Technology is changing fast, so how it will affect you, your business and your team in the future?
Jacqueline de Rojas is in a prime position to tell you. Jacqueline has always been a technology enthusiast and after leadership roles at software companies such as McAfee, Novell, Business Objects and Informix, is now Vice-President and General Manager UK & Ireland for software and technology solutions provider CA Technologies, transforming businesses through new innovation.
Here she identifies the hot issues and developments that will enable us to do things we cannot do today, and adds a few thoughts on what fuels her passion, including motorcycling and shoes.
"I see today's hottest developments as being around ‘big’ data," says de Rojas. "We are collecting huge amounts of data and we now have the technology to make sense of it. Companies are using it to collect information about consumers and then to deliver new and targeted services or offers. This will affect us in businesses - especially in retail - as well as in our private lives."
In the same way that retailers collect information about customers' purchasing habits through the use of loyalty cards, buying habits and social media activity, Jacqueline explains that it is now technically possible to recognise customers' through the digital pulses emitted by their mobile phones.
"This essentially means retailers would know when you walked into one of their stores, and using data about your previous purchasing habits, can send you offers to your device targeted specifically for you," she says. If you had previously purchased cashmere sweaters from the retailer, for instance, they could send you a message offering you a special, individualised discount on cashmere knitwear there and then, which you could access by having your mobile phone scanned at the till.
Alternatively, if a customer walks past a digital billboard it might detect your presence from your phone signal and flash up a targeted message with an offer on your favourite perfume.
"Much of this is currently not happening because of privacy concerns but the technology is there. I am sure that the privacy issues will be overcome soon, because peoples' desire for the benefits will be greater than their fears about data protection," says Jacqueline. ‘Plus it appears that the next generation cares less about privacy’.
The other great advance lies in increasing mobility. Social media platforms will become access points for engaging both socially and commercially. "Information and the capacity to use it everywhere and always, is something we need to get used to” says Jacqueline.
Companies will have to ensure that their products are available anywhere, anytime and on any platform. They will need to keep their information and stock as well as competitive pricing constantly updated.
Other new challenges for companies include facing up to the opportunities presented by social media. "Customers are much more likely to buy a product or service if a social media contact recommends it, so companies are using social media to influence buying habits. People power is heading our way and the concept of crowd buying and customers collaborating to buy at better prices is here." says Jacqueline.
We can already see the physical High Street being displaced by the digital High Street. "Physical stores are fast becoming places to browse, compare and to pick up goods that we have already purchased or reserved online."
Stores such as John Lewis, Argos and Marks and Spencer already offer 'click and collect' services that allow online shoppers to pick up their orders at local stores.
Another major development that will help free up companies is the cloud.
Cloud computing means companies no longer need to invest in expensive hardware and software licences in order to offer services, they have less need of in-house IT management. There are lots of options to rent versus buy services such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, payroll, online back-up, web hosting, application management, printing, invoicing apps, and collaboration tools as they need them, without large one-off investments and without employing teams of technologists.
"Perhaps the most exciting impact is that 'pay as you use services' removes a big barrier to entry. Start-ups can use the cloud to access technology or services on a pay-as-you-use basis, so the barrier to entry in any given market is now significantly lower into markets that would be have been impossible to penetrate pre-cloud," says Jacqueline. This is why we see retailers offering banking and financial services and vice versa.
The result could be a more level playing field. "Small businesses can get into the market more easily. Customers will be increasingly buying from new digital High Street players that they have previously not heard of."
With such developments in the pipeline it's no wonder she is so enthusiastic about what new technology can do. Her passion for the new even spreads into her private life.
"Last year I learnt to ride a motorbike. I'd always thought it a scary thing to do but I got on a bike for the first time in August, slimmed into my leathers and passed my test in October. It's very exciting and freeing - and even here the technology is amazing. Modern helmets can have sat navs built into them so you can see them in your peripheral vision and they have built in communication systems so I can talk to my husband on our separate bikes."
And her favourite technology? "It has to be the virtual shoe shop. You can design your own shoes, have them sized perfectly and have them sent to you. Check out Shoes of Prey. Fabulous!”