Inspired by recent theories around the nature of the time-space continuum, specifically that the past crystallizes out of the future, I thought I’d “wrap-up” Defrag by trying to look ahead to 2010 — and the in process of doing so offer up some “what I learned” thoughts.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin by saying that I’m continually amazed at and grateful to the folks that make up the “audience” (more properly, “participants”) at Defrag. The energy, enthusiasm and knowledge that all of you bring to the table is boundless. Every Defrag leaves me with constructive criticism alongside with your compliments –and I treasure both. We work all year long to exceed your expectations, and that will never change.

One of the key things I’ve learned from the folks at Defrag is that the group that assembles, for whatever reason, is roughly 12 months ahead of the pack in their thinking. And that plays into what I’ll say below.

So, where are we headed? In order to answer that, I want to frame things in the context of the macro-economy.

Prior to this year’s Defrag, I argued that we were in the beginning stages of a “productivity boom.” This productivity boom encompassed four parts (in my mind): 1) the internal collaborative solutions; 2) the externally facing solutions (social media); 3) the rise of the application marketplace in the enterprise; and 4) the imperative for enterprise IT to become agile (i.e., move to the cloud) in order to support 1, 2, and 3. I stand by that argument. In fact, Defrag only reinforced my belief in the fact that this productivity boom will play out over the next 3-5 years.

However, the macro-economic context that I said was amplifying this boom (the jobless recovery) remains in place, and leads me directly to what I think will happen in 2010. My personal macro-economic view is pretty static for 2010: things get better, things get worse, things get better as we roll back and forth through contradictory numbers for most of the year. While we might see an uptick in the recovery in the spring/summer timeframe, I expect that uptick to be short-lived — with a roll-over turn down erasing that uptick by the end of the year. Basically, I expect 2010 to be an ongoing refrain of Q3/Q4 in 2009. That said…

Over the next twelve months, I expect the following three things to occur: 1) “enterprise 2.0” vendors will continue to learn that they must reconcile the internal/external solutions if they are going to truly address the needs of their enterprise customers; 2) there will NOT be a lot of growth in the “enterprise 2.0” marketplace; 3) the innovators in the space will move aggressively toward the idea of a “service platform.” (Hat tip to Mike Gotta on this.)

Let me expound a bit:

1) Enterprise 2.0 vendors will learn that they must reconcile the internal and external solutions: Notice I say “learn,” not implement. The bottom line here is that any perception of difference between external solutions (social media) and internal solutions (collaboration) is just that – a difference in perception alone. Enterprises will not see the true ROI of these solutions unless vendors can offer them the “unified theory” of interaction and collaboration. I expect lots of “partnerships” that will see external and internal vendors working together in 2010. And I think that the core of where these solutions head will be around analytics and BI.

2) There will not be a lot of growth in the “enterprise 2.0” marketplace in 2010: If anything, we’ll see consolidation in the market, as vendors either hold off on enterprise-wide implementation, or begin to enter the trough of disillusionment via implementations that are coming to fruition. What I’m NOT saying here is that enterprise 2.0 is a failure, or invalid, or anything like that. What I AM saying is that 2010 will not be some year of explosive growth/adoption for the solutions *as they currently stand.*

3) The innovators will move toward “service platforms”: the bleeding edge of this marketplace (be it external or internal) is going to move toward service platforms. Being a “platform” is a much different proposition than being an application, and the transition will destroy several companies. However, I think the move in that direction is nearly inevitable. Think “platform.” Just keep thinking “platform” — and how those platforms can integrate/spawn service marketplaces. Much more on this over the next year (obviously).

That’s my takeaway from 2009. My excitement for this space remains unabated heading into 2010, but I think a good dose of realism is called for when thinking about the “market” as a whole. Still, the innovators will innovate – and inevitably, they’ll be at Defrag 2010. 😉