The Year Ahead
Business Technology in 2018:
39 Expert Predictions
Industry experts give their predictions for business technology, trends and best practices in the year ahead
Internet of Things to Transform the Supply Chain
Tons has been written about how the Internet of Things is revolutionising devices from bike locks to fridges – but incorporating this technology into sensors will be the real game-changer, and I think this will emerge in 2018.
Amongst other uses, this technology will enable consumables to be reordered automatically when they run out or expire, and sensors will help people run their smart homes more efficiently. For marketers, this means that items can be sent to businesses and consumers directly, before customers even know they need them. This could potentially cut out a huge part of the supply chain as we know it, and have major ramifications on the day-to-day life of ordinary consumers.
Jim Bowes, CEO and founder, Manifesto
There Will Be a Battle over IoT Data Ownership
In light of highly publicized security breaches throughout 2017, everyone is concerned about their data. And the IoT is generating more data than ever before.
In 2017, IoT and Big Data intersected in a big way to collect, analyze and make sense of IoT data. In 2018 the industry will move forward into a new era – one that requires figuring out who gets access to that data, how can it be used, and who owns it. And with only 1% of IoT data actually being used today – it is now critical to determine which data is actually valuable and actionable to help drive real results.
Theresa Bui, director of strategy, Cisco IoT
User Experience Improvements and Voice Interaction Vital to Brands
Tech may be changing rapidly, but its evolution is anything but random. Improving user experience is common among technologies that are truly disrupting their sectors. This is only set to continue.
Looking at how consumers want to engage with technology – which requires more thought than observing current habits – is the only way for brands to ensure success in 2018. Connectivity that has real purpose in real lives. The rise of ad-blocking tells us that, increasingly, this type of engagement is vital for brands in the digital space.
The current upsurge in the adoption of Alexa, Siri and Google Home into real living spaces will create a new normal for brand engagement. Voice is evolving and soon we will be able to use normal, everyday language to find out more about the content we're consuming, as opposed to set commands.
This is an opportunity for brands to have valuable, recognisable, valuable conversations with customers. But these will be by invitation only. By providing useful, entertaining and relevant additional content brands have a great opportunity to get on the guest list.
In addition to voice computer vision (embedded in devices and powered by machine learning from features such as Google Lens), mixed reality applications and distributed applications (DApps) on blockchain will all alter the tech landscape in 2018.
Rob Bennett, managing director, rehab
Businesses to Embrace Hybrid Cloud Solutions
In 2018, we can expect to see more businesses pushing their ERP and CRM systems into the private cloud. Most businesses are already using the cloud for part of their IT infrastructure without realising, whether it’s to host their e-mail servers or their financial information.
With the right supplier and security measures in place, cloud computing can help businesses to fully integrate their systems, so they can better protect and back-up their data. This is known as a hybrid approach and means that businesses can integrate all their operations by combining several cloud-based applications into a single-tenanted solution.
In the SME market space, there is a lack of education about cloud computing and the availability of hybrid solutions. In 2018, we can expect SMEs to see the value of selecting a vendor that specialises in software for their industry or has an interest in better understanding what their business does.
Sage is one established software author developing its ERP offerings specifically to meet the growing SME demand for digital platforms. This includes its Sage X3 offering to give SMEs a scalable solution, which now includes enterprise intelligence to make the data more meaningful for business owners.
James Bedford, technical director, CPiO
GDPR Will Become Obsolete By the End Of 2018
High on the agenda for businesses in 2018 is GDPR compliance. Yet despite the fact this is the year GDPR comes into effect, I believe it’ll be the year it becomes obsolete. For most organisations it's going to impose more paperwork, tick boxes etc, making the consumer experience more cumbersome.
But I believe by the end of the year blockchain technology will become more established and there will be systems in place that solve the GDPR issue making it redundant. However, for now it’s still good to have because it’s pushing people in the right direction, making data protection a personal issue and driving awareness of decentralisation.
Jed Grant, CEO, Peer Mountain
The End of Sweating
No, not some anti-perspirant invention, but the end of extended asset/technology sweating.
Many organisations have, since the financial crisis of 2008/9 chosen to sweat their assets longer than normal, in many cases expecting to pick-up their investments after 5-7 years instead of the usual 3-5 year period.
However, with the uncertainty and financial impact of the Brexit vote, many have extended further the sweating period.
I predict that 2018 will see those organisations who have underinvested in technology in the last decade, feel confident enough to now invest.
They will be in the fortunate position of being able to take a massive stride forward in terms of their digital transformation as their years of sweating will have created a workforce crying out for change – and successful and driven change is one of the hardest parts in a digital transformation journey; the technology part is in many ways the easy part.
Kevin Linsell, CTO, Timico
Chatbots Will Get Better At Understanding – and Manipulating – Us
In 2018, chatbots will rapidly become more sophisticated, thus dramatically reducing the costs of routine customer care activities and improving the customer experience. They will be able to quickly understand the tone, content and predicted highest-value conversational paths to meet different interaction objectives.
On the dark side, this subtle ‘engagement’ can turn to manipulation if AI learns the magic words to sway our attitudes, actions and possibly elicit en masse reactions.
Dr Scott Zoldi, chief analytics officer, FICO
2018 is the Year IoT Adoption Increases Thanks to Blockchain
One of the biggest challenges IoT has faced is the lack of a cooperation within the industry to create a unified IoT framework. Without a central shared platform, businesses have spent countless hours developing virtually identical solutions in isolation from one another.
The absence of collaboration has slowed IoT solution adoption and created significant integration challenges. From a developer's perspective, it’s produced a confusing, messy mish-mash of tech that has made development difficult. The result? Adoption has been significantly impeded, and IoT is nowhere near fulfilling its potential.
I believe this year blockchain will help speed up adoption by enabling the development of apps that have high performance thresholds, supporting the data intensive processing required.
Craig Sproule, CEO, Crowd Machine
Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics to Become the Norm in Enterprise
As digital transformation continues to drive an accelerated pace of business, enterprise organisations will need to become far more data-centric in their operations. This will only be possible if big data stores are combined with machine learning and predictive analytic capabilities to gather meaningful and useable intelligence from the ‘noise’ of complex raw data.
In addition to offering key insights and pinpointing trends or problem areas to direct business decisions, this will ensure employees spend less time sorting through overwhelming amounts of often unstructured – and poorly organised – information to get their jobs done.
Taking a more data-centric approach means employees have access to the right information at the right time, giving them the tools they need to get work in a productive manner. As a result, machine learning and highly predictive analytics will become widely accepted as the norm in the enterprise this year.
Geoff Webb, Vice President, Strategy at Micro Focus
Speed Will Be Crucial To Keeping Pace in the Retail Race
Speed will be of the essence in 2018’s retail race. Shoppers expect to be able to browse and buy at the time they want, on the device they want, without having to wait for slow page loads, outdated stock level information, or limited and sluggish delivery options. They also expect this kind of slick service in-store, meaning retailers must adopt new techniques and innovative services, as well as updating back-end technology, to stay competitive and relevant in 2018.
The unstoppable rise in online sales has been accompanied by the demise of many high street stores which have failed to deliver on shopper demands. Fewer people chose to visit bricks-and-mortar shops to buy Christmas gifts in 2017; a trend that continued on Boxing Day, with total shopper numbers 4.5% down on 2016.
This is more than a passing trend, and instead marks a general shift in shopping habits that all retailers must acknowledge and adapt to next year, or face tough times. Next is a prime example of a retailer that has done just that. Investing in its online operations allowed Next to reap the rewards of an unexpected sales surge over Christmas, with a 13.6% rise in online sales boosting overall growth.
Scott Lester, CEO, Flixmedia
Rapid Adoption of Automation Technologies
While automation technologies made a big splash in recent years, there is still a lot of questions and some fear around adoption. How hard are these technologies to implement with my legacy systems? Are the benefits real? How long until we see value?
In 2018, as more and more successful use cases come to light and pilot programs will show ROI. The path to success will be more clearly paved and confidence in investing in the technology will grow. Companies will also start to feel the pressure that the first-mover advantage of AI will begin disappearing and will drive more widespread adoption.
In addition, the technology will also see it’s next big step in maturity. We’ll reactive automation move to proactive use cases that will help turn service engagements into sales opportunities and see deeper contact center integrations. In 2017 most AI deployments were siloed – think the standalone Facebook chatbot – but now the bar has been raised to ensure frictionless transitions between AI and human agents.
Ryan Lester, director of customer engagement solutions, LogMeIn
2018 Will Be Huge For AR in Retail and E-Commerce
The Ikea AR app was the first sign that AR can be successfully harnessed by brands. The technology brings retail marketing to a whole new level by providing potential customers with the option to get information about the product while interacting with it in a digital space.
That becomes particularly useful when purchasing/selling furniture and home decor, fashion and luxury goods and cars.
It is evident that 2018 will be huge for AR in retail and e-commerce. Amazon’s Summerian facilitates the building of VR/AR spaces in a browser which will have a massive impact on the retail. It signals a growing trend in AR/VR experimentation within the retails space.
AR could have a disruptive effect on new payment solutions for retail, with Mastercard and Visa already adopting the technology on a massive scale.
Piotr Baczyński, CEO, Immersion
2018’s Winning Businesses Will Take a Human-First Approach
The winners in 2018 will be businesses that take a human-first approach to their technology development. By this we mean businesses that include customers, employees and other stakeholders at every stage of the discovery and development process to understand the problems, test possible solutions and finally identify the most appropriate technical solutions.
During the past few years the toolbox of possible solutions has grown rapidly to now include AI/Machine Learning, AR, Chatbots and Blockchain. This presents an opportunity for businesses to significantly improve customer experience, reduce costs and remove certain customer serving roles that have been traditionally outsourced or free up staff to focus on activity that benefits from human skills.
But it’s important not to get distracted by shiny new things and remember the problem that identified at the start of the process to ensure that the most appropriate technology solution is chosen to solve this.
Magnus Jern, CIO, DMI
IoT to Drive a Disruption of the Supply Chain
Britain’s manufacturers currently have their largest order books since 1988, with the weak pound often cited. However, it is the increasing adoption of emerging technology, with the Internet of Things at the fore, which we predict will disrupt and transform the manufacturing business in 2018 and beyond.
Why the Internet of Things? The answer is that manufacturers are now better at collecting and understanding the data coming from all aspects of the production.
This opens up the possibility of major change. Data is the key to IoT, and when combined with AI and machine learning, it means lower costs, improved efficiency and increased margins. In a production line, iterative improvements like ensuring the machines work longer in a day or fewer components failing can have a transformative effect on the economics of a factory.
Innovative startups are powering this revolution. For example, WePredict is helping the automotive industry reduce the failure rates of individual components through sophisticated analytics or Senseye is assisting manufacturers to reduce maintenance costs by automatically identifying and predicting equipment failure through machine learning algorithms.
The potent combination of data and technology will create new ways of serving existing needs and disrupting value and supply chains across a whole variety of sectors.
Tim Stone, venture partner director, Breed Reply
The Decline of the Startup Advisor
In the absence of democratised knowledge, the advisor is king. Selling themselves as a source of knowledge, they help startups prepare pitch decks and business plans, set the valuation, define the founding round.
We’ll see that role rapidly replaced by data-driven platforms that leverage data across thousands of companies and use data rather than ‘this is the way I usually do it’ to provide an automated faster, better, and more cost-effective service.
Anthony Rose, CEO and co-founder, SeedLegals
Cloud Adoption to Drive Growth in AI
2018 is the year that we’ll see a growth in machine learning and AI, particularly driven by a greater number of businesses and apps being moved to the cloud and away from on-premise software and tools.
We’ll see more devices being cloud-only and thus data connectivity, such as the roll-out of 5G and improved WIFI across cities, will undoubtedly accelerate the adoption of cloud apps.
This technology will ultimately be more revolutionary than any that has gone before it and will go on to affect more areas of the economy and jobs than any other industrial revolution.
Enterprises will also see the benefits of migration to the cloud and reduced on-site infrastructure, providing increased agility, mobility and security for their employees.
Businesses will demand more from their cloud infrastructure and be comfortable stepping away from traditional OS and software packages too.
James Doggart, CEO and founder, Cloud Technology Solutions
Data and Cybersecurity to Be Top Priorities
Harnessing data and managing cybersecurity will be key priorities for businesses in 2018. With GDPR and PSD2 on the horizon, UK employers need to ensure that they have the right talent in place to prepare for the new legislation, particularly when there are hefty fines involved for those who don’t comply.
At the same time, the nation is facing an escalating digital skills crisis – by 2021, there will be three million unfilled jobs in cyber security alone. Businesses and the Government need to take a two-pronged approach to tackle this: training the current workforce to deal with the issue now, and championing tech education to lay the foundations for the future.
Businesses are challenged to both keep pace with the wave of new technologies that are emerging all the time and prepare for ever more sophisticated cyber threats. But there are fewer specialist skills available in the market than businesses currently need to bring into their organisation to manage this. 2018 will therefore see employers focus on upskilling their existing workforce to complement their recruiting efforts and bring in those much-needed skills.
Looking more long-term – action must be taken to increase the focus in primary and secondary education on STEM; and particularly on technology. The pace of change is such that specialisms in technology can quickly become obsolete. So, beyond the broad STEM groundings, employability will depend less on what individuals already know and more on their ability to continuously learn new skills and adapt.
Martin Ewings, Director of Specialist Markets, Experis
Augmented Intelligence System Changes Users into Participants and Facilitators
In its current state, the most effective use of artificial intelligence is applying it to a diverse but specific set of problems.
But in 2018 and beyond, blending AI with technologies such as intelligent agents, bots, and automated activities, along with traditional analytical tools such as data sets, visualisation, dashboards, and reports will make data more useful.
That alone, however, isn’t enough. Instead, a system where machine intelligence and humans participate in a broader ecosystem, and the exchange and learnings that happen between them, is known as augmented intelligence.
Dan Sommer, senior director and market intelligence lead, Qlik
Analytics to See Significant Convergence
The analytics market will continue to see convergence across three vectors: vendor convergence (in the market), emerging technology convergence, and tool convergence (within organisations):
Vendor Convergence: The merger and acquisition activity will continue in the broader analytics space. The analytics market continues to be one where new players can add value mapped to niche opportunities. These solutions solve a pain point that results in a number of quarters of revenue and growth, yet long-term growth isn’t typically feasible, so each one of these companies then looks to make true on their original exit strategy.
Emerging Technology Convergence: More than in previous years, the range of technological advances (or waves of tech evolution) are greater in variety and multitude than ever before. Beyond mobile, cloud, big data, data discovery, and security are voice, AR, VR, AI, next-gen analytics, IoT, telemetry, and more. These emerging technologies are mature enough to provide various and immediate business opportunities, based on a foundation of business data.
In 2018, these emerging technologies will continue to overlap and merge. Next-gen analytics will integrate with AI for augmented intelligence. Machine learning will only reap its full value on big data (that’s structured or semi-structured). Voice (and smart bots) will require AI to truly bring transformative experiences to users who want to ask questions of information.
Tool Convergence: Organisations, specific to their analytics needs, have compiled collections of products to solve various problems. These different problems span different departments (with different tools), include different tools integrated together to solve specific problems within departments, and even have different tools fighting to solve the same problems.
In 2018, we’ll continue to see organisations standardising on a platform on which they based their analytics ecosystem, and merging as many projects into that solution as possible, and connecting various clients and enterprise assets and third party libraries to it where necessary.
It’ll act more as the beating heart to the analytics ecosystem than the tool of choice; users will get powerful Mac, PC, web and mobile clients to connect to their analytics; managers and executives will see the business running on data they can rely on, and IS will get fewer tools to manage and pay for, the governance they need, and happy business users working alongside them to digitally transform their respective businesses.
Hugh Owen, SVP, Product Marketing, MicroStrategy
DevOps Will Become the New Norm for Larger Enterprise Teams
In 2018, we’re likely to see developers on older, higher value systems implementing a more DevOps centric approach, having seen it work on projects that have traditionally been highly visible, but low value.
In the past, in big enterprises, DevOps practices have often been tested and trialed on projects which have low business impact. For example, in banking, teams have used DevOps practices for web or mobile apps, but not their high frequency trading platforms. Having proven the effectiveness of DevOps for new projects, we will see an increase of DevOps being utilised across more valuable projects.
Jon Topper, CTO, The Scale Factory
Software-Defined Wide Area Network Technologies to See Significant Growth
With the rise of cloud and mobile working, next-generation wide area networks (WANs) have to connect to an ‘explosion’ of different points, simply, cost-effectively and without compromising security. But increasingly-complex WANs demand a strategy that delivers end-to-end visibility in these networks.
Most global companies want WAN improvements such as faster site provisioning, greater reliability from device configuration and application-driven performance rules, and lower networking costs. While companies use different connectivity types – from MPLS and Internet to 4G – during expansion, these approaches cause poor branch-level application performance, connectivity issues, security concerns as company users move between different devices, and rising maintenance costs.
Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) technologies help organisations boost application performance and reduce maintenance costs by configuring network traffic and performance options from a central control point. Analyst IDC predicts an $8bn global SD-WAN market by 2021.
Carefully-designed, SD-WAN implementations help CIOs make pragmatic improvements, such as retaining legacy MPLS networks, or routing non-sensitive traffic through cheaper public Internet connections - made more secure with SD-WAN encryption.
CIOs are beginning to adopt SD-WAN but may need specialist support, such as professional services and as-a-service offerings, to plan SD-WAN deployments that fully realise their business priorities.
Marc Sollars, CTO, Teneo
Voice and Natural Language Interfaces Become Mainstream
Voice and natural language processing will be the most significant enhancement to man machine interfaces since the advent of the graphical user interface. For decades, the man-machine interface has been based on keyboard and mouse interactions.
We have learned to use these devices, but neither is natural to us, and as a result, it restricts the audience for various technology initiatives including analytics and business intelligence. Language is our normal means of communication for everyday interactions. As our devices of all types allow users to leverage language, we will see adoption of related types of technology among a broader audience. This is particularly relevant for analytics initiatives which have traditionally struggled to reach widespread and regularly usage throughout an organisation.
Voice is not the only trend to watch. Natural language generation has already started to make its mark, as well. Not everyone knows how to read a table of numbers or a chart, or agrees on what conclusions to draw from the same. A written summary can be consumed by all and reduces the ambiguity of many types of data displays.
As an industry, we have been obsessed with providing maps and geographical displays as part of our information systems, but our research shows that users consider text more important than maps. Voice and natural language interfaces are becoming a reality today. Organisations should be exploring these options and finding ways to incorporate them into their systems to maximise the value of their technology investments.
David Menninger, SVP and research director, Ventana Research
2018 Will Be the Year of Wireless Charging
2017 has been a game-changer of a year for wireless charging. Apple’s integration of wireless charging into the latest iPhones has been a real catalyst for mass deployment. Since then we have seen a groundswell of momentum amongst many industries - hospitality, office environments, event spaces and stadiums – looking to provide convenient and effortless charging experiences and cutting the cord on power.
In 2018 wireless charging will be more than just about power, evolving to create a service that adds value to businesses, enabling the connected customer and enhancing customer experience. Wireless charging provides an array of new data points that can be integrated with existing user information to develop deeper audience insights and new, highly personalised customer experiences. One example of this is businesses engaging with consumers whilst they charge - for example at a football game with at-seat ordering via wireless power stations. Wireless charging can pinpoint the exact seating location of any user in relation to the venue’s network, something that is not possible with the WiFi network alone.
Wireless charging won’t stop there. We are already seeing early signs of wireless charging in other industries, such as the automotive sector. Mercedes-Benz is set to start selling a version of its hybrid S-class that can be charged by parking it on top of a charging surface. Ford and BMW are doing the same. Wireless charging will also prove crucial for self-driving vehicles which won’t have a human driver to get out of the car and plug a charging wire in.
Dan Bladen, CEO and co-founder, Chargifi
Financial Sector to Extract Real Value from AI
There’s nothing artificial about the intelligence AI can deliver to an organisation. After many years of debate, we are seeing businesses in the financial sector derive real value from the data deciphered by AI, especially now that this technology is becoming more accessible.
Machine learning, neural networks, predictive analytics and AI will allow banks see patterns, anomalies and find insights in their data that the human eye would never spot on their own. Like passing an X-ray over a human skeleton, AI views all data within a business and exposes the trends and anomalies for all to see.
Guy Mettrick, practice leader – financial services, Appian
Emergence of Augmented Analytics
We are witnessing an unprecedented pace of continuous technological change. New augmented analytics approaches will alter the analytics landscape once again. Search, natural language and intelligent analytics automation innovations powered by AI are beginning to vastly transform the human-computer experience democratising the power of analytics and data science.
Similar to the second wave of modern self-service business intelligence (BI) disrupting the first wave of traditional BI, augmented analytics technologies in the third wave will change the game once again. Augmented analytics combines the beauty of the human mind and artificial intelligence. Augmented analytics approaches are smart, forward thinking and actionable. In addition to providing historical reports and dashboards, augmented analytics automates predictive and prescriptive actionable guidance. Early adopters of augmented analytics tout unmatched speed to insight and enhanced competitive advantage.
Automating analytics is not a novel idea. This old concept is rapidly improving and expanding across the entire analytics life-cycle from finding data sources to discovering crucial insights. Next generation augmented analytics capabilities can automatically prepare and cleanse data, perform feature engineering, identify and rank key insights, answer what-if questions, provide suggestions and reveal hidden patterns in oceans of data. Automation expedites investigation across millions of variable combinations that would be far too time consuming for a human to do manually.
When given unbiased, properly prepared data, augmented analytics delivers amazing results. Since automated analytics relies on statistical techniques, inaccurate, biased or poor-quality data that doesn’t sufficiently represent business processes will deliver low quality results. Think garbage in, garbage out. Much like preparing your data for statistics, data warehousing, or operational reporting applications, there is an art to preparing your data for automated augmented analysis.
Jen Underwood, founder, Impact Analytix
Human-Like AI Will Slowly Fade Away
Thankfully, this year we’re likely to see the beginnings of the AI industry moving away from developing technologies that reside in human-like physical structures. I believe this is one of the most promising trends for the future of AI.
As we’ve seen from Sophia the Robot, making AI appear more human while trying to make it behave human-like actually ends up detracting from real progress.
Consequently, AI engineers and developers will pivot toward building algorithm-driven AI that responds, makes decisions and interacts with people in a human way.
We will see a pronounced industry shift as AI becomes increasingly integrated into platforms and technologies people use to locate public records, rate customer experiences, manage their finances, and learn.
Kriti Sharma, VP of artificial intelligence, Sage
Businesses to Realise the Potential of the Data Warehouse
For many businesses, realising the potential of the data warehouse has always seemed 'just around the corner.' We have been talking about the promise of data warehouses for years, but 2018 will see the technology finally align with the needs of the business and, as a result, the value that data warehouses can deliver will begin to be realised. Advancements in automation, cloud and DevOps will transform how data warehouses are built and managed, enabling businesses to transform the way that they work with data during the next 12 months.
2018 will see a growing shift toward incorporating new data platforms along with the traditional relational database to better leverage a wider array of processing capabilities and offer a more diverse information environment with the flexibility and scalability to grow with a business. Automation will be critical to the development and ongoing evolution of that environment.
Neil Barton, CTO, WhereScape
Data Visualisations to Become Vital Tools for Businesses
Data visualisation will become a must-have technology tool for businesses in 2018. Today’s organisations are embracing a culture of analytics that requires data to empower their every move. However, traditional approaches to business intelligence (BI) have often failed to unlock the power of data because they’re often just too complicated, too rigid and too slow.
Data visualisation – or dashboards – will therefore become increasingly popular as they help people quickly digest the most relevant information. Combining graphs and charts with powerful and accessible business analytics means users in every department can not only see how their organisation is performing in real-time, but take the necessary actions earlier to prevent small issues becoming bigger problems as well as harness new opportunities.
Given the growing number of data sources, data visualisation will also clean up dirty data – i.e. incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent and duplicate data. Research by W8 Data found that just 35% of organisations have a regular data cleansing process in place.
That leaves a lot of businesses with dirty data, which can lead to lost revenue, wasted marketing efforts, misinformed decisions and, eventually, damaged reputation. Dashboards can tidy up this dirty data by helping businesses see their most important data at a glance, and monitor their data quality regularly and in real-time.
Robert Dagge, managing director, Dynistics
Google’s Algorithm Changes to Impact Businesses
The Blueclaw Search Engine Optimisation team predict that countless businesses will be affected - sometimes positively, in many cases negatively - by Google's 2018 focus on the mobile index.
In the past, Google has used the desktop version of websites to categorise, understand and rank pages. With mobile traffic now taking up the majority of internet searches, Google will now instead use the mobile version of pages to make their decisions about site quality and ranking positions.
So if your desktop experience has the same content as your mobile site, you should see little change. However, companies that provide a different mobile site experience with perhaps less content or poorer loading times could see big drops in SEO performance.
This major disruption can be tackled by taking action now to compare different site experiences, and make the necessary changes in terms of content and technical performance fast to protect - and improve - rankings.
For those that get it right, the 2018 shift to the mobile index will bring an awful lot of opportunities to grow.
David Hellowell, Onsite Strategy Manager at Blueclaw Search
Edge Computing to Grow in IoT's Wake
IoT-connected devices are pushing the limits of the cloud, creating a new computing paradigm where the cloud and edge computing meet. As the ‘brain’ behind the IoT, edge computing moves processing power closer to the source of data.
In this new paradigm, not all data is equal. Only device data that is worth keeping is sent to the cloud. This reduces the costs associated with handling and storing growing volumes of IoT-related data. Time-sensitive data can be processed by the device itself, allowing for quicker response times while reducing network latency.
This is far more efficient than using the cloud alone where, with its split-second latency, turn-around time can be too slow. As the number of devices requiring immediate or high-volume data processing continues to increase, edge computing will push the cloud to the sidelines, where it will act as a supporting technology.
Together, the cloud and edge computing will offer the benefits of agility and savings, while providing the infrastructure we need to support the ever-expanding IoT universe.
Mark Barrenechea, CEO, OpenText
Self-Serve IT to Go Mainstream
2018 will be the year that self-serve IT goes mainstream, as organisations look to become more agile by decentralising IT and empowering internal teams to drive more of their own innovation. One approach that will gain increasing popularity centres around IT creating an API marketplace, where the wider business can easily discover and reuse IT assets and capabilities.
In the same way that Apple taught consumers ‘there’s an app for that’, IT teams will start to teach employees and partners that ‘there’s an API for that’. When the need arises for a new digital function, such as the ability to connect to a SaaS application, non-IT teams will learn to browse the API marketplace to see if that capability already exists rather than starting from scratch.
For instance, analysts could find Tableau data sources for sales insights or developers could find customer data for use in mobile apps. As the marketplace organically grows, an application network will form, where digital building blocks can be plugged in and out as market conditions change.
Ross Mason, founder and VP of product strategy, MuleSoft
Chatbots to Emerge in the Workplace
While over the past 12 months there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the development of bots and AI, in 2018 we will start to see these emerge in the workplace.
One area where we will start to see the emergence of chatbots is in HR in the guise of virtual personal assistants, such as the People First Chatbot from MHR, the UK’s first HR chatbot.
This aims to help employees and managers win back their time and free them from faff by automating routine transactions such as booking holidays, checking balances, completing expenses, and much more.
People First Chatbot is a great example of how AI can augment rather than replace the HR function; automating repetitive tasks so HR professionals can focus on more strategic activities and what really matters, the human side of HR – managing people.
Samantha Cohen, rese arch delivery manager, MHR
CIO Success Lies in Enterprise Software Robotics
The most successful CIO in 2018 will not be the person who delivers the Internet of Things, machine learning, blockchain, or any other buzzwords from 2017. The most successful CIO in 2018 will be the person who gets control of enterprise software robotics and delivers shareholder value using it.
The average tenure for a CIO isn’t very lengthy, so they’re unlikely to deliver shareholder value through IoT, machine learning or blockchain. While that’s not to say that none of these technologies will deliver shareholder value over time, 2018 will not be the year to do so.”
Many CIOs think using robotics to eliminate manual activity straight away equals artificial intelligence, however if you go to a car production line, you don’t view the robots carrying out spraying tasks as intelligent. You view them as doing dull repetitive work, over and over again, maintaining consistency throughout. This is where conflation of the term robotics is getting in the way of progress, something that should be better understood in 2018.
Neil Kinson, chief of staff, Redwood Software
A Revolution in Office Working
Throughout 2018, we’ll see greater adoption of an office set-up that will take into consideration the new ways of working. This greater acceptance will drive the use of portable technology, which can be used on the move and in various occasions mitigating the need for expensive and more complicated fixed equipment.
Portable speakers and small conference equipment are actually a good example that mirrors this trend. To fit in with new collaborative areas and huddle rooms, companies are seeing no value in spending large sums of their budget on full AV or conference suite systems. With new conference capabilities such as Skype for Business and others alike, private and public organisations are choosing to have available portable equipment that is ‘collaboration ready’ immediately.
Channel partners specifically should anticipate this move and recognise the potential for new revenue streams, as this trend will start to be more common. We only have to look at the many co-working spaces now spreading around the country to understand that this type of plan will continue to develop and become mainstream, offering resellers opportunities to add value wherever there is a voice and communications requirement.
Nigel Dunn, managing director of EMEA North, Jabra
Room for Growth in Augmented Reality
In 2017, it seemed like everyone jumped on the Augmented Reality (AR) bandwagon; Google announced ARCore and Facebook also launched their Camera Effects platform. But the fact remains, it’s still really early and we don’t know what the hardware platform side will be like for AR. But we’re likely to see more utility in 2018 thanks to the platforms that were launched in 2017.
ARKit and new Apple Hardware is providing one of the best developer ecosystems with a vertical stack that lets great developer make really interesting apps. Expect to see lots of interesting use cases emerge. Pokémon Go for example still has a very active user base, and Niantic Labs is expected to launch a huge Harry Potter-themed game in 2018 with ARKit.
You are likely to see experiments (or early attempts to monetise) to transition ’novelty’ to use cases in certain categories (e.g. going from ‘playing around’ on an Ikea AR app to these being better (lower noise, higher certainty) channels for acquisition). Magic Leap is the exciting company to watch and seems to have the next shot at a hardware AR platform, but there’s still room for lots of growth to happen.
Boris Chan, director of engineering, Pivotal
Customer Centricity on Steroids
2018 will be the year we see customer centricity on steroids. The acceleration of personalised insight to a level not possible prior to Open Banking will fly with those that embrace it. The combination of shared transactional level data and machine learning provides a new mode of operation when offering products and services to people.
What we won't see in 2018 is the demise of traditional banking. Open Banking is at the start of a journey and it will take time to be leveraged to maximum effect.
Dave Tonge, chief technology officer, Moneyhub Enterprise
Skill Growth and Greater Expertise Needed
In 2018, we will see even more businesses worldwide recognising the need to adapt to meet the challenges of the digital age, to secure not only their success, but their survival. We will see business leaders acting on this by introducing new technologies; around half are planning to introduce the Internet of Things (51%) and Artificial Intelligence (47%) in the next twelve months. However, businesses will need to contend with challenges beyond the technologies alone.
Skills will remain a crucial stumbling block, as per our recent PACT survey 7 in 10 business leaders admit to a clear lack of digital skills in their organisation; indeed, 80% are saying that this is the biggest hindrance to ensuring their cybersecurity.
Over the next year we will see organisations prioritising the upskilling of staff and recognising that not only targeted recruitment, but schemes like reverse mentoring and training, are needed. This is because the competencies required in businesses will change rapidly as new technology is introduced over the next year and beyond, and dynamic workforce planning and ongoing learning will become the markers of a thriving enterprise.
Moving forward, new technology will continue to disrupt existing business models and even entire industries. Adaptability – and critically collaboration – will be vital traits. For businesses to remain relevant, they must seek to form meaningful co-creation partnerships, marrying technology with industry expertise to develop truly innovative offerings.
Ultimately, transforming has never been more important – and for transformation to be successful, it requires a sense of balance. Succeeding in the digital age is about much more than technology alone and the businesses that can get their people, partnerships and processes in line will be the winners in 2018.
Duncan Tait, corporate executive officer, SEVP and Head of Americas and EMEIA, Fujitsu
SaaS to Bring Innovation to R&D
Research and development (R&D) investment was estimated to top $2tn in 2017, yet in the past 40 years, R&D productivity has dropped by an estimated 65%.
In recent years, we’ve seen the meteoric rise of enterprise SaaS solutions for business departments including marketing, sales, HR and finance, while R&D – supposedly the most innovative department – has largely been left behind in this regard. In 2018 we will see a significant rise in the adoption of SaaS to improve productivity within R&D.
Ray Chohan, SVP of corporate strategy, PatSnap
Net Neutrality is going to Change Edge Computing as We Know It
Net neutrality is not only going to be the catalyst for new products and feature functions within software, but will turn edge computing on its head.
Businesses are realising they want to send less data over their networks and, as a result, will want to do more work at the edge. Expect to see a boom in edge computing in 2018 because of this.