and near global acceptance of PDA's, laptops, instant
messaging, cell phones, and unified messaging products.

Greater acceptance and utilization of global, wireless, interoperable, and
broadband networks is beginning to create an anytime, anywhere
environment. Most of these technologies are heavily backed and funded.

Adoption of WAP (wireless application protocol), or any other application
protocol as an industry standard -- in the next two to three years, may
prove to be the key to wireless success and security as well as the
foundation for global connectivity. In general, though, standards are too
slow to be developed and accepted as de facto - an open architecture
(connectivity) approach would be best for wireless interoperability.

Bottom Line: As people and organizations become more and more
connected, business opportunities will emerge in serving the connected
market. The materialization of increased bandwidth and open systems
will enable global connectivity to grow exponentially. Instant access to
information via PDA's, wireless phones, pagers, two-way radios, and
other devices and technologies on the horizon.

4. Embedded Technologies

The proliferation of embedded technologies and software devices is
leading to smarter-connectivity. Although embedded technologies have
been around for some time, the technology is now more open, intelligent
and connected. Embedded technology will only improve as our
understanding of processing does.

The distinction between devices, such as, PDA's and wireless phones
will blur even more - size, functionality, convenience, and ease-of-use
will become the primary focus for consumers when purchasing these
new hybrid devices. As this becomes possible, costs related to this
technology and connectivity will drop significantly. Every day,
microprocessors are becoming cheaper, faster, and smaller.

Bottom Line: Eventually, embedded technology and software products
will "bridge the gap" between disparate technologies - creating a
personal universally integrated device (UID). Each device will be
enabled with some type of universal language interface (ULI) that will
allow each of us to communicate with technology, through technology -
in real-time, seamlessly. With this advent, enormous business
opportunity will present itself for developing, supporting, and maintaining
an infrastructure that facilitates collaboration in a connected
"virtual" environment.

5. O2O

Collaborative markets will make the transition to O2O markets - or
one-to-one markets. Future analysis of customer behavior will enable
businesses to offer unique and differentiated service in every
O2O 'connection' or encounter they have with a customer.

The development and expansion of application service providers (ASP's),
eCRM, datamining, e-marketplaces, all sustain this catalyst movement.
But this is only the beginning of the O2O market.

Bottom Line: Growing global connectivity and entry barrier breakdown
will likely enable anyone to buy, sell and collaborate with anyone over
the Internet. Hybrids of eBay, and Yahoo! will appear on
an even more personal or one-on-one basis.

6. Convergence

A market convergence is beginning to take place. Growing mergers,
alliances, joint ventures and partnerships all contribute to the blurring
of once clear company boundaries. The current sharing of assets,
co-opetition, joint-venture development, and outsourcing all suggest
that this convergence is already underway.

Who does this convergence affect most? It primarily affects the customer
or consumer of such products and services. In the middle of all of the
'convergence' that's taking place, the consumer 's information is being
collected, processed and analyzed. Businesses will be anxious to use
this information to determine their customer needs and future prospects.

Bottom Line: As markets and business models move from collision to
eventual convergence, the consumer will need to be aware of the need
to protect their privacy. It will be the consumer who will dictate what
information will be made available while making purchases and inquiries.
Power will be transferred back to the paying consumer.

7. Intellectual Assets

A shifting of the valuation of assets is underway. Physical asset
valuation is now shifting to intellectual capital valuation. What comprises
intellectual assets? Primarily, intellectual assets consist of the knowledge
within an organization's human capital.

Current metrics are insufficient in measuring organizational intellect. New
metrics and processes will need to be created to better measure and more
accurately assess the level of organizational (intellectual and physical) assets.

The employment market landscape is changing. Today, employees
want to be more than a corporate body number - they want stock options,
tailored benefits, rewards and recognition. They want more than a
good salary. Research shows that employees are leaving companies
in droves because their company hasn't sufficiently invested in their
personal career or goal development.

Bottom Line: The talent shortage will affect corporations, as more and more
workers leave the corporate world and migrate to contract work or
self-employment. Many will start their own businesses - taking their intellectual
capital (knowledge) with them. Systems like learning management (LMS),
knowledge management (KM), and business intelligence (BI) systems are
business tools that will curb the tide of mass worker exodus. These tools,
when implemented correctly will support and improve the workers' surrounding
environment as well as their development.

New opportunities will also exist in infrastructure development and support
for those who've chosen self-employment. Small business organizations
and programs will need to be developed and deployed to support the
new rogue workforce of the future.

8. Intangible Metrics

The "swing" from physical asset valuation toward placing value on
intangibles will increase and influence the way we measure and report value.
In light of this current trend, intangibles are now measured in
ever-growing number.

In the near future, revolutionary metrics will be used to measure
performance, with emphasis on future performance measurement and
valuation. The first positive step in this direction is evident in the efforts
organizations are taking to measure training and development with new learning
management systems (LMS) that record and report results. These systems
will also assess knowledge gain and specify additional subject matter to
address 'gaps' that exist in the employees desired skill-sets. They will also
offer highly customizable training modules that will adapt to their learning
preferences and needs.

Bottom Line: New systems and processes will need to be developed to
measure and evaluate innovation, brand and new product development.
Such metrics will also offer the ability to measure the loss/gain ratio with the
departure of old employees and the entrance of new employees.
Organizations that put systems in place to measure and value human capital
intangibles will attract, train and retain the leaders of the future - their
human capital.

Future Wild Card

The government is also looking to 'e-enable' itself to keep pace with the
Internet economy. The ever-growing influence of government through new
or removed regulations will prove to be one "wild-card catalyst" that could
possibly redefine all markets.

The government is poised to intervene in many markets as industries
undergo consolidation or market scrutiny as monopolies. Ask Microsoft.
Healthcare and medical disciplines are also prospective targets. Healthcare
represents one-seventh of the US GDP. Although it's a very large market, it's
also largely fragmented. Regulation and deregulation by government will be
the hidden "wild-card" for many of these predicted catalysts.

Each of the catalysts that I've described is heavily dependent on the other.
But all of these catalysts lead to a globally connected environment.

Bray J. Brockbank is a business and technology integrations consultant for
Learnframe, a leading KnowledgE-commerce (TM) and e-Learning
infrastructure technologies corporation;, 800-738-9800.

** Editor: Permanent contact information:**

This article was submitted by - Bray Please Rate/Review this Article - Recommend it to friends

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