Vuzion Managing Director, Michael Frisby writes …
It’s always an interesting task, to make my predictions about new topics that are going to be at the forefront of cloud and technology development and advancements in the year to come, as well as to look back over the past year and identify the trends likely to continue.
Below is the list I’ve put together outlining my top ten predictions for 2019:
1. AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Number four in my list last year, I’m putting AI at number one as a trend to watch for 2019. Having really come to life over the past year – I heard recently that in an average month in the UK, there are 250 AI start-ups – and as the number of companies providing AI solutions continues to grow, and more and more customers begin to use them, I believe that adoption will explode. And as adoption increases, there will be a greater focus on looking at the ethics of AI, and in particular regarding the issue of, should we do something just because we can.
RPA, or robotic process automation, was a new term for me in 2018. I see this software – automating basic, often office-type tasks, across applications, and where the ‘robot’ is programmed to learn workflow consisting of multiple steps, mirroring the way a human employee would work – as a practical implementation of AI, advancing process automation and helping businesses to further improve efficiency.
Joe Macri, VP for Commercial Partners at Microsoft UK, comments, “The rise of Artificial Intelligence has redefined the channel as a facilitator of an ever more intelligent workplace,” (comms dealer, December 2018).
With security highlighted as an issue that would remain critical for businesses to address during 2017 and 2018, the number of threats, and particularly targeted attacks, has sadly continued to rise. I’m therefore predicting that security will also be a major concern for organisations – whatever their size and industry – throughout 2019.
The NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) report, The cyber threat to UK business 2017-2018, published in April, contains a foreword by CEO, Ciaran Martin: “The last year has seen no deceleration in the tempo and volume of cyber incidents, as attackers devise new ways to harm businesses and citizens around the globe. Despite these very real threats to the nation’s security, I am confident in the UK’s ability to combat the attacks that we face every day.”
3. Data Privacy
At the start of last year, GDPR (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation) and its impending introduction in May was the hot topic. Businesses seized on implementing the requirements, as we saw by the quantity of emails that arrived in all our inboxes in the run-up to 25 May 2018, and as individuals we appreciate the added protection the regulation enforces to safeguard our personal data.
However, there is no room for complacency, and I believe that safeguarding data privacy will continue to be a focus for organisations in 2019, as evidenced by the NCSC’s weekly threat report for December 2018. Included under a section titled, A week of data breaches … is mention of the recent £400k fine imposed by the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) on Uber, the €20k fine for Germany’s social media company Knuddels, and the discovery of Facebook’s, Marriott Hotels’, and Quora’s breaches of personal data, affecting millions of people.
4. Voice in the cloud
Another trend likely to continue is the growth of voice in the cloud. Last year I anticipated that, following on from its strong take-up in 2017, growth would be even greater in 2018 – and it was. The Cavell Group reports that there will be more than 3.5m hosted voice users by year-end.
The beginning of 2018 saw us reporting on Skype for Business capabilities to be incorporated into Microsoft Teams, and which was completed late 2018. There are now more than 300,000 businesses using Teams across the globe, and which is now providing the platform for the 150m+ Office 365 users to add cloud voice to their solution.
5. Microsoft Teams
I’m earmarking the growth of Microsoft Teams, the Office 365 team hub, as a new trend to watch in 2019.
Microsoft announced in September 2018, that 329,000 organisations were already using the solution, and which is now the fastest growing business application in Microsoft’s history, and Teams is rapidly becoming a main Office 365 feature, as the chat-based workspace that connects content, conversation and people, continues to evolve to meet the team-based ethos prevalent in the workplace today.
As more and more businesses recognise the benefits of adopting Teams to enable their employees to become more efficient and productive, I’m sure this rate of adoption will accelerate.
6. Business and digital transformation
That “digital transformation sits at the top of near every board’s agenda” and as a strategy is continuing to be adopted by increasing numbers of organisations across the UK, is a key message in the Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) recent research paper, Cloud – The Next Generation.
It’s evident that, as organisations are increasingly recognising that they must transform to survive, business transformation empowered by digital technology is becoming ever more deep-seated as a strategy within UK business culture.
7. Customer experience is key
Customers expect the same quality of experience that technology supports within their private life to be available with every business engagement, and organisations are increasingly investing to enhance that customer experience – with the development of chatbot technology an example of how they’re doing so.
Of 500 IT professionals representing organisations from Europe and the US surveyed for a Business Insider article Chatbots and voice assistants are gaining traction in the workplace, 29 percent had already implemented – or were intending to do so in the forthcoming year – at least one AI-based chatbot.
8. 5G – the next generation mobile technology
The UK government is promoting its strategy incorporating a ‘clear ambition’ for the UK to “be a global leader in 5G so that we can take early advantage of its potential and help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.” As a result, I’m anticipating hype to build throughout next year as the first 5G devices come to market, but with mass adoption not taking place until 2020, and continuing to grow from then onwards.
9. Skills shortage
A prediction from last year, was that due in particular to the swift rate of change in technology development and advancement, organisations would be investing more heavily in training. The need is highlighted by the reports of the growing IT skills shortage within the IT industry as well as across business generally, as Insight’s article Shortage of tech skills and 600,000 job vacancies costing UK economy £63 billion a year shows.
My ninth prediction for 2019 is that the outsourcing of IT delivery and management will continue as organisations look to surmount the issue of lack of skills, particularly in the area of digital transformation and the adoption of AI.
Having underpinned crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain is now being used across a range of solutions and industries, “from the fine art world to clamp down on forgeries, to fishing to provide a transparent record of where fish were caught”.
And, so, my final forecast for 2019, is that the use of blockchain will continue to expand across a wider range of applications – from providing the evidence as to when a document was electronically signed to affirming that data backups have not been tampered with.
We’ll be following up on developments in the ten areas throughout 2019, as well as continuing to write and blog about other cloud news, updates and developments. In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and a very happy and prosperous 2019.