The software industry – 10 years from now

To understand what the software industry will be like in the future you only need to look at how rapidly behaviours and people are changing now. In the UK and across the globe, business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly moving away from the traditional desk-bound business and instead the “office” is now a renovated garage, next door’s kitchen table or a nearby coffee house.

What’s more, the business is being run from a single device – the mobile phone. Whether it’s reviewing a quote, responding to a customer query or filing the company taxes, UK business owners no longer want to feel constrained by location and want the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere, at anytime.

This approach to business and indeed life is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception. The work itself is increasingly shifting from a paper-based, human-produced, brick-and-mortar market to one where people understand, appreciate and embrace the benefits of truly connected software, platforms and services.

With a step change in human behaviour it is important that companies recognise what matters to their customers. In turn, combining this understanding with greater insights from data and new social and mobile technologies can help develop the next generation of products and services that solve people’s problems and help them be more successful.

Customers are already, and will continue to, guide the future direction of the software industry.

While it is hard to make predictions about the future, understanding trends and market shifts can provide an incredibly helpful tool for business owners when they consider their roadmaps. Here’s some insight into the significant challenges and issues affecting small businesses and customers over the next 10 years.

1. A shift from do-it-yourself to do-it-for-me

Technology will play a critical role in data entry and the handling of key tasks. By taking advantage of new technological innovation the user experience can be greatly enhanced. Companies are already doing this with the development of Smartphone-optimised websites and applications which enable users to manage their company’s finances on the move.

2. A world without borders

Global growth will come from emerging economies such as India and China over the next 10 years. Findings from a recent survey revealed that growth across these emerging economies is set to add one billion new middle class consumers to the global economy, many from developing countries. The total economic output of the developing countries will rival that of the developed world. As a result there is huge potential to target and meet the demands of this growing market. Success here will require organisations to not only localise products and services, but also create and develop new ones.

3. Connected platforms and services

More and more people want their technology to work together. While there are thousands of productivity-based Web and mobile apps available, many of which use similar or complimentary data, very few actually talk to each other. To be able to deliver what customers want, open platforms need to be embraced which store and manage the data in the cloud. These need to be built on open standards and APIs to ensure a seamless experience between devices. By doing so, developers can quickly and easily connect their apps to a secure cloud and it also means language no longer acts as a barrier.

4. Revenue streams and business models are being transformed

The software industry’s revenue model is evolving at an extremely fast pace. The demand for broadband has hastened the transition from selling packaged software to retailers and relying on a licensing and upgrade model. Today subscriptions to Web apps are sold based on user volume. The next big milestone will be to determine the most effective way of generating revenue on mobile devices.

Today’s consumers expect the majority of mobile apps to be delivered at no cost. Therefore companies need to provide free apps but still find ways of making money by including functions that add value to stimulate purchases. Retailers, for example, are increasingly investing in developing their mobile strategy as they recognise the potential to generate revenue from the platform.

The ‘free-mium’ model is becoming more popular which works by offering a game, product or service free of charge while charging a premium for advanced features, functionality, or related products and services.

Understanding these shifts and changes in behaviour will create services that better meet customers’ needs. As the industry moves more to the cloud, customers are placing greater trust in the company who is responsible for the handling and security of sensitive data. Now more than ever, privacy is extremely important to customers. Not only do they expect companies to keep their personal data secure but also use the information with the utmost integrity.

The software industry cannot afford to view customer privacy and security as a simple exercise in compliance, and instead it must be incorporated into the value proposition. Companies and business leaders who succeed in the next three, five and even 10 years will be those that place what matters most to customers at the centre of everything they do.

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Cameron Moore has been managing industry-leading financial software with Intuit since 2005. For his current position, Moore brings his experience in online and mobile applications to the Intuit UK team as the Product Management Leader for QuickBooks Online. Previously, he led the Consumer offerings for Intuit Canada, including TurboTax, TurboTax Online and Quicken. He has also adapted award-winning products to meet the needs of key global markets, with previous experience working in France, the US and Mexico.