As 2011 draws to a close, the inevitable instinct is to look back and prognosticate about the year to come. For those in the thick of the social business computing revolution, the timing of this reflective-predictive moment is actually right on the mark. The entry of Jive Software into the public markets is both emblematic of the success social business computing has had in the enterprise world, and a portend of things to come in the year ahead.

The Quick Look Back

Clearly, 2011 was the year that the social enterprise picked up noticeable, credible, undeniable momentum. What may have been dismissed in prior years as a bit of the consumer world bleeding uncomfortably into the enterprise became a full-fledged movement as businesses picked up on the huge potential benefits of social collaboration in the enterprise. From government organizations to multinational corporations across a wide variety of industries, social business computing is being embraced as something more than “Facebook for the enterprise.”

Whether improving customer relations externally, to boosting productivity and innovation internally, there was a gathering sense throughout the year that the possibilities of social computing in the enterprise were only just beginning to be realized. Rather than a Facebook-like distraction, social in the enterprise is showing that it has the potential to be more transformative than email and instant messaging have been in changing the way people work and communicate in business.

So, with enterprise social firmly on track at the end of 2011, what lies ahead in 2012? From my perspective, there are four big trends in social that will emerge as drivers for those hoping to capture market share and grow:

1. Simplicity

Apple’s ascendency has proven that people prefer well designed technology that does a job and gets out of the way. Whether you’re the IT chief trying to roll out the solution or the employee trying to make use of it, the best social business computing solutions in 2012 will be those that do simple right. Therefore, no truckload of consultants arriving for months-long architecting-API-knitting expeditions and no fun-shiny dumb interfaces hiding incomplete feature sets.

2. Enterprise scale

While it may have grown out of the trend toward consumerization of IT in the enterprise, social business computing in 2012 will be all about getting it right in the enterprise. For some who have jumped in with offerings that were initially aimed at the consumer, the needs of business can present some high hurdles -- data security, governance, risk, identity management, globalization, five-nine SLA’s, compliance and oversight just to name a few. Many a high flyer will find themselves tripped up in the coming year as corporations demand that social business offerings deliver to the same standards as other accepted enterprise-scale offerings. Additionally (as SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors, and’s acquisition of Rypple indicate), the organization’s social fabric will increasingly be knit into basic work processes: social-hcm, social-market automation, social-crm, etc.

3. Mobile Cloud

In 2011, both mobile and cloud computing were snowballing phenomena in their own right. Not that enterprise software is going anywhere anytime soon (note, for instance, that the aforementioned Jive IPO filings indicated some 60 percent of installations were on-premise), but in 2012, it’s clear to me that success in social will require a merger of mobile and cloud capabilities. Business is on the move globally. Employees, contractors, suppliers and customers are expected -- and expect -- to be connected and fully integrated anywhere, any time. Enterprise social computing has to be fully integrated with mobile and cloud technologies to meet this expectation and, as noted above, it has to be done in a way that is simple and elegant -- for IT and the end-user alike.

4. Big Data

AIIM’s work with Geoffrey Moore in 2010 developed the idea that traditional systems of record are being overwhelmed by systems of engagement, particularly with respect to the volume of relevant (and mostly unstructured) new data created. A great deal of the focus at Facebook has been on making the stream smart, for example, in an effort to present to you just what and whom has most utility and interest for you now. We expect significant improvements in the intelligence of social systems within organizations in the next twelve months.

Final Thoughts

A couple of other thoughts as we look forward to a very social New Year in the enterprise. The successful Jive IPO is already having a general amplification effect on this market, and consolidation is accelerating as the large traditional enterprise software players broaden and deepen their social capabilities. Interfaces and interaction models continue to change dramatically; imagine, for example, gestural manipulation of social stream heat maps via Kinect directly working through Windows 8. Customers and end users will be the big winners as the social revolution in business really catches fire in 2012.


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