When B2C and B2B Worlds Collide

Having spent more than 20 years in the tech industry, I’ve seen many trends (and related buzzwords) come and go. One trend that I continue to see each year is the “consumerization of IT.” While it hasn’t always been referred to by that label, consumer demand has manifest itself across a variety of sectors in the industry, from PCs and email to the cloud. Today, an obvious example of this is the desire to connect personal smartphones and tablets to a secured business network.

As this trend continues to make its way to the cloud, we’re starting to see consumerization shift the way businesses interact with each other and their customers. Customers are exhibiting behavior much like employees and are leveraging consumerization of technology to find new ways to interact, obtain information, and get connected with external entities such as vendors, service providers, applications and more.

Evolving expectations around real-time visibility throughout the value chain and pressure to achieve lower TCO by deploying cloud-based business solutions will be big themes this year. This type of multi-enterprise collaboration and connecting with customers and partners, coupled with the “power of now” mentality will be pervasive.

Keeping these disruptive shifts in mind, here’s what I believe is in store as 2012 unfolds:

1. Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERPs) will focus on delivering integration networks targeting vertical industries.

In their ongoing effort to improve collaboration and process automation, both on-premises and cloud-based ERP and CRM vendors will look to the cloud to build their network communities as a way to extend their end-to-end business processes, as well as deliver incremental value to customers.

In 2012, we will see vertical industry networks increase adoption and drive tighter collaboration across participants, particularly in the areas of e-commerce and process visibility. The power of the network and the community will continue to accelerate exponentially as the number of network participants increases.

2. Global economic uncertainty will prevail and drive companies to get even closer to existing customers.

With economic uncertainty extending into next year and a major U.S. presidential election on the horizon, companies will focus on maximizing their relationships with existing customers and partners as a significant contributor to top line financial performance.

We will see greater focus on solving customer needs, adapting solutions to fit their requirements, and providing new ways to deliver value without forcing them to change the way they currently do business. Companies are flagging these areas of opportunity by finding ways to leverage existing customer infrastructures with minimal incremental investments.

3. Consumerization of IT drives real-time end user visibility tools.

With the rise of social networks, expectations for how we connect and communicate have evolved. People are accustomed to constant communication in both their personal and professional lives and will often modify old ERP systems with user-friendly tablet and phone applications.

In 2012, companies will need to transition their interactions with customers from a handshake to a conversation to follow the changing expectations of society. In order to do this, companies will utilize real-time commerce technologies to reach not just the customer, but the end user as well.

4. Cloud Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) will remain compelling: Companies will continue to adopt cloud-based solutions primarily to reduce overall IT costs.

In the new year, TCO will continue to be the primary driver of cloud adoption due to scalable costs and consumption models offered by cloud vendors that simply cannot be matched by on-premises solutions.

A close second driver of adoption will be the need to drive costs out of critical business processes through automation and integration throughout the extended enterprise.

5. Enterprises will gain confidence in the cloud and migrate on-premises apps to the cloud.

As cloud computing continues to evolve and security standards are established during the year, enterprises will see the cloud as a viable option to run business-critical systems.

As large and mid-size organizations face significant upgrades with on-premises ERP applications and carefully assess business value vs. upgrade costs, they will find compelling justification to move more holistically to the cloud.

Trisha Gross is president and chief executive officer of Hubspan.

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