See also:
20 companies to watch in 2010
20 companies to watch in 2011

Welcome to the third annual hotlist of tech companies you should be watching in the next 12 months.

We’ve collected a roll-call of companies, both established market leaders and young pretenders, which are likely to make a mark on the coming twelve months.

The list has been compiled from suggestions supplied by a group of industry experts, including independent analysts and IT department heads.

Contributors include:
Mike Altendorf: CIO UK contributor
Angela Ashenden: MWD Advisors
Jon Baker: director of business technology for media distribution & consumer products licensing Disney Emea
Nic Bellenberg: consultant
Slava Budin-Jones: R&DIT GlaxoSmithKline
Jerry Fishenden: CIO UK contributor
Helena Schwenk: MWD Advisors
Robert Teagle: EMEA IT director, Starbucks Coffee Emea
Neil Ward Dutton: MWD Advisors

Acquired by oracle in late 2010, this business line provides enterprises with a cohesive online customer experience platform with sophisticated merchandising, marketing, and live-help services. It also specialises in content personalization, automated recommendations engineering. As one of only two enterprise scale multi- channel commerce platforms, the business is sure to be of interest to any business seriously exploring extending its core business into online activity.

Birst was an early pioneer of Saas-based BI and has grown steadily since its inception by providing capabilities for ETL (extract, transform, load), data warehousing, query, reporting, multi-dimensional analysis and dashboards targeted primarily at midsize companies or departments in large organisations. While there is a large assortment of public cloud BI players in the market, what makes Birst interesting is its recent move towards supporting on-premise deployments too, via its software-only appliance offering. Utilising the same architecture as its public cloud offering the company can offer some of the economics of a SaaS based deployment (in terms of faster time-to-value, scale and reduced management) while also giving customers the added control and manageability of an on-premise installation. While most of the established on-premise BI players are gradually ramping up their cloud presence it will be interesting to observe how a SaaS BI player can work in reverse, by effectively transitioning to an on-premise model while still keeping its value proposition of easy-to-use and affordable BI intact.

Box targets the space between content management and collaboration, more particularly in an online, SaaS-based model. Ithas created an interesting niche for itself which has not really been recognised by the broader business software market. Though the company is looking to extend its reach into the large enterprise space, Box's success has been with those organisations for whom even SharePoint is too complex and inflexible. By fleshing out and strengthening the online storage model, Box has captured the interest of the business users with the budget, while providing enough security to reassure IT departments. The company is squarely in growth mode, withits headcount having almost quadrupled since early 2010, and total funding to date of $80m (£50.6m). There’s plenty of room for improvement, but the company still has lots of potential,and its simple, open, and uncluttered approach is clearly pressing all the right buttons.

Given the rise of Big Data and Hadoop over the last year it would be remiss not to mention one of the up and coming players in this space. Cloudera is a commercial open source provider of software and services for the support and management of the Apache Hadoop platform, a family of product for taking advantage of Big Data. Although it’s not the only company to provide Hadoop management the company is certainly one of the most visible and prolific. A point also illustrated through its recently inked OEM deals with Dell and Oracle, as part of the latter’s Big Data appliance. The company’s growing enterprise credibility means it is well positioned to take advantage of the interest and investment in Hadoop; something that the larger and more established BI infrastructure players will no doubt be keeping an eye on.
This company’s not-fot-profit model could be appealing in the public sector given the economic climate and desire to move away from the big international Corporate system integrators. Specialising in online content management, web hosting and single sign-on services, this company could also appeal to commercial operations too. All profits the company gains are ploughed back into R&D. Certainly in government circles, Eduserv’s star is rising. Recent reports state public investment in the company has been increased, to the detriment of some of the traditional suppliers. This seems to imply they could be swimming against the tide and growing as other commercial competitors suffer.

Fluxicon and Futura PI
Business Process Management (BPM) technologies and techniques can dramatically improve organisations’ effectiveness and efficiency, but one of the costly challenges that BPM projects often face is the time it takes to discover how work is done. Traditional approaches revolve around interviewing people in face-to-face workshops, and then analysing the results. However process mining technology, which works from log files routinely created by existing software systems can very quickly infer the actual patterns of work that happen day-to-day and present these to help short-circuit and improve the accuracy of existing analysis methods. Much of the work in this space has been spawned from academic efforts at the University of Eindhoven, but a handful of companies, including the startups Fluxicon and Futura PI (the latter recently purchased by Lexmark’s Perceptive Software unit) are starting to make waves with commercial offerings.

Element8 Software is a UK-based provider of change management tools that is making waves in the UK healthcare sector, although it currently has a low market profile overall. Its product, xpoint, is a collaboration toolset that helps large organisations manage change initiatives. It’s rather like the inverse of a traditional project management tool: rather than focusing primarily on the internal focus of tracking and estimating, the more important goal for xpoint is making sure that management information concerning change projects and programmes is made available to everyone that needs it, whenever they need it, in a format that makes sense. As organisations look to wring more and more efficiency and effectiveness out of change management, we expect tools like xpoint to be increasingly important.

Undoubtedly the most talked-about IT company around. Pundits will be actively observing the company to see how its Apps service continues to develop and how it will continue to be adopted by real businesses and what their experiences are. Although many companies , Trinity Mirror and Rentokil to name but two, have migrated fairly critical systems onto Google Apps, others have been less eager to do so. Can corporates really give up their MS Exchange/Outlook dependencies? Maybe 2012 will establish this.

GreenPlum, acquired by EMC in mid-2010, is potentially very interesting as a way to make sense of the mass of unstructured big data from social sites. Many large organisations, especially those with strong brand identities, are interested in how to measure consumer sentiment about their products from what they say on social media. The company specialises in Big Data analytics that can be helpful in this. The company’s commitment to the Hadoop open source community and focus on matching up structured and unstructured data signals that it is likely to be a strong player in the emerging market for analytics.
As organisations increasingly look for better ways of collaborating electronically than email, the greatest challenge they face is convincing employees to tear themselves away from the familiar, comforting email client to take advantage of better alternatives. allows new tools into that email client instead. This reduces the burden on users by helping them access content in tools such as SharePoint without needing to switch between applications, and learn new UIs. As an independent player,'s solution makes a lot of sense for the many SharePoint customers facing this adoption challenge. The company is ambitious to expand to become an integration point between a wealth of social and collaborative applications, we expect to make a significant impact in 2012.
With the adoption of smart mobile devices starting to outgrow the sales of desktop PCs, the potential for commercial services to be offered over these devices becomes very strong. Big players like Visa have already paved the way for payments over mobiles and other players in this market will soon follow suit. provides secure vouchers to multiple devices – a factor competitors have so far failed to make the most of. This means the company could steal a good chunk of the NFC payments, cash out and vouchers markets. Brands already signed up include Coca-cola, Fosters and Nestle

This is an interesting loyalty platform. MePlease provides a solution that takes social CRM and enables it on any platform, device and to any CRM application. With so many legacy applications still existing in companies, particularly in retailers, a solution that can bridge across the social media world and behave like an in-house product has big potential. The opportunities for real targeted social marketing is huge.

QlikTech deserves to be on the list of companies to watch in 2012 because it continues to give larger BI players, such as Oracle, IBM and SAP Business Objects, a run for their money. The company's offering based around an associative in-memory database has paved the way for easier and faster ways to query, perform calculations and find visual patterns and relationships in data. Today around 22,000 organisations in more than 100 countries use its Business Discovery platform, QlikView, to this effect. The company’s recently released QlikView 11, which includes new capabilities for collaborative decision making, mobile BI and platform extensibility, will provide a valuable test of whether the company can build and continue to sustain this market momentum.

Quartet FS
This company produces ActivePivot, the first of a number of proprietary large scale in memory cube technologies that allow real time-data analysis and modelling. It creates near real time insight and reduced time to data value. Loved in the city where timely data-processing is highly valued, but already moving into big data in the retail, media and telco markets

Rimini Street
Rimini Street provides third-party support for JD Edwards, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Siebel and SAP licencees, offering a saving on direct support of 50 per cent. A potentially interesting supplier, particularly if it commits more to a UK presence. Given the economic climate, anyone who can disrupt by undercutting incumbents such as SAP and Oracle has the potential to do well.

See also: Good Times for CIOs on Rimini Street
The rise of social networking is expected to continue into 2012 as businesses start to adopt similar mechanics internally and to interact with customers over established social media. One of the shortcomings so far is that the medium is not able to replicate easily the real-life experience of small-scale mass interactions, like a party. is an attempt to plug this gap. The software is a downloadable flash app that integrates with Facebook to ease random encounters and free interactions from being linked as friends. As the corporate world adopt social networking, may provide a different way to network in business.

Skyscape is a UK cloud hosting company, with security accreditation up to IL6. Up to now, the cloud market has been dominated by big US players, such as AWS, Google and Salesforce, so it will be interesting to see if a UK company can make headway in this space.

Most companies have mountains of operational data that is recorded but very little business intelligence is harvested from it. Splunk is big data meets machine data meets time series. It fills the gap between log management, security information and event management products allowing for serious data mining and matching, trending and paves the way for real-time decision-making.

With its background in EAI and BPM, TIBCO is perhaps not the most obvious contender for success in the social collaboration space, and yet in the space of twelve months the company has chalked up over 60 customers for its new social product, tibbr. With an emphasis on linking information sources, people and systems, TIBCO takes an IT-friendly approach to social collaboration, highlighting its track record in security, governance and compliance. As organisations begin to mature in their adoption of social tools, the next steps in terms of delivering enterprise-wide solutions will inherently involve a more considered, strategic and controlled approach to deployment, with IT playing a much more central role. This is where TIBCO tibbr will shine.

Pic: RBerteig cc2.0

Do you agree with our panel's suggestions? If you have any companies to watch, post your comment below