If we looked in our crystal ball to predict cultural trends in 2013, we’d see humans bootstrapping, staycations, crafting, couponing, growing beards and lots of bespoke and do-it-your-self-ness. These trends reflect a need for veracity in an unsettled and volatile word. Since technology is invented and implemented by humans, 2013’s technology trends also reflect our yearning for authenticity.

Trend: Uber-Pragmatism

Embrace the new pragmatism. It is here to stay. We technologists love to blather on about the wonders of new features and functionalities. Perhaps, just perhaps, from a user perspective, we may be drowning in our own hubris. Real users are keeping their expectations of technology much more practical. Just buying a software tool is not pragmatic. Purchasing the tool with a strong business case is.

Recently, I was at a big-deal analyst conference. Conversations at our booth centered on approach and deployment -- real, down-in-the-trenches stuff. Organizations are focusing on action-oriented practicality. “I've got a problem and how can technology solve it?” These problems are being examined from various points of view -- technological, user and management. Feedback is being sought and agility is practiced.

We've grown to have greater ambiguity tolerance as the economy is still uncertain -- meaning we have to be even more agile. Buyers are creating hardcore cost justifications and embedding them into RFPs causing the vendor to assist with that cost justification.

This means that ECM is being purchased and deployed to power a series of high-impact activities (document-driven processes). The activities themselves are purpose-built and quite flexible in nature, such as case management or contract management.

Case management can be deployed as client management or employee life-cycle management. Contract management can be the assemblage of an actual contract or an RFP or whitepaper. Other activities may be built around revenue generating or protecting processes. This ensures that the needs of the business are baked into ECM. Ultimately, what these activities can bring to the organization is useful, measurable and predictable which is, frankly, what pragmatism is really all about.

Trend: Information as a Utility

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We've been kicking around the “information is like water” metaphor for a few years. What’s cool here is that much like a utility, such as water or electricity, the application is on what-information-does rather than the information itself.

Information in the form of documents is pushing process, while the information itself is morphing. The information housed within the context of the document is treated like structured data and not constricted by the document form.

Trend: Simplicity

I’m cheating a bit here, as simplifying could be considered an element of being pragmatic. Complexity happens when we impose social structures on technology.

For ECM installs, it is sometimes easy to default to recreating human process into our technology processes. This is a big mistake. Organizations need to ask themselves what the problem is that they need to solve. This focusing on the problem is in itself a way of simplification.

Furthermore, as ECM and BPM become more integrated and work processes are redesigned, it’s important to simplify down to core elements of process. You can also simplify by making the systems more efficient, say, through integration. When it comes to ECM and BPM planning, start with the principles and perspectives of the entire organization then simplify down to execute and innovate to solve the business problem.

Image courtesy of Chepko Danil Vitalevich (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Interested in reading more by Kimberly? Check out Emerging Trends for Enterprise Technology