Thoughts on 2013


Another year is coming to a close, and that means it’s time for 2013 predictions. Blog posts and articles will focus on the possibilities that lie ahead in the coming year. With so much uncertainty in the global community, people predict at their own peril. So this year, I am focusing my thoughts on the journey that I believe will dominate the rest of the decade. That journey will span three very broad categories: the accelerated movement towards systems of engagement, operating model change, and Digital innovation.

So here it goes – my thoughts for 2013:

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The Social Ecosystem


I recently viewed a video titled The Future of Social Inside the Enterprise, a thought leadership presentation from the recent Dreamforce 2012 conference. The presentation is delivered by Dion Hinchcliffe of the Dachis Group, and Alan Lepofsky at Constellation Research. This is a fifty minute journey through the past, present and future of social business. You’ll find some content on the business value associated with social, and some good examples of how social is evolving to support the way we work.

You can start to see how systems of record may integrate with systems of engagement. Two examples are given by Mr. Lepofsky. The first describes a stream level integration, which allows system of record events to be broadcast into the activity stream. This stream level interface is envisioned to be the place where people spend time doing their jobs. It is pointed out however that stream level integration has its issues, the biggest in my mind being the loss of context. Comments made in the activity stream do not work their way back to the system of record, so context is lost. The other critical issue is the noise level associated with these streams. Without robust intelligent filtering, these streams become worse than email. This filtering – finding the actionable insight among the noise – is critical to the effectiveness envisioned by future systems of engagement. I had a discussion this week with senior executives from a large Financial Services firm, and the general belief is that this critical filtering will take years to develop and optimize. It took IBM four years to tune IBM Watson to compete in the Jeopardy challenge. This is not simply a sentiment analysis exercise.

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Review of 2011 and Thoughts on 2012


2011 in my mind will be viewed as the launching point of a digital revolution. The momentum started in 2010 and kicked into overdrive in 2011. The rapid adoption of tablets and Smartphones fueled an aggressive development of mobile applications, while E-Book sales increased at a remarkable pace. Meanwhile, the world continued to go social in ways that few would have imagined. World leaders felt the power of Social Media, as revolutions expanded through the organizing power of Facebook and Twitter. Business leaders came to grips with the power of social media, as skepticism waned and social business turned the corner. Data continued to grow exponentially, expanding the gulf between available data and meaningful insight. Lastly, 2011 marked the year that cloud computing burst onto the enterprise landscape – In fact, 2011 may eventually be viewed as the year of the Cloud.

These factors combined to drive an aggressive digital expansion that in most cases happened through isolated initiatives driven by marketing. Businesses with indirect channels to market looked towards direct to consumer models. Regulated industries embraced the opportunity of social media, while addressing its risk. Customer experience became the mantra for many businesses, as re-inventing customer relationships topped most priority lists. New digital executive positions were created in response to growing questions about effective governance models. The notion of holistic digital strategies was in fashion again, and innovation and operating dexterity rounded out the top priorities for most executives in 2011.

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From Social Listening to the Prescriptive Enterprise


I find myself talking a lot lately about the slow evolution from basic social listening to a more robust use of analytics to truly gain actionable business insight. I have long felt the evolution was inevitable – of course I often think these things and they take years to materialize – a story for a different day. This Recent Forrester Blog Post touches on the notion of moving from social listening, to integrating social and customer data. It also presents a roadmap for how to move through the crawl-walk-run-fly stages.

I am sure the authors realize that although this is a piece of the evolution, there are other steps along the path to actionable business insight. I’m already seeing the movement from basic social media monitoring to the broader use of text analytic platforms. Companies that started their journey focused on brand mentions are evolving to new use cases that deliver considerable business value. One of the signs that we are reaching an inflection point can be found in a growing move towards evaluating text analytics software for a broader set of use cases.

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Disruption


In a recent presentation, Forrester describes the uniqueness of our current business environment as a perfect storm of technology innovation. In the past, technology cycles were driven by one major innovation (mainframe computing, personal computing, networked computing). The current environment sees a perfect storm of cloud computing, social business, mobile computing, advanced analytics and smart computing. This latest cycle begins a period of accelerated innovation, and introduces a larger potential for disruption than in past cycles.

Disruption in many different forms is not just possible, but likely. Business models across many industries are already under attack. The Information Technology (IT) function itself will see considerable change over the next several years. As the workforce and business leaders play a bigger role in technology selection, the role of IT will evolve. What IT looks like in the future is anyone’s guess, but change is almost certain. The current outsourcing model that so many companies have embraced over the years, will change as cloud computing widens its footprint. The way companies build and deploy applications will change, as mobile apps and app stores shift from the consumer world to the enterprise. The way companies interact and communicate with all stakeholders will change, as social media evolves to social business.

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Google Plus Making Noise


Update 8/3: This Article  by Jay Greene summarizes the results of a recent survey of mobile application developers. This quote captures the key message from these results: “The new quarterly survey of mobile application developers by Web development tool maker by Appcelerator and market research firm IDC found that two-thirds of the 1,621 respondents to the question “Can Google+ catch up to Facebook?” replied yes. The reason: more than 68 percent of the respondents believe Google’s other assets–search, YouTube, and maps, among others–trump Facebook’s social graph lead”.

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Social CRM in the Insurance Industry


I recently participated in the writing of an article on Social CRM for the Insurance industry. The piece is now available online via the Insurance Networking News. The Insurance industry is showing a great deal of interest in social business – and I hear it in most discussions with industry executives. It is clear that the industry is beginning to understand that insight from social channels can drive better decision making. Companies like Farmers Insurance are driving new growth, new product development, and customer retention by sharing information from Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn with their network of Agents.

A recent study indicates that 56% of companies are planning future Social CRM initiatives, while Gartner indicates that 30% of companies will extend their Social Networking efforts to Social CRM processes within the next two years. As I note in the article, social computing will enable a powerful sales, marketing and customer service platform that improves the customer experience and elevates brand identity. The full article is a worthwhile read, and provides some insight into the future use of Social CRM in the Insurance industry.