Since it is the season of predictions, I thought I’d offer up a few of my own for 2014, based on my nearly three decades of experience working in enterprise software with databases, BI tools, and enterprise applications.
See the bottom for my disclaimer, and off we go. Here are my ten predictions for 2014.
- Despite various ominous comparisons to 1914 made by The Economist, I think 2014 is going to be a good year for Silicon Valley. I think the tech IPO market will continue to be strong. While some Bubble 2.0 anxiety is understandable, remember that while some valuations today may seem high, that the IPO bar is much higher today (at around $50M TTM revenues) than it was 13 years ago, when you could go public on $0 to $5M in revenues. In addition, remember that most enterprise software companies (and many Internet companies) today rely on subscription revenue models (i.e., SaaS) which are much more reliable than the perpetual license streams of the past. Not all exuberance is irrational.
- Cloud computing will continue to explode. IDC predicts that aggregate cloud spending will exceed $100B in 2014 with amazing growth, given the scale, of 25%. Those are big numbers, but think about this: some 15 years after Salesforce.com was founded, its head pin category, sales force automation (SFA), is still only around 40% penetrated by the cloud. ERP is less than 10% in the cloud. EPM is less than 5% in the cloud. As Bill Gates once said about prognostication, “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” IT is going to the cloud, inexorably, but change in IT never happens overnight.
- Big Data hype will peak. I remember the first time I heard the term “big data” (in about 2008 when I was on the board of Aster Data) and thinking: “wow, that’s good.” Turns out my marketing instincts were spot on. Every company today that actually is — or isn’t — a Big Data play is dressing up as one, which creates a big problem because the term quickly starts to lose meaning. As a result, Big Data today is nearing the peak of Gartner’s hype cycle. As a term it will start to fall off, but real Big Data technologies such as NoSQL databases and predictive analytics will continue to face a bright future.
- The market will be unable to supply sufficient Data Science talent. If someone remade The Graduate today, they’d change Mr. McGuire’s line about “plastics” to “data science.” Our ability to amass data and create analytics technology is quickly surpassing our ability to use it. Job postings for data scientists were up 15,000% in 2012 over 2011. Colleges are starting to offer data science degrees (for example, Berkeley and Northwestern). There’s even an a startup, Udacity, specifically targeting the need for data science education. Because of the scarcity of data science talent, the specialization required to correctly use it, and the lack of required scale to build data science teams, data science consultancies like Palantir and Mu Sigma will continue to flourish.
- Privacy will remain center stage. Trust in “Don’t Be Evil” Google and Facebook has never been particularly high. Nevertheless, it seems like the average person has historically felt “you can do whatever you want with my personal data if you want to pitch me an advertisement” — but, thanks to Edward Snowden — we now know we can add, “and if the government wants to use that data to stop a terrorist attack, then back off.” It’s an odd asymmetry. These are complex questions, but in a world where the cost of data collection will converge to free, will the privacy violation be in collecting the data or in analyzing it? In a world where one trusted the government to adequately control the querying and access (i.e., where it took a warrant from a non-secret court), I’d argue the query standard might be good enough. Regardless, the debate sparked thus far will continue to burn in 2014 and tech companies will very much remain in the center of it.
- Mobile will continue to drive consumer companies like Dropbox and Evernote, but also enterprise companies like Box, Clari, Expensify, and MobileIron. Turns out the enterprise killer app for mobile was less about getting enterprise applications to run on mobile devices and more about device proliferation, uniform access to content, and eventually security and management. (And since I’m primarily an enterprise blogger, I won’t even mention social à la SnapChat or mobile gaming). As one VC recently told me over dinner, “God bless mobile.” Amen in 2014.
- Social becomes a feature, not an app. When I first saw Foursquare in 2010, I thought it should be the example in the venture capital dictionary for “feature, not company.” Location-awareness has definitely become a feature and these days I do more check-in’s on Facebook than Foursquare. I felt the same way when I worked at Salesforce.com and we were neck deep in the “social enteprise” vision. When I saw Chatter, I thought “cool, but who needs yet another communications platform.” Then I realized you could follow a lead, a case, or an opportunity and I was hooked. But those are all feature use-cases, not application or company use-cases. Given the pace of Salesforce, they fell in love with, married, and divorced social faster than most vendors could figure out their product strategy. In the end, social should be an important feature of an enterprise application, almost a fabric built across modules. I think that vision ends up getting implemented in 2014. (Particularly if Microsoft ends up putting in David Sacks as its next CEO as some speculate.)
- SAP’s HANA strategy actually works. I was one of relatively few people who was absolutely convinced that SAP’s $5.8B purchase of Sybase in 2010 was more about databases than mobile. SAP is clearly crafting a strategy to move both analytics and transactional database processing onto HANA and they have been doggedly consistent about HANA and its importance to the firm going forward. They have been trying for decades to eliminate their dependency on Oracle — e.g., the 1997 Adabas D acquisition from Software AG — and I believe this time they will finally succeed. In addition, they will succeed — quite ironically — with their ingredient-branding strategy around HANA using a database to differentiate an application suite, something that they themselves would have seen as heresy 20 years ago.
- Good Data goes public. Cloud-based BI tools have had a tough slog over the years. Some good companies were too early to market and failed (e.g., LucidEra). Birst, another early entrant, certainly hasn’t had an easy time over its ten-year history. Personally, while I was always a fan of cloud-based applications (having become a big Salesforce customer in 2003), I always worried that with cloud-based BI tools, you’d have too much of the nothing-to-analyze problem. Good Data got around that problem early on by adopting a Crystal-like OEM strategy, licensing their tools through SaaS applications vendors. They later evolved to a general cloud-based BI platform and applications strategy. The company was founded in 2007, has raised $75M in VC, is reportedly doing very well, and an IPO seems a likely event in its future. I’m calling 2014.
- Adaptive Planning gets acquired by NetSuite. Adaptive Planning was founded in 2003 as a cloud-based planning company and — despite both aspirations and claims to the contrary — in my estimation continues to play the role of the low-priced, cheap-and-cheerful planning solution for small and medium businesses. That market position, combined with an existing, long-term strategic relationship whereby NetSuite resells Adaptive as NetSuite Financial Planning, makes me believe that 2014 will be the year that NetSuite finally pulls the trigger and acquires Adaptive Planning. I think this deal could go down one of two ways. If Adaptive continues to perform as they claim, then a potential S-1 filing could serve as a trigger for NetSuite (much as Crystal Decisions’ S-1 served as a trigger for Business Objects). Or, if Adaptive hits rough road in 2014 for any reason (including the curse of the new headquarters) then that could trigger NetSuite with a value-shopper impulse leading to the same conclusion.
I should end with a bonus prediction (#11) that Host Analytics, our customers, and my colleagues will enjoy a successful 2014, continuing to execute on our cloud strategy to put the E back in EPM — focus and leadership in the enterprise segment of the market — and that we will continue to acquire both high-growth companies who want an EPM solution with which they can scale and liberate enterprises from costly and painful Hyperion implementations and upgrades.
Finally, let me conclude by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and great business success in 2014.
- See my FAQ to understand my various allegiances and disclaimers.
- Remember I am the CEO of Host Analytics so I have a de facto pro-Host Analytics viewpoint.
- Predictions are opinion: I have mine; yours may differ.
- Finally, remember the famous Yogi Berra quote: predictions are hard, especially about the future.