Guy Westlake, a senior product marketing manager at Vignette, has gazed into his crystal ball for trends and technologies in 2009. This is certainly worth a read, as Vignette continue to have some excellent product features and are one of the driving forces in both WCM and portal software development.
Of course there’s an element here of Vignette promoting its own product set — a case of gazing at navels rather than crystal balls? — but I hope Guy won’t mind if that I contradict some of his predictions. I do agree with quite a few!
1. Enterprise 2.0 takes off
The use of web 2.0-style tools (micro-blogging, RSS, tagging, etc.) as part of daily communication within a business should be a no-brainer, but many organisational cultures are way behind the curve. Early adopters are reaping the rewards of improved knowledge sharing, but the ethos of control, hierarchy and compliance hamper efforts to implement Enterprise 2.0. How do you convince people who send email attachments to half a dozen people for approval that there’s a better way of communicating if they can’t see beyond their clogged up inboxes?
One compelling case for web 2.0 tools is their use in project management: posting on project status with comments for feedback, using shared calendars and discussion boards for meetings, building networks of friends across departmental and organisational boundaries. But if you’re used to out-of-the-box services, be prepared! Implementing these kind of tools within the firewall is often considerably more complex: LDAP integration is just the first hurdle you’re likely to face.
2. Life in the cloud
So many cloud-based applications offer real benefits at seemingly ever-falling costs that the cloud appears to be the saviour of the web, particularly when recession hangs over IT budgets. But security questions remain: how sure can you be that information you want to keep in your organisation remains there? Businesses will have to become a lot more savvy about encryption methods before they start to really take advantage of what the cloud has to offer.
Nevertheless, those applications that are external to the firewall — including email — are ripe for cloud computing and I expect we’ll see many organisations taking “a punt” on these services just from a cost perspective.
3. Web 2.0 in the financial services sector
This is a banking compliance officer’s worst nightmare: anyone posting all kinds of comments to a bank’s public website. However, financial services have been the trail-blazers for web 2.0 on internal applications and I think we’ll see them pushing these applications to the public too.
The question is: what is the killer app? Social comparison sites for mortgages, savings and the like similar to Trip Advisor in the holiday industry are bound to become more prominent. But retaill banking is going to have to think long and hard about applications that they can find for online social media to gain market penetration.
4. Personalisation and the rise of ‘My Web’
Personalisation has not been the trend for web content and I see no evidence that it will become one. Personalisation has proven many times to be both costly and ineffective. The trend has been and will continue to be “our web” rather than “mine”.
Even the oft-cited Amazon example isn’t enclosing the individual in their own world: it’s making recommendations based on what other people bought who bought the same product and there’s a heavy use of communal rating functionality. I expect we’ll see more in the way of sites suggesting links other people followed (even Google is moving this way) rather than offering visitors options to configure the kind of content they want to see.
5. The future of online media is video
This is a marketeer’s dream. Unfortunately, the market is willing but not yet ready. There are significant challenges in engaging users with video based on current browsing habits. If you’re online at work, watching video is still viewed as at best anti-social and at worst as skiving. Watching at home still isn’t the experience that it should be, sat a few inches away from a small monitor displaying an even smaller video. Video on mobile devices is improving significantly however, so if mobile bandwidth prices start to fall, expect to see a rise in video clips for handheld devices. What’s more, these devices are likely to be far less effective at blocking out this content than most PC browsers.
6. The integrated brand experience
There’s is a slightly chicken and egg situation going on with multi-channel delivery. Sites won’t develop for small audience shares and those audiences won’t visit sites that don’t cater for them. I expect that we’ll see a few niche players here — probably around news and software sites for mobile devices — before we see any real obvious example (in Europe, at least) of business catering for multiple channels.
7. Social media – what next?
Social media has been about individual sites allowing lots of people to comment and contribute. The next step (we’re already seeing on many sites including BBC news) is for the site themselves to be social and provide links to resources they don’t control. I think this is a really good thing. For too long, organisations have focussed on enclosing themselves in their own “enterprise” models rather than seeing themselves as part of the web. Now they’ll begin sharing content and resources with each other more freely in order to become the “hub” that visitors come to on a regular basis. It’s best to be the daily starting point for browsing rather than the infrequent end point.
8. Semantic Web
Has the semantic web lost all meaning? It’s pushed so heavily by vendors, but how many compelling examples are there of it? Some of the technology is exciting, but let’s see a compelling business proposition for it.
Tidying up your content, organising it better and making it more search-friendly are still more effective ways of improving your website or intranet than the implementation of a semantic engine.
If the crystal ball isn’t right, what is?
I’m not disagreeing out of hand with Guy (apart from on personalisation and possibly the semantic web), but if I disbelieve his predictions, what do my own tarot cards propose?
- There will be more opportunities to reach new audiences across multiple channels, but a correspondingly increased need to justify the costs of these new channels.
- Intranet projects will struggle for attention. Challenges and costs associated with application integration in comparison to a cloud-based model will cause many internal implementations to be delayed. The focus will turn instead to communication beyond the firewall for market penetration and retention.
- Websites will become social, sharing content not just from their own resources but from off-brand and off-message sites too, through the increased use of RSS.
Let’s review next year and see whether tarot is more effective than a crystal ball.