The problem with Forrester's $4.6 billion prediction

Forrester has released a report indicating that Enterprise 2.0 spending will reach $4.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor
Forrester has released a report indicating that Enterprise 2.0 spending will reach $4.6 billion by 2013. ( I would offer a link but the one I have is broken.) I'm uncomfortable with the report though it hints at some interesting developments. Any prediction is based upon the way something is defined. In this case, Forrester define Enterprise 2.0 as:
A set of technologies and applications that enable efficient interaction among people, content, and data in support of collectively fostering new businesses, technology offerings, and social structures.
That's an incredibly loose definition and one that could be applied to any number of technology components from CRM through to supply chain management and pretty much anything in between. The fact is that with so many definitions floating around, I'm of the view that Enterprise 2.0 does not exist except in the minds of those who are selling technology components.  That's not a recipe for success. Companies buy technology to solve specific problems not technology that boils the ocean and yet that's what I imply from the way Forrester has defined the topic area. Forrester goes on to refine its understanding of Enterprise 2.0 to talk about internal collaboration and external marketing efforts supported by the current disparate toolsets that include blogs, wiki, RSS and widgets. The outward facing solutions we have seen emerging from the likes of Jive Software, ThoughtFarmer, HiveLive and others are making an impression in the market. Their place seems reasonably assured. Here, Forrester suggests that:
Megadeals with media ?rms like the Fox News Network and ABC are driving the market. The large audiences of major media ?rms, their breadth of demand for features, and their focus on video and other large ?le content create high technological demands, resulting in average deals more than 10 times larger than for non-media ?rms. These megadeals will almost completely dry up over the next two to three years as major media properties and brands become saturated with social media tools, forcing vendors to head down the long tail to smaller brands, smaller audiences, and smaller deals.
It is when Forrester strays into the collaborative workspace that I believe they're over reaching. They make the implicit assumption that major players like IBM and Microsoft will subsume Web 2.0 software into existing collaborative offerings. They argue that a combination of factors such as commoditzation, legacy and the marketing muscle of the incumbents will serve to make Enterprise 2.0 products "fade into the fabric of enterprise collaboration." Apart from the difficulty in getting adoption, to which I have referred elsewhere, I believe this is solving the wrong problem. Collaboration is about problem solving in the flow of business processes - or at least it should be. That's where cost sits and where all the automation in the world will not rescue the business manager. Enterprise 2.0 doesn't solve problems per se but it may serve to expose them. The question then comes, how does business go about solving the problems it has discovered? In many cases, this comes down to one of several things. Either a process is broken, in which case it needs re-engineering or it represents a barely repeatable process or BRP as compared to ERP. This is something my friend Sigurd Rinde likes talking about.  In a comment to his polemic on the issues, Sig has this to say about Enterprise 2.0:
One way to look at it is that collaboration tools / wikis are increasingly used for the purpose of getting those iffy processes into some kind of system. Not that bad in my mind but still sorely lacking the process part, so I cannot but see such as work-around solutions. I can hear some protest now, but process kills, cracks and ties up loose ends, process adds knowledge, process makes it possible to better the processes. And everything are process as in sequence anyway so why not accept and model it right away.
In short, Enterprise 2.0 as espoused by Forrester for collaboration purposes is only solving a small part of the business problem puzzle. Band-Aiding it to existing solutions is not the answer. Therefore, in arguing a case for growth, my sense is that Forrester has missed a trick. It has fallen into the evolutionary trap of assuming that existing processes will accommodate the new world of socially networked operations. If anything, the adoption of these technology solutions will raise the specter of how business process designed to release value is articulated through software. That alone could kill off many an otherwise worthy project as business managers stop to rethink what they need to build in order to solve the real problems of the day. Collaboration will go some distance, but without a fast track way of implementing BRP, it will represent a lot of wasted effort.

Editorial standards