For the past few years, professional service businesses have been challenged to transition into digital businesses. With distributed and mobile workforces, professional services firms have put a significant focus on connecting data and relevant information and making it available to their workforce whether in the office or in the field. With that effort well under way, it makes sense to take some time to think about what is next in terms of technology.

Here is a roundup of some technology trends that will impact the professional services world in 2016 and beyond:

Mobile Applications Get a Significant Share of IT Budgets

While the move to mobile is certainly not a new trend, a growing majority of professional services firms now regard mobile solutions as essential business enablers, and in some cases, it is probable that mobile apps will replace some traditional solutions entirely. In 2016, mobile solutions will continue to account for a growing share of technology budgets. This transition to mobile platforms and applications will also necessitate a spike in mobile management adoption as well.

The Hybrid Cloud is the New Infrastructure of Choice

As requirements for fast, easy access to new mobile analytics solutions, more computing power and storage, and other services have been increasing, cloud adoption has boomed— estimates are as high as 92% of companies now using at least one cloud business solution. 2015 was a huge year for cloud solutions as more decision-makers have adopted a cloud-first approach that not only supports their existing business models, but also enables them to develop innovative new products, services and business models. Expect to see more of the same in 2016, but more businesses will consider a hybrid cloud approach, particularly in industries like professional services where security and privacy are top concerns.

Advanced Analytics is No Longer Just for the Finance Department

Business intelligence continues to be one of the fastest-moving areas in the enterprise, and the techniques that organizations are using to drive adoption and get value from their data are multiplying. With a number of new technologies in the BI ecosystem from cloud computing and better user interfaces to visualization tools, data is becoming much more accessible and consumable across the enterprise. The focus in 2016 will be self-service data on demand.

The Customer Journey Undergoes a Transformation

When it comes to key business processes, expect a laser like focus on the customer and technologies that enable transformation of the customer journey. Many professional services firms and other B2B companies have taken a page from the consumer marketing playbook and are focusing on transforming their marketing approach to connect with more prospects and customers, and to provide them with the right information at the right time in the buying journey. Although many businesses rely on point solutions for CRM and marketing automation, more will turn to a more integrated marketing approach. These processes are quickly catching up with the highly automated finance and operations functions and for some companies, will be the most important technology decisions they will make, particularly as cloud, mobile, social, analytics and other technologies continue to transform the buying process.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Machines Begins to Come into Focus

IT experts have been forecasting explosive growth for more intelligent and connected devices of all types. However, so far, the high profile IoT scenarios have been in the consumer sector with products such as smart watches. In the professional services world, the IoT value proposition has been a little fuzzy for many. In 2015, early but compelling use-case scenarios and solutions emerged across multiple industries – for instance, IoT will help reduce RFID costs, making it more practical and appealing to retailers to use in order to help improve inventory accuracy, automate customer checkout and reduce theft. Or, a trucking company could install beacons to monitor the state of its trucks, provide more timely maintenance, reduce vehicle downtime and decrease costs. Once professional services firms understand use cases more clearly, IoT will hold great appeal as it provides real-time data for better decision-making and better business outcomes. Here is a link to a great Overview of the Potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) from Microsoft.

While the pace of technology change can be overwhelming, taking a step back and thinking strategically about your company goals and objectives and how technology can enable you to achieve them, is the first step in turning these innovations in a strategic advantage for your company. Look for interconnections between things, people, places and information. See if there are places where technology could disrupt, change or improve the way the company does business. Consistently assess these disruptive trends, not only in terms of the opportunity that they offer, but also how they can help mitigate the risks you are facing from your potential competitors, both know and unexpected.

Today, more than ever professional services firms are reaching their business goals and ambitions for growth by making technology a competitive advantage. Sopris Systems can help you navigate the new trends and assess if and how these capabilities can help to transform your company and make you better equipped to compete and thrive in today’s fast moving business environment.