5 Twists On 2012's Big Tech Trends

Forget big-bang changes: 2012 will bring important but incremental advances in trends such as social and mobile. Consider how your enterprise will tap into these five, Forrester Research advises.
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Pohlmann I wish I could pen a 2012 predictions piece without reference to the usual suspects of cloud, mobility, social media, and the commensurate explosion of data. But the fact is, these remain the biggies, and for good reason. They're no longer isolated trends but intertwined opportunities--intertwined with one another and with your efforts to build lasting digital business strategies.

Where I deviate from the normal outlook piece is to predict that we shouldn't expect big-bang changes. Instead, next year will be one of important advancements in established trends. Here are five evolutionary steps coming in enterprise IT during 2012.

1. More-Nutritional Enterprise Social Apps

Despite explosive growth in social technology adoption on the home front, only 12% of U.S. information workers even have access to an enterprise form of a social app, according to Forrester's survey--and even fewer are using what's available to them. Outside of customer service applications, IT leaders are hesitant to invest in enterprise social. Why? Collaboration initiatives, to which social capabilities are tied, are often viewed like eggplant--no downside, but also little nutritional value.

Enterprise social apps will gain momentum in 2012 at companies where there's a change of objective: Instead of just trying to connect information workers to known peers or defined repositories, the new goal will be helping them find expertise beyond their Rolodexes. The concept of a social graph--a virtual map of whom users are connected to and the content that those users access and create--will underpin these strategies. When companies learn how to use social apps to drive revenue from this information, we'll see more offerings and finally more uptake in demand.

2. A Focus On The App Internet

Mobility used to be simple: Support the BlackBerry. But smartphones and tablets from Apple, Google, and other platform providers besides RIM have redefined expectations for executives and employees. For IT, there are now myriad mobiles apps in the development queue that are aimed at reaching customers and business partners. Device-resident apps that rely on cloud services will continue their ascent. That's in direct contrast to the browser-based Web model that dominated the PC world for 10 years. At Forrester, we call it the "app Internet."

Devices will always advance (see my next nugget), but the greatest change in mobility in 2012 will be around this app Internet. Companies will get more serious about the leadership, governance, and processes needed to deliver effective apps. The largest companies will appoint someone as the leader of a mobility council, responsible for the portfolio of employee, partner, and customer apps.

And companies will start creating their own app stores. At most, these app stores will remain in planning stage next year. But eventually, employees will able to download preapproved apps they need and charge them back to their business unit, or they'll let managers sign off on employee app downloads just like they do a travel expense. Expect these app catalogs to support multiple device platforms.

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