The evolution of social-networking capabilities in corporate systems, and technologies that dramatically boost productivity and reduce risk, are themes that dominate the "Top Ten Predictions 2012" from one IT research firm.
Nucleus Research, in its annual forecast of important trends, pays special attention to cloud computing. Under prediction No. 2 --- "The Cloud Changes Development" --- it notes that the cloud not only makes software development much faster, but that the process becomes "more iterative." It explains: "When changes can be made on the fly, companies can deploy once and then adapt an application as business needs change or become clearer." The rise of talented developers in networked environments, this prediction adds, will "challenge traditional systems integrators that are used to hiding behind billable hours and big bang projects." [Find an attachment with the Nucleus predictions at the end of this article.]
But under the heading "The Productive Enterprise," Nucleus singles out as its No. 1 prediction how the social-network elements championed by Salesforce.com's Chatter, and other vendors like HubSpot and Yammer, will drive steep, company-changing productivity increases.
Next year's most successful firms "will leverage social technology to build the productive enterprise," says Nucleus. "They will take advantage of mobile device access to collaborative networks to spur employees to work during down time, day time, and night time," for one thing.
A Lot Like E-Mail's Rise
Rebecca Wettemann, vice president, research, for Nucleus, said that the advance of social networking in the enterprise merits its No. 1 prediction because the trend is comparable to the rise of e-mail 10 to 15 years ago, with the enormous changes that it brought to operations.
"We've found, in fact, that one of the most common use cases for applications like Chatter and Yammer is for executives to share insights, news, results, and other information that would normally be on a bulletin board or mass e-mail," she says. "It also enables finance to keep track of things it wouldn't necessarily know about otherwise, like activities with a particular client or project."
Most companies today are implementing social collaboration technologies that "start with a clear policy of what should and shouldn't be shared on the application, and I expect we'll see more adding social tools to the list of business communications that are considered official record," as they previously did with e-mail.
The No. 3 trend --- "SAP Reemerges" --- refers to the use of enterprise resource planning in mobile-device access and other areas. No. 4 -- "Users Choose Big Over Best of Breed" --- describes the tendency of IT buyers to no longer concentrate on vendors that "offer targeted functionality with clear net benefits," rather than "broad commodity products." Today, Nucleus argues, large-scale vendors like IBM and Oracle "improve productivity by delivering more functionality in a single application and enable organizations to do more with a single data source."
Prediction No. 5 --- "More Ways for All to Manage Big Data" --- covers the rapid developments in analytics tools, and their value to corporations. "This is one area where we'll continue to see innovation (like integration of field-programmable gate arrays), mergers and acquisitions (like IBM's Netezza grab), and new product and pricing models (like Oracle's new database appliance.)"
The Remaining Predictions
Winding up the top-ten list, Nucleus delves into trends with labor management to software management to customer management -- and the connections among all three.
No. 6: Capital Moves from Labor to Technology. This will allow companies to reducing hiring, while investing more in IT, the research firm says.
No. 7: The Decade of Smarter Software. "The next decade will be about making software more intuitive, integrated, and self teaching so it makes individual end users more productive."
No. 8: Labor Finally Gets Optimized. Workforce management is advancing rapidly with analytics tools and "data gathered at time and attendance kiosks." Says Nucleus: "Slackers, you've been warned."
No. 9: Healthcare Investment. The advance of electronic recordkeeping will "drive investment in data capture devices and services," along with records-management applications.
No. 10: Renewed Focus on the Customer Experience. The investment in customer relationship management will continue "as companies seek to retain their most profitable customers and attract new ones." Plus, they'll have to address security concerns "so customers will trust them as they navigate the evolving social and mobile cloud community, where boundaries between personal and professional are not always well defined."