Fast Company

Fast Forward 2005: 71-75

The future is something to get excited about again. Here's our look at the surprising people, ideas, and trends that will change how we work and live in 2005.

71. The Apostle of Offshoring . . .

As CEO of one of India's largest IT companies, Vivek Paul likes offshoring. It has his company, Bangalore-based Wipro Technologies pulling in revenues of nearly $1.2 billion, up from just $150 million in 1999. One of India's largest recipients of outsourced jobs, Paul is at the center of the offshoring controversy. The Indian-born American citizen is working with the Treasury Department to create safeguards that will keep offshoring a legitimate option for U.S. companies. Whether you love or hate what he stands for, Paul is helping to change the way business is done all over the world.

72. . . . And Why He'll Stay Busy

Think offshoring has peaked as a management strategy? We're just in the first inning. According to a recent study from Forrester Research, 68% of companies are increasing the percentage of their IT budgets going offshore. This is because more than 70% of companies currently offshoring are happy with the results. In turn, offshoring is getting more sophisticated. Instead of shipping out only application development and customer-service jobs, companies are looking abroad for help with database and infrastructure monitoring, and testing. And increasing cost pressures, additional location choices, and a greater ability to manage global business mean that offshoring not only isn't going anywhere but will continue to evolve as part of our global business culture. Adjust accordingly.

73. Wireless Cities

Forget about hot spots. Think hot towns. Wireless Internet access is in great demand; it's just not that attractive a business model for service providers (witness this year's death of Cometa, which served McDonald's). So what if your town gives it away (or offers it supercheap)? It's a smart marketing tool to attract visitors, it creates all kinds of possibilities for local businesses to market themselves, and it's not that expensive. Philadelphia is considering turning a 135 square-mile area into a hot spot at a cost of about $10 million. Cities such as Cleveland and Spokane, Washington, currently offer limited coverage in their burgs. Wireless cities would also bring broadband to inner-city communities. But it might cripple businesses banking on broadband access fees, such as the telcos. Boo hoo.

74. The Shopping Cart of the Future

Who's your buddy? The Shopping Buddy. Now being tested at a Stop & Shop supermarket in Braintree, Massachusetts, technology transforms the humble grocery wagon into a high-tech helper. Scan in your frequent-shopper card to see your most frequent purchases or email your shopping list to the device to eliminate carrying a paper list. As you shop, scan in each item and the cart will keep a running tab. It also eliminates the checkout line. As you walk through the store, promotions and paperless coupons pop up on the screen. If you want to use them, just scan in the featured item. The Buddy will roll out to 20 stores in early 2005, with an additional 150 in Stop & Shop and Giant stores (in Washington, DC) by the end of next year. Sure, that's great, but do all the wheels roll in the same direction?

75. Software Becomes a Utility

Imagine if we all had to pump our own water and generate our own electricity. Primitive! Yet that's what we do every day with our computer infrastructure. Every business re-creates the wheel every time it has to tie its financial software to its customer software. Now it's time to turn everything into a service. Leading companies pursuing this idea are Softricity and Grand Central Communications. Grand Central, founded by CNET and Vignette founder Halsey Minor, promises "integration on demand" for Web-based services by creating a shared infrastructure that everyone can tap into. Sure sounds like the power company, but considering that it's taken five years for companies to get comfortable with Web-based applications for sales and support, only the bold need apply.

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