"I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years…Ever since, I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions." –-Wilbur Wright, 1908
With none of Wilbur Wright’s humility, here are my predictions for some significant business developments in 2012.
1. Social business will take off in 2012, but companies will struggle to adopt. Management consultants will champion ‘digital transformation’ initiatives ala Y2K in order to help companies change business processes and worker behavior. But the real gains will be made where companies can find ways to adopt social and collaboration tools without making workers change their daily work habits. This evolutionary approach to social business adoption will trump ‘rip and replace’ methodologies being promoted by some social business software vendors…including one that recently went public.
2. A significant failure in a popular cloud service will set the cloud movement back. A high-profile outage will scare a lot of businesses planning to move to the cloud; caution will set in as companies think twice about exposing their crown IT jewels to the cloud. Small companies with scant IT resources will throw caution to the wind and will continue to move to the cloud, because of the huge cost savings they can realize.
3. Mobile IT will grow slowly in the enterprise. Mobile IT and mobile apps will continue to spread in the enterprise, but it will be a top-down adoption. Senior managers who can buy their own mobile smartphones and tablets will readily adopt mobile applications, but enterprise adoption will take time as IT needs to gear up to support a more mobile workforce. The other area of meaningful adoption will continue to be mobile workers like technicians and salespeople.
4. Organizations will increase IT infrastructure investments. Companies sitting on cash stockpiled during the last few years of workforce and budget reductions will need to spend to upgrade their aging IT infrastructure. Increased spending will include investments in tools and applications that let workers work together better across geographic distances, albeit in a secure manner. Collaboration, social business, and mobile are all areas of interest.
5. An iPad tablet alternative will emerge out of the fragmented Android market. At least one Android tablet will get it right and will emerge as a reasonable alternative to the iPad, which is today, king of the hill. But a shakeout will reduce the number of viable tablets vying for market share. For more on Android vs. iOS, read on…
6. Android vs. iOS 2012. Apple will have to become more flexible in its software distribution model for enterprise software or it will risk making the same Macintosh vs. PC mistake of the 1990s. It is not reasonable for organizations to grant Apple control of application distribution to their internal workforce. Enterprise software vendors will also champion a distribution model in which they have better control of their destiny. The Android alternative to iOS will represent a positive market force.
7. eBooks will dominate. Already outselling some categories of paper books, eBooks will finally take center stage. Significant sales of the Kindle during this holiday season bode well for this market. The impact on brick and mortar publishers will be substantial. Book publishers, like magazine publishers before them will find niches where paper will continue to thrive, for example in genres where graphic layout remain important, and where digital representations do not (yet) compare.
8. Information overload will get much worse. The inundation of information from more and more channels will continue to erode our ability to focus and pay attention to the world around us. Case in point: a recent survey by social email company harmon.ie found that "the majority of people under the age of 40 stay digitally connected in bed, and 44% of people under 30 stay connected during a night out at the movies." An information ‘green’ movement will begin to peel back some of the excesses of the intrusion brought on by digital devices. One example of this movement is the recent recommendation of the NTSB to ban cell phone use in automobiles. Adopting an Internet Sabbath, as William Powers suggests in his book "Hamlet’s Blackberry," will appeal to more and more people who are stressed out by being ‘always on.’
9. Consolidation in the social business/enterprise collaboration market. The value of business collaboration is well-accepted in organizations; organizations have already invested heavily in tools to take advantage. Forrester Research found that the majority of organizations have invested in five or more collaboration tools. Getting workers to use these tools remains a struggle, so it makes sense that there will a consolidation in the tools used to complete everyday business tasks. Creating a single window of collaboration and social business is a mega-trend in the enterprise software market; this will lead to a consolidation in the market.
10. A significant new player will emerge in the social networking space. Facebook will remain the dominant player for the foreseeable future, but an attractive alternative will emerge in 2012.
Happy holidays and a happy new year.
[Image: Flickr user damianthegirl]