By John Cooke, a Founder and Managing Director, Black Pepper Software

Technology was at the forefront of the news agenda during 2014; from IT failures grounding UK flights to hackers accessing private images of A-list celebrities. Businesses must learn from these mistakes to ensure they are in a stronger position this time next year.

This can only be achieved through the continued quest for innovation throughout 2015 and in this article; I explore the developments in technology and software we can expect to see this year and how these will impact UK businesses.

Technology stargazing
The exponential growth of cloud services such as DropBox highlights business technology continued moving into the mainstream in 2014. Despite hitting Gartner’s ‘trough of disillusionment’, cloud computing is now a huge part of professional and consumer life. Although it’s unclear which technology will lead the way over the next twelve months, John believes these areas will move further into the mainstream in 2015:

Internet of Things (IoT) – While a wide variety of technology businesses have taken advantage of the IoT’s benefits, 2015 will see far more progression and innovation in this area. The automation facilitated by the IoT enables businesses to work smarter, freeing IT managers to focus on business critical actions. I believe the IoT will be used across more industries, in a machine to machine capacity (m2m), where machines communicate with remote applications in order to monitor and control the machines themselves. This progression will see the use of technology to enable the IoT on industrial devices - become a hot topic within businesses. For example, technology such as telematics shows the benefits of utilising the IoT in a wider context and this can be extended to help solve greater issues currently facing global supply chains. The time for such change is now.

Supply chains are often plagued by silos, which lack cross-communication, resulting in missed deadlines and poor customer service. Implementing the IoT throughout the supply chain provides efficiencies in infrastructure as devices communicate business critical information automatically, enabling agile businesses to offer the highest quality customer service levels and effectively manage data such as stock levels with ease. Businesses that continue to ignore the IoT will find themselves floundering behind their competitors.

Cloud adoption – Research shows 53% of UK businesses consciously use cloud services and this will continue to grow throughout 2015. As cloud adoption increases, the IT industry will shift simultaneously. Gartner predicts that by 2020 at least 70% of new app development projects will be deployed to either private or public cloud infrastructures. Failing to adopt now isn’t an option – it’s not if, but when.

Cloud computing and smart working sit hand in hand, ensuring all required documents and software are available whether you’re in the office or travelling to a meeting. Working smarter will be central to business success in 2015 and ensuring companies are moving into or increasing their presence in the cloud plays a key role in this.

Given the technology developments of 2015, software development will need to keep up with business demands and technology advances. Organisations wanting to adopt systems that embrace the IoT or move into the cloud must have support to do so. Software companies need to ensure they keep aligned with the continuous changes to be able to support clients’ evolving needs.

2015: A software odyssey
Once the decision has been made to move into the cloud or introduce new systems that utilise the IoT, businesses should make sure their software provider is up to speed in these crucial areas:

Security – Security issues have continued to dominate the technology news agenda throughout 2014; from the iCloud debacle to the recent Amazon hack. If this taught IT departments anything, it’s the importance of ensuring security standards are at their highest.

Software development teams must keep this at the forefront of their projects, as the increase in cloud software solutions results in more business critical data being stored remotely. For example, the impact of a financial cloud software hack would be crippling for a business of any size. It’s vital software developers take innovative security measures to ensure their software solutions protect businesses against potential cyber threats.

Fast delivery – With rapid technology progress comes increased demand and it’s vital development teams deliver projects rapidly without jeopardising product quality. Agile software development allows teams to provide value and results to the customer within weeks rather than months, with continuous communication and collaboration ensuring the finished piece meets the decision makers’ evolving criteria. Software approaches like Agile that promote delivering customer value quickly will help businesses adapt quickly, innovate and remain competitive.

Reshoring – Finally, I predict re-shoring will play a large role in the software development landscape this year, as many companies realise the problems that can occur with off-shoring. Communication is essential to successful software development and innovation is key to remaining competitive in today’s business environment, so obstacles such as distance barriers and poor market knowledge must be removed. Businesses using approaches such as agile benefit from demonstrable cost savings, improved efficiencies and fast delivery without risking the possible problems encountered by taking projects off shore. 2015 will see many software development projects coming back onshore.

How should businesses react to these forecast changes?
Businesses must embrace the IoT and cloud technologies in order to remain competitive in 2015 and the coming years. In doing this, organisations need to ensure their software development partners are well versed and using methods that ensure high level security, innovative approaches and fast turnaround of projects. In addition to this any software development company should demonstrate an excellent knowledge of their client and the market they operate in.

Agile approaches embrace innovation, rapid delivery and excellent communication, and the time has come for wider businesses to embrace this model. Gartner’s ‘2015 application development predictions’ states that by 2018, the majority of software projects will be agile-centric.

Utilising wholesale agile methods may not suit every organisation, but there will always be aspects which can increase business efficiency. For example, removing single points of failure will benefit numerous parts of a business – sharing workloads among two members of staff prevents mistakes. For example, if accountancy errors are spotted at the earliest possible moment, this saves precious time.

Many start-up businesses have already adopted an agile approach to business and are reaping the rewards, but I predict 2015 will be the year many more large enterprises take advantage of the vast benefits of running a truly agile organisation.