Six big trends to watch in 2011

Contrasting cross-currents are going to make 2011 a fascinating and turbulent year, in which SaaS enters the tornado and mobile enters the bowling alley at the very same time as cloud trips over the chasm.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor

I've long been a fan of Geoffrey Moore's classic business books about the evolutionary path taken by emerging technologies and the companies that champion them. Especially now that several of the key emerging technologies I follow are at such different stages of their evolutions. These contrasting cross-currents are going to make 2011 a fascinating and turbulent year, one in which SaaS enters the tornado and mobile enters the bowling alley at the very same time as cloud trips over the chasm. I've decided to highlight six trends in enterprise computing for the coming year, but here's a seventh prediction: middle-of-the-road analysts and pundits will find it even harder than ever to make any sense of everything that's going on right now.

1. Mainstream means mobile

For many years, mobile has been a peripheral afterthought when developing enterprise applications. Even when running in a browser, the laptop or desktop PC has been the primary user platform, and a mobile client was always an option at best. In 2011, there's going to be seismic shift. Significant numbers of enterprise software vendors will upend their development priorities and develop for mobile first, desktop second.

2. Fake cloud #fails the crowd

It should be no surprise to find me predicting that so-called 'private cloud' will disappoint. Cloud computing has ridden to the peak of the Gartner hype cycle, and fake cloud is now leading the way into the trough of disillusionment. Vendors and enterprises seeking to capture the benefits of cloud computing without understanding the core principles will come a cropper, and cloud's reputation will suffer accordingly, even if undeservedly.

3. IT management gets wired to the cloud

The days when cloud computing came in an unaccountable black box are drawing to an end. Enterprise buyers rightly demand oversight and governance of their computing, even if hosted by a provider. Instead of take-it-or-leave it service levels, there's a new trend towards visibility and accountability. Examples include RightNow's Cloud Services Portal or the detailed reporting and governance built into managed cloud offerings from the likes of OpSource and Rackspace. 2011 will see instrumentation bringing new depth and detail to cloud and SaaS offerings.

4. Data just wants to be mined

The volume of data being accumulated every day is exploding, and it's yielding huge new value for those who know how to mine and refine it. This emerging new value equation is changing the relationship between data and security, as Wikileaks has shown. Governments and corporations today (not to mention consumers) are sitting on rich seams of data whose value they have barely realized. Others are mining that wealth, whether openly or surreptitiously. I can't put it better than I wrote back in 2006: "Value comes from the views that you create to filter, join and represent data — whether it's your data or someone else's (more often the latter)."

5. Social technologies remake enterprise apps

The ability to collaborate in real time, to instantly initiate conversations or to develop a thread across follow-the-sun timezones — all these capabilities are bringing people together in new ways that cut across the old business processes of industrial-era enterprise applications. The old way was to put the organization and its process automation first. Now applications are being remade to put people at the center of process and have automation serve their needs. The outcome will break down the old silos of resource-centric process management, to replace them with new, people-centric automation stacks.

6. Business transformation becomes the big story

The tech industry is obsessed with its pursuit of the new, new thing. In 2011 the new, new thing is not a technology at all, but a new way of doing business that's enabled by all of the above. The new year's most telling innovations will not be in mobile, cloud or social technologies but in how smart, entrepreneurial business people adapt to the potential that blossoms from those technologies.

Editorial standards