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1. Cybersecurity lockdown

January 5, 2016

In the 2015 Predictions report, Cybersecurity lockdown was the number one ranked accelerator, with pundits forecasting an onslaught of attacks giving rise to new types of security measures, stricter government regulations, and expensive cyberinsurance. After a tumultuous year, cybersecurity has proven to be just as disruptive a threat as anticipated, deeply affecting government agencies, companies, and individuals.

Indeed, high-profile attacks in 2015 captured global headlines, including China’s alleged hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, online currency theft at Irish Airline Ryanair, and the publication of 30 million users’ account information from adult networking site Ashley Madison. The Ashley Madison hack in particular has made cybersecurity more personal than ever, bringing the challenges of online privacy to the forefront of consumers’ minds. The healthcare industry emerged as a leading target for attacks due to the confluence of customer data and underfunded, outdated IT security systems. The industry as a whole experienced 340 percent more security incidents than other industries, while the top five breaches alone resulted in over 100 million records lost.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
How certain are you that your critical internal and customer information is protected? Do you have disaster and communications plans in place to address a serious cybersecurity incident?

The breadth and pace of these attacks have business leaders concerned about significant liabilities or even business failures. While aggregate numbers on cybersecurity spending aren’t yet available, trends are clearly upward. J.P. Morgan Chase, a victim of a hack in 2014, recently announced that their cybersecurity budget would double this year, and double again over the next five years. More and more cybersecurity-focused startup companies have jumped into the market to capitalize on increased demand. Cybersecurity startups raised $1.2 billion in venture funding in the first half of 2015, compared to $1.9 billion in all of 2014. In addition to new technologies, companies are rolling out cybersecurity education programs which target some of the weakest points in any security system – the users. They’re investing time and money teaching employees to spot phishing attacks, avoid unknown flash drives and discs, properly control software admin rights, and avoid dangerous links.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
Have you fostered an organizational culture that is aware and protective of strategic information?

The Cybersecurity Act of 2015, recently signed into law by President Obama, gives network operators more leeway to monitor their networks and protect themselves and their users from cyber attacks. Theoretically, companies may now have a much greater ability to monitor their employees to prevent the theft or distribution of sensitive information. The exact legal boundaries of the Cybersecurity Act remain somewhat unclear, but companies will no doubt test the limits as they seek to lock down mission-critical data. Perhaps most worryingly, industry insiders are nearly unanimous in expecting attacks to increase in 2016, creating continued urgency in the war to secure information.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
Is your business taking a proactive active approach to protecting critical internal and customer information?

2. Defining wearables

January 3, 2016

2015 was predicted to be a big year for wearables, with a growing number of offerings and applications propelling the category into the mainstream, thus achieving the number two spot on our 2015 Predictions list. As consumers got more comfortable with wearing fitness bands, watches, smart clothing, and other intelligent devices, 2015 saw strong sales in wearables, a growing number of product options, and increasing interest from enterprises.

Though the dust from the holiday season is still settling, we already know that 2015 was an excellent year for wearables. Global sales surged, with IDC reporting third quarter device shipments of 21.0 million, almost triple the 7.1 million shipped during the same period in 2014. Much of this growth was with devices focusing on health and fitness monitoring, a closely related trend we profiled as our #10 prediction. Among U.S. adults, market penetration for wearables grew to approximately 16.0% in 2015, up from 10.2% in 2014, and is expected to reach 33.6% by 2019. While nowhere near the penetration rates of smartphones, wearables are now mainstream enough to begin attracting attention from advertisers eager to find new ways to reach consumers.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
How might your customers’ behaviors change with the proliferation of connected, intelligent wearable devices?

The Apple Watch, expected by many to be the inflection point that took the wearable market from niche to mainstream, has failed so far to capture as much momentum as many pundits expected. The release of Apple Watch iOS 2.0, which allows for native application support and better user experiences, may help boost sales over the next several quarters. Despite Apple Watch’s somewhat lackluster 2015, at least by Apple’s standards, it has moved into second place in wearables market share, behind Fitbit and ahead of Xiaomi, Garmin, XTC (a Chinese vendor), and Samsung. With companies continuing to pump out new devices, the wearables market remains fragmented, and a truly dominant provider, device, or application has yet to surface.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
What kinds of wearable technologies might your customers adopt in the next 1-3 years?

2015 might be looked back on as a year of transition and experimentation in wearables that laid the groundwork for future innovation. While no killer app has emerged, the growing number of individuals and companies experimenting with wearables has created a plethora of opportunities. More than 70 Fortune 500 companies, including Target, Bank of America, and Time Warner distribute Fitbits to their employees as part of an employee wellness program. We expect many more companies to adopt the same strategy, seeking to capitalize both on increased productivity and the ability to gather valuable data about their team members.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
What wearables data can you collect from your customers or employees that has the potential to change your business?

3. Enterprises double down on IT

January 1, 2016

At the beginning of 2015, a large number of pundits forecasted that investments in enterprise IT would remain strong through the year, resulting in the #3 rank among our 2015 Predictions.

While IT continues to be critically important to improving organizations’ efficiency and productivity, the amount of money companies invested in IT in 2015 was relatively flat, largely due to the shift from capital spending on IT infrastructure to operational spending in the form of cloud-based applications. Gartner’s recent forecast of 2.5% annual growth in the enterprise IT sector for 2015 (in constant currency terms) reflects this shift, as areas like software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing can be delivered at a lower cost per unit of value than traditional IT enterprise solutions.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
To what degree are you reducing spending on internal IT infrastructure in favor of third party, cloud-based applications?

Enterprise software spending is one of the few bright spots in Gartner’s IT forecast, projected to grow 7.5% in 2015 as organizations leverage IT for productivity gains and cost reduction. Funds that once went to building data centers can now be spread across multiple cloud services, reducing the need for significant traditional IT investments.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
Have you gained the benefits of integrating IT into all parts of your organization?

Security also remains a major focus area, causing some organizations to delay IT build-outs until their systems are adequately protected. According to a Bluebox Security survey, 80 percent of consumers surveyed would stop using an app if its security was compromised. This puts businesses in a precarious position, where one security flaw could mean the loss of a significant percentage of users.

AcceleratingBiz Question:
Are your IT systems adequately protected from cyber attacks? What are your contingency plans in the event of a data breach?