Standing for Social, Mobile, Analytics (based on big data), and Cloud, SMAC describes a new type of product and service combo that American and European companies are adopting to deliver effective and agile customer experiences. And remaining competitive in certain sectors — like IT or media distribution — may depend on it.

An easy way to visualize a so-called SMAC stack is Netflix. The movie/entertainment game-changer uses advanced analytics and elaborate algorithms to recommend films tailored to you. It then streams media from the cloud and allows you to view it seamlessly on multiple platforms — your television, your tablet, your phone, etc. And after all that, you have the option to share your thoughts with your social graph.

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What distinguishes a SMAC stack is that all of these components work together as an ecosystem. New features aren’t haphazardly “bolted on.” Instead, mobile capabilities drive even richer data collection that can be used to delve analysis (based on big data), engage social channels and give customers increasingly personalized experiences.

The injection of social into mobile/analytics/cloud infrastructures has really been the catalyst for the popularity of the SMAC approach. It’s a whole mode of behavior, redefining the way we engage with almost all digital services and each other.

So, what does this affect enterprise IT departments?

IT departments have had the mission of bringing together and maintaining scattered, disparate platforms, networks and equipment to give internal and external customers the answer they need.

Now, mobility and cloud computing in particular have made consistent, scalable solutions possible across multiple types of platforms. As cloud-based software doesn’t have to be tailored for specific operating systems, the SMAC approach significantly simplifies the management of enterprise IT environment. Used together, the SMAC resources can make IT operations more lean, fast and smart.

What will be most interesting is how the approach will evolve we learn more about social, mobile, analytics and the cloud can be optimized. That’s the beauty of the SMAC approach after all. Each component deepens understanding of the others, making for an increasingly powerful, long-term strategy.