Connected Services

There’s very little doubt that the internet has arrived and is here to stay – for better or for worse…..

Not only has the availability and the capacity of internet connectivity improved markedly of late, but, the price of such services has shown increased (albeit very gradual) signs of commoditisation in the past year, providing an increasingly compelling service at progressively competitive prices (although South Africa still has a LONG way to go in this regard).

Generally accepted “standard” online applications i.e. those which we are (largely) comfortable using on a daily basis, such as online shopping, internet banking, flight and hotel reservation systems, news feeds and the ubiquitous social media sites, are increasingly being complemented by a steady stream of new online business applications and services.  One has only to consider the initial launch success of both Pastel MyBusiness Online and VIP Liquid Payroll to confirm that the adoption rate of online line-of-business software is on the rise for new entrants into the market segment.  Nevertheless, a significant 85% of current Sage Software users indicate a distinct preference for traditional client-side software installations citing lingering connectivity cost constraints, poor broadband penetration rates and business information security as prime concerns.

How then does one bridge the gap between the inexorable trend toward online line-of-business software adoption and traditional desktop application users in a similar segment?

In the same way that the adoption of what we (today) consider commoditised uses for the internet (listed above) has been a steady evolutionary process, so too will the switch from legacy desktop line-of-business applications to cloud-based services prove to be a gradual yet inevitable “chicken-little” adoption process rather than a single cataclysmic “big-bang” event.

It is in this evolutionary shift that the advantages and conveniences of connected services can not only aid, but expedite the considerable benefits of dual-deployment business software models i.e. client-side hosted applications with significant connected services capabilities and functionality, together with a vendor-facilitated seamless upgrade path to ultimately complete cloud-based models.

Consider frictionless updates as one example of connected services enabling traditional desktop application to seamlessly update itself over the internet, with little or no intervention from the end-user of the software.  New updates are made available by the vendor on a periodic basis and are shipped invisibly to the end-user leveraging the internet as a transport mechanism.  Gone are the days of CD-based updates and often disruptive installation and implementation cycles.

Imagine to a world of connected payment and financial services where both desktop and cloud-based line-of-business applications offer tightly integrated and yet transparent payment, reconciliation and receipting functionality without the use of traditional front-end banking software in a “clunky” 2-phase approach, once again leveraging the internet as bi-directional transport facilitator.

Whilst the internet and more specifically cloud-based and / or online business applications present some of the most compelling opportunities for re-imagining the way one conducts business in the 21st century, it is reassuring to observe that such leveraging of internet capabilities will almost certainly not be a “one-size-fits-all” model.  Incremental evolution of traditional desktop software, leveraging the internet where appropriate and when business-enhancing, will play as important a role in the evolutionary shift to complete cloud-based business software provisioning, billing and deployment, thereby providing a flexible and extensible “to-cloud” migration path as deemed preferable by individual business requirements, as will pure cloud-only offerings.

– Grant Lloyd

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