I am really not big on speculative, future prediction posts. There are too many factors in our highly complex world that can derail even the most well researched and thought out theories for how our industry could develop, so I am going to shy away from predictions per se. Instead, I'll consider some general directions, and why other people's predictions make me laugh and make me feel like a Knowledge Management / Enterprise Content Management Grinch! Prepare for a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past ...

2012 -- Good, Bad or Ugly ?

Whether we look at Knowledge Management (KM) strategies and the tools to enable them, Enterprise Content Management (i.e. the enterprise wide efforts to manage unstructured content) or the collaboration space, it is actually quite difficult to make sweeping statements about the industry's performance over the last year, never mind make highly accurate predictions for the next one.

Let's take the categorizations from a piece of research commissioned by AIIM; these being the relationships between systems of record and systems of engagement, and a focus through three specific lenses -- Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo).

For a start, if you're not an old cynic like me and actually believe that there are massive distinctions between systems of record and systems of engagement, rather than just "old ECM marketing" and "add social to everything" -- would you say there were improvements during the year in both sectors?

If you work in the systems of record space, did IBM or EMC Documentum roll out any jaw dropping new capabilities in "in place or in context records management"? Perhaps OpenText or Hyland introduced some stunning new technology? 

Even if they did, would your organization have the budget handy to implement it in the first year? Or would you still be writing the business case now, for say, fiscal year 2015 funding ?

It appears to be the nature of the content management systems that might be categorized as "systems of record," or document and records management systems (and perhaps out of our scope, our ERP and HRM systems, etc.) that they are not "sexy" -- they do what they do, and unless you're under regulatory pressure to improve them (for example, in the Pharmaceutical industry), then there is often something considered to be higher priority that you will be fighting for the money.

Obviously this differs by industry sector, but if your organization is a laggard, then while everyone else is looking to add "social" and focus on the systems of engagement, you're stuck with scanning, imaging, workflow and repositories; trying to reduce the mountains of paper -- a worthy course for sure, but old hat, and not the stuff of exciting predictions.

So did your organization get to focus on systems of engagement in 2012? Was it considered important? Or more to the point, was there budgetary tension between what was more important, engaging with customers / clients, or engaging with employees? Perhaps you're lucky enough to be in an enlightened organization that considers both groups to be vitally and equally important?

Although the SoLoMo triumvirate can be applied to the "old fashioned" ECM technologies (e.g. mobile scanning), to me they appear to be more relevant to the systems of engagement lens, and the move to append the trendy buzzword "social" to every product and use case!

As the hype ramped up for SoMoLo in 2012, once again I would say it's difficult to look back and summarize the effect, or to look forward and predict whether 2013 will be a year where there is massive impact, because generalities hide the details for specific industry segments.

For example, I am in the Financial Services industry. Banks will say they have always been "Local" even before IT came on the scene: it's called a "Branch"! However, adding social capabilities to online banking or other online properties and tapping into the existing consumer social networks are "must have" capabilities.

Mobile might be considered to be even more important -- iOS, Android and Windows 8 apps for banking and online payment, etc., are huge. However, not all organizations in our industry can afford (from a time and resources point of view, as well as a budgetary one) to enable the SoLoMo revolution for systems meant to engage with employees.

Personally, I deal with meeting rooms that have no wireless network access, from which colleagues have "borrowed" the ethernet cables. Oh no, there's no 4G on the move video conferencing from iPad's for us.

2013 for You -- Bleeding Edge or Bleeding Out ?

If I can get you to reflect on my somewhat Grinch-like, or Ghost of Christmas Past-esque theme, what has been your experience this year? However you respond, it will be similar to some, and yet vastly different from the experiences of others. 

Some of you might chip in in the comments section below (please do, let's have some dialogue) on whether you saved millions by moving to the cloud, or improved productivity by following the "consumerization of IT" agenda. I am hoping the vast majority of us saw some improvements, leveraging so-called "social" tools to improve collaboration and enhance our KM strategies, while others enabled mobile scanning, or mobile access to vast content repositories for highly mobile workforces.

The SharePoint "Community" will tell us that 2013 is going to be amazing -- not because the Mayan's were wrong, but because the latest version of their all singing all dancing platform is going to arrive! Hey, for once their enthusiasm could be right on the button.

Hopefully some of you will be living the dream, responding to Digital Workplace surveys with glee, telling how your bleeding edge, cloud based, socially enhanced, content enabled collaboration suite is rocking everyone's world. We are happy for you; but please give a thought to those who see the life blood slowly pumping from their ancient, uncared for, underfunded systems that have not been upgraded in the last five years: they get very jealous of shiny versions of the future discussed in "predictions posts" at this time of year!

Happy Holidays

On a happier personal note, I would like to thank everyone who drops by CMSWire to read my contributions, and would like to wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and all the best for 2013!

Image courtesy of alison1414 (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: When Jed isn't doing Grinch imitations, he's sharing insights into the ECM and KM field. Read Rethinking the Intranet - Where Does Search Fit In? to learn more.