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CRM Tops List of Leading Tech Trends in 2014

A recent Computer Economics study identified six technology trends that are especially "low-risk/high-reward" for organizations, with customer relationship management (CRM) systems leading the way.

Computer Economics, an Irvine, Calif.-based research and consulting firm, surveyed a total of 15 technologies in its "Technology Trends 2014" study, which was based on a survey of 209 IT organizations around the globe. The top six technologies were identified as low-risk/high-reward based on their cost predictability and their positive return on investment for organizations within two years' time. They are:

  1. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  2. IT asset management software
  3. Desktop virtualization (all types, including virtual desktop infrastructure [VDI] and Desktop as a Service [DaaS])
  4. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  5. Unified communications
  6. Software as a Service (SaaS)

The positive showing for CRM systems may be due to the increased use of cloud-based offerings, which can make costs more predictable for organizations, according to Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics. A lot of the respondents were using Salesforce.com's CRM. As for IaaS, it's still considered to be at the "immature stage," per the study, despite the positive survey results.

The study also looked at technology maturity versus organizational investment rates. The top five "mature" technologies with a "high-investment/high-adoption" rate, per the survey, are:

  1. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
  2. Tablets
  3. SaaS
  4. Social business and collaboration
  5. Data warehouse and business intelligence

Organizations tended to spend a lot of money on their ERP systems but they weren't necessarily meeting their cost projections. For instance, many organizations had problems estimating support costs for ERP systems, according to the study. Only 22 percent of organizations reported a positive return on investment for ERP systems, despite heavy investment.

The report noted that cloud-based ERP systems are on the horizon. NetSuite and Plex were listed as established ERP SaaS providers. Other players in the SaaS ERP space included Business ByDesign (SAP), Workday, Intacct and Salesforce.com entrants. Established ERP vendors are cloud-enabling their products, including "Microsoft, Oracle, Epicor, Unit4, and others," according to the report.

John Longwell, an analyst with Computer Economics, noted an uptick in desktop virtualization and unified communications as a couple of highlights in this year's report.

"It appears to me that desktop virtualization may be overcoming its hurdles and we're starting to see some uptake on that," Longwell said in a phone interview on Friday. "Unified communications is another area in the infrastructure that has been slowly growing, [and] I think it's becoming a little more mainstream. There was no surprise about SaaS growing or the interest level in business intelligence and no surprise about the investment rate in mobile technologies."

Longwell offered other nuances about desktop virtualization. The study indicated that about 10 percent of adopters were using DaaS.

"Of all the companies in our survey, we're getting about 30 percent of those that are doing something that have virtual desktop implementation," Longwell said. "I think we're seeing desktop virtualization implementation starting to grow again after a hiatus of the last couple years. Of that 30 percent, about a third are using Desktop as a Service, so that's about 10 percent, which is a strong number, but they could just be toying with it."

Most (62 percent) of the respondents were from North America. The survey was conducted between Nov. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2014. Computer Economics has been publishing various reports on IT spending trends since 1990.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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