24-Month Tech Trend Scorecard & the Future

Though technology often seems to be moving at breakneck speed, there are also slower-moving overarching trends that play out not in a single dramatic moment but over a period of years. Now that we’re nearing the end of 2016, I’m looking back at the newsletter article I wrote two years ago at this time, assessing my predictions about those trends. The entire newsletter article is here, if you want to read it.  By way of summary, these are the five trends I wrote about then, and some commentary from today.

  1. The Shift From Desktop to Mobile  

2014 Prediction: Mobility will mean the end of the traditional office as we know it.

Not only has this happened, but it also is happening with even greater speed than predicted. Today nearly every operating system and new software tool is being developed and deployed “mobile first.” Software companies (including us and our partner Salesforce) are driving toward a user experience on mobile and desktop that mirror each other. There are some obvious reasons that the two experiences will never be identical, but functionally tablets and smartphones are able to do most of the same things as desktop computers, helping people work wherever they are, rather than in a traditional office. We see that playing out in our own company where fully half of Patron’s employees are working remotely.  

2017: If you’re still tethered to your desktop, make this the year you start embracing a mobile lifestyle.  

  1. The Shift to Video Marketing

2014 Prediction: Video, both recorded and live-streamed, will become ubiquitous.

This has happened in fits and starts and not exactly as I had expected. Linking to YouTube videos from websites and email campaigns is now essentially mainstream. There seems to be a YouTube video for anything and everything. Last year I wrote about the potential impact of live-streaming video, talking about Meerkat and Periscope, the former of which then shut down. But coming up quickly is a service that wasn’t yet in the game in early 2015: Facebook Live. Have you looked? It’s mind-boggling what’s already there. We’re now in a world in which everyone can be a broadcaster.  

2017: If you’re not yet embracing video for marketing purposes, and looking at live video, this is the year you should start.

  1. The Shift to the Cloud Gains Momentum

2014 Prediction: Most arts organizations will move their technology to the cloud, because it’s simply a better model for our industry.

Clearly cloud computing is now the de facto standard for most organizations. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Salesforce, and many others companies are providing cloud-based services as their primary offering. The cost of storage online is dropping dramatically not only for businesses but also for consumers. As a point of reference for the arts, the growth of our own company testifies to this shift — we’ve grown our client base by 25% in just two years, to just under 700 organizations.  

2017: If your organization is still managing database servers, system backups, upgrades, patches, and all the other things that come along with managing your own data center and servers, this is the year that you should really consider making the switch.

  1. The Shift From Facebook for Friends to Facebook for Business

2014 Prediction: Facebook will become a marketer’s dream, beating out Google AdWords as the most effective digital marketing tool.

I expected by now that most organizations and corporations would have robust Facebook pages that might even replace their own websites. That hasn’t happened, but instead Facebook has become a targeted-marketing juggernaut, enabling businesses of every size to micro-target their customers. So although Facebook still is a primarily person-to-person service, as a marketing tool for business it’s arguably the most powerful digital marketing service.

Several years ago I heard Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook’s COO) speak at a conference, and she proclaimed that Facebook would be successful because the newsfeed is the most coveted digital real estate in the world. And Facebook intended to turn it into an advertising medium and make money from it.

That has happened in spades. Undoubtedly, you’re seeing more and more ads in your newsfeed intermingled with posts that Facebook thinks you’ll be interested in. What this means is that the only sure-fire way to get your organization’s content into the newsfeed is to buy it.

2017: If your organization is still hoping that your posts will magically appear in the newsfeed and you haven’t started testing paid advertising on Facebook, this is the year to start.

  1. The Shift From Data as an Asset to Data as a Liability

2014 Prediction: Managers and boards will rapidly become experts in what it takes to protect the data that their organizations retain about their customers, wherever it is stored.

Because this is so important, I’ve copied what I wrote in 2014 word for word below, and every word is as relevant today as it was then:

There is no foolproof way to store your data safely. The question is simply how you allocate risk and investment. I don’t know many arts organizations that have the budget to invest in the technical protection of their data as well as a Fortune 500 company could. (And as we have seen recently, even Fortune 500 companies can’t always get it right.) So as you think about how valuable your data is, you should also think about how big a liability it would be to your organization if it were hacked.

In a cloud environment, the companies that manage these platforms (Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Microsoft Cloud) spend orders of magnitude more money in developing data protection systems than an arts organization could ever afford, so using a cloud-based system is one option for giving your data a higher level of protection than you could afford yourself. If you do choose to store your data locally or in a server farm, for goodness’ sake, don’t store financial information such as complete credit card numbers. Ultimately, whether you go with a cloud- or server-based solution, it should be a top priority to understand how valuable your data is and how best to protect it.

Sadly, I was more prescient than I had expected. Unfortunately for some major corporations, such as Target and Sony, this has cost them millions of dollars, as well as done incredible damage to their reputations. And, closer to home, last month it was revealed that an enormous data hack has been going on for a full year at Madison Square Garden.

2017: Make data security as high a priority as your cash flow. If you are not completely secure in knowing how your organization stores its data, backs up its data, and how and where your PII (personally identifiable information) is protected (including credit card information), this is the moment to focus on it. And what do you know about your organization’s cyber-liability policy? If you’re not familiar with it, or if you don’t have one, now is the time. More than ever, data is a significant liability, and your organization needs to treat it as such.  

As you see, trends that were apparent in 2014 seem to be playing out and are no less relevant today than they were two years ago.   

Now, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, I already shared my predictions post a little earlier this year. Below, you’ll find most of a blog post I published earlier this fall that that summarizes my view of where the internet is going.

Here are my predictions for 2017:

AI: Artificial Intelligence — This is the hottest topic in tech right now, and it’s all about the potential of technology to forecast (based on huge datasets and algorithms and “machine learning”) something that will happen in the future or might happen. For marketers, AI promises to give better guidance on when email campaigns should go out and/or in what cadence. Rather than our having to guess what will work best, AI tools will do a better job than we can.

VR: Virtual Reality — I’ve now had a dozen demos on various consumer VR headsets, and without a doubt, this is the next biggest improvement in experiential entertainment and learning through technology. I recently took a five-minute “tour” to a glacier in Alaska, complete with sound effects and a seat that shook, mimicking the engine of the boat I was riding in. It was so immersive and realistic that my interest in going to Alaska is now significantly more, based on those five minutes. Imagine if there were to be a VR experience of sitting inside an orchestra as the orchestra plays.

Internet of Things (IoT) — This is a broad catchphrase for when hardware is connected to the internet. There are a few widely distributed examples of this already. Google’s Nest thermometer, for example, is connected to a database that through technology figures out when you’re at home and subsequently when the heat should be turned up or down. The uses of this will become more apparent over the next few years as Google, Apple, and others work to infuse the home with IOT devices. I’m not sure how this would affect our audience-building activities, but I can easily see a day when a stage manager can lock all the doors of the theatre and make sure the lights are out, right from her mobile phone.

AR: Augmented Reality — This technology involves a device or a headset (or something akin to Google Glass) where what you see has an overlay with information from the internet. I saw a demonstration of a repairwoman fixing a complex machine, where, as she worked on the machine, instructions were presented to her in her line of sight. We are already seeing cars that have the speed and directions presented right on the windshield as you drive, rather than on a separate GPS device on the dashboard. I can imagine someone watching a symphony or theatre, and by wearing AR glasses, he is presented additional information about what he is seeing or hearing.

The company formerly known as Snapchat (now Snap) now considers itself an eyeglasses hardware company. This is exactly where it is headed, and arguably its target market of teens and those in their 20s are harbingers of the future.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I continue to feel that we are living in an amazingly exciting time when technology that will vastly change our lives is being invented (and tested) before our very eyes. Having lived through the excitement of the birth of the consumer internet back in the AOL days, I thought that was amazing. But what’s coming up in the next few years seems like it will be even better.

From all of us at PatronManager, we wish you happy holidays and a terrifically successful 2017.

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