I love reporters. As someone with an M.A. in journalism who then evolved into an analyst, I recognize that both professions occupy approximately the same tier in the industry food chain. In fact, many IT industry analysts were trade press reporters at one point in their careers, and it’s not uncommon for analysts to go back into media institutions later on.

When great longtime IT reporters, such as Computerworld’s Jaikumar Vijayan, call me up to get my thoughts, I’m just as interested in their take on what’s important. Jai recently published an excellent article with my predictions, plus those of another analyst, on the year ahead in analytics. To the jaded reader, these sorts of year-end look-ahead articles may feel like perfunctory rehashes of stuff we’ve been telling them for quite some time, perhaps with a trendy new buzzword thrown in to keep it remotely glance-worthy.

I try not to repeat myself too much. Rather than regurgitate the statements I made in the phone interview with Jai, I’ll highlight how I’m addressing the principal business-analytics trends that I discussed with him — self-service, pervasive, social, scalable, cloud, and real-time—in our 2011 Forrester research agenda:

  • Self-service analytics: Multichannel customer relationship management (CRM) is a huge focus for us at Forrester. In customer-facing business processes, the self-service portal channel is key to delivering personalized service, speeding transactions, and enhancing the customer experience. Self-service analytics, delivered through the portal, can help your customers to evaluate the various options available to them, and also to compare your offerings against those of the competition. Likewise, self-service business intelligence (BI) can help your staff to quickly drill down on issues relevant to customer satisfaction and to identify the “next best offer” in each customer interaction. In 2011, I will collaborate with Kate Leggett on reports that discuss the role of "next best offer" technologies, including self-service analytics, in enterprise multichannel customer service initiatives. We will publish CRM “next best offer” reports that outline the vision, case studies, commercial offerings, and ROI.
  • Pervasive analytics: You can’t optimize customer relationships if you don’t make analytics pervasive across all channels, touchpoints, transactions, and business processes. In 2011, we will publish Forrester reports that provide a business case, architecture, and guidelines for enterprises who are looking to embed predictive analytics in all business processes, both customer-facing and back-office. In this context, we will broaden the focus from CRM’s “next best offer” toward the emerging business process paradigm of “next best action everywhere.” We will provide a maturity model and checklist to help business process management (BPM) professionals evolve their current environments and integrate investments in business rules engines and advanced analytics.
  • Social analytics: Traditional BPM resembles top-down social engineering — in other words, process reengineering opportunities are traditionally identified by management, processes are changed and automated by technologists, and new processes are pushed onto employees and customers. In 2011 and beyond, Forrester sees BPM evolving rapidly toward a more social architecture to support routing, approval, and exception handling. In collaboration with our BPM analyst Clay Richardson, I will publish a report on social process guidance, an emerging approach that leverages social networking and inline analytics to improve ad hoc exception handling. In this context, we will discuss how real-time “crowdsourced” advice can supplement the guided analytics that your next-generation BI tools can supply to someone who is stuck and doesn’t know exactly what to do to address a customer issue or remove a bottleneck from a stalled back-office process.
  • Scalable analytics: Big data is the rage everywhere, but I prefer to think of it as “colossal content,” because it includes much more than structured relational tables. The enterprise data warehouse (EDW) is scaling inexorably toward petabytes to support the increasingly complex content databases required by social media analytics, geospatial applications, clickstream crunching, and other leading-edge applications. Clearly, Hadoop, as an emerging platform for content that is both colossal and complex, is a key technology. In fact, Hadoop is increasingly figuring into enterprise road maps for scaling their EDWs. Forrester is closely tracking the emergence of enterprise-grade Hadoop products from IBM, Pentaho, Cloudera, Karmasphere, and others. In 2011, we will publish a report focusing on first-mover enterprise case studies with Hadoop. And, I’d be remiss not to mention this, vendor adoption of Hadoop is a key theme in the update to the Forrester Wave on EDW platforms, which will come out very soon in Q1 2011.
  • Cloud analytics: Speaking of leading-edge topics that are central to EDW evolution, Forrester will focus more closely on cloud-based analytics platform deployments in 2011 — and, in fact, we give commercial cloud/SaaS-based EDW options prominent attention in the aforementioned Forrester Wave. But, no, the market for cloud EDWs is not yet mature: Vendor support is still spotty, and broad enterprise adoption is at least a year or two away. Nevertheless, Hadoop’s emergence has primarily been to address advanced analytics in private-cloud deployments, especially for applications that source unstructured content from the social media cloud. In 2011, in addition to the Hadoop study, we will publish reports on the new generation of cloud-based social media monitoring and engagement services for sales, service, marketing, and other customer-facing processes.
  • Real-time analytics: Forrester has been covering “really urgent analytics” for years. In 2011, I will significantly update our published report on this best practice to highlight how critical low-latency analytics is to social CRM — in particular to real-time monitoring of social media for gauging customer awareness, sentiment, and propensity, and for using these streams to automatically flag, escalate, and respond to urgent issues within your CRM and BPM environments. In this regard, we will be discussing, across several planned reports, the role of real-time “recommendation engines” that combine EDW, BI, predictive analytics, business rules, complex event processing, content analytics, and social network analysis.

And that’s just the core of my own 2011 research agenda within Forrester’s Business Process team. We are aggressively addressing a wide range of topics to help enterprise customers drive analytics more thoroughly into their business transformation initiatives. On these and other topics, you will see reports from me and other Forrester analysts in various collaborations this year.

Thanks to Jai for reminding me to put these thoughts together while they’re still fresh in my eggnog-engorged noggin.

Oh, I almost forgot: Happy New Year, one and all!