Technology is consistently evolving and developing at such a pace that it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends, and most articles tend to focus on the developments in the consumer sphere. I’ve compiled a list of trends from an IT perspective and how they will apply to and affect the business world in 2017. Here are eight of the most important areas that will matter to both the IT professional and business executive.
1. Automation becomes a business focus
As the competitive landscape is now national and international every slice of margin matters. This has certainly led businesses across all sectors to really look at their systems and processes. Business and systems analysis has fallen through the cracks in many businesses, between the IT and the leadership teams. Now both are becoming committed to understanding where a business can gain efficiencies through altering the working practices and how they interact with the systems that power their business.
2. One cloud doesn’t fit all
Finally, the cloud drum has quietened down, and businesses understand that cloud isn’t a magic solution to solve all their IT woes. Cloud is simply part of an ecosystem of IT delivery platforms that come together into what everyone in the industry call ‘hybrid cloud’. In essence, you may run some applications and systems in one cloud, some in another and some on-site, as that’s the right thing to do from a systems perspective and, in some cases, a cost perspective (cloud isn’t always the most cost-effective option). This should lead to a bit of a shake-out in the IT industry as systems need to be engineered correctly for a business to gain from its IT infrastructure. The new entrants into the cloud market are going to struggle with the “it’s all about cloud” line. This will change in the future as the market changes, but right now a hybrid model is the right solution for many businesses of all sizes.
3. A wider digital mesh
Through 2016 we’ve certainly seen an increase in the meshing together of different hardware platforms, operating systems and applications, such as Facebook picking up your LinkedIn contacts, messaging your traditional contacts through WhatsApp, through to using Microsoft Office on your iPad. As we go forward into 2017 expect the density of the mesh to increase, streamlining and merging our digital personas and lives, from business through to personal, into one amalgamated portal that follows us as we move from device to device.
4. AI awareness increases
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning are starting to creep into our lives, from virtual assistances like Siri and Alexa through to autonomous vehicles, but true AI is still decades away. Sure robots work in some functions, such as car plants and hoovers, but there is plenty of room in the AI arena for development and many sectors are clambering for an advantage. This is particularly true in the legal sector where, in theory, AI should be able to make decisions based on input, logic and history, e.g. write contracts and determine the likelihood of success in a case. Expect rapid growth in consumer interfaces but the road to advancement in the business world, particularly when dealing with enormous amounts of data, will be a bumpy one.
5. Conversational systems
One AI interface that everyone seems to be jumping onto is the chat bot. You only have to look at the bot section of Skype to see the growth in the technology, along with many big brand websites. You can simply interact with an application through text speak and it then uses a form of AI to get you to an end result, such as diagnosing a medical condition through a series of questions. It’s relatively straightforward logic but creating the right feel for the user isn’t easy. Voice control, such as that within cars, is also now becoming common and systems like Amazon’s Alexa are taking this further by undertaking simple tasks for us.
6. Adaptive security improves
The rise of the intelligent digital mesh and the IoT (Internet of Things) creates a fast moving security threat landscapes, which will be difficult to secure with traditional security controls. Adaptive security systems have been around for about 10 years and, in the short, the systems monitor application, user and network behaviour. It takes a baseline and then watches for behaviour outside of the norm, such as a large amount of data being sent over a Skype session. The system can then shut down the connection and alert the user and/or IT who can take action if required. In the past these systems have been very clunky, frustrating both the user and the IT team. As with all things technology, the second wave is nowhere and they have improved dramatically wherever they are located on the network estate.
7. Desktops die off
There isn’t really much point in the desktop now is there? Of course, there are exceptions where big beast desktops are needs, but in the main the typical task-based worker doesn’t need one. We aren’t chained to our desks as we were a decade ago; we need information at our fingertips in meetings, we need to collaborate on the move and work remotely much more now. There’s no longer a need to work across multiple devices either with the rise of the Microsoft Surface Pro and other similar devices, which deliver all the services of a desktop, laptop and tablet in one package. If there’s not room in the budget for devices like these then a standard laptop is now comparable in price to a PC.
8. 3D printer use increases
The cost and reliability of 3D printing has improved significantly throughout the year. Certain sectors, particularly manufacturing, education, healthcare and design, will all be investing further in 3D printing equipment. The main focus will continue to be dramatically cutting costs and the time involved in prototyping.