The year is about to say goodbye to us and  I can’t avoid thinking back in all the good things that have happened in the past 12 months and get excited about what’s coming up next.  Some of these “good things” influenced my perspective about business, about where we are headed as a collective group and about where to continue keeping my focus.  I would like to share with you the top 12 highlights that made it to my personal list!

In no particular order of importance:

UI Trends

From a style perspective I experienced minimalist  and flat designs, use of tiles, an almost obsessive approach to a better user experience (including in the B2B world),  apps taking over the browser, time spent browsing on mobile (consuming information) increasing over any desktop too. The fact that mobile grew so much in 2013 also facilitated HTML5 gaining momentum more than ever over other technologies and enabling cool toolkits such as SAPUI5.


Cloud

Cloud adoption and growth, especially in the US across all different vendors was a big phenomenon that has enabled cloud companies to increase either in revenue or in speed of growth and excite both financial and technology analysts. This will definitely boost customer innovation next year as deployments increase and as cutting edge features are leveraged at the flick of a switch with reduced capital expenditure.


Big Data

The exponential growth of data, including public, personal, corporate and individual, is almost forcing businesses to harness the power of data visualization (both structured and unstructured), reporting, and insight driven strategies to generate value never extracted before. Managing Big Data remained key (but perhaps still not always so successful) at enabling businesses to bring the desired outcome. Open source technologies also gained momentum and previously less frequently heard job titles have become more popular (i.e. data -warehouse- architect, data steward).


Gradual transformation of shopping and the power of crowds

The way we shop is in constant change, but this year I saw more than ever before huge changes in the way we as individuals shop: peer and user reviews have become a fundamental part of the whole shopping experience, as illustrated by the acronym ZMOT (zero moment of truth) which labels the phase during the shopping experience that starts before any other interaction. How many bought this year a TV appliance, laptop or camera before consulting product reviews? How many rated books, movies, restaurants, doctors… As shopping practices are changing, so are the ways the companies are doing business with the consumer, but also with other companies. Software vendors had to offer additional customer analytics and sentiment intelligence  tools to understand their customers’ customers and provide them what they want.  B2B go-to-market traditional approaches decayed in 2013 leaving space for more innovative B2B2C  approaches, and of course the B2C also adjusted to the increasing demands and knowledge of the end consumers.


Gradual transformation of banking

More creative ways to banking are popping out. I have never been participant of as many different ways for financing, paying and interacting with others online, through mobile or even at the brick and mortar points of sale as in 2013. Online personal money exchanges are easier than ever and they are being merged with social media technology in a fun and hassle-free way. I speak for what I see in the US, at least here splitting bills, borrowing money and paying back to my friends was easier than ever.

Banks are being pushed to innovate and their traditional approach of marketing to prospective customers and then forget about them is starting to change – at least for those banks that understand that loyalty will soon not be guaranteed by their painfully long and frustrating set up processes.

Free of charge money management open platforms have been in 2013 again more user friendly than those ones developed by banks and these are creating socially available pools of information on spending patterns per state or country and changing the ways customers are making their budgeting and shopping decisions.


Transformation of the role of the CMO

The role of the CMO is becoming increasingly more technical as new technologies for more accurate insight driven marketing are needed to harness the points mentioned above (the gradual transformation of shopping and big data to name just two). Companies need to master the power of building excellent relationships between Marketing and IT. This is not limited to the CMO and the CIO being good buddies, but actually the focus has to be (and it is already happening) between the staff in both lines of business, at all levels, regardless of seniority. Everybody is working much more  collaboratively  and speaking more often the common language that will make the corporation successful. Definitely more work is needed here in 2014, but the trend is out there and I have seen many signs of cross-training, job swapping, hot-desking and open minds ready to work together instead of in silos.


Rise of Design Thinking and feedback channels

I have seen Design Thinking becoming increasingly prominent across industries between vendor and customer in order to come up with better end products – those that the user is really interested in, and not necessarily the ones that product managers guessed can be the best for a particular target audience. On the start-up arena the approach was to use crowd-funding marketplaces as a funding sounding-board to know what people want and only develop that. Other approaches in the enterprise world for feedback channles included sentiment analysis, social media  and increased customer assurance interaction.


Electric vehicles

While not as prominent as other trends that I mention here,  2013 was the year that my favorite electric car company saw a positive income statement. Here in California I have seen these cars along with other brands zooming around with their new of models of almost library soundproof engines. It was pretty nice to see the government subsidizing purchases.


Wearables/bio-metrics

Everybody was already familiar with these small and trendy devices that track our sleep, pace, heart-beat, calories burned and even cheer as we increase our physical activity. This year, however, I saw a huge rise of different (some new) vendors getting into this segment and bringing new devices to the market. I myself have used several of them, compared them, discussed over a cup of coffee with friends and colleagues  while thinking how many more miles should I run the next day to make up for my indulgences.  Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen anything coming from the biggest players in the Tech Industry – but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened sooner than we expect.

MOOCs, learning and continuous development

The rise of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) reached a high that has inspired many institutions to continue fostering the development of this sort of learning platforms in order to ensure penetration of different areas of interest . From distinguished Ivy League Universities, to new open players,  to Open SAP, all have experienced how participants increased their knowledge and got certified in hot topics such as HANA development, Mobility or In-Memory Data Management. While drop-out rates were high, the huge number of participants made it still worth and I trust that this trend will continue growing even more in the years to come.

Social learning platforms, mobile learning, or apps proved that there’s a knowledge hungry crowd out there yearning to improve themselves and keep up to date with the fast pace set by technology and the world’s economy.


Start-ups

Ok, I may be biased here again by living in Silicon Valley, like with the topic on electric cars, but I have seen in 2013 more start-ups than ever catching up, beating the game and coming up with crazy ideas that are revolutionizing  the way we interact with each other. From the ones enabling  P2P payment transactions, to merging credit cards into a single one, to the large number of start-up acquisitions executed by all the tech moguls in 2013. I’ve seen start up focus programs, and a start-up rejecting billion dollar acquisition offers!!!  Silicon Valley still remains the #1 hot spot, but Tel Aviv, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Bangalore, Los Angeles, Toronto, or Boston were also extremely successful and the number of similar creative hubs is growing.


Increased  overlap between business and personal life

Yes, all the changes that are happening influence the way that we behave. While a few corporations may fear that some employees could spend too much of their time engaged in online social media personal activities, at home others may complain about the time spent online during off-office hours checking work email, researching for job related projects, networking,  increasing  klout scores, sharing information with coworkers or being submerged in their personal moments of truth about  products or services that didn’t exist a couple of years ago.

Business and personal are overlapping and the eternally searched paradigm of work-life balance is becoming a myth more than ever…but with a solution. If we reassess the whole idea  and remove the tags of “business” and “personal”, if we just focus on what we really like to do, then perhaps we’ll be free and there will be no need for a search for work-life balance, but there will rather  be just “balance” and it will basically depend on our ability to love what we do in life.

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