Outlook for 2010

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As 2009 comes to a close, we look forward to the New Year and everything trendy that it will bring. Today, TEC’s Research Analyst Round Table discusses the outlook in technology for 2010. We will touch on:

•    Social Networking
•    Social Product Development
•    Business Intelligence (BI) for the Masses
•    Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
•    Software Integration vs. Niche Players
•    Mobile Commerce (M-commerce)

Social Networking – Sherry Fox
Over the last five years, social networking—in the form of intranets, wikis, messaging centers, blogs, and more—has changed the way many organizations handle many of their day-to-day operations. Some of the more popular social networking sites organizations are using include LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter—to name a few. Social networking has become such a hot trend that many vendors have now begun offering enterprise social networking as part of their product functionality.

But social networking is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. Knowledge sharing and collaboration have been around for years in the world of learning management. Long before LinkedIn and Twitter hit the scene, learning management system (LMS) vendors were bringing people and knowledge together through the use of discussion boards, live chats, etc.

Today's collaboration networks help provide businesses with instant and continuous feedback from employees (whether they are in management or not) in the areas that are important to the employee personally as well as to the organization. While these sites are useful for sourcing job applicants, reaching out to potential customers, and fostering a feeling of community within the company, they can also decrease productivity and increase security risks. As such, there has been an increased need for companies to create or "beef up" their internal HR policies.

For some more trends for 2010 in the HR space, please see my article Top 5 Trends in HR Technology.

Social Product Development – Kurt Chen
Having collective wisdom from the crowd in shaping new products isn’t a new idea within the product lifecycle management (PLM) approach. However, technological limitations have hindered the theory of social product development to be put into practice—until the prosperity of social computing tools. Generally speaking, Web 2.0 technology is the major enabler of social product development. More specifically, in 2010, I would like to see the following advancements:

•    Better product information visibility and interoperability, especially for three-dimensional (3D) content. For many products, the 3D model is an intuitive and efficient vehicle for two-way communication during the product development process. More people (including consumers) should be able to access 3D content at a very low cost or even for free.
•    Finer granularity in collaborative content and knowledge generation. The current granularity level of product definition information and process documentations has kept many users away from more convenient and effective product collaboration. The ability to see through the “black box” of content and related processes is expected to be improved.
•    More efficient ways to hear the major voices from the crowd. Voices are countless when a company opens its door to the public during the product development phase. Analytical tools (e.g. sentiment analysis as Jorge Garcia discussed) are needed in order to navigate through the many inputs and filter the most valuable ones.

Social product development is still in the early stages but it will make progress steadily, and companies will be able to include more stakeholders in their product life cycle loop.

BI for the Masses – Jorge Garcia
In 2009, the BI industry—despite the search for better, more suitable, and more advanced technology for BI applications—had special interest in finding the “true usability” of BI applications. Users want BI to be not only faster and better, but also easier to use. The vendors want its use to be extended to more people—the search is on for a real mass use.

In 2010, this search will be encouraged extensively. Many software providers have already launched specific products like Microsoft with PowerPivot or the MicroStrategy free reporting tool. Some are tackling the midmarket segment with specific products like Cognos Express by IBM, or SAP Business Objects Edge BI.

Due to the economic crisis in 2009, open source providers like Pentaho and Jaspersoft had the option of expanding in the BI space. In 2010, these BI solutions will take advantage of the opportunity to expand.

ERP and SaaS – Aleksey Osintsev
The economy fell into a recession in 2009. This new reality forced companies to save as much money as it could by reviewing its spending, including IT expenses.

I believe this was a major reason why the public interest in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) concept of business software delivery became so evident. In many business areas, SaaS seems to be a strong alternative to the traditional on-premise way of software deployment. However, in the ERP systems market, I don’t see many alternatives to traditional on-premise manufacturing ERP systems among vendors who offer SaaS ERP products. Even the leader–SAP– is still struggling with their Business ByDesign product, even though it is lighter in functionality compared to SAP ERP.

Let’s be optimistic, though. Hopefully, in the upcoming year we will have an opportunity to see and review great SaaS-based ERP products with commensurable levels of available functionality, flexibility, and security. In turn, I welcome ERP software vendors with their SaaS ERP products to contact us and we will definitely inform our readers of any news on the promising SaaS ERP market segment.

Software Integration vs. Niche Players – Gabriel Gheorghiu
Software integration through mergers and acquisitions (M&As), or development happened a lot in the past years—and 2009 is no exception. More and more vendors (or alliances of vendors) offer packages or suites that cover functionality for manufacturing, sales, accounting, human resources (HR), etc.

Still, despite the fact that large software vendors can basically do everything, they realized that in practice that’s not such an easy thing to do. Small niche vendors are taking advantage of the situation and are building very specific solutions that combine different types of needs (e.g. business intelligence for workforce management, customer relationship management (CRM) for automotive, software for printing and media companies, etc.).

These niche players can successfully compete against large vendors because they already have a product created specifically for that segment of the market and they also have extended experience in that specific field. Of course, large vendors could do both, but the investment is not always justified by the demand or the size of the market.

Dozens, if not hundreds of these vendors already exist, and more of them will fill the gap that large software vendors created between their offering and their customers’ needs. The application exchange model—where you can only buy and use what you need—will be used more and more, especially by small- and mid-sized companies, who start to understand that big vendors are not always what they need.

Mobile Commerce (M-commerce) – Khudsiya Quadri
With mobile phones becoming a necessity for consumers, it’s only a matter of time before m-commerce will also become a necessity.

There will be a shift in consumer behavior as consumers become accustomed to mobile phones’ ease-of-use for finding information. A study conducted by Deloitte concluded that mobile phone usage for shopping will be greater this year than traditional Internet usage.

Despite the fact that m-commerce is still in its early stages of development, many retailers will need to adapt to the change in consumer behavior.

Retailers need to understand that the launch of an m-commerce site is not enough. The most important factors to consider are the design and functionality of the site and what experience it creates for the consumer. Consumers who shop on a mobile device require quick answers and precise information in a click—they don’t have time to look around.

M-commerce sites need to work together in order to provide the user with the best shopping experience. For example, the transaction needs to happen in a seamless manner as it happens in the online shopping world. The applications running on the mobile device needs to be robust and able to integrate with retailers’ applications to make m-commerce a reality for mobile shoppers.
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