Technology trends 101: Consumerization, big data, social collaboration, gamification

Technology trends and challenges are top of mind for IT pros trying to understand consumerization and social collaboration, plus new terms such as gamification and big data.

BOSTON -- Whether you’re on the frontlines of the helpdesk or tasked with IT security, there’s a good chance you’ll have to deal with at least one of these four technology trends  in the not-so-distant future - consumerization, social collaboration, gamification, and “big data.”

The IT challenges that go along with these trends were on the docket during the Enterprise 2.0 conference last week. Even Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon with plans to build Surface tablets that will compete with Apple’s iPad. Microsoft is also rumored to be in talks to acquire the social collaboration tool Yammer.

“What’s happening outside our doors is changing the way we have to approach what’s happening inside our doors,” said Keith Meyerson, director of learning and development for the Dallas-based retailer, Neiman Marcus Group.

Here’s a quick primer of the technology trends that appear to define the next phase of IT.


For admins, consumerization is about dealing with the headaches of Dropbox, Gmail, mobility and employees doing whatever the heck they want to get around traditional IT gates. Consumerization isn’t just about bring your own device (BYOD) or mobility, although those are facets of the movement that some admins will be forced to deal with. 

While consumerization represents a massive shift for IT professionals, it’s also a great opportunity.

“SaaS, the cloud and consumerization allow us to do more with less,” Meyerson said. “Why shouldn’t my company try and provide the same experience internally as LinkedIn or Twitter? Given the choice between companies that embrace those tools versus ones that don’t, where are those new employees going to want to work?”

Social Collaboration

The common misconception is that social collaboration is simply Facebook for the enterprise. While that can be the case, social collaboration is much more than that in the big IT picture.

“People weren’t looking for a social outlet,” said Christine Destefano, the community manager for the Los Angeles-based Disney Interactive Media Group. “They just wanted to be more productive, wanted to find like-minded individuals to get through the day faster, to get more work done, to reach resolution on problems quicker.”

Destefano began a small test pilot for a social portal to connect employees to one another. Email and instant messaging apps just don’t cut it anymore, she said, especially for workers who use blogs, Wikis, Twitter and Facebook to collaborate and communicate.

Think of social collaboration as a way to surface all the available human knowledge and information in your organization. It’s about social learning -- one employee’s expertise can make another’s job easier. It’s about having one document workspace with comments, feedback, and relevant links instead of a 75-thread email chain, she said.

But social collaboration only works if it becomes a natural extension of a department’s existing workflow, rather than one more thing that employees have to log in to, said Phoebe Venkat, global communications senior manager at Tyco International Ltd., a manufacturing and services company, headquartered in Princeton, N.J. 

Big data

The term big data is so new that many attendees at Enterprise 2.0 who had heard of it didn’t know what it entails.

As MIT research scientist Andrew McAfee said during his keynote discussion, robots and artificial intelligence have made most human jobs obsolete already. Big data is an approach to using technology and information to drive productivity and understanding within an organization, he said.

With better analytics tools, companies can use data to make the company more efficient. Big data analytics tools allow companies to track competitors, discover trends about why high-performing employees may leave a company, better understand the markets in which they compete and more.


Gamification is a method of applying game mechanics to employee production. The term garners snickers because it’s often thought of as transplanting Foursquare badges to the enterprise. Who's ready to become mayor of their cubicle?

It’s easy to dismiss badges as a reward, and many did on Twitter during Enterprise 2.0. But organizations have used gamification practices for a long time: Christmas bonuses and Employee of the Month awards are both examples.

The idea is to build a collaboration mechanism first, then use game mechanics to “funnel that towards innovation and solving problems,” said Hutch Carpenter, vice president of product at Spigit, a San Francisco-based vendor.

More on technology trends

Ten technology trends impacting the IT industry, jobs

Network technology trends 2012: Data center networks

ShareFile’s sales department uses a golf-style leaderboard to drive competition and camaraderie among co-workers, said Jesse Lipson, vice president and general manager for data sharing at Citrix Systems Inc.

Lipson never thought of that tactic as gamification specifically, but admitted the approach has been successful. To be sure, there are as many different ways to drive employee engagement and create a sense of a greater whole as there are fish in the sea.

Let us know what you think about the story; email James Furbush or follow @JamesFurbush  on Twitter; like on Facebook.

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