In the first phase of the information age, technology helped us achieve new levels of productivity. In the next phase, technology will shape who we are. Why? Because technology is everywhere – and savvy businesses are paying attention. I did a check on a recent trip and noticed that, on average, 80% of the people around me were nose down in their technology. That’s amazing if you stop and think about it….(pause for thinking)…When you spend that much time using something, it ceases to be a helper and starts to shape who you are.

I think 2012 will be a watershed year for the global business environment as technology moves from being “out there” to “part of us.” In 2020, we will look back on 2012 not as the year the world ended but as the year it changed for good. Check out the TED video We Are All Cyborgs Now. Here are four predictions about business in 2012 that all start with the fusion of business and technology and the impact that it will have on shaping business. I hope will add some new thought food to your mental garden:

  • “Big IT” continues its vanishing act. In 2010, we wrote about the crumbling of IT in our report “BT 2020: IT's Future In The Empowered Era,” and I drew some sharp criticism earlier in the 2011 when I blogged “What Happens When Central 'IT' No Longer Exists?” It would be interesting to see if anybody has changed their mind over the year. With so many choices for acquiring technology, this vanishing act should come as no surprise. Consider: Many SMBs I talk to are adopting a cloud-first policy and eschewing investment in big enterprise systems, while larger enterprises look around them and scratch their heads trying to figure out how they can do the same. I predicted in “The Top 10 Technology Trends EA Should Watch: 2012 To 2014” that leading IT shops will become service brokers, and 2012 will see that become reality.
  • Data hype turns to focus. More than half of the trends in “The Top 10 Business Technology Trends EA Should Watch: 2012 To 2014” were directly or indirectly about data. Why? We all know it is “exploding.” What’s new is that we can finally do something about it. Our answer through 2010 was to deal with the data explosion by “managing it better.” Big data, massive parallel processing, advanced analytics, eventually consistent NoSQL databases, etc. are arriving that recognize that the chaos will never be managed. Leading firms in 2012 will let go and learn to live in the chaos, focusing on what they can control. The data hype will continue, but enterprise deployments of big data systems will lead to focused results for the front-runners.
  • Social and mobile converge on local. SoLoMo is a new, catchy buzzword that I’ve been tweeting about lately, and it has been blogged about on both NY Times and Forbes. The term indicates that the future of mobile computing is to connect users socially in a local context – that is, without needing to go through some big social software in a data center somewhere. I read about a great example just yesterday in which a college professor designed an iPad app that let his students collaborate visually on his lecture notes there in the classroom. The applications of this concept outside the classroom are limitless. We call this the App Internet (see our founder’s August 2010 blog post). In 2012, leading companies will really figure out how to exploit this to: 1) disrupt how products and services are sold, and 2) empower their workforce to meet consumers where they are.
  • Cloud migration begins in earnest. Last, I had to say something about the cloud, because it was THE HOT TOPIC of our July emerging technology tweet Jam. I think cloud hype reached a crescendo in 2011 and will significantly subside in 2012 as reality sets in and enterprises get down to the hard work of making it real. I say this because in the many reports, blogs, articles, and tweets I’ve read, a few themes stick – it’s not always cheaper, you have to know when it’s appropriate, and your environment must be ready for it (that’s a really squishy way of saying application architectures must be elastic, security issues must be resolved, policies must be in place, skills must be present, etc.). My prediction for 2012 is that we will see far less media hype about cloud as some real solutions hit the market and clients get their cloud plans off the ground. What does this have to do with my theme? Cloud is a platform that further's the proliferation of technology into business and our lives.