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Report Highlights Social Tech To Watch

Market research firm Gartner has released its 2013 Hype Cycle for Social Software and pointed out a handful of social technologies IT professionals should be aware of as they mature over the next few years.

The Hype Cycle is Gartner's model of technology development. It comprises five phases designed to describe the life of any given technology. Phases of the cycle include, in order, a technology trigger, a peak of inflated expectations, a trough of disillusionment, a slope of enlightenment, and a plateau of productivity.

"IT leaders must keep abreast of this evolving sector in order to take advantage of social capabilities and understand the implications that social software developments have for related technologies," said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "As social technologies mature and organizations improve their understanding of how to apply them, they will be found in more and more situations. Increasingly, social technologies are not implemented on a stand-alone basis, but are tightly integrated within a variety of other technologies, including business, IT operations, unified communications and collaboration applications."

Technologies highlighted by Gartner and identified as being on the rise toward inflated expectations in 2013 include mobile virtual worlds, social co-browsing, and collaborative customer interfaces.

Mobile virtual worlds, which may be extensions of PC- or Web-based virtual worlds or totally mobile services, are simulated environments experienced by users through mobile device-based avatars. Though they are currently most often targeted at teens for social networking or gaming, "these new mobile application paradigms might innovate traditional mobile application interfaces and significantly transform the interaction style and application designs during the next three years," according to information released by Gartner. The company predicts that mobile virtual worlds will reach the plateau of productivity in five to ten years.

Social co-browsing is the collaborative Web browsing of two or more users from the same social network in disparate physical locations. Though it may prove useful in the short-term, Gartner predicts that social co-browsing will be obsolete before it reaches maturity.

Collaborative customer interfaces allow a service representative and a constituent to share a live version of an application. "This requires the organization to redesign the graphical user interface and the underlying technologies to dynamically generate personalized interfaces," according to the company, but it also allows institutions to provide constituents a highly personalized experience and a feeling of participation. Collaborative interfaces will reach maturity in five to ten years, according to Gartner.

Technologies Gartner has identified at the peak of inflated expectations include gamification, social content, and social recruitment software. Tools currently in the trough of disillusionment, according to the company, include cloud office systems, social media distribution, mass collaboration, and virtual reality. Technologies currently on the slope of enlightenment and headed toward the plateau of productivity, according to Gartner, include unified communications and social media engagement solutions.

"Given the rapid advance of social software in terms of adoption and sophistication, CIOs and other IT leaders in all organizations — irrespective of size, industry, and region — should frequently review their assumptions, strategies, and competitive positioning," said Mann, in a prepared statement. "For most categories of enterprise software, behavioral changes are required to achieve successful outcomes. Be purposeful in pursuing social initiatives, and prepare to evolve your strategy continuously."

The full report is available for purchase at gartner.com.

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