Back then I was writing from the relatively comfortable position as an employee and approaching the Christmas break knowing that I had a job to go back to in the New Year and that the bills for the ‘present mountain’ and over-consumption of food and alcohol would all be covered.
This year is different …
A few weeks back I took the plunge and decided to start my own thing . Taking the significant sounding date of 11.11.11 as a stake in the ground I have launched Webwiser, a web consultancy business with a focus on commerce and community development.
Sitting here a few weeks away from 2012 I have very little idea where the next paycheck is going to come from and I currently have the whole family income riding on the success of some new content and commerce technologies that I have been putting in place recently.
So, all things considered, I have moved from the coal face to the frontline and become even more dependent on how things shape up in the content technologies arena over the next 12 months.
Here are some thoughts (wishful and otherwise) on how things may progress during 2012 …
1.We see more clearly what the C in CMS really means on the web today
If you’ve been through the exercise of adding ‘skills’ to your Linkedin profile recently it provides some useful instant feedback on what’s in demand and what isn’t. While things like Drupal, WordPress and analytics skills all show positive demand, the generic terms such as ‘Content Management’ show static or declining demand. Does this mean that ‘Content Management’ is commoditised now and an accepted ‘skill’ to have in the workplace or that it is so broad a term as to have become a bit meaningless?
Over the past year I’ve seen vendor and analyst organisations talking about a lot of different Cs with reference to ‘Content Management’ – Context, Communication, Commerce, Customer, Community and Conversation have all popped up in various combinations. I favour Episerver’s adoption of 4 of those Cs as a succinct description of what your average ‘content management system’ is trying to encompass these days – Content, Commerce, Community and Communication. Expect more offerings and variations in the coming year …
2. Proprietary vendors jump on the Social CRM bandwagon
Content Management System vendors have been itching for years to get their teeth into the CRM space but the marrying up of unstructured data with structured data is often not an easy, comfortable or worthwhile fit. Mid-market vendors looking to differentiate in a crowded and competitive space have latched onto e-commerce in recent years as an area where they can add value. Social CRM offers a similarly interesting opportunity space for CMS vendors looking to claim the ‘customer experience’ as part of their domain without having to delve so deeply into data integration challenges.
Personally I see the social publishing heritage of the main Open Source system providers giving greater credibility in this area. I liken this to the initiatives to build native e-commerce solutions for the Drupal framework which have taken an excellent leap forward with Drupal Commerce during 2011. Unfortunately the DropCRM initiative did not gather the same momentum as the Drupal Commerce one has but progress has been made by Trellon to create a CRM approach that harnesses the Drupal core more effectively. The aims of RedHen CRM also look noteworthy if they can get the community support they need. I can see this gaining more momentum in 2012 as the value of harnessing a powerful management core becomes more apparent through growth of the commerce initiatives.
3. Power users discover superpowers
Ten years ago I was working on an enterprise content management project that had a $25 million price tag attached to it. It was a fascinating experience and provided a benchmark for me in terms of the scope and scale of content management requirements very large organisations typically have and just how much that functionality cost to buy and implement at that time.
Having spent the last year immersed in the new Drupal 7 and emerging Drupal Commerce solutions I can say with some certainty now that almost all the functional capability that was developed for that Global 2000 enterprise project back in 2001 could be achieved for free today with the breadth and depth of Open Source solutions now available. Granted you need some time and experience to configure these things but ultimately it puts an immense amount of capability at the fingertips of ‘power users’ who are now more likely to be constrained by their own imaginations and understanding than the functionality of the tools themselves.
4. Commercialised Open Source becomes the prevailing business model
The conditions are ripe for a massive surge in commercialised Open Source offerings. This offers opportunities not only to established Open Source communities but also for the traditional proprietary vendors who have embraced Open Source philosophies and approaches in their business models. Wiser organisations will transfer budget to sponsoring development of Open Source modules rather than locking that spend into proprietary developments with debatable returns on investment that are more about adding shareholder value than improving user experiences.
In a week when Richard Branson has declared that capitalism has lost its way, the success of Open Source initiatives in the content technologies arena very much reflect the type of approach to business development that he is advocating. Instead of developments being focused on short-term shareholder value and hyping things up to get the support of the money markets, he advocates …
“Have passion for what you do; believe in yourself and your product and your customer; persevere; delegate; listen. Have fun. Today, I add: “Do good”
5. Some unsung heroes get the recognition they deserve
All the projects I have been part of over the years have shared one thing – enthusiastic and capable leaders. These are inspiring people who set ambitious goals and pull others behind them to achieve them.
Spending this last year close to the Drupal community and particularly the Drupal Commerce initiative has shown me that these types of people are as key to success in the Open Source community as they are in a proprietary software development environment. The commerce initiatives can be credited to a handful of talented individuals who have clearly put their heart and soul into making things happen and hitting their targets very impressively. Contrast that with DropCRM initiative mentioned earlier and it was clear that the drive and determination was not there at the start and, subsequently, it faltered early on.
6. Mobile opens up new battlegrounds
I’m not a big fan of war analogies in business and usually shy away from them but there is no doubt that organisations of all shape and sizes are going to need some fighting spirit in the coming year.
As expected, the search marketing space has become a lot more competitive in the last year with organisations desperately trying to out-perform each other in the organic, pay-per-click and social media spaces.
Mobile is undoubtedly a new front to be explored and understood and is starting to show growth in terms of advertising click-through rates and conversions. If your operation benefits from decisions made on the move then get onboard with mobile web optimisation and advertising as quickly as possible now.
Whether or not the Olympic Games get targeted this coming year, the time is approaching when cyber-warfare of one form or another causes more than financial and infrastructure damage and results in significant loss of life.
Expect all electronic and information systems to continue strengthening their defences as many have been doing over the last year.
8. Windows gets smashed
With the tone of my predictions turning increasingly violent, I couldn’t resist slipping this one in as I’ve been itching to use that phrase at some point ;) .
Dramatic headlines aside, the only place Microsoft has in my life right now is the Windows operating system on my desktop PC and via the very effective indoctrination of my children at school who appear to have been taught that Word, Powerpoint and Excel are the only ways to produce digital content. Some first hand experiences of Ubuntu recently means that Microsoft is hanging by a thin thread in this household. Where once it was utterly dominant in our work and home lives, today it is largely irrelevant.
So why do I celebrate this? Well, aside from Bill Gate’s excellent philanthropic activities, which are to be applauded, the company he spawned has become synonymous with capitalism’s failures over the last few decades where the aggressive pursuit of short-term shareholder value acts to stifle competition and progress. The words Microsoft and Free Market do not sit well together. I hold these views not because of jumping on an anti-Microsoft bandwagon but from personal experiences in working directly with the Microsoft organisation at several points in my career where I observed the DNA of the operation and its culture. I didn’t like it, it put me off for life and today I relish the fact that the company no longer enjoys the monopolistic position it once did.
At some point in their lives, most people realise they have to take some responsibility for their actions and put a little more thought into things before doing them.
As Mark Zuckerberg edges closer to his 30th birthday and his views on the world evolve it will be interesting to see what directions he takes Facebook in next. I still find it staggering that so many of us have placed so much of our web activities into the hands of a 27 year old who is still finding his feet in the world. I read the other day that he will only eat meat from an animal he has slaughtered himself. It’s a shame such noble ideas are often discarded when it comes to people’s personal data and privacy.
The rapid rise and equally rapid stalling of Google + illustrated why first-mover advantage is still so important but also that there is an interest in finding other ways to be ‘social’ and not just the one dictated by Facebook.
To me Google+ reflects a more rounded and grown-up view of social media and if it does something to prompt Facebook to reconsider its approaches in some areas then it will have been worthwhile.
11. E-Commerce, F-Commerce, G-Commerce, M-Commerce? Just focus on Commerce!
No doubt the coming year will add more alphabetic descriptors for selling stuff online and offline. Forget the letters, you need to be ready to sell online wherever and whenever your customers wish to buy.
This means a focus on good content management practices and web standards, separating content from presentation and making it very easy to syndicate quickly and accurately.
12. Governance and ROI move sharply into focus again
When it becomes harder to gain competitive advantage and market share through economic growth, keep an eye out for dirty tricks! We are already seeing the tech giants fighting tooth and nail over patent infringements in the mobile space and this will escalate further as markets are disrupted and disposable incomes suffer. This puts greater emphasis on getting ‘information management’ practices right and not giving away advantage through avoidable mistakes.
Likewise, tighter budgets mean less willingness to tolerate project scope drift and more emphasis on what that spend will add to the bottom line …
This blog post has been written following a year spent outside of the Twitter echo-chamber. Which means it is inspired by reality on the ground, horribly introspective and/or hopelessly out-of-touch. Let me know what you think …