Eight Ways IBM Develops a View of the Potential Futures

Last week I presented at the 47th meeting of the Technology Market Analysis Group.  The theme for the meeting last week was “Trend Spotting and Forecasting Market Disruptions”, a theme that was right up my alley.   I’ll blog more about TMAG and the meeting in the coming days. 

How IBM Develops Views of the Potential Futures - Aug2011The inspiration for my presentation came from a white paper “100 years of foresight: The importance of long-term thinking at IBM” written by my IBM colleague David Jarvis, Senior Consultant of the IBM Center for Applied Insights team.

This was a very timely topic as this past June IBM celebrated its 100th birthday…a major milestone in the company's history.  It’s important to pause and reflect how a company like IBM continues to survive and even thrive in an industry that experiences one disruptive trend after another.  The answer lies in a series of initiatives designed to help the company understand and prepare for the potential futures that lie ahead.  

During the presentation, I provided an overview of eight examples of ways in which IBM approaches the discipline of strategic foresight.  In each of the eight initiatives collaboration plays a big part in planning for the future.   If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you’ll see I’ve also embedded the presentation which I have loaded to HorizonWatching on Slideshare.

Eight IBM Foresight Initiatives

1.Global Technology Outlook (GTO).  The GTO is developed annually by IBM Research and identifies disruptive societal, technical and economic trends that might impact IBM and its clients.  The GTO is used to drive technical initiatives in IBM Research and to jointly engage with IBM in formulating these initiatives.  For more information, check out the 2011 GTO report.  A side benefit of the all the work that goes into the GTO is the annual list of Five in Five…which provides a list of five technologies that may have a disruptive impact on our lives in five years.

2.Academy of Technology. The IBM Academy of Technology is a society of IBM technical leaders across all IBM Business Units.  The academy’s mission is to advance the understanding of key emerging technical areas.  Groups of technical leaders voluntarily study, organize, synthesize and advance technical dialogue and innovation across business lines on important emerging technical topics.

3.First of a Kind (FOAK). The First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) Program encourages collaboration of early adopter companies with IBM Research and Sales.  The effort pushes early thought leadership and experiences with new technologies and results in the piloting of experimental solutions and working prototypes.  For more on FOAK see http://www.research.ibm.com/FOAK/index.shtml

4.Global Innovation Outlook (GIO).  The Global Innovation Outlook focuses more on broad issues impacting all types of organizations. This is an open, collaborative, multi-disciplinary process with external business leaders, academics, researchers and policymakers.  The focus on tackling broad and challenging topics – spanning geographies, generations, industries and interests.  Access past GIO reports via http://www.ibm.com/ibm/gio/us/en/index.html

5.InnovationJam. InnovationJams (https://www.collaborationjam.com) are online collaborative discussions and brainstorming sessions for focused audiences ranging in size from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands.  The brainstorming sessions are enhanced by real-time text analysis and data mining software that highlights hot discussions and possible solutions.  An example was the HabitJam.

6.Institute for Business Value.  The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) is global team of 50+ consultants who conduct research and analysis across multiple industries and functional disciplines. IBV consultants author thought leadership papers, like “Future Agendas” and “C-Suite Studies” that provides an original, research-based point of view told from a client’s business perspective.  

7.Market Development & Insights.  IBM’s Market Develop & Insights is a global team of market research analysts and consultants that research topics of importance to IBM business leaders and strategists.   The team accelerates the understanding of new or emerging markets, and acts as a catalyst for future growth.  The team provides foresight from a marketing perspective, including market definition, opportunity analysis, market drivers/inhibitors, potential segmentation, and competitive intelligence.

8.HorizonWatch Community.  This is a cross-IBM community of 1900+ IBM employees from all types of functions, divisions and geographies that I have led since it’s creation in 2001.  The mission is to improve our collective ability to sense future disruptive technologies, business issues, trends and opportunities.  The community meets via monthly conference calls on an emerging topic, which are led by a subject matter expert.  In between calls, the community collaborates via an online community platform that allows the members to share and brainstorm ideas about how the future will play out.

HorizonWatching Newspaper: Daily Recap of Emerging Trends, Technologies, and Business Issues

A few weeks ago I started publishing The HorizonWatching Daily via paper.li.  I thought I’d give it a try and so far I like it.

It takes the links those I am following on Twitter and pulls those stories into a newspaper-like format.   Most of those I am following are professional futurists or have something to do with emerging trends, technologies and business issues. Thanks to all those I am following for their link-sharing and content.

Here’s the URL to the online paper http://paper.li/horizonwatching.   I’ve also embedded the latest issue here.  Take a look.


Gartner: Top Technology Trends You Can’t Afford To Ignore

Successful business leaders do a good job of understanding and preparing for the potential futures.  They take time to figure out what the potential disruptive trends are today…and what trends will cause disruption in the future.   They understand not only those disruptive trends that will impact their business, but those that will disrupt their customers businesses as well.

Gartner - Tech Trends You Cant Ignore Gartner regularly holds a webinar about every 2-3 months entitled “Top Technology Trends You Can’t Afford To Ignore”.     During these hour long webinars, Gartner presents it’s most current list of the top ten technologies.   The list changes from year to year ever so slightly, so when Gartner held one of these webinars last month, I attended.

To make this top ten technology trend list, Gartner says the technology has to be disruptive in nature.  Gartner defines a disruptive technology as one which drives major change in business processes or revenue streams, consumer behavior or spending, or IT industry dynamics.  These trends have the potential to significantly alter the competitive environment in an industry.

During the webinar I attended,  Raymond Paquet, Managing Vice President at Gartner,  1) defined the trend, 2) described the impact the technology has on business and IT, and 2) provided recommendations on how leaders should begin using the technology.

Here’s the list of Top Technology Trends You Can’t Ignore from the recent Gartner webinar of the same name.

  1. Virtualization – This trend, which used to be focused just on servers, is maturing across all elements of an information technology infrastructure.
  2. Data Deluge – The explosion of unstructured data is causing the emergence of a whole set of new emerging technologies designed to manage all data inputs and make sense out of the chaos.
  3. Energy and Green IT – There’s an increasing awareness on energy efficiency measurements.
  4. Complex Resource Tracking – Monitoring energy consumption so that you can dynamically move workloads to save energy.
  5. Consumerization and Social Software – Gartner says this trend is impacting business in a great way and business leaders need to incorporate social computing across their business.
  6. Unified Communications – Tightly integrating all forms of communications into all business applications and organizational processes.
  7. Mobile and Wireless – The explosion of mobile smart devices is leading to an explosion of mobile applications, causing a whole new set of requirements on the infrastructure. 
  8. System Density – Blades are evolving into componentized, data-center-in-a-chassis solutions and therefore the trend is towards high density application of blades resulting in maximum use of floor space.
  9. Mashups and Portals – Lots of creativity going on here with focus being placed on both visualization integration and content integration into a personalized, customized portal.
  10. Cloud Computing – Gartner says cloud technology is an important one for businesses to implement.  Private clouds will dominate and will allow businesses to improve agility.  Leaders should ignore the hype and focus on results.

For more information, you can access the replay of the webinar I attended:   Technology Trends You Can't Afford to Ignore (website registration may be required).  You can also access the full library of Gartner webinars (upcoming and replay archives) at the following URL  http://my.gartner.com/portal/server.pt?objID=202&open=512&mode=2&PageID=3428358  (website registration may be required). 

Foresight Method – A Primer on Scenario Planning

Primer on Scenario Planning Introduction To Scenario Planning

Scenario planning is a Foresight technique that can help provide a view into the future in a world of great uncertainty.   Scenarios are carefully crafted stories about the future embodying a wide variety of ideas and integrating them in a way that is communicable and useful.  Using scenario planning techniques, teams can imagine plausible futures with the objective to explore potential surprises and unexpected developments.  It can help manage strategic risks and opportunities. 

Scenario planning has its roots in military strategy studies, but it was transformed into a business tool in the late 1960's and early 1970's, by Pierre Wack of Royal Dutch/Shell.  By applying scenario planning techniques, Shell was better prepared to deal with the oil shock that occurred in late 1973.  As a result, Shell greatly improved its competitive position in the industry during the oil crisis and the oil glut that followed.

Why Should Companies Do Scenario Planning?

Scenario planning is a technique analysts and strategists can use to deal with major, uncertain shifts in a company’s environment.  Scenario planning is particularly useful in emerging markets or when existing markets are gong through rapid changes and disruption.  It is during these times that information is limited and it is hard to predict with certainty what might happen in the future.  In these cases, traditional forecasting techniques often fail to predict significant changes going on in the external environment.  Consequently, important opportunities and serious threats may be overlooked and the very survival of the firm may be at stake.  

Other benefits of scenario planning include:

  • It forces people out of their typical view of the market and therefore can expose blind spots that might have been overlooked in the current long range strategic plans

  • As the future unfolds, we are better able to recognize a scenario in its early stages as it happens, rather than being caught off guard.

It is important to understand that the objective of scenario planning is not to fully predict the future.  Instead, it attempts to help describe what is possible.  The objective of scenario planning is to describe a group of distinct futures, all of which are plausible.  Once those potential futures are developed, the challenge then is how to deal with each of them.

The Basics Of Scenario Planning

Scenario planning usually takes place in a workshop setting.  The workshop can range from a half a day to a number of days, depending on the complexity of the market being studied.  It is best to have a diverse team assembled, including  analysts, strategists, subject matter experts, and industry leaders.  The idea is to bring together a group that has a wide range of viewpoints in order to fully explore alternative scenarios that are outside the current accepted forecasts. 

Any scenario planning workshop should encourage unstructured thinking, therefore, the process itself should not necessarily be too structured.  With that in mind, the following outlines the sequence of actions that may constitute the process of scenario planning.

  1. Form Team.  Identify people who will contribute a wide range of perspectives.
  2. Conduct pre-workshop interviews as appropriate.  Ideally, the process should include pre-workshop interviews with managers who later will formulate and implement strategies based on the scenario analysis.  Without their input the scenarios may leave out important details and not lead to action if they do not address issues important to those who will implement the strategy.
  3. Begin workshop.  Introduce Scenario Planning Exercise.  Define goals/objectives.  Specify the scope/time frame.
  4. Develop a clear understanding of the present situation.  This will serve as a common departure point for each of the scenarios.
  5. Document current trends any future events/elements that are virtually certain to occur.
  6. Understand external environment.  Identify the critical uncertainties in the political, economic, social, and technological factors.
  7. Identify the more important driving forces.  Take into account the potential variation and impact of each driver.  After listing all driving forces, rank the driving forces in order of significance.
  8. For the most important drivers, consider a few possible values for each.  Range between extremes while avoiding highly improbable values.
  9. Understand potential interaction between the driving forces.  One way to do this is to develop a matrix of scenarios using the two most important variables and their possible values.  Each cell in the matrix then represents a single scenario.  Assign names to each scenario and sketch out rough pictures/descriptions of different futures based on these scenarios.  One of these scenarios most likely will reflect the mainstream views of the future, while others will shed light on what else is possible.  At the end of this step, there is not any detail associated with these rough scenarios.  They are simply high level descriptions of a combination of important environmental variables.
  10. Develop Detailed Stories.  During this step further work is needed to develop detailed impact scenarios that explain in more detail how each scenario might affect the corporation.  Specifics can be generated by writing a story to develop each scenario starting from the present.  The story should be internally consistent for the selected scenario so that it describes that particular future as realistically as possible.   Experts in specific fields can be called upon to develop more detail around each story.  The goal of the detailed stories is to transform the analysis from a simple matrix of the obvious range of environmental factors into decision scenarios useful for strategic planning.
  11. Quantify the impact of each scenario on the firm, and formulate appropriate strategies.
  12. At this point, if the team is comfortable doing so, it can be useful to assign a probability to each scenario.
  13. Establish signposts for each scenario.  During this step, the team should identify a set of early warning signals or signposts for each scenario.  These are event that could happen that would indicate to the team that the particular scenario is beginning to unfold.
  14. Finally, the team should establish a process that regularly monitors, evaluates and reviews the scenarios.

What comes out of the scenario planning process is a number of plausible scenarios that can be used to as input into strategic planning discussions.  The point is not to select one scenario as the preferred future and hope for it to become true.  Nor is the point to fund the most probable future and adapt to it.  Rather, the point is to make strategic decisions that will be sound for all plausible futures. 

It should be noted that strategists/executives may not take scenarios seriously if those scenarios deviate too much from their preconceived view of the world.  Many will prefer to rely on forecasts and their judgment, even if they realize that they may miss important changes in the firm's environment.  To broaden their thinking,  it is useful to create "phantom" scenarios that show the adverse results if the firm were to base its decisions on the mainstream view while the reality turned out to be one of the other scenarios.  For each scenario, I always like to ask the question:  What is the worse impact that we can imagine will happen if we do nothing and this scenario comes true?

Summary

 

Scenario planning works by understanding the nature and impact of the most uncertain and important driving forces affecting the company's future.  It is a group process which encourages knowledge exchange and development of mutual deeper understanding of central issues important to the future of the business. 

The goal is to craft a number of diverging stories by extrapolating uncertain and heavily influencing driving forces.  The stories together with the work getting there has the dual purpose of increasing the knowledge of the business environment and widen both the receiver's and participant's perception of possible future events. 

I'd encourage you to try out scenario planning as a way to imagine the potential futures. 

Additional Reading/Resources

Friday Gadget: Rotundus Robot

The GroundBot has been around a few years, but I thought I’d feature it this Friday. Groundbot is a spherical shaped robot that can roll up to 6 mph through indoor and outdoor spaces with relative ease.  In fact, outside it can roll through mud, sand, snow and even water.   Inside the ‘ball’ two gyroscopically steadied wide-angle cameras along with a bunch of sensors provides people monitoring the cameras with a real-time, 360-degree view of wherever the GroundBot happens to be.  Remote operators can use the cameras to zoom in on anything they may see.  Sensors also can detect gas leaks, radioactivity and biohazards.

To get rolling, the robot simply shifts its weight. Its center of mass is suspended from a pendulum inside the sphere, so motors just push the pendulum to the front, to the back, or to the side.   Lithium-ion batteries provide up to 16 hours of spy time.  GroundBot can be remote controlled by hand or programmed to navigate by GPS. 

GroundBot can effectively increase security and cuts costs at places such as airports, factories, warehouses, etc.   Check out this video from Popular Science and you’ll the Groundbot actually rolling through water.

For more on the GroundBot, see the website:  http://www.rotundus.se/video.html  and there are more videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/RotundusRobotics

Gartner: 10 Emerging Mobile Technologies to Watch

Gartner Mobile Technologies to Watch Today, more people are working through remote or mobile access than ever before. To stay competitive in an interconnected world, enterprises need to extend their resources, data, and connectivity to individuals wherever they are: in face-to-face customer engagements; in operational settings, such as retail, logistics, or field service; and on the road, whether they’re in their car, on a plane, or in a hotel.  Mobile technologies will all play such an important part in the development of mobile applications, solutions, and services and we all need to monitor how they are adopted over the next few years.

In advance of Gartner’s Wireless, Networking & Communications Summit, Gartner has released a list of 10 mobile technologies that it says will impact the growth of mobile applications and solutions for both consumers and enterprises.  The list covers a wide variety of technologies from widgets, to security, to location based technology.  Here is my summary of Gartner’s list

  1. Bluetooth (3 and 4):  Gartner says to expect enhanced Bluetooth versions that will speed data transmission and enable communication with a wider range handsets and PC peripherals.
  2. The Mobile Web:  Gartner says that as mobile devices with larger screens hit the market, we’ll want to use those devices to access websites.
  3. Mobile Widgets:  Gartner says that widgets will play a big part in the emerging mobile application market.
  4. Platform-Independent Mobile AD Tools:  Developers need tools that help them develop platform-independent mobile applications.
  5. App Stores:  Gartner expects that App stores will be the primary way to distribute mobile application solutions and services.
  6. Enhanced Location Awareness:   Location awareness technologies, including GPS, Wi-Fi and cell ID systems, will be used to exploit location-based services and applications. .
  7. Cellular Broadband:  The growth in mobile applications and services will require enhancements to the broadband networks.
  8. Touchscreens:  Touch and touch-related technologies will play an important part in the emerging mobile application solution marketplace.
  9. M2M:  Gartner says to watch machine to machine technologies in many applications areas, including meter reading, security/surveillance, automotive systems, and retail.
  10. Device-Independent Security:  Gartner says to expect a focus on emerging security technologies as CIOs look to deliver applications across a wider range of devices, while still controlling security risks.

I think we can all agree that mobile and wireless is a very hot area in 2010 and that it will continue to heat up over the next few years.   So its pretty important to keep an eye on the emerging technologies that will become important in the mobile application infrastructure.   It certainly is one of the top trends on my radar screen. 

For more information, check out these resources from Gartner

Baseline: Top 10 Technology Trends for 2010

Baseline Top Trends A recent article written by Samuel Greengard in Baseline outlines the top tech trends for 2010.  The article is based on a survey conducted by Ziff Davis Enterprise Research with almost 1,200 technology and business managers.

  1. Green Computing and Energy Efficiency.  There’s been an increased commitment across IT manufacturers to produce Green IT products, data centers and end-user devices.
  2. Public and Private Cloud Computing.  Baseline mentions that IDC expects spending on IT cloud services to grow almost threefold, reaching $42 billion by 2012.
  3. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).  There’s been an increase in attention on VDI solutions.  However, VDI is more complex to implement than server virtualization. 2010 might be a turning point.
  4. Mobility, Telecommuting and Virtual Meetings.  Adoption of mobile computing devices (e.g. iPhones, BlackBerrys, netbooks, etc.) continues at a rapid pace.  Enabling this adoption is the availability of higher wireless bandwidth.  Concerns in 2010 will include control and security.
  5. Centralization, Standards and Governance.  This trend is a direct result of the economy downturn as IT departments try to deal with increasingly fragmented computing resources.
  6. Knowledge Sharing, Business Intelligence and Social Networking.  Web 2.0 continues to transform the way we collaborate and share information.  In 2010 organizations will start to recognize the tremendous value in online communities, Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter and other services.
  7. Security, E-Discovery and Business Continuity.  There are growing need in these areas, but cost remains a big issue.
  8. Advances in Application Infrastructure.  The open source movement continues it’s momentum, playing a more and more important role in today's computing world.
  9. Investments in Hardware Infrastructure.  Virtualization has directly impacted the state of hardware infrastructure consolidation. In 2010 watch what impact Intel’s Nehalem processor will have.  Also watch how Fibre Channel over Ethernet and solid-state drives will impact the virtualization trend.
  10. Collaboration, Workflow and Productivity.  The 2010 story will be focused on how mobile apps impact productivity and workflow.  This should be a huge trend. We are rapidly moving beyond e-mail into content and collaboration applications.

You can read the full article (contains a real good writeup) by going to 10 Trends for 2010 – Piecing Together a Strategy

Midsize Companies Must Work Smarter, Leaner

A new IBM-sponsored study, “Inside the Midmarket: A 2009 Perspective”, found that although the economy is driving midsize companies to work smarter and leaner, many of these midsized companies are not actually decreasing their investments in IT, but maintaining current levels or increasing their IT spend to focus on strategic areas.

There is no doubt in my mind that these midmarket companies will play an important role in re-energizing the economy.  It is refreshing to see that these companies are not only resilient, but they are willing to invest in emerging technology areas that will position their companies for growth when the economy does improve.  

The study identified five important trends for midsized businesses:

  1. The highest-priority technology solution, chosen by 75 percent of respondents, is Information Management, which turns mountains of data into meaningful insights.
  2. The most pressing business challenges include increasing efficiency and productivity (80 percent), improving customer care (74 percent) and better use of information (72 percent).
  3. The impact of the economy on IT budgets has caused 53 percent to actually increase or re-prioritize their spending, with 37 percent reporting a decrease.
  4. Despite the economy, more than two-thirds of those surveyed are planning or currently implementing their top IT priorities.
  5. A majority of firms view their primary IT provider as a technology advisor or IT and business consultant, with 25 percent seeing the relationship as purely transactional.

And despite pressure to cut costs, the survey found that midsize companies are proceeding with IT investments in emerging technologies in areas such as information management, social media, and cloud computing.    Although these areas showed up lower on the scale of critical priorities, midmarket companies are actively pursuing these emerging technology areas to improve performance.  The survey shows that 79 percent intend to implement or have established goals to implement Green IT solutions, while 71 percent said they have plans to implement Web2.0/social media solutions and 69 percent said the same for cloud computing solutions.

IBM_Midmarket_Trend_Study

The “Inside the Midmarket study” was based on an online survey of 1,879 respondents in 17 countries, is designed to gain insight into the business plans and challenges, growth/innovation strategies, IT purchasing trends, and industry-specific pain points of midmarket companies (100 – 999 employees).  To download the study, visit http://www.ibm.com/press/attachments/ibm_midmarket_trend_study.pdf

A Primer on Futurists

As organizations increasingly try to grapple with the seemingly endless scorching rate of technological innovation and change, more are engaging the services of self-described futurists for advice on how to adapt.

What Is A Futurist?

Basically, futurists are those who look to and provide analysis and insights on potential futures.  They help others anticipate and prepare for potential changes and disruptions in order to make better decisions today.   Think of futurists as in the same league as historians.  Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past.   Historians are  concerned with origins, roots, stories/points of view of where we have been in the past and how we got to where we are today.   Futurists are interested in emerging trends, technologies, goals, purposes.  In short, futurists are interested in where we might be going in the future and how we can get there.   It’s interesting to note that in many cases good futurists have a little bit of a historian inside of them (e.g. studying the past can help predict potential futures.)

 

What Do Futurists Do?

Futurists research and explore the full range of potential / plausible futures.  A futures consultant or facilitator helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities.  They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality.
The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready whatever does happen.  The objective is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong–that is, not to be surprised.  Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic.  Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of futures studies.

Futurists take an inter-disciplinary approach and employ a wide range of methods, from trend analysis to scenario planning, to simulations, to strategic planning and visioning.  Since the future does not exist, we must study ideas about the future. Futurists use data from the past and present, and our concepts and methods to understand how the present will evolve into possible alternative futures. We also borrow liberally from other fields, such as creativity, complexity science, organization development, systems analysis, and philosophy.

What Type Of BackGround Do Futurists Have?

Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds. What they have in common is big picture thinking, strong pattern recognition, and innate curiosity.
Futurists come from a wide range of backgrounds and walks of life, be it liberal arts, psychology, engineering, the sciences. A growing number are coming from the dozen or so futures degree programs worldwide.
Other characteristics typical of futurists include openness to new experiences, comfort with ambiguity, thinking systematically, seeing options and alternatives, questioning and challenging assumptions, a global outlook, a long-term time horizon, optimistic, and having a sense of purpose.

How Can I Train To Become A Futurist?

The formal study of the future goes by a number of names, including “Strategic Foresight”, “Futures Studies”, and “Prospective Studies”. 

Formal futurist higher education options are somewhat limited.  There are about a dozen degree programs worldwide.   Within the United States there are two main academic programs created that focus on training futurists 1) the University of Houston (M.S.) and  2) University of Hawaii (M.A. and Ph.D.).  Both programs have been around for over 30 years.

Futurists without the formal education learn on the job through professional development.  Many professionals become futurists by acquainting themselves with futures concepts, tools and methods, familiarizing themselves with the literature, and participating in futures conferences and organizations.

What Professional Networks Are There?

Here are some places to go to find more information….

  • World Future Society  20-25,000 members who subscribe to The Futurist magazine and attend annual meetings; mostly centered in the U.S.  www.wfs.org
  • World Futures Studies Federation   Several hundred members spread across the globe with a rotating secretariat, includes many academics  www.wfsf.org
  • Millennium Project  Volunteer group around the globe that produces the annual State of the Future report and other futures studies, as well as the Futures Research Methodology.  www.millennium-project.org 
  • Association of Professional Futurists  200+ professional futurists and students in futures degree programs.  http://www.profuturists.org/
  • The World Future Council.  http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org. The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy making.  The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

Being a futurist sure sounds like fun….and there might just be a future for futurists.  🙂

Verizon: 2009 Top 10 Tech Trends

Verizon Business issued a press release back on December 10, 2008 with a list of 2009 trends.  The press release, Verizon Business Helps IT Leaders Set Sights for 2009, provides a list of 10 trends Verizon says will be hot during the difficult 2009 economic environment.

You can read the press release for detail, but here is a summary of Verizon Business' list of 10 hot trends for 2009:

  1. Enterprise 2.0:  Web 2.0 is quickly evolving into Enterprise 2.0 as these rich capabilities are creating new business models for some companies and empowering new strategies for others.  Look for Enterprise 2.0 to help organizations take their game to the next level through enhanced collaboration, communications and sharing ideas.
  2. Work as Activity Versus Place:  Companies will continue to recognize the productivity-boosting benefits of enabling mobile teleworkers or at-home teleworkers.  Telework, including new high-definition virtual meetings, will create an increased focus on work as an activity versus a physical location.
  3. Doing More with Less:  Businesses and governments everywhere are looking for ways to do more with less.  In 2009, it's all about productivity.  Companies can choose which functions to keep in-house and which to hand off to a third party.
  4. Visual Communications:  Video will continue to play a starring role, as companies make the most of their IP connections to create a culture of collaboration. From the boardroom to the desktop to the laptop to the mobile phone, more collaboration will take place, as companies increasingly embrace the cost-savings, productivity and environmental benefits of virtual meetings versus business travel.
  5. Unified Communications Integrated Into Business Processes:  With UC now at the forefront of business communications strategies, companies are making decisions about voice telephony that will help them achieve greater collaboration and productivity.  What's next:  UC integrated into automated business processes, where human and machine intelligence commingle in an IP world to drive even greater business growth.
  6. Ready, Set Go IPv6:  IPv6 will be a necessity for companies to achieve mobility and scalability with increased efficiency and ultimately move their businesses forward.
  7. Getting SaaSy:  Buying computing resources a la carte will help companies control costs while attaining the security, performance, scalability and reliability required for the enterprise.    
  8. 360 Security:  Three hundred sixty-degree security, mandatory on any IT checklist, requires that the flow of data be protected in and out of the corporate network and through the extended enterprise of widespread and mobile customers, partners, suppliers and employees.
  9. Eco-Responsibility as Sound Business Strategy:  Companies will evaluate eco-responsibility along with their technology investments as part of an overall business strategy.   Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important in how companies are viewed by their employees, customers and investors.
  10. Cutting Through the Compliance Clutter:  In 2009, expect more, not less, with IT in the hot seat for ensuring IT systems are fully compliant and all the right controls are in place.  "Smart" tools will allow an organization to quickly review whether its partners, customers and suppliers, which form an extended network, are complying with relevant standards and regulations, a critical consideration in today's increasingly connected world.

Number 2 and 4 seems to be potential big trends as business travel is expected to be cut big time in 2009.   I am also interested in seeing how #5 develops this year.

As this is from Verizon, of course it is slanted towards communications technology.  But that is okay as I think it is best to cast a wide net when trying to understand trends.  This list from Verizon can help us understand some  of the issues going on in mobile communications.  We can use this list to dive deeper into any of these trends identified above and make our own assessments.

ReadWrite Web: Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008

I've been interested in understanding what the future of the Internet will look like for sometime.  The current term for it is Web 3.0.  Once element of Web 3.0 will be a better architecture for the Internet called the Semantic Web.

The Semantic web movement is all about making it easy for software agents to find, share and integrate information more easily.   This is a complex job as there there has been a huge increase in non-structured data (blogs, wikis, videos, podcasts, and other web 2.0 tools).   The idea is to create conceptual relationships between things found on the Internet.

In a recent article on ReadWrite Web, the author provided a list of the top semantic products of 2008.

  1. Yahoo! SearchMonkey.  SearchMonkey  allows developers to build applications on top of Yahoo! search, including allowing site owners to share structured data with Yahoo!, using semantic markup, standardized XML feeds, APIs, and page extraction.
  2. Powerset (acquired by Microsoft in '08)  Powerset is a natural language search engine.
  3. Open Calais.  Calais is a toolkit of products that enable users to incorporate semantic functionality within their blog, content management system, website or application.
  4. Dapper MashupAds.  Dapper MashupAds delivers ads based on the content of a webpage.  For example, web publishers tell Dapper the place on their web page where the title of a movie will appear, and Dapper delivers a banner ad that's related to whatever movie this page happens to be about.
  5. Hakia.  Hakia is a search engine focusing on natural language processing methods to try and deliver 'meaningful' search results.  Hakia attempts to analyze the concept of a search query, in particular by doing sentence analysis.
  6. Tripit.  Tripit is an app that manages your travel planning. With TripIt, you forward incoming bookings to plans@tripit.com and the system manages the rest.
  7. BooRah.  BooRah, a restaurant review site, can recognize praise and criticism in reviews and then rate restaurants accordingly.
  8. BlueOrganizer (AdaptiveBlue).   BlueOrganizer gives you added information about webpages you visit and offers useful links based on the subject matter.  A new product, called Glue. connects you to your friends based around things like books, music, movies, stars, artists, stocks, wine, restaurants, and more.
  9. Zemanta.  Zemanta is a blogging tool which harnesses semantic technologies to add relevant content to your posts.   Users can now incorporate their own social networks, RSS feeds, and photos into their blog posts.
  10. UpTake.   Semantic search startup UpTake (formerly Kango) aims to make the process of booking travel online easier.  UpTake is a vertical search engine that has assembled what it says is the largest database of US hotels and activities – over 400,000 of them – from more than 1,000 different travel sites.

As semantic technology adoption takes off, expect search engines to become much more effective than they are now.  Users will find the precise information they are looking for and in much faster time than today.  This could have a huge impact as mobile search begins to take off.

For more, read the article Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008.  For more on the semantic web, check out the semantic web Wikipedia article here or this  What is the Semantic Web?