At this time, everyone’s making predictions for the coming year and it’s good to see that many are relatively positive. Witness

– radio 4’s programme earlier today predicting increasing economic activity, worldwide health and further political progress in the middle east

– the Financial Times’ upbeat review of British manufacturing (‘ahead of the game… a collection of fairly small companies making specialist items reliant on clever technology and new business thinking’)

– not wishing to jinx anything but speaking personally Wales are even favourites for the 2014 six nations championship

So back on the ground and to IT and business, are predictions equally positive? In my view, yes they are. There are four main words which embodied progress in the last year – at least which we have seen – which will continue to have an effect in an increasing number of companies, and one for the new year.

The four words are ‘fast’, ‘flexible’, ‘usable’ and ‘affordable’. These form the core of the message that we espouse to new and existing customers and explain how the business experience of IT is changing from the old ways, certainly where companies like ourselves, partners and likeminded suppliers are involved. Businesses are wising up and expecting more.

In a nutshell:

fast: people expect that when they have a requirement, it’s acted on immediately. Gone are the days where the IT dept. would have an excuse to take 6 months to add a new data capture box to an enterprise database system.

flexible: people are realising that circumstances change over time and software has to change with it, sometimes in minor ways, sometimes drastically

usable: accustomed to new usability in consumer devices, customers now demand that the systems they use all day every day are actually pleasant and easy to work with

affordable: this one is pretty self explanatory and can only be contrasted with what is unfortunately still common: eye-watering price tags, made even worse when two thirds of costs are hidden at first purchase

These are the ways customers (of ours and likeminded businesses) are benefiting now. You’ll notice that all these things are typically those that small businesses have a particularly strong hand with but our experience is that larger customers are also becoming quick to see the advantages of ‘agile’, to package everything up in one word.

So what of the future? Well there’s one other word that will have an increasing effect and that word is ‘understandable’. Business leaders will no longer blindly trust IT, be happy in their ignorance, sign a cheque and be back to their comfort zone as soon as possible. Suppliers who inadvertently or who aim to bamboozle with acronyms and gobbledygook will get much shorter thrift. This is partly because experience of the ubiquity of software in daily life has given executives an increased confidence that they at least have a toe in the water.

I’ll illustrate with a few quick examples:

– our first customer of 2014 has of one of their first requests, the ability to tie into our internal systems and collaborate with our development team, so they can better understand what we do and we can better understand their requirements.

– the head of a global specialist equipment company, someone with little IT experience recently got personally involved with us in defining requirements and testing prototypes for a new sales database

– in our consultancy role, we’ve started to see businesspeople take their new IT-related knowledge to apply it to completely new areas. We’ve created a set of custom-designed diagrams especially to distill and transfer knowledge as effectively as possible.

– for another example, see ‘beware techies and gobbledygook’ – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/8f108044-6c31-11e3-a216-00144feabdc0.html

So this understandability means not only that the end result – software systems people use to do their jobs – is easily understood, but that customers can know exactly what they’re buying, when they buy it as well as future possibilities and options.

Systems based on agileBase which are fast, flexible, usable and affordable are a great way to help every person involved understand what’s going on at an early stage, not just those who like following along with IT gobbledygook or business jargon. That’s the goal in sight and the try we want to convert in 2014.

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