Predictions For 2012 From An Employee Perspective

December 21 2011 11:00:00 PM Comments Disabled
The WatcherThe following is my first "predictions for next year" blog post written as an industry analyst. If you're expecting to read yet another ramble about cloud, mobile, social, location and every other current buzzword, let me save you the time and tell you to move on now. While each of those topics is important, they are things that vendors and executives discuss, not what's on the minds of most employees. Below I present five of the things I think will have an impact in 2012 (and are areas I'm writing reports on). Enjoy and please let me know what you think.

1. The Social Buzz Wears Off

2010 was the year enterprises started talking about "social" and discussing challenges and best practices around adoption. 2011 was the year the discussions shifted to integrating "social" with business processes and other critical business systems. 2012 will be the year employees start hating social software.

Blasphemy! Yes, I know. Social software is the cure to all our collaboration and social networking woes. It connects us to the people and content we need to get our jobs done and make our businesses successful. The problem is social tools are causing just as many problems as they are solving and people are getting frustrated.

Two of the top issues are 1) Streams are becoming more of a dumping ground than our inboxes and 2) managing your communities/contacts/connections is becoming a burden.

There's something very important I forgot to tell you. Don't cross the streams. It would be bad. Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. - Dr. Egon Spengler, Ghost Busters

Ok, it's not as bad as "total protonic reversal", but many people are expressing frustration when working with streams. This is especially true when multiple sources of information are merged together into a single stream resulting in a great deal of "noise" (I think turbulence is a better term).

Of course streams are not going away, so thankfully there is good news on the horizon. I believe in 2012 we will see a lot of progress made in filtering and managing streams. Some of this will require manual intervention (similar to configuring mail rules for your inbox) and some will happen automatically by a combination of algorithms and magic. Warning to vendors, if you hide the logic the algorithms are using to determine what is displayed, people will not trust the decisions being made. You need to provide some way to see why information is being shown (or hidden) and provide a way to fine tune it.

The other issue of social software I often hear about is how frustrated people are with the number of communities and social networks they are a part of. It seems like everyday you're invited into a new group, have to create a new profile and have to build/approve yet another network of colleagues. The process of managing connections (and your own identity) across multiple services is way behind where it should be. Where is the universal address book that maps people (and groups/lists/circles) between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Google and the various tools we use at work? I think Google is going in the right direction with Circles and I hope a service like LinkedIn, Plaxo or a brand new startup comes up with a way to enable true ownership and portability of our digital identities. I hope some progress will be made in 2012 but expect politics (not technology) to be a stumbling block.

2. Getting Work Done #GWD

To-Do public art in DumboWhile the nirvana of "serendipitous discovery of people and information" sounds wonderful, the reality is that people need to get work done. Whether right or wrong, social software (streams, blogs, wikis, communities, etc) is still mainly thought of as a way to share information, not manage projects or tasks. No wonder we're seeing an explosion of simple task management products such as Wunderkit, SocialCast Strides, Salesforce's, Asana, Mindjet's Cohuman, Google Schemer and a dozen others. While time management processes and tools have been around for a long time (think David Allen's Getting Things Done or the work of Stephen Covey) in 2012 we're going to see a resurgence in their popularity. Social software is great, but I like to remind people "Let's not forget the "I" in social." What I mean is, people are happy to share but at the end of the day they need to have their own work done. These new tools are focusing on just the right things.

3. What's the Big Deal of Big Data?

Block letters and numbersGuess what? Big Data means nothing to the typical employee. Social analytics, sentiment analysis and recommendation engines mean very little to anyone without "scientist" in their title. Sarcasm aside, I know Big Data has the potential to help people make more informed decisions, create more relevant search results, find patterns and connections in huge amounts of information and more. Vendors like IBM continue to buy up every analytics company they can get their hands on, so the hoopla (or should I say Hadoop?) is here to stay. In the short term I think Marketing Professionals will see the most benefit, but we'll all start to see things like the intelligent filtering of streams I mentioned above.

4. Application Stores Collide

Trolleys on fireApple has ingrained "There's an App for that" into our heads. Now when we need a tool we expect there to be a simple way to find, install (perhaps purchase) and instantly start using it. That has lead to app stores popping up everywhere. Companies will have internal app stores on their intranet, vendors will have app stores on their websites plus each device (phone, tablet, etc.) will have an app store of its own. This will be quite confusing. Where do you go if you want an iPad app for your CRM system? Do you start searching your intranet, the vendor's web site or open up iTunes via your iPad? Companies are going to have to deal with a variety of administration, support and licensing issues around this new world of apps.

5. User Experience Matters

A smile that never fadesSurprise surprise, people care about what things look like and how they function. While most vendors have spent the last few years trying to make their software look like Facebook or Twitter, in 2012 we're going to see more influence coming from iPad apps like Zite or Flipbook. (plus Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are evolving their Uis at a pace enterprise software can't keep up with) People are becoming accustomed to using carousels, tickers and pivoting flipcards. We'll see new ways to interact with data in real time and draw useful infographics. Vendors may add video profiles to augment the standard profile pictures. Gamification will spread beyond external communities and reach into corporate intranets as a way to visually reward and incent employees. If a vendor does not have a graphics design department they are in serious trouble.

So there you have it. My list of 5 key things that will matter in 2012 from the perspective of a typical employee. What do you think? Am I completely off base or spot on?