Recipe for failure: ignore societal trends, says Gartner

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo--San Francisco, CA. With no keynotes on the agenda and Gartner's point about conquering complexity firmly harkened, the final afternoon of the semiannual event saw thinning crowds and a roster of seemingly stodgy sessions.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo--San Francisco, CA. With no keynotes on the agenda and Gartner's point about conquering complexity firmly harkened, the final afternoon of the semiannual event saw thinning crowds and a roster of seemingly stodgy sessions. One stood out, however; Knowing Now What You Knew Then: Societal Changes, Their implications and How to Use Them to Your Advantage. At the session, Scott Nelson, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, pointed out that we weren't going to see a typical presentation. Similar to Google's policy for encouraging its engineers to use a percentage of their time to run rampant and work on skunkworks projects, apparently he's given leeway to work on pet projects. Nelson said that he covers CRM, but has an interest in analyzing social trends. "These don't fit into the established Gartner structure and methodology," he said.

Anyway, Nelson said organizations must recognize that societal trends and technology are increasingly inseparable. For example, many organizations where caught off guard and essentially forced into building an effective Web-presence because of the shift of consumers  onto the Internet. "There are still businesses who haven’t figured that out," said Nelson.  But sometimes society and technology fight each other, such as clashes between personal and corporate technology and attitudes spurred by the use of IM, MP3 players, and camera phones in the office.

But you can't worry about every trend because there are hundreds of them, said Nelson, so he picked out four he thinks are important to keep in check before they plow over your firm like a steamroller.

The first is Cocooning, which is the trend of individuals pulling away from the outside world and building everything around the home: telecommuting, home theatre, home schooling, home shopping/delivery, gated communities, etc.  Recommendations for businesses include prioritizing your messages, and be ready when
your customers reach out.
 
Next is the rise of the worst-nightmare stakeholder--consumers or employees that attempt to intimidate the firms with which they deal. "There are people talking about your company and product--good and bad--among the 10 million blogs out there that can reach a huge audience," said Nelson. He recommended that organizations who don't understand the power of media and social networks to learn and then use them to their own advantage. He also said to consider emerging data-mining services like IBM's WebFountain to uncover important trends.

Voluntary Simplicity was the third trend, where people are opting for a lifestyle that consciously avoids luxury, flamboyance, stress and pretense (sounds good to me). It's important because as employees start pulling away from the corporate lifestyle, managers need to figure out how to motivate and reward "pretires."

Finally, Information Environmentalism, the movement that seeks to reduce information overload and its effects on people’s lives. It's important because the walls between personal and work is causing a backlash, said Nelson. To deal with this issue, organizations should shift information ownership and pre-process when possible.