Context is king in the Accenture Technology Vision for 2012. The consulting firm believes the most powerful information services will be those that know where you are and what you are doing, with the intelligence to present you with the most useful information tools for every situation.
Social collaboration will be a powerful input for contextual systems to draw on because in the process of chattering with each other, employees expose more information about themselves and their connections, current projects, expertise, and interests. Location-based mobile apps are the other obvious part of the equation, providing the "where" in who, what, when, where, why, and how.
However, the mobile apps that help you find the closest restaurants and gas stations aren't context-driven, in the sense that they don't really "know you," the report notes. To realize the potential of context, the next generation of information services will need to pull location and social and other data together to make intelligent recommendations for your current situation, according to Accenture. I envision that as, for example, the app guiding you to the gas station closest to your route, rather than the cheapest one, because it knows you're running late to return your rental car to the airport.
Social software is only part of that story, but it's an important part. If you use enterprise social networks and applications well, you will generate a ton of context about your employees. If you use consumer social applications well, you will learn more about your customers and prospects.
[ What are the new possibilities of Facebook commerce? See How Payvment Uses Facebook's Expanded Open Graph.]
"These will be systems that really understand more about what you're doing, who you are, and where you are, then create those services that really start to individualize around you," Gavin Michael, chief technology innovation officer, said in an interview. "We don't see it as just location-based. It's not only where you are but what you are doing."
Accenture identified six broad trends it believes will transform business and technology:
-- Context-based services. Where you are and what you are doing will drive the next wave of digital services.
-- Converging data architectures. Successfully rebalancing the data architecture portfolio and blending the structured with the unstructured are key to turning data into new streams of value.
-- Industrialized data services. The ability to share data will make it more valuable--but only if it is managed differently.
-- Social-driven IT. Realize that social is not just a bolt-on marketing channel. It will have true business-wide impact.
-- PaaS-enabled agility. The maturing platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market will shift the emphasis from cost-cutting to business innovation, supporting rapid evolution for business processes that need continuous change.
-- Orchestrated analytical security. Organizations will have to accept that their gates will be breached and begin preparing their second line of defense--data platforms--to mitigate the damage caused by attacks that get through.
Each of these items started as a hypothesis developed by an Accenture research team and reality-checked with CIOs, vendors, and other industry watchers, Michael said. The resulting agenda covers more than social business, but many of the trends are overlapping and intertwined. For example, converging data architectures for better support of unstructured data is important partly because of the influx of unstructured data from social posts. Meanwhile, social software and cloud computing are breaking down the walls of the enterprise in ways that make that "orchestrated analytical security" important for systems that can no longer trust in the protection provided by a firewall.