This is the time of year when everyone in the technology industry pulls out their crystal balls and attempts to predict what will happen in the next twelve months.
Some predictions are easy. For example, it’s a good bet that popular buzzwords like digital transformation, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and quantum computing will continue to get a lot of attention in the news. What is less clear is exactly how these areas of technology might evolve. Which innovations will become an integral part of doing business and which will fade in importance? How will enterprises attempt to leverage these technologies for competitive advantage? And what should IT leaders be doing now to prepare for the near future?
To find out, InformationWeek pored through the forecasts being published by analyst firms and consultancies looking for the most interesting and relevant predictions for 2019. We steered clear of predictions made by vendors. Most of those were too self-serving to be of real value for enterprise IT. The analyst predictions, on the other hand, could be useful to CIOs and other IT leaders who are writing goals, setting budgets and deciding on training priorities for the coming year.
In many cases, the analysts have offered direct advice to enterprise IT on how to capitalize on these trends. Often the various research firms agree with each other in regards to which steps enterprises should take. But in other cases, cybersecurity being one, the analysts had wildly divergent ideas on how trends are likely to impact enterprises and what leaders should do about it to prepare.
We’ll leave it to you to sort through the advice and decide which course to take in your organization. The following slides cover 10 top technology predictions for 2019 that are likely to affect enterprise IT.
1. Digital transformation will have winners and losers.
In its predictions for 2019, Forrester forecasted that enterprises’ approach to digital transformation will become much more pragmatic this year. Burned by optimistic predictions that they could radically alter their business models without consequences for everyday operations, boards and executives will launch more modest projects. “In 2019, digital transformation moves from super-wide enterprise efforts to a pragmatic, surgical portfolio view of digital investments with the goal of making incremental and necessary changes to operations,” the firm said.
Of course, some enterprises will be more successful at these initiatives than others. Forrester predicted that a quarter of firms will halt their digital transformation entirely, causing them to lose market share. On the other end of the spectrum, it said that just 15% of enterprises “will successfully cross the digital bridge by embracing a fundamentally customer-driven, agile delivery model backed with modern development and architecture.”
According to IDC, IT will play a major role in whether organizations succeed or fail. “Through 2022, 75% of successful digital strategies will be built by a transformed IT organization, with modernized and rationalized infrastructure, applications, and data architectures,” it said.
2. Cyberattacks might (or might not) hurt you.
Many pundits believe the constant drumbeat of cyberattacks and cyberbreaches that has characterized 2018 will escalate in 2019. “2019 will be a year of unprecedented cyberthreats to companies and individuals,” said Forrester. It anticipated that these attacks will drive organizations to adopt Zero Trust security strategies and will cause at least one major brand to lose 25% of its valuation.
Gartner also believes that cyberthreats will continue, but it took the opposite position on the impact, saying that attacks won’t have a huge impact on brand image. In its Top Strategic Predictions for 2019, Gartner wrote, “Through 2021, social media scandals and security breaches will have effectively zero lasting consumer impact.” Customers have heard about so many cyberattacks that the news no longer alarms them in the way it once did. And they value the services they get from companies too much to stop using them just because of the threat of a cyberattack.
3. IoT becomes ubiquitous.
We have been hearing a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices for several years now, but so far, deployment has been growing fairly slowly, albeit steadily. However, IoT could really take off in 2019.
According to Ovum, enterprises are starting to shift their focus from experimenting with IoT networks to moving those networks into live, production environments.
In Forrester’s opinion, “85% of firms will implement or plan to implement IoT solutions” in 2019. Many of these deployments will be nearly invisible to consumers because they will be part of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Expect enterprises to use sensors and smart devices to improve their internal operations and drive efficiency, particularly within the manufacturing, healthcare, retail and utilities industries.
4. Good help is hard to find.
Good news for job seekers: IT continues to experience talent shortages.
According to Deloitte, 30% of IT leaders responding to a recent survey described their current skills gap as either major (23%) or extreme (7%).
IDC had similar numbers. “Through 2022, the talent pool for emerging technologies will be inadequate to fill at least 30% of global demand and effective skills development and retention will become differentiating strategies.”
Many of the analyst firms recommended that companies seek to develop their internal talent by funding working training. For example, Deloitte wrote, “Companies should invest more in educating and training workforces for the digital era.”
5. Welcome, robot overlords!
Companies will likely attempt to solve some of the talent shortfall with robots, automation and AI.
Forrester believes robotic process automation (RPA) and AI “will join forces to create digital workers for more than 40% of enterprises.”
But don’t expect all these new digital workers to have physical bodies. Instead, companies will turn to software automation to fill talent shortages. Forrester predicted that for 2019 “25% of leaders will use automation to address the talent scarcity squeeze.” And, it added, “7% of jobs that can be automated will be lost to automation.”
6. AI experiences growing pains.
Enterprises are rushing to adopt artificial intelligence (AI), but those deployment efforts are running into significant deployment challenges.
For example, in a Deloitte survey, 57% of enterprises were currently using applications with integrated AI capabilities, and 37% planned to do so within two years. However, in that same survey, 18% of enterprises had stopped an AI project and 22% had decided not to start one because of cybersecurity concerns.
IDC predicted that governance will be a major AI issue. “By 2022, 65% of enterprises will task CIOs to transform and modernize governance policies to seize the opportunities and confront new risks posed by AI, ML, and data privacy and ethics.”
Gartner noted other problems. “In the past five years, the increasing popularity and hype surrounding AI techniques have led to an increase in projects across organizations,” it said. “However, the overwhelming hype has also led to unreasonable expectations from the business.”
Of course, another big problem is a lack of qualified AI talent. Gartner predicted, “Through 2020, 80% of AI projects will remain alchemy, run by wizards whose talents will not scale in the organization.”
7. Citizen data scientists rise.
That lack of talent will spur enterprises to invest in tools and services that will enable “ordinary people” to use AI, becoming citizen data scientists. According to Gartner, “Through 2020, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than professional data scientists.” It further forecasted that over the next two years, 40% of data science tasks will be automated, further empowering citizen data scientists.
Look for vendors to offer more data science and analytics tools with no-code or low-code development interfaces. IT leaders should also expect to be called on to support more business professionals who will be engaged in data science activities.
8. The cloud drives innovation.
By now nearly every enterprise is in the cloud, but the ways in which they are using the cloud is beginning to change.
Everest Group wrote, “The initial phase of adoption focused on operational cost reduction and simplicity – what we call the ‘Cloud for Efficiency’ paradigm. We have now entered Wave 2 of enterprise cloud adoption, where the cloud’s potential to play a critical role in influencing and driving business outcomes is being realized. We call this the ‘Cloud for Digital’ paradigm.”
Along the same lines, Gartner forecasted that cloud computing will help companies bring new products to market more quickly. “Through 2022, a fast path to digital will be converting internal capabilities to external revenue-generating products using cloud economics and flexibility,” the firm said.
9. Quantum computing’s not ready (yet).
Announcements about quantum computing have been appearing in the news with more frequency in recent years, but don’t expect quantum to go mainstream in 2019. Gartner predicted, “Aside from a select group of businesses where specific quantum algorithms would provide a major advantage, most enterprises could remain in exploration phase through 2022 and begin exploiting the technology later.”
However, that doesn’t mean enterprise IT leaders should ignore quantum altogether. “This technology is still in an emerging state, which means it is a good time for businesses to increase their understanding of potential applications and consider any security implications,” the firm said.
10. The big get bigger.
While Silicon Valley has no shortage of startups attempting to capitalize on emerging tech trends, many analysts believe the large tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook will continue to dominate many markets.
Gartner predicted, “In 2019, the digital giants will deliver double-digit revenue growth by attracting more users globally and supporting more usage.” It added, “By 2022, companies leveraging the ‘gatekeeper’ position of the digital giants will capture 40% global market share on average in their industry.”
Synergy Research concurred in a report on the cloud computing market. “Despite some local issues over data sovereignty, in most meaningful ways public cloud computing is a global market that is led by truly global cloud providers. The market leaders need to have a global presence, a global brand and an ability to fund huge ongoing investments in data center footprint and service enhancements,” said John Dinsdale, a Chief Analyst and Research Director at Synergy Research Group. “There will remain opportunities for smaller cloud providers to serve niche markets, especially focused on single countries or local regions, but those companies cannot hope to challenge the market leaders.”
In a separate release, Synergy noted that hyperscale revenues are growing 24% per year. “That is a real boon for data center technology vendors and for colocation/wholesale data center operators,” said Dinsdale, “but it has created a huge barrier for companies wishing to meaningfully compete with those hyperscale firms. This is a game of massive scale and only a few can play that game.”Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years. View Full Bio