I am not a big fan of making predictions, especially as I have no special powers for seeing into the future, and as such, if you're going to make predictions you need to do it with great wit and aplomb! However, the CMSWire theme for December is (of course) looking to next year and beyond for digital business, focusing on how collaboration, information and customer experience management will change in 2012.

Well, the "experience management" element is well outside of my sphere of expertise, so I will leave that subject well alone, but collaboration and information management I am far more comfortable with, so let's kick some theories around shall we?

Everything is Going to Change, Because....

Dramatic pause, then add buzz word or popular phrase of your choice! Seriously though, based on buzz around the cloud in 2011, one would be forgiven for buying into the hype that "the cloud" is going to be incredibly disruptive in collaboration and content management in 2012. For example, Box and HP have just announced a deal whereby customers buying PC's from certain Compaq branded ranges will get a free Box.net account with 10GB of storage. Wow!

Can you detect the sarcasm dripping from my words? "Why the snarky response Jed?" I hear you asking. Well, although this offer is great, and many small business will be able to leverage this and other similar offerings to great advantage, my issue is the way we over-hype things and the way that many analysts and pundits seem to deal in such simplistic absolutes. Yes, Box.net might be just fine for many businesses, however for many others, it will not be applicable at all.

This applies to all cloud services, whether it's collaboration (including social), content management or CRM (and other services) from the great champion of all things cloud: SalesForce.com. There may be many reasons for this, including issues around where you can store and how you can secure customer data (or citizen's data if you're in Government), national rules (can your Canadian customer's data sit in a U.S. data center?), but the biggest issue I have come across in my highly regulated industry is the lack of ability to "encrypt data at rest." This means not just encrypting the data as it moves across the public internet from the cloud servers to your user's web browser (using the ubiqitous 128 bit SSL/TLS "secure" http), but that the content files or database rows and columns must be encrypted where they are stored in the cloud services storage.

Some cloud services providers, like SpringCM for instance, can provide security for data at rest, so we need to be careful not to tar all providers with the same brush.

So, like I always do, I will return to my standard mantra: don't fall for the hype. Consider your business needs and the technical requirements that fall out of these needs carefully and ensure your due diligence activity is up to scratch when evaluating cloud-based services.

Everything is New, but Nothing Changes

So if the cloud really is not going to change the entire way every single one of us works in 2012, then what is? Well I am not going to tell you that, until I have secured my start-up funding....

Actually, my rather boring prediction is that we are in for more of the same old, same old. If the economy is going to tank (again) in the U.S. and Europe, then budgets will be cut, projects abandoned or put on hold. So for funding to be secured, considerable business value will have to be demonstrated and what this means depends on your industry sector.

You may gain market share by delivering a well-executed customer experience management capability through leveraging social technologies. Or you may gain process efficiencies by focusing on integrating human-centric workflow with your document management solution. Despite my comments above, you may save a considerable amount of storage, infrastructure and maintenance expense by moving content or processes to the cloud. You might want to focus on getting the most out of the large investment you already made in SharePoint (well, I had to mention it somewhere!). Honestly though, I think it may be a "slow" year in enterprise technology due to the concerns about the economy, so instead of predictions, how about I make a holiday wish ?

My Wish for 2012

I wish Google would buy a big technology professional services company, and get really serious about delivering enterprise IT services. Yep, that's right, I said Google, the company the Germans don't like taking pictures of their houses, the French don't like because it's not French and some American's don't like because "it knows too much about me" (same people obviously don't use Facebook!). Google Apps with Gmail and Postini, Google Plus with built-in chat, Google Reader integrated, an improved and re-worked Google Sites even! All delivered to leased Chrome powered laptops, Android phones and slates -- yay!

Ok, I know, much of this exists already, but what I feel is missing is the consulting, solution design and mostly a highly robust, industrial level support (including 24/7 phone support) offering. So, Santa, if you're reading, please deliver Google a big and really good services company, wrapped in glittery paper and a big box, with my name and some hugs and kisses on it.

Happy Holidays to all and best wishes for the new year!

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