The 2021 enterprise software un-predictions - your fallible guide to the next un-normal

Jon Reed & Brian Sommer Profile picture for user jonandbrian December 8, 2020
Deluged by tech predictions pieces? Worry not, dear reader, Jon and Brian serve your revenge piping hot - via their annual un-predictions. Yes, the tech soothsayers and prognosticators are at it again. But so are we - this time with a few satirical fireballs from Den Howlett mixed in for good measure. Enjoy!


We reviewed our un-predictions from last year and, despite the whopper curveballs that 2020 put us all through, they miraculously held up. Well, except for our potshots at on-the-ground events.

For a hot minute, we worried vendors wouldn't be able to make their virtual events as ridiculous as the on-the-ground events we mocked last year, but no worries there - they pulled it off, and then some!

An absurd year clearly calls for another batch of fearless un-predictions. We hope it's a satirical holiday tonic versus the shiny crystal balls of the techno-gurus. Unfortunately, those AI-powered fortune tellers are officially out of warranty, after a wildly inaccurate 2020:

drumrolls please...

The top 15 un-predictions for 2021

  1. Kitchen goods manufacturer Rubbermaid will enter the database market in 2021 with their new ‘container' technology!
  2. Some smart marketer will add the letter 'X' in front of their tech firm's solutions. The products won't be any different, but the experience in paying for them will be transformed.
  3. VMWare will announce that we'll experience not a K-shaped or V-shaped recovery, but a VM-shaped one!  
  4. If you thought OKRs were the cat's pajamas in HR software in 2020, they'll be replaced with VCRs in 2021 (verifiable, credible reviews).
  5. Not to be outdone, another HR vendor announces its new Beta-to-the-Max (i.e., BetaMax) program for early platform adoption!  
  6. Data warehouses were replaced by data lakes. Data lakes were replaced by data oceans. Soon, data oceans will be replaced by data planets. We can't wait to see the backup drive for that (or where you put it)!
  7. 2021 will be the year that one vendor will attempt to create a genetically-modified hybrid cloud.
  8. Diginomica's Den Howlett misreads the instructions for an analyst Zoom call on the New Normal. He thought it said the New Formal and appeared online in a tux!  
  9. With all manner of in-person events canceled in 2020, Marketing peeps will spend much of 2021 trying to unload tons of irrelevant 2020 conference tote bags, water bottles, name badges, etc.   Industry analysts will receive 100 commemorative 2020 tote bags apiece, delivered by forklift, when in-person briefings resume.
  10. For their next "re-imagined virtual event experience," a software vendor inadvertently streams their 2020 keynote again. It takes several days before anyone notices the mistake.
  11. An enterprise startup is forced to declare bankruptcy when its "Intelligent 5G" files a lawsuit against itself for false bandwidth claims.
  12. A PR firestorm erupts when a vendor's customer data platform shows up on Craigslist.
  13. The classic Bee Gees song 'Stayin' Alive' will be remastered and licensed for weekly all hands Zoom call intros when the CEO of an 'in transition' ERP vendor addresses the troops. The rationale for taking up the song is that its BPM (that's Beats Per Minute, not Business Process Management) rate is in the recommended range for performing CPR. In other news, customers of those firms marching to 'Stayin' Alive' will be asking their sales reps to consider 'Walking In My Shoes', courtesy of Depeche Mode.
  14. Next spring's virtual events will be correctly described as "52 ways to cure your insomnia" - a three-day crash course that will guarantee optimum snooze levels inside 30 minutes. Replays will be available on all the usual channels at 99 cents per session - with discounts for light sleepers. It's the industry's way of demonstrating that "we really do get SaaS pricing."
  15. Action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme will release a new Covid-themed movie in 2021. He'll play himself and his evil twin: Jean-Claude Van Demic

The 2021 un-predictions generator

For those of you who don't have Jon's and Brian's free time to develop your own un-predictions, we've created the following tool. All you have to do is pick something from each column and voila, you've got a winner!

Un-predictions generator by Brian Sommer
(by Brian Sommer)

New tech buzzwords for 2021

It wouldn't be a new year without some shiny new self-driving buzzwords to impress your synergy-weary friends.

FlatForm -  what you call a new software platform that is a dud sales-wise.

Flexcapable - what you call a software prospect that wants to become dynamic, resilient, agile, etc. but hasn't done anything about it yet.

Snarktacular - What industry analysts call a badly run virtual briefing.

Resilliness - The unbelievable hype around ‘resilient' organizations.

Zeaming - another addition to the new "agile workplace" lexicon. The art of being on a Zoom and a Microsoft Teams call at the same time. This trend, pioneered by Ray Wang, will become ubiquitous.

Stat-dodging and Stat-stuffing - the tactics clever workers will use when their employers attempt to monitor their repetitive tasks using work surveillance volume metrics. Also see: head-shotting - the appearance of being on a team video call, when you are actually enjoying a hot breakfast with your spouse, or a steaming hot shower.

The DT's - What IT people call piddly, unspectacular integration projects that their employer is hyping as a digital transformation project. ("You look down today, Joan." "Oh, I'm ok, just have a case of the DTs again.")

HyperLoop - not a transportation medium, but what happens when a tech PR person keeps calling the same writers/reporters on a negligible software story. 

Flannel Partner - what you call a software channel partner that sells exclusively into rural markets.

Flatulessence - the sweet smell of someone selling you the Next Big Thing.

Slackathon - no, we're not talking about the extent to which people are gaming attention through collaboration tools, but the fine art of appearing busy while in reality doing nothing of value. Project consultants always find a way to get invited to these events, usually on the client's dime.

A Trillion Clubber - that exclusive band of C-suite execs who were suckered into going with a single vendor only to find the value achieved was fractional to the amount spent. A bit like being a Million Miler on United, only more dubious better.

Sneak preview - new tech movies for 2021

"Creature from the SaaS Lagoon" - A new Halloween classic about an ERP salesperson who walks out of a swamp to terrorize customers with surprise usage audits.

"X vs. XXX" - A coming of age story of an ERP vendor who wants to put ‘X' in front of all of their solutions (e.g., Customer Xperience). The CEO squares off in court with a seedy adult film maker who argues that they own the rights to 'X-rated'.  

"Hyperscaling Everest" - A story about a CIO who finally migrates his computing load to a hyperscaler named Everest, but must first overcome a lot of pushback from his long-time outsourcer.

"Diversify This!" - Applicants excluded by hiring algorithms band together and form a swat hacking team, led by Dolly Parton and Angela Basset, who successfully reprogram the algorithm with the help of a renegade chatbot.

"World War 5G" - A post-apocalyptic world where only zombies have 5 bars of 5G bandwidth, while a plucky group of nerds armed with only EDGE-enabled candy bar phones try to save humanity.

"Platform Brothers: Forever Home" - Drew, his twin brother and a team of systems integrators spend millions in transforming a perfectly good ERP system into one with a modern platform. During the big reveal, we learn it's functionally the same as before.

Remember, the first letter of any list of predictions must spell out a post-COVID word like resilient, scalable, flexible or:

  • Anything "that can and should be automated, will be automated" (from a real PR pitch of obvious genius predictions).
  • George Wendt will reprise his Cheers role in a new tech advertising campaign where everyone calls him the new "NORM…al".
  • Information will be the new hydrogen (powering your cloud, but look out, it's flammable), and ERP vendors will discover new ways to frack customer wallets.
  • Last one off on-premises applications is a rotten-egg.
  • Edge computing - your chance to put hackable devices as close to your family, friends, and mission-critical equipment as possible.

And as before, Brian still won't sign-up for Facebook.

The ultimate enterprise pickup line will change once again: from "Can I give you my X's and O's?" to "If you're feeling hyper, I can scale!" (Den's fave), or "Could I interest you in a flexible, hybrid arrangement?" (Jon's Fav), or "Care to log-in somewhere private? I've got the best (Zoom) green screen in town!" (Brian's Fav).

And: somewhere, somehow, someone will once again be thanked for their leadership. #TYFYL. We'll start with Den Howlett, who contributed some hand-crafted doozies to this year's collection.

If you're looking for more, track Jon and Brian on Twitter - we'll be sharing some near-misses from the cutting room floor. Jon also has a penchant for satire and strikethroughs in his weekly hits/misses roundups

Image credit - Feature image - Telling the future, @EverettCollection, from Un-predictions generator created and copyrighted by Brian Sommer.

Disclosure - No vendors were financially involved in the satirical production of the un-predictions, thankfully for them and us.

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