From football to finance, analysts are busy making their predictions for 2016. While they look to the future, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the technology predictions of the past year.

We asked four experts to let us know which predictions of 2015 they think panned out — and which they think flopped.

The Question

Which were the best and worst tech predictions of 2015?

The Answers

Scott Brinker, Co-Founder and CTO of ion interactive

scott brinker
Brinker publishes the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, chiefmartec.com, and is the program chair of the MarTech conference series. He is also co-founder of Cambridge, Mass.-based ion interactive, a provider of interactive content marketing software to many of the world's leading brands. His book, Hacking Marketing, will be published by Wiley this March. Tweet to Scott Brinker.

The best prediction for 2015 was — ahem, all humility aside — my prediction that the marketing technology landscape would grow, not shrink. Many pundits claimed that the industry would consolidate. They were wrong.

While there were many exits, there were more net new entrants. We may finally be approaching "peak MarTech" for 2016, but we're still a long way away from this industry collapsing into a handful of big players.

The worst prediction for 2015 was also mine — or maybe I'm just self-conscious about it. I predicted Microsoft would make a $1 billion or greater acquisition in the marketing technology space. It certainly tried with Salesforce, but it didn't fly.

Nicole Pereira, Chief Marketing Technologist and Co-Founder, Business On Market St

nicole pereira
Pereira’s curiosity about website development inspired her to create her first websites at age 16. Her experience with emerging technologies and online marketing extends over a decade and lead to starting her own inbound marketing and technology agency — San Diego-based Business on Market St. She has touched over 400 websites, allowing her to build a diverse understanding of past, present and future trends. Tweet to Nicole Pereira.

2015 was declared the year of mobile. Big content outlets like Forbes and Huffington post noted mobile in both of their predictions for the year.

This turned out to be spot on when Google rolled out an update in April 2015 that favored mobile responsive websites in their mobile search results. Google even reports more online searches are now done from mobile than desktop.

Trends also show that email and social are being consumed more on mobile than traditional desktop screens.

2015 also saw commentary around digital content shock.

The theory was that so much content would exist on the net that it would not be humanly possible to consume it all. Also called the content cliff, it was assumed most content would just go off into an interweb’s black hole.

Contrary to these predictions (one we made as well), the mass of content has actually had an opposite effect. Long tail keyword search trends are allowing oddball content to be found by the right people at the right time. This is not to say you shouldn't still try and produce better quality content.

Erik Brown, Director, West Monroe Partners

erik brown
Brown, a director for Chicago-based West Monroe Partners Technology practice, leads the firm’s enterprise architecture and Java competencies. He is responsible for strategy and solution delivery. He originally joined West Monroe Partners in 2002 and has led some of West Monroe’s most complex applications of technology to enable clients’ business goals. Tweet to Erik Brown.

There are many themes in tech predictions lately that are relevant at the “macro” level but require “micro” developments to realize value.

Big data, cloud computing and the (Internet of Things) IoT are examples of important macro trends that are often misunderstood, interdependent and require focus to achieve value.

One of the IoT themes I kept hearing in 2015 that encapsulates some of the “worst” predictions is Ambient Computing — the idea that connecting “all the things” will drive business value through collected data and analytics. One of the more ridiculous examples of this kicked off at CES in 2013 with a smart fork, and that same company introduced a smart bottle this year.

We’re still figuring out how best to build the infrastructure and analytical tools to drive value in meaningful IoT use cases like healthcare wearables, smart energy grids and transportation telemetry, and it’s prudent to mature the IoT ecosystem in those areas before we drive value from all of the other products in our lives.

The prediction that panned out most practically in 2015 was Software Defined Everything.

As the cloud computing landscape has continued to mature, businesses have not only been able to reduce costs and increase agility through cloud offerings, but they have been able to incorporate DevOps automations as various APIs and tools allow businesses to deploy scalable infrastructures in multiple environments without human intervention.

Kimberley Roberts, Sr. Marketing Technologist, Crimson Marketing

kimberley roberts
Roberts is a senior marketing technologist at San Francisco-based Crimson Marketing. She has developed and managed a variety of demand centers, as well as advised clients on marketing strategy, technology implementations and solidifying best-in-class practices. Her experience includes implementation and optimization of marketing technology, developing partnerships with sales and IT, creating and managing demand generation campaigns, and marketing operations. Tweet to Kimberley Roberts.

The bulk of the predictions for marketing technology for 2015 were fairly accurate in terms of interest and intent.

However, I’ve not seen many companies who successfully adopted the hot trends for 2015. Many have thought about them, but few have ultimately been successful in adopting them. For example:

  • Harnessing disparate data sources to inform marketing strategy
  • Micro-targeting to the prospect and audience base (though this was perhaps slightly better adopted)
  • Content

Let’s start with what more companies were able to adopt: micro-targeting.

Using personalization engines, automated email marketing, re-targeting and so forth, several companies were able to build a strategy around micro-targeting — Email marketing and re-targeting being two of the easier strategies. However, website personalization was a much greater challenge either because companies had too many web properties and pages, or because they didn’t have enough content to personalize.

Content is a huge problem for modern day marketers.

One prediction I read suggested that CMOs would become publishers. That need truly exists.

And content marketers with appropriate skillsets, strategy and talent exist. The difficulty has been in time.

It takes time to understand your audience needs, craft quality content and publish it in a way that is accessible. Couple that with the limited shelf life of content (I usually won’t look at a piece that is more than a few months old) and you will find the busy bees in marketing communication struggling against an uphill battle.

The marketing technology vendors who exist to help manage and speed up this process are under-leveraged. Those same marketers who struggle against the clock to get the next content pieces out the door don’t want to take the time to learn a new tool or to follow the new workflows required of them. It’s a big leap to take. Content marketing vendors will need to find ways that speak to the end users to find full adoption.

The hardest marketing technology trend to adopt that was frequently talked about in 2015 predictions was big data. There are companies in the space who claim to be able to link all data sources in a single pane of glass so that marketers can use their own data to inform content, strategy and campaigns. But the promise is frequently unfulfilled.

Marketers in large companies might find it hard to connect to enterprise planning tools such as customer financials or customer service. They don’t own these other tools. IT is limited in its capacity to help with custom integrations, and/or company information security measures stifle the efforts.

Connecting marketing’s toolset is getting easier and is more achievable. But the right people who can make sense of the data have to live in the marketing organization. Even when technology is able to bring together disparate data sources, the marketing department's herculean efforts do not provide the anticipated ROI.

In all of these predictions, the greatest hurdle to successful adoption is in planning and resource allocation. Marketers are not used to planning technical implementation projects and, as such, often fail to take advantage of the full range of capabilities that they are purchasing from their vendor.

Think back to when marketing automation exploded onto the landscape. Marketers saw the value and jumped on board. Now almost every B2B company has some form of marketing automation. But most companies still aren’t using the full capabilities.

Even now, they are starving for talent to execute within the tool. Traditional marketers are scared of new technology and few have the skillsets to embrace it. It’s the same problem being experienced by new marketing technology trends.

There are amazing capabilities to be had if you invest in not only the tool, but also the people who will be using it.