Predictions 2019: Digital Technologies Shift from Visions to Realities
In 2018, the buzz in business was all about digital transformation technologies—everything from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to hybrid cloud, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT). That buzz won’t cease in 2019—but the chatter around these technologies may become more refined, with less of a focus on what the technologies are and more on how they will be applied to have the most impact on business.
As the year ends, we’ve been asking our customers about what they see as the drivers of their business success in the new year. Through those discussions, as well as insight from our own internal experts, we’ve compiled our predictions for the new year across a range of topics that we’re hearing from customers and others.
The predictions come from three senior executives at Riverbed Technology—Chief Information Officer Rich Hillebrecht, Chief Customer Officer Dan Smoot and myself. Here is a summary of what we expect to see in 2019.
Customer demands will lead to technology mashups
The technologies that are getting the most attention these days—whether IoT, AI or blockchain—are undoubtedly going to open the doors to amazing new capabilities. But customer demands will force some of these same technologies to integrate in order to create new capabilities that haven’t yet been imagined.
Just as today’s world has been enabled by mobile, cloud, and social technologies and platforms, imagine the convergence of blockchain, IoT and grid computing to transform the way we live, work and interact.
At the root of these newly formed technology marriages will be the customers’ continued desires for vendor- or platform-agnostic flexibility, along with simple and seamless experiences. That push is fostering the need for partnerships between competitors—or arbitrators between competing platforms—to reduce the complexity that tends to come from the integration of new and different technologies. Consider the challenges that come with cybersecurity and data protection. Different analytic tool sets applied from different vendors can make things more complex, even though the metrics often come from the same data set.
Humans and machines will be watching and learning
Organizations are beginning to realize that all of this newfound data can have an impact on their overarching success—from helping them better understand their customers to creating new revenue streams based on value metrics. But first, organizations have to get their heads around all of the data and its potential value.
In part, the value of data is realized through human power. There is a critical need to invest in people with data science skills who understand the data and how to manage, leverage and monetize it along the way. But there is also a need to invest in machine power. Applying AI and ML algorithms and patterns against the telemetry of products, coupled with measuring the internal and external digital footprint of customers who visit landing pages or downloading white papers, can provide organizations with invaluable business insights.
Beyond data analysis, performance management also comes into play. Digital technologies are providing visibility into the performance of the technologies and recognizing issues more quickly, allowing organizations to troubleshoot networking or traffic problems before they impact users, or to identify intrusions before damage can be done.
Case in point: we expect to see widespread security breaches that will, in large part, stem from lax security across a range of IoT devices. The widespread and rapid adoption of IoT devices—whether fitness bands, home appliances or Internet-connected security systems—is built on the low-cost affordability of many of these devices. Consumer adoption comes at a certain price-point and, in order to keep production costs low, device manufacturers have sacrificed the advanced security technologies that would provide greater protections. Now, with an abundance of unprotected devices transferring valuable end-user data, conditions have become ripe for large-scale breaches.
New business decisions for organizations
An evolution of the partnerships between providers, the interoperability between technologies, and the relationships between companies and their customers will create new business practices.
From a strategic perspective, expect to see more companies sharing an important piece of the puzzle that they used to keep close to their vests—their product roadmaps. The long-standing fear was that, if companies hinted at what’s to come, customers might not be interested in buying the current offering. But in the cloud age, sharing the company’s vision for the future becomes a competitive advantage, empowering customers to think ahead, plan for new features, or even provide some input on what new features should look like or do.
From an infrastructure perspective, 2019 will also bring freedom from the persistent “last-mile” telecommunications problem. With the advancements in LTE, the technology will finally reach a point where the physical cables that connect end-users to their Internet Service Providers (ISP) will no longer be a necessity—or a handcuff—to a particular ISP.
The “last-mile” problem has long been the most critical and most costly component of an ISP’s network, as well a speed bottleneck. But now, on the heels of widespread adoption, LTE will allow enterprises to forego the last mile of physical cable for a reliable and robust connection.
Why it matters
Overall, the excitement for 2019 is that the technologies that everyone has been talking about for the better part of the last few years will finally start to have real impact. Whether 5G, hybrid cloud or AI, the technologies are reaching a point of maturity where adoption will start to make sense.
Likewise, the capabilities that are being unleashed through devices, performance monitoring dashboards, or other metrics will help businesses not only improve efficiency and productivity but also will allow them to explore new ways of doing business, new business models and address more customer needs along the way.
With all of this to look forward to in 2019, we can hardly wait to get past the holiday season.