following Monday’s insight from the analyst community on the trends and expectations for the year ahead (check out the full post here), we thought we’d have a bash ourselves at predicting the future. so here are our suggestions for the year ahead – let us know whether you agree with us, or think we’re miles off the mark…

(also – to anyone reading this in December, you have *not* got an eye condition; those floating white dots across the screen are snow. it’s festive.)

…and we’re putting together a mobile special in case you think it’s a bit thin on mobility right now – watch this space in Jan for the 2011 mobile outlook according to Edelman Tech…

Predictions for 2011:

Larry picks a fight…with God

Larry Ellison will never be accused of being the shy retiring type. In fact one of the well known legends is that he bases a lot of his modus operandi around ‘The Art of War’ and over the years he has picked a fight with pretty much everyone in the industry. Bill Gates, Ray Lane, Craig Conway, Tom Siebel and more recently SAP and HP. Frankly there isn’t anyone really left to fight so the speculation surely must be that the only person worthy of a challenge is God. Given the old joke – "What’s the difference between God and Larry Ellison?…God doesn’t think he’s Larry" – this may not be the case.

Facebook emerges as a powerful content player

Just a stab in the dark, but I’d hazard that before 2011 is out we’ll see Facebook commissioning its own content – or co-creating content at least. The ‘Like’ function is powerful – whether for selling products or amplifying conversation around content. We know that young audiences are watching more online. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook will start working closely with production companies to push something like KateModern into stratospheric proportions – the first social entertainment blockbuster.

‘Do no evil’ Google becomes ‘Bad Google’

In some respects it seems almost stereotypical that a company that was once the darling of the industry is now beginning to look over its shoulder, as the mutterings begin to increase. Like Intel and Microsoft before then they have incurred the wrath of the regulators and how the company reacts next year will be interesting to watch.

Hopefully it will have learnt from the mistakes of others, but there’s the danger its senior leadership team has drunk a little too much of the ‘Kool Aid’.’There is no doubt that the ‘noughties’ belonged to Google and today it remains one of the key drivers of the IT industry, but it needs to sustain that growth to justify its market cap. As a result its moved into a number of different areas with mixed results…Google Wave (#fail), Android (#successtodate), GoogleTV (#waitandsee). Similarly it has had the high profile embarrassment around China, which has severely dented its reputation and competitors like Facebook, Youtube and even Microsoft are beginning to make in-roads on its heartland. 2011 may be a sticky year for Google.

We will all be buying coffee via our mobiles by the end of next year

Whether paying for stuff with your mobile, buying online credits, or using Square we’ll be seeing a lot more money changing hands, without touching hands. Much of the rest of the world already is – Africa and Asia are well ahead of Europe and US in this field, (indeed Gartner predict that 60% of this market in 2011 will be in Asia). But there is some key technology coming that will make phones that much smarter and make it that much easier for us all to get involved. Google has confirmed the next version of Android will support NFC (near field communication) chips, and it’s rumoured that iPhone 5 will have this functionality in-built. Nokia and RIM are both also expected to follow-suit.

Creative Agency "ownership" of social media

This year the classic PR v marketing battle was augmented by the arrival of "customer services" onto the scene. The range of customer and support services using social media to support their communications and contacts has led to them claiming ownership (and budget). A valid claim (like all the rest).

Next year customer relationship management (CRM) will join the fray under the moniker "social" CRM, linking customer databases with social media to define whether, when, how often, on what medium companies communicate with their customers.

I see loads of privacy and "ownership" issues but for any company who gets this right it could be huge.

There are however always pitfalls, and twitter is flooded with examples of companies ‘doing’ social media very well and responding to customers and issues, but the actual customer service department in the clients’ back office not following up. To avoid this becoming a fad or people losing faith in social media platforms as a channel, companies need to place the same focus on the back office customer services departments as they do in keeping pace with an external zeitgeist.

Gamification of Life

There’s a lot of chat about the ‘gaming of everyday life’. Truth is ‘social games’ like Farmville  actually aren’t very social (people tell their friends there are playing, but are they playing with friends and telling others? I think not). FourSquare is often touted as the best example of the gamification of life but personally, I don’t think it is a very good game.

To its credit I think it’s a very promising form of direct marketing and I’m sure we’ll see more coupons next year. More interesting – if more niche – social games are playthings like Chromoroma. These sorts of initiatives will continue to garner interest from the press and trend watchers. Whether or not they will engage enough people to become ‘mainstream’ is perhaps unlikely.  But in a game of influencing the influencers – this sort of creative approach will be a top scorer.

Murdoch will just give up with his paywall.

Personally I think it’s all a little too little too late – the industry has sat back and watched itself be destroyed – news on the internet will be, and will always be, free. If you can’t get what you want from The Times you’ll go somewhere else to find it. The quality argument, for me personally, doesn’t stack up, people generally will accept a lower quality if it costs them nothing.

Mobile and application based news might be a short-term saviour, and there will be winners and losers in this area next year. It’s perhaps true that people are prepared to pay for innovation and the novel – but even then, the future of the mobile experience looks set to be a browser/cloud based model. Mobile applications will go the same way as desktop applications at some point in the not too distant future (let’s say 2013 for arguments sake).

News will become hyper-local & hyper-social. A location based service will join forces with a news site for location centric news – what’s happening where you are right now….. bringing you nearer to……

……‘Where’s that ambulance going?’

I don’t think 2010 has quite been the year of location, as many though it might be. Less than 4% of mobile users are using this feature. It’s growing though and expect next year – with the rise in popularity of Foursquare and Facebook places (sorry Gowalla you missed the boat) – for the term “where am I now” to be more popular than ever.

Combine this with the fact that media is looking to innovate, to tap into the power of social, than I can see a very logical next step to be a combination of owned and user generated news to be pushed to users based on location.

What is happening in the world you’re in right now. Whether this is in combination with one of the aforementioned services or a plug-in to a site like the BBC, Digg or the Guardian, I think we’ll start to see this as a powerful service. Indirectly, this may then only serve to fuel citizen journalism, as people are alerted more easily to incidents / events happening close to them.

Someone will figure out how to give everything, no matter how small, an IP address

Long shot this one, and is based on boozy conversations with colleagues on the outerweb and the internet of things, that this could be the next big breakthrough – giving everything a link to the internet.

This could be as simple as me seeing a sofa or salt shaker and “liking” it in real time or adding instantly to an Amazon wish list via a connection to my smartphone. It will happen, perhaps not next year, but it’s always good to have an outlandish prediction – and hell most food products do now have a link to the web via barcodes.

Videogames will shift from products to entertainment services

By the end of 2011, most blockbusters games will turn into an subscription-based service instead of releasing a new iteration each year (i.e.: the Call of Duty franchise). We’ve already seen this happening with the Steam platform offering games as uploads, and annoying retail outlets in the process, but the next year could see this become even more prominent. Gamers are currently predominantly ‘owned’ by their console (although multi-console owners are increasingly more common), but game manufacturers could see a niche in the market for tying them into series through exclusive uploads, game advances and new episodes. Given the dedication the most successful games generate, this would seem a seamless next step.

Cloudy outlook;  another year of unfulfilled promise, the return of hardware storage, and Everything-As-A-Service?

Seriously, can someone just make the cloud revolution finally happen? It’s been on everyone’s lips for years – YEARS – but is 2011 the year the cloud actually becomes the tech saviour it’s lined up as? Granted, there are already plenty of services claiming ‘cloud’ services, but on closer inspection many of these are simply network servers – can we finally envisage a true cloud? If we are to do so, the main obstacle is going to be keeping such services reliable and absolutely, unrelentingly secure – it’s the security issue which has held adoption up in many instances.

And if the security issue does remain unconquerable, we could perhaps see the return of hardware storage with servers and SSDs, as the perceived risks around cloud computing create too many anxieties to warrant full adoption.

If the cloud DOES finally break loose, expect ‘EaaS’ – Everything-as-a-Service – a growing offers with more collaborative tools and more complete applications to be proposed; everything becomes “on demand” with the cloud.

Social media will finally arrive in the enterprise

We’ve already witnessed the growing adoption of social media in the enterprise – for both internal and external usage – and we can expect to see more of the same as IT decision makers start to impact the business strategy discussions.

Once the C Suite understand the role social media plays in business, and how it can (positively) impact business efficiency, we’ll see this boom. Social media is currently viewed as a distraction to staff, but once this misapprehension is dealt with, and its proper adoption, integration and monitoring is understood, enterprises will rush to get involved.

The key issue which needs tackling in 2011 is to dispel the perception of social media adoption being simply an ‘allow or deny’ decision. It is simply not that black and white, and different employees require differing access and controls. The workforce coming into industry now is that which has grown up with the likes of Facebook, and they’ll expect the same in business – and if they don’t get it, they’ll find a way around security to use it none the less. “Allow or deny” is no longer a valid debate.

and the consumerisation of IT won’t be restricted to social media…


We can’t get enough of having a familiar device in our pocket, even in the workplace – we’re moving into the age of ‘bring your own’- your own technology, that is – into work. With more Millennials/Generation Y/the L’Oréal generation, whatever you want to call them, coming into the workplace, we’ll see a shift in the technology we use and how we use it altogether. Businesses will support the idea – in theory. Employees using a familiar device has the obvious efficiency advantages. However, whether organisations, and infrastructure, will be able to support alien devices is another thing. After all, there’s the usual security, technical, data protection and legal issues that cloud computing has been dealing with for years. It will certainly be a step in the right direction, but we may very well get there at a snail’s pace.

with thanks for the following for contributions:







Either side of Christmas there has been a fair amount of debate about the future of the enterprise software market, particularly whether the big players such as Oracle and SAP are going to start feeling the heat from the software-as-a-service (SaaS)/cloud computing folks. Given the economic conditions and the hefty maintenance fees that many customers have been asked to pay it quite rightly led some commentators to suggest customers have a right to demand more.

SAP has been ‘victim’ of some sabre rattling in Europe as it has just announced that it is backing down on changes to its support license structure – a result of pressure being exerted by many commentators. Frankly, though, I’d rather see that as a good example of an enterprise IT vendor getting the need for dialogue with customers. In fact Dennis Howlett suggests that SAP wants to be the ‘voice of the customer.’ So rather than criticise SAP I say well done!

Rip and Replace Frenzy?

Elsewhere there has been debate about the financial performance of SAP and Oracle with some analysis suggesting the Oracle’s numbers before Christmas told a disturbing story about its reliance on support revenues for its profitability. As I’ve said before Oracle does say its higher maintenance fees are critical to future investment in product/services R&D, but given the financial belt tightening of the last year many customers don’t have the luxury of sustaining such expenditure. (A fact borne out by the growth of the likes of Rimini Street and other third party support vendors, who are seeing more and more customers turning away to them for maintenance contracts)

So does that mean we are about to see dramatic changes in the IT industry? On its home turf Computerwoche dared to raise the question whether SAP could remain independent, while the hotly debated Sapience conference saw the SaaS vendors making very bold statements about their competitiveness against the ‘traditional’ enterprise IT companies. In this more balanced piece Jon Reed did say there are merits to the SaaS model and that SAP needs to be careful, particularly with some of its older customer base refusing to upgrade, but that we are not going to see a dramatic ‘rip and replace’ frenzy.

Integration Rather Than Software to Decide SaaS Success

I tend to agree both from a practical and technical perspective. Practicalities – for instance – IBM AS/400 was around long before I started and is still around today. Ultimately it will always be up to customers to decide which products they use and they would be crazy to throw away long-standing investments. In December Ray Wang also offered advice to companies considering a shift to SaaS, listing 10 recommendations, the most important of which – for me – was a technical one about integration. We have already learnt the lesson the hard way with existing enterprise IT platforms, that unless applications are integrated companies fail to extract their full value.

Certainly, in some areas such as customer relationship management (CRM) and salesforce automation it has been possible to establish a beachhead quite quickly, because these systems can be quite distinct from core IT infrastructures. However, to convince major organisations to switch their critical applications such as financial administration to the SaaS or Cloud model, vendors must demonstrate they can integrate disparate systems to ensure a transparent picture for the customer. That means combining business intelligence with performance management with accounts payable and other core finance applications. That is no easy task and requires a depth of expertise that I don’t think I’ve seen from the SaaS gang.

Who do you Trust?

I guess they would suggest implementation partners ensure the business processes run smoothly together, but if I were a major bank who would I see as having the expertise to implement properly? If the CIO had to guarantee the trading floor had real-time data that linked seamlessly with the back-office finance applications so would the CIO trust a SaaS vendor?

For me that’s the big question. Security is an easy FUD argument against SaaS/Cloud, but integrating business processes is the major area where SaaS vendors will need to convince.

So does that mean the ‘traditional’ big guns can breathe easy? No.

Impact of Conway’s Law and Enterprise IT as a Utility

The reality is that we’re moving to the Cloud/service driven IT model. It will fulfil Nicholas Carr’s view of IT as a utility. At the moment it is driven by economic necessity, but while the SaaS vendors have their chance I am confident they are going to be working hard to get further and further inside the corporate firewall, stripping out the older proprietary systems.

Where does that leave Oracle and SAP? I once had it described to me as moving a world of ‘provices’ and ‘serducts’ rather than products and services. In this excellent overview of the challenges for the enterprise vendors Pete Swabey references Conway’s Law, which reads: “Organisations which design systems…are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organisations.”

If we follow the model that software will become a commodity and accept the impact of Conway’s law there are going to be a few clear priorities for vendors:

1)      Customer service reputation: historically never a strong suit for enterprise IT vendors, but surely they are going to have to engage more aggressively with customers and be prepared for frank, sometimes awkward dialogue. How far that dialogue should go is the key challenge. If you follow the engagement model to its furthest reaches then surely vendors will involve customers more in agreeing product roadmaps, but that could be a massive, complex headache, which sees profits disappear, much to the consternation of shareholders.

2)      Brand: if you agree that service rather than product will become the priority, that means that the focus on brand identity will have to increase and change. The US technology companies are all fairly sophisticated in protecting their brands, but I’m not sure many of them recognise it as critical to their customer/employee engagement. For example, I don’t really remember either Oracle or SAP trumpeting the capabilities of the Consulting and Support teams much beyond the odd press release. Surely, highlighting the services and expertise of these teams should become even more important than product. And that is not just about tangibles, it is also about the intangibles that customers associate with a brand. For example, would an enterprise IT vendor have the courage to publicise a software implementation that went wrong (and the turn around process), as a positive example of commitment to customers? Today no, but in the future (in the right context) a brave vendor should surely be willing to demonstrate how willing it is to through the kitchen sink at a problem? Creating that kind of mythology enhances loyalty.

3)      People: And if the tangibles and intangibles become ever more important in this service driven model, then obviously people are of paramount importance. A cliché, sure, but again enterprise IT vendors have not always covered themselves in glory when it comes to interaction with their staff. Having worked for an enterprise software vendor (Oracle) and loved it, I know how exciting it can be to work in this sector. However, across the industry the approach to employee communications – more importantly engagement – is frankly patchy. And if you treat staff like mushrooms, then the obvious happens…

So neither a bloody or a velvet revolution, but it would be interesting to be in the boardrooms of SAP and Oracle to hear what they’re saying about the future.

I recently wrote about the prospect of a mood change among enterprise IT customers, in particular less willingness to accept the ways IT vendors interact with them. While I can claim no responsibility it was interesting this week to hear the comments of R ‘Ray’ Wang (should the ‘R’ actually stand for ‘revolutionary?’) at the SAP UK User Group Conference (Sugen).

Thankfully it created more thought provoking headlines than one might expect of a User Conference and Ray Wang was fairly explicit in his warning to the SAP customer base:

“…The traditional models of how we do business have gone away… We’re left with enterprise applications that do a really good job of catching data and automating processes but which are lacking in flexibility and innovation. Our antiquated technology has an impact on the way we handle change management…People need solutions right away, they can’t wait for IT to deliver.” (mycustomer)

Wang went on to criticise SAP’s ability to bring its innovations to market, encouraging Sugen members to demand more of the vendor. Given that the company spent $1.6bn on R&D in 2008 Wang felt that the enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor had failed to communicate some of its innovations, such as ESME, which was launched a year before Salesforce announced Chatter.

“End users need to work through the user group to push SAP to unlock the innovation, to find one what is available, and to get clarity on the SAP product map so they can plan for change…” (Computer Weekly)

To put it mildly this is not the early Christmas present SAP’s management want. Elsewhere it’s been revealed the company made a New Year’s resolution to put up maintenance fees for some customers to nearer 20%, which has already led to revolt among some customers.

So what’s the answer?
It isn’t all bad news for SAP, because underlying Wang’s comment is the message that the innovation exists, which is positive for its customers. It is also not alone in facing such criticism from influential industry figures. Figures such as Vinnie Mirchandani raised serious concerns about Oracle’s ability to innovate earlier in the year, which provoked a strong response from the company. (disclaimer: I’m an ex-Oracle employee)

Therefore is this simply a return – as Ray Wang suggests – to the 1990s argument about best-of-breed vs. suite solutions, with the best-of-breed being Software-as-a-Service? (SaaS)
Certainly, Marc Benioff has done a superb job of marketing his company, as underlined by the buzz created by Chatter last week. And yet, Dennis Howlett is also right to question whether Salesforce has the genuine capability, experience etc, to embed this new model of innovation across complex enterprise IT infrastructures.

Next week will see the Oracle UK User Group and it will be interesting to see what comes out of that event, particularly as subjects such as the much-heralded and long-awaited Fusion Applications are a subject of discussion.

It is always easy for the media to concentrate on the negatives in such scenarios and it is very easy to pick on licensing and pricing as a key issue. That said it will be interesting to hear whether next week’s conference reflects the deeper issues that Wang highlights.

If it does, does that suggest initial grumblings are gaining momentum and spreading across the industry? I would trust Dennis Howlett’s assessment of the mood in the SAP camp, which suggests things are positive, but as things stands today there appears to be increasing unrest among a variety of customers.

Perhaps the reason is understandable. We are coming out of recession (supposedly) and customers want to be inspired by the companies that provide their IT systems. If that is the case then Marc Benioff is already ahead in the perception stakes.

The answer for vendors could be as simple as being more daring when communicating with their customers. As Peckham’s most famous entrepreneur said many times, “He who dares, Rodders, he who dares…”

Interesting development to add to the suggestion of dissatisfaction among SAP customers. Two key members of Sugen, who led the User Group’s involvement in discussions around the maintenance fee issue, have resigned. It would be wrong to jump to conclusions, but it doesn’t paint a positive picture at such a crucial time.

Having just suffered at the hands of a combination of technology and customer service I feel justified to vent. It always staggers me how bad most B2C technology-led companies are, and 1.5hrs with my broadband provider today only compounded that view. Yes, dumb users and mystifyingly random technology glitches make it hard sometimes to be consistent, but when you’re told the immediate solution is to pull the power cable out of the modem box you do start to wonder.

I decided to give up when I was told that it was only a temporary solution and the real fix won’t happen for 7 – 10 working days.

Following this incident I tried to join a conference call. A nice automated lady told me to enter my details and after saying ‘thank you’ she told me that the lines were busy and hung up…all done in that matter-of-fact, yet extremely positive Californian tone that makes people from this corner of the world think they should be the ones apologising.

At times one is left with the impression that the technology companies either don’t care or just don’t have the answers. “Yes you’re our customer, yes you pay quite a bit of money, but hey it’s fickle technology…” I can even see the call agent shrugging his or her shoulders, muttering “I’m not paid enough to go the extra mile.”
I realise that’s a rather sweeping assumption and I do acknowledge it’s tougher for B2C companies working with technology. The perfect storm of the volume of inbound calls, combined with inconsistencies of scaling technology and the ‘capabilities’ of the average technology user make life very hard.

Good Customer Service
As a result I decided to do a bit of dubious research. If you type “customer service” and “technology companies” into Google, guess what? None of the major enterprise software companies appear on the first or second page. When you change the terms to “customer satisfaction” and “technology companies” again none of the big technology vendors appear.

Good customer service can be done, as this Business Week article shows: And major technology companies do try to win awards, eg: Service 800 Awards ( or the SSPA Star Awards (, or the JD Power Awards (

And yet I can’t think of any major IT company that has customer service or satisfaction or loyalty at the heart of its values. For example, I’ve seen nothing to compare to this from Marriott Hotels. Perhaps it’s obvious that they put customers first, but they really emphasise the point throughout their culture, as does Southwest Airlines (

Bad Customer Service?
I can’t think of a technology company – especially the enterprise guys – who spell it out that bluntly. Tom Siebel famously built his company around ‘always the customer first’ ( and PeopleSoft used to be known for putting the ‘human’ in human resources.

You could say, “Where are these companies now?” and that Oracle has taken on/evolved their approach to customers. Charles Phillips, President of Oracle Corporation, is often heard emphasising the commitment to customers and to give them their dues they do get recognised ( (Disclaimer: Oracle is my former employer)

That said it doesn’t help perceptions when its executives adamantly refuse to consider altering their approach to maintenance revenue (, especially when – unfairly or not – customers see articles like this one (, showing how well paid Larry is…

Times they are a-changing…
Oracle isn’t alone in facing this challenge of balancing customer service against profitability. As an industry it has done very nicely, thank you, out of recurring revenues from customers and it is a very tough habit to break. To an extent vendors are right in that some of the revenue is needed for R&D, but are they resisting the inevitable?
I refuse to jump on the cloud bandwagon, but market stats show the likes of Salesforce rapidly growing their market share ( – even if it is from a low base. Similarly, Government departments are becoming more and more robust – particularly in the UK, where many central Govt departments are rumoured to be facing 15% – 20% cuts (minimum) in budgets. The policy document on open source and open standards ( demands greater flexibility from vendors, allowing departments more rights to transfer licenses between departments, something that would be unspeakable for most IT companies.

The suppliers would come back with that dreaded word ‘choice.’ With enterprise wide, perpetual & universal licenses, nevermind SaaS models, the vendors would claim that customers have choice. Yet, ‘perpetual’ is only as perpetual as a vendor is willing to support a platform. ‘Universal’ may have in the fine print ‘everything except the one piece of software you want…’

Additionally, vendors have the awkward habit of ‘inspecting’ or auditing their customers for under or over-licensing, which often leads to further grumbles. A practice that is on the increase in these straitened times.

Alarm Bells Ringing?
Bottom line, the technology industry isn’t helping itself. With major IT embarrassments seemingly never out of the headlines (, it is understandable that customers are becoming less ( and less tolerant ( Also the open source vendors are rightly seeing this as an opportunity to stoke the fire, as the CEO of Ingres does here (

Yet the alarm bells should be ringing for the big guys. SAP said the recovery would be ‘U’ shaped last week (, yet is it too much of a leap to ask whether these companies are missing the point? Companies like Red Hat are much more ebullient ( After all the doomsayer comments about Red Hat the irony isn’t lost on its CEO, Jim Whitehurst, when he sees his share price rise above Microsoft. (

Please hold the line
The major IT companies are in a strong position. Big cash reserves and large customer bases make for strong defences in these tough times. But that is breeding a touch of complacency or they are simply dragging their feet. The recession has forced customers to re-think their pre-conceptions about technologies such as SaaS. The concerns about security and reliability are gradually subsiding as platforms become more robust and the benefits outweigh the costs.

If a new era of software delivery models and support mechanisms are allowing customers to be more flexible, then shouldn’t the major vendors being responding with greater flexibility in their customer strategies?
I know what they vendors will say – they have significant customer strategies in place. But are they the right ones for today’s market? Sure the systems integrators and the vendors pull out all the stops when something goes wrong, but it shouldn’t go need to wrong for a customer to feel they are getting the attention they deserve. Certainly, automation of software asset management will help, but there is a great opportunity for companies to shamelessly promote the value of their services.

Particularly, if you are buying into the view that IT products (hardware and software) are eventually going to become more and more commoditised, then won’t the vendors have to find something more than ‘speeds and feeds’ to differentiate? Surely, a radical overhaul of customer service approaches – and more importantly how that’s communicated to the market – is an excellent opportunity to stand out.