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Four directions enterprise tech will take in 2011

Social, the cloud, gamification — it all sounds like consumer-enterprise convergence. It’s not, exactly, but these trends are a sign that enterprise has some catching up to do after a year of massive evolution in consumer gadgets.

Gamification of enterprise apps running on tablets? In 2011, you bet.

With only a day to go until the end of 2010, the lists predicting which technologies will dominate the headlines next year are rampant. Well, I’m throwing my hat into the ring as well, with a list of the top four enterprise tech trends to watch in 2011:

CLOUD COMPUTING Sure, the technology’s been around for years, but when the U.S. Department of Agriculture starts betting the farm on it, you know it’s going mainstream. Expect more federal, state and local agencies to switch to Web-based applications and services in 2011 (the White House has mandated a “cloud-first” policy and plans to cut government data centers by 40 percent over the next five years). The private sector will continue to embrace the cloud as well. While Google’s (GOOG) Gmail for enterprise still commands a tiny portion of the overall corporate email market, it’s no longer just a cost-saving alternative for Silicon Valley startups that can’t afford Microsoft (MSFT) Exchange servers. Still not convinced? Research firm IDC predicts that spending on public IT cloud services will grow more than five times the rate of the IT industry in 2011, up 30% from 2010.

GAMIFICATION Whether you think Zynga-like game mechanics (like coins and virtual gifts) are a ridiculous fad or the next big thing, expect to see more companies trying to drive up employee participation and customer engagement by jumping on the gamification bandwagon in 2011. Industries like health care, media and retail are already toying with game dynamics—awarding active employees or customers with virtual badges, for example. And startups with quirky names like Bunchball, Badgeville and BigDoor are rushing in to power the enterprise market’s appetite for game mechanics. Want to know more? The first-ever Gamificiation Summit—a two-day conference dedicated to, you guessed it, gamification—takes place in San Francisco this January.

CONSUMERIZATION More and more iPads will find their way into the workplace in 2011, but the vast majority of them (60% to 70%) won’t be purchased by IT departments. And it’s not just iPads. Employees will continue to bring an increasing number of personal smartphones and even consumer class PCs into the office, where they’ll expect to use them to access email and other corporate applications. Pulling up sensitive company data on their shiny new tablet may make workers happy, but the consumerization trend has its downsides—it can wreak havoc on IT departments, who are tasked with supporting and securing a growing number of devices and operating systems. But it’s a good problem for companies like Redwood City, Calif.-based Good, which lets IT professionals manage multiple devices (i.e. control which applications employees can access and remotely erase data from lost or stolen phones) from a single, web-based portal.

SOCIAL SOFTWARE Good news for those of us who sneak a peak at our Facebook feed while at work: Social networking may soon be part of our job description. In 2011, the market for enterprise social software is expected to grow to $769 million, up 15.7% from 2010, according to market research firm Gartner. Of course, most companies are opting for secure, private networking software that’s optimized for the workplace, not Facebook. Dell (DELL) already has over 100,000 of its employees posting status updates and sharing files on Chatter,’s (CRM) cloud-based collaboration platform (which recently became available in a stripped-down, free version). In November, IBM (IBM) unveiled a new version of Lotus Connections, its corporate social software suite, and SAP (SAP) recently made its collaboration application, StreamWork, available for purchase in the Google Apps Marketplace. Smaller players like Jive Software, Socialtext and Socialcast are also trying to bring social networking into the workplace.

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