More regulation to clarify rising tech's biz models

As consumer technologies start making inroads into enterprise arena, expect more gray areas to be cleared up through increased regulations, says Gartner analyst.

SINGAPORE--Companies should expect to see more regulations introduced and increased government intervention take place as emerging technology gets deployed in the enterprise sphere, according to an analyst.

Steve Prentice, Gartner's fellow and vice president, highlighted four broad trends during the research firm's Gartner Predicts 2010 event on Tuesday. He believes that the following-- social computing, contextual computing, advanced analytics and cloud computing--will herald long-term changes in approach for IT professionals.

As these emerging technologies get adopted by companies, "regulation will start to come in", Prentice noted, citing the example of Internet advertising in the U.S..

Speaking to ZDNet Asia on the sidelines, Prentice noted that as a result of the increased regulatory scrutiny in the financial sector, this will "spin off" to other IT-related sectors. He brought up the environmental sector as a particular area that will "definitely be regulated", just that there is a lot of "uncertainty" over how to do so.

"Uncertainty is not helpful for business planning. So in the near- to mid-term as the market begins to grow, we should see more regulation take place as this will bring clarification to business models in these emerging technologies, which is a good thing," he added.

A world of information
Contextual computing uses location, presence, social attributes, and other environmental information to anticipate an end-user's immediate needs, offering more sophisticated, situation-aware and usable functions, said Prentice.

He forecasted that more than 7.3 billion networked devices and over 1.2 billion smartphones will be used in 2012, which will give the technology a boost, a potential that companies should look to unlock and leverage.

The other two big trends--analytics and cloud computing--have been much talked about in the enterprise space for some time now, and Prentice expects these technologies to develop further and come to the fore in 2010.

"The market will expand from the proprietary mega providers of today, to ecosystems and supply chains of providers, to thousands of smaller providers that rely on agility and standards for interoperability to compete," said Prentice of cloud computing. The maturing cloud had earlier been identified by fellow research company, IDC, to be one of the top 10 tech trends this year.

As for social computing, the Gartner analyst called organizations to stop blocking employees from Facebook or other social-networking sites, as they will "access these using parallel networks anyway". In his presentation, Prentice predicted that Facebook will become the "hub for social network integration and Web socialization by 2012". He also said it is better for companies to embrace the "consumerization of IT" and respond to the changing business landscape rather than to distance themselves from it.

This view was echoed by fellow presenter Andy Rowsell-Jones, vice president and research director of Gartner, who suggested that CIOs can leverage Web 2.0 and social computing to "enable mid-office activities".

To him, mid-office processes refer to where "coordination, collaboration, management and decision development [in the organization] occur". Offices with strong mid-office capabilities are able to make decisions faster, mobilize resources better and execute plans with greater efficiency, he added.

Rowsell-Jones noted that the power of utilizing Web 2.0 and social computing lies in the ability to increase collaboration innovatively.

"[These lighter-weight technologies] not only engage people, they also make it possible to combine personal/group knowledge with the information in corporate systems," he said in his presentation. "Without such a connection, social-networking solutions lack the scale and leverage to transform enterprise operations."

Modest IT budget increase
According to the CIO Survey 2010 by Gartner's Executive Programs (EXP), which Roswell-Jones mentioned in his presentation, CIOs are expecting their IT budgets to remain largely flat, with the weighted global average growing by a modest 1.3 percent, up from negative 8.1 percent a year earlier.

Commenting on this, Rowsell-Jones said he welcomes positive over negative growth any day. However, he observed that CIOs will be under pressure to deliver on more projects--many of them previously deferred by the global recession--as expectations of an economic recovery increase, but based on almost the same level of IT resources as 2009.