I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and while I’m sure everyone is sick and tired of prediction posts I hope you’ll stick with me. This year I’m taking the same format as I did last year, I’ll post my really big predictions for the next 5 years (that’s this post) and then I’ll follow it up with a more speculative top 10 predictions for the current year. You can see my top 5 for 5 post, my top 10 post and the report card of those predictions.
I still believe last years 5 predictions for the next 5 years are still true and I’ll still continue to track them. For a quick recap here are those predictions:
- The Recovery Will Accelerate Social Media Investments
- Marketing Communications Consolidation
- Agency Acquisitions
- Enterprise IT and Social Media become BFF
- Intranets integrating with external social networking
I was surprised by how far a long my 5 year predictions had already come so this year I’m going to try and look even further down the road but still keep it in the space of 5 years. I’ve also given you a sneak peak at some of the thinking behind these predictions in my two previous posts, 2011 Is Not About Social Media. Prepare For The Next Wave Of Disruption and The Most Mind Blowing Internet Statistic.
1. Byte Sized Work and Making a Living in the Crowd
As portable computing devices get smaller and more powerful and the cloud fills in the gaps and boosts capabilities more work will continue to shift to outside of the office. Office space will become increasingly irrelevant, especially as mobile video conferencing increases, and office hours will become more of a barrier as people have to collaborate with global teams.
Simultaneously, work will continue to be broken down into smaller and smaller portions and yet still require more and more specialty. With more people wanting more flexibility to balance, family, lifestyle, hobbies and work people will start to make respectable (and in some cases significant) income people will be able to take on micro-projects, probably manged through a central service (think design competition sites meets temp service agencies).
Yes people do this today as consultants and freelancers but the difference will be anonymity, cross discipline and self opt-in.
2. Socially Gaming Your Life and Work FTW!
Gamification is a hot buzzword right now but we’ve only barely touched on its application. I encourage you to check out the Gamification Wiki, especially the part on Game Mechanics. So other than pointing out an existing trend what’s my point? We’re going to see gamification take place in very unlikely areas.
Why not build game mechanics into CRM applications? The biggest flaw in every CRM is getting people to enter data. There’s no good way to do this why not make a game out of it. Sounds trite but I guarantee you’ll see better results than you see now.
With the advent of social and mobile data there will not only be more an opportunity for gaming but also more of a need. Not everything is intrinsically motivating and sometimes a little rewards works well.
3. Language Becomes Irrelevant on the Web
When you do a search on any service from Google to Bing (client) to Twitter search to whatever comes out next month how likely is it that the most relevant search isn’t in English? Yes, that’s the predominate language right now but that will eventually change.
All the major search engines have the capability to translate any search result. Even Twitter can translate status updates for you. Is it perfect? Far from it. But it’s getting better and better every day.
Within the next 5 years you will do searches and the results will come from multiple language sources but will be presented to you in your language of choice. It still won’t fix some of the problems with traditional search but it will be a huge differentiator.
4. 3rd World Business Innovation for the 1st World
My entire professional career I’ve made it a point to watch the fringe. If you want to know what will be popular in fashion, music, movies, food, tech, watch the fringe. Hang out with skaters, hard core music geeks, inner city teens etc. But there’s one fringe that the developed World has not been watching and that’s the developing World.
Most of what we’ve seen in countries like China have been knock offs of US/EU startups. That will change especially from areas like Africa, Brazil. China, India and the rest of Asia will always play a part but Africa and Brazil are extremely social cultures. They lack wide access to the Internet but they are already doing much of the social behavior we have but by only using SMS. I heard a great quote that I can’t attribute and I’m probably paraphrasing but it went something like: “SMS is the 3rd World’s Internet.”
What happens when they have reliable access to the Internet? We’re going to see some major innovation.
5. Web to Mobile vs. Mobile to Web
Or more accurately, Web to Mobile Fragmentation vs Mobile to Web Supported. My final prediction is similar to my last one but specifically around one aspect of the coming innovations.
In the developed World we are moving from a Web centric World to a mobile centric World. And that mobile World is more fragmented and proprietary than we’ve ever seen. Windows (client), Palm, Apple, Android, just to name a few and the trend right now is towards proprietary and closed rather than free and open, like the Web was.
In the developing World they are moving from a Mobile only world to a Web enabled World (mobile will still be the primary connection device). In the developing World free and open still rule. Not just because of economical situations but because developing countries are more communal. They believe in community and sharing over profit and commerce. Not that there isn’t a place for capitalism it’s just that the value proposition of many of our current business models won’t translate globally.
I believe this will cause us to rethink everything about how we publish information and how we build services.
- How do you build a website that the users will only access via SMS? Navigation and traditional UI is pointless at that point.
- How do you publish content that will be accessed via Web, apps, “mobile” screens ranging from 1 inch to 11 inches, SMS and other simplified messaging formats?
- Then how do you make money on all of this?
This is where, again, US/EU businesses need to take a study of the models being deployed in the developing World. If our current industry leaders believe that we can use the same approach we’ve always used, they’ll lose out to leaner hungrier startups coming from countries they’re not expecting.
So there you have it. This post took me way longer to write than I expected it but I’d love your feedback. Am I nuts? Am I captain obvious? What are you seeing?