Looking for the next Next Big Thing

Analyst firm Nucleus Research Inc. (http://www.nucleusresearch.com), which specializes in tracking return on investment (ROI) from technology, sees the following tech trends dominating the marketplace throughout the coming year:

Business intelligence will be the latest carrot ERP vendors will use to attract new customers. As business intelligence emerges as a method of extracting data from ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, ERP vendors will offer expanded capabilities to provide one-stop shopping.

Maintenance fees will become the next software battlefield. The heavy merger and acquisition activity in the software market is based on acquiring new customer bases and adding more lucrative maintenance fees to the vendors' bottom lines. Customers are getting tired of paying for upgrades they may never need and licenses they rarely use, so they'll start getting tougher on negotiating fees.

With RFID, it's not about cost — it's about reliability. Better technology, more vendor and user experience, more mature supporting software, and emerging best practices will help make the RFID (radio frequency identification) ride a bit smoother in 2005.

More companies will outsource their e-retail channels instead of maintaining and updating costly on-premise e-commerce and catalog applications. Companies that invested heavily in e-commerce platforms in the 1990s will reevaluate their ongoing software maintenance, support and content management costs and consider hosted alternatives.

Companies will undergo infrastructure audits to identify and clean out redundant or unnecessary IT (information technology) assets. They are looking at ways to standardize systems across the company and will spend to replace disparate systems with a single unified system. The payoff can be substantial with significant returns from system retirement and ongoing returns through lower IT support costs.

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