Technology

2013 in Tech: One Year, Many Trends

By / Dec 24, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

No one trend truly defined 2013 in technology, but that just means the year was even busier than usual on the tech front. Read on for some of the year’s defining story lines.

You’ve made it through yet another year. Give yourself a pat on the back.

As we head into the holidays, here’s one more blog post to offer a little food for thought before you try to do something other than think about your association for a good week or two.

Twelve months ago, I called 2012 “the cloud’s year,” and it was a pretty good year for cloud computing in 2013, too. But when it came to figuring out a single thing to point out for 2013, I couldn’t. There was just too much that happened. So I’m totally copping out and covering all of them for my list this year.

Anyway, let’s hope this is a little more filling and healthier than all that holiday food you’ve been munching on at the office lately:

The year less became more: My most controversial article of the past year, by far, was my piece offering a somewhat critical stance on the need for Microsoft Office in the age of the iPad. It’s been about 10 months since I wrote it, and maybe it isn’t 100 percent where people are right now in their offices or infrastructures. But you know, it’s a good conversation to have, because Word and Excel in particular remain two untouchable pieces of the office environment, even as the office itself changes. As we trim and cut away as much technology as possible, the sacred cows stop being so sacred. Even the physical keyboard is falling out of style for some (but not Ryan Seacrest). I’m personally of the opinion that we’re slowly moving toward offices that use numerous specialized apps to get the job done, rather than a more complex suite that does everything. We will get more work done in better ways because of this, even if it seems like a major leap from our comfort zone to ditch Office. In other words, apps are taking over.

So why the heck are our phones boring? It’s because they’re essential, and everyone’s already hopped on the bandwagon. Accept it.

The year phones became boring: OK, OK, let me clarify—mobile is still an incredibly exciting space. But we’ve reached a point where mobile devices are iterating at slower rates. The “wow” we got when we saw the first iPhone was arguably missing from the hubbub over more recent models. (Which is why watches and headwear are suddenly getting attention.) For associations, that suggests one thing: If they’re boring, it means they’re the norm. We can’t afford to ignore them anymore, so we need to look at how to best integrate them into the ways we both promote our organizations and complete our work. It means we have to adapt to cloud computing—and those cloud-computing solutions have to work on our phones as well as they do on our laptops. So why the heck are our phones boring? It’s because they’re essential, and everyone’s already hopped on the bandwagon. Accept it.

The year subscriptions became standard: The business models around popular software have been fascinating to watch, because in a lot of ways they reflect the same kind of innovative thinking that we see around membership. From shareware to open-source to freemium, these models have defined some of the smartest thinking in business. So when a company like Adobe moves the bulk of its business from expensive software bundles to monthly subscriptions, people can and should take notice. Don’t get me wrong: There are a lot of issues on both sides of this worth keeping in mind (for one thing, you’re paying more; for another, you’re going to get constant updates). But we’ll have to learn how to accept these business models for what they are—changes to the way we pay for and use software. And, hey, maybe you’ll find some inspiration there.

The year the AMS landscape changed—again: “One of the most notable changes we’ve seen in AMS market over the years is the user experience,” wrote DelCor’s Loretta DeLuca ahead of this year’s ASAE Technology Conference & Expo. That’s definitely true—we’re far past clunky old databases, and now we’re becoming more worried about how best to use these things to organize our member rolls and build engagement. The future of the AMS was one of the bigger discussions at this year’s conference, and mergers in the space have kept this conversation never too far from the forefront. We’re going to see bigger changes from here, be it more of a mindset built around application programming interfaces (APIs) or something that keeps in mind the growth of mobile and tablets. The AMS landscape needs to keep changing every year—it’s the best thing for everyone.

The year security became front-page news: You’ve seen it in the news—from the hacking incidents that have hit numerous newspapers and retail outlets to the NSA scandal that introduced millions of people to the word “metadata,” security is becoming more important than ever to get right and take seriously. Even the way we use passwords is worth reconsidering. And some organizations are getting proactive on this front: Earlier this year, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) launched its Quantum Dawn 2 cybersecurity test, getting people throughout the industry involved and sharing the lessons after the fact. Associations should follow SIFMA’s lead—this is exactly how we can help our members prepare for the worst, but in the best way possible.

The year unplugging became more important than ever: The problem with all this technology is that it’s becoming a bigger part of our lives in more ways. We need to know how and when to step back. It’s not an uncommon issue—and it’s become a mini-meme in the media for journalists or authors to drop everything for a year and then report back when they start paying their Comcast bill again—but it remains an important one. We need to know where to make room for vacations, to avoid digital burnout, and to balance the need to always be on with the need to find the off switch. So, in other words, after you get done reading this article, don’t be afraid to shut your laptop for a few days. It’ll be there when you get back.

I’m sure you’re stuffed with all this food for thought to finish out your year, but definitely keep that last point in mind during your holiday break.

No matter how cool and dynamic our technology is, the human brain is still the best computer ever made.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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