We are starting 2009 off in a particularly inauspicious economic climate, though as we'll see, important opportunities also exist. 2008 was a very tough year for many businesses and industries and it's almost as hard to see how things could get worse as it is to understand how things can get better. To survive and thrive, organizations will be looking to make the most of what they already have while gearing up to weather an unknown landscape of challenges this year. These concerns frame up the majority of my Enterprise Web 2.0 predictions for this year, though not all.
I predict a rebuilding year for most organizations, with a few that will use innovative new ideas to break out with major successes.Before we review what's likely to happen this year, let's take a quick look at 2008's predictions:
I led off my list last year with the pronouncement that SOA was becoming lighter weight and more Web-oriented, which was largely borne out. Last summer's numerous online debates about things like Web-Oriented Architecture and the future of SOA eventually culminated in some bold conclusions by industry leaders such as Anne Thomas Manes who went as far as to declare SOA dead as of a few days ago, being eclipsed by "mashups, BPM, SaaS, Cloud Computing, and all other architectural approaches that depend on 'services'". It's clear that SOA isn't really dead however, but evolving markedly in response to years of experience as well major business and technological changes in the industry.
My predictions for little progress on enterprise search and for growing security concerns around Enterprise Web 2.0 also seemed to do well with many IT leaders expressing frustration in both fronts in my discussions with them throughout the year. The rise of social networking in the enterprise, the adoption of Enterprise 2.0, and the use of mobile applications in business also scored well with numerous surveys and research showing impressive uptake.
Other predictions didn't fare as well or their outcome is unclear or hard to determine. These include significant early adoption of tools to take the unstructured information in blogs and wikis and mine them, the rise of Microsoft Silverlight in the enterprise (though Adobe AIR seemed to do fairly well), significant early adoption of collective intelligence applications/decision support, and a push by IT for governance budget for Enterprise Web 2.0 systems and applications. I also missed out on predicting the advent of cloud computing, one of the year's biggest news stories.
Finally, two of last year's predictions in particular are going to be much bigger in 2009 than in 2008. These are the shake out of Enterprise Web 2.0 vendors and the uptake of enterprise mashups, more on those below.
As for 2009, I predict a rebuilding year for most organizations, with a few that will use innovative new ideas to break out with major successes. With the large network effects that have been built online over the last few years by the major internet players, we will have fewer fast growth businesses in the major categories, but there is still plenty of room for major new products in industry sectors and classes of data that haven't seen wide penetration online yet. This will also include, as we'll see, areas that have only partially thrived online traditionally, like real estate and investment banking, that now must be completely transformed and remade, as the downfall of these industries leaves a large vacuum that must be filled by something.
8 Predictions for Enterprise Web 2.0 in 2009
1. Tight budgets will drive the adoption of low-cost Web 2.0 and cloud/SaaS solutions. This seems like an obvious prediction but how it plays out will be very interesting. This could end up actually helping the smaller Enterprise Web 2.0 players as companies look to get away from the big-ticket, enterprise-class offerings from major vendors like IBM, Oracle, and others. But in reality, once enterprises make the decision to move to platforms for wikis, enterprise mashups, cloud services, SaaS enterprise apps, and so on, they may find the one-stop shop of pre-integrated solutions from entrenched software providers more than they can resist. Make no mistake, however, IT shops and businesses alike will be looking to cut costs and I expect a lot of IT and business downsizing to happen in a surge of "Economics 2.0".
2. Online community and 2.0 technologies become a priority for most organizations. The early data from our IT and Business Outlook Survey for 2009 shows these two areas as a top priority this year for respondents. CRM and customer service are becoming deeply connected with online communities of users as many organizations wake up to meaningful customer interaction online. For budgetary reasons as well as competitive advantage, all things 2.0 are finally becoming mainstream as the the applications themselves become truly enterprise class. The seemingly late arrival of 2.0 to business is also partially due to the lag time that most businesses have when adopting new technologies and approaches.
3. Cloud computing will remain one of the biggest new Internet developments. The cloud computing story, as compelling as it is today for many situations, will only get larger in 2009. While the some of the bloom may be lost off the rose as some of the complexities and risks surface in early pilot projects, the cloud computing industry as a whole will grow in leaps and bounds as organizations seek to cut costs, manage growth/shrinkage, and shorten time to market. Expect major new products from the big existing players such as Amazon and Force.com as well as new entries from big firms and startups alike.
4. Internal use of 2.0 will continue growth in large enterprises while the struggle continues with market-facing 2.0 products. We saw widespread internal penetration of social networking and Enterprise 2.0 in organizations globally in 2008, but the weak story continues to be the successful creation of online 2.0 products for the broader marketplace. Virtually all of the major online success stories have come from Internet startups; very few if any traditional organizations have been able to create fast growth, widely used Web 2.0 products like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. That's not to say that there aren't many compelling attempts, but none of them have reached the same engagement level with the marketplace. This will almost certainly continue in 2009 as organizations continue to find ways to grapple with the best methods for leveraging the world's largest single marketplace in their businesses.
5. The economic climate will at long last drive major advances towards aligning IT with business. With little room for error this year, many organizations will finally close ranks over the IT/business divide to reorganize, respond to new business conditions, create new revenue streams, and solve long-standing business challenges. IT leaders that don't do this, can't bring new solutions to the table, or resist may find themselves out on the street as organizations have more and more options for how they use technology to solve business problems. Using strategic partners via outsourcing will continue to be an important alternative IT avenue while using customers over the network (aka crowdsourcing and open business) will also become an important new method for a small but significant set of forward thinking organizations looking to innovate and leapfrog the competition.
6. Mobile platforms and devices will become highly strategic in 2009. The spread of Android beyond phones to computing appliances, major advances in the iPhone platform, the prevalence of the Blackberry and its new open application strategy, the growth of the netbook will drive business applications that continue to untether the workforce, enable virtual organization while connecting workers together using new collaboration and communication technologies, many of which will be using 2.0 approaches. If the desktop didn't completely die in 2008, it will become almost completely outmoded in 2009 as the average smartphone becomes capable of helping users with a larger percentage of their daily computing and communication tasks. The biggest holdup will not be technology, it will be in the ability of businesses and their workers to adopt mobile technologies and understand how to leverage them in their business. Fortunately, mobile-enabled business applications are starting to arrive in waves to help with this, see Oracle's and Salesforce's iPhone apps for a sense of this. However, 2009 will be the year that mobile devices of all varieties become a central plank in IT strategy.
7. SOA goes on a diet, picks up some new tricks, and survives. I've long been bullish on the ideas of SOA, but very concerned that the focus is on complicated technology, hard to master skills, and too much the purview of technologists and not business people. To be fair, some of the fault squarely lies with workers that don't take the time to master the basics of modern technology's application to business in today's global, highly competitive environment. They don't have the knowledge to design a modern, working business. The other half belongs to the IT departments that aren't deeply entrenched in their lines of business and focus too much on technology or the status quo. Given current events in technology and business, SOA will not survive in its present form and 2009 will be a deeply transformative year for it. Expect mashup technologies to be front and center with this transformation as well as the closely related Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA) as Web 2.0/SOA convergence continues unabated.
8. The massive changes in the business landscape create new 2.0 business opportunities. While the financial sector has been hit hard, many aspects of it were already online, if in a very 1.0 way. Trading applications were certainly one of the first major online success stories and so were online mortgage applications. Real estate, however, never had a large presence online for a number of reasons related to control of the industry by brokers and other organizations. It is likely that these industries and others will finally be put online in a fully 2.0 fashion by a new generation of players. These companies that will use the latest new technologies and business models to move into the massive gaps left over by the implosion of the finance and mortgage industries. What could this actually mean? It likely means things like user-generated mutual funds, online investment vehicles with 100% transparency, as well as real estate markets going fully online with self-service listings. The end of a business cycle such as we've seen leaves the landscape open for innovative new players with good ideas that otherwise wouldn't have a runway to succeed. I believe we can expect a number of them online in 2009 since the Web remains the quickest and easiest way to create and grow a new business.
What else in 2009?
I left a lot of technology out of this year's prediction list since there were few major new technologies that reach the level importance of what we're seeing in the broader business outlook at the moment. Cloud computing, mashups, and SOA are the exceptions of course, but they are also strategic business enablers as well as technologies. No, the big focus this year is going to be partnering with the marketplace over the network (customer communities, cloud sourcing, and crowdsourcing), looking for major new opportunities for low cost growth, and just doing more with less.
What do you see coming in 2009? Please leave your comments in TalkBack below.