For many years, like most analyst and/or analyst firms I know, I've published some sort of annual "predictions" at the start of the new year. This year, in my new role (I can still say "new" for the rest of January, my one-year anniversary isn't till tomorrow) I've put together a small team (Rob Light and Tom Hardin) and we have been working on our own G2 Crowd 2017 trends list. On the G2 Crowd Blog we are posting a whole series of posts (11 to be exact), but I'll try to summarize the trends here as well.
Digital transformation continues to dominate a lot of tech conversations but it gets really interesting when the focus goes deeper and you look at what companies are doing to transform their businesses. At a high level most of the hot trends that are accelerating underneath the "digital transformation" label are related to a few technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), data, cloud and digital platforms, and advances in methods to interact with technology. AI in particular is showing up everywhere, and there are some use cases that are getting the attention of businesses. Embedding AI into applications, what we're calling intelligent applications, provides the ability to automate simple tasks to free up employees for more critical activities and the ability to digest massive amounts of data and provide insights to support more effective decision making. Embed AI in security and you get intelligent security, or move your security efforts from reactive to a combination of proactive and reactive. AI can provide the ability to analyze the massive amount of log and event data, and act on it with threat detection algorithms. AI plus IoT gives you intelligent things, and brings a wealth of sensor data to augment and support intelligent applications.
Those six broad themes; AI, IoT, data, cloud, digital platforms and new UI models, form the foundation for the trends we have identified for 2017. The top trends for 2017 are:
- Intelligent Applications: Embedding AI inside applications can enable many capabilities, but generally they fall into two broad categories - 1. The ability to automate tasks to relieve workers of more mundane tasks, freeing up more time for higher value activities ,and 2. Take large datasets and find the relevant data in some defined context, supporting business decisions.
- Operational agility: Competing in business today requires the flexibility to react to threats more quickly, change strategies and methods, and to adjust or change underlying systems to support the changing requirements. Operational agility can take many forms, but a big part of it is the ability to take a strategic decision and quickly configure and build systems that can support the changes. That means that new digital platforms, which also are covered in these trends, are essential and that IT must be able to respond to the new requirements quickly. DevOps, agile development and other IT changes can help organizations support the required changes more effectively.
- Intelligent things: The rapid growth of connected things via the IoT opens up the opportunity to take the data produced by these sensors and provide systems that can make real time use of that data. IoT also offers enhanced capabilities beyond just remote monitoring, and, although it varies by the type of system involved, intelligent apps can use the data to drive remote action and task automation.
- New UI models - Virtual Reality (VR) / Augmented Reality (AR) / conversational systems: Interacting with a computer was for many years mostly limited to keyboard, mouse or trackpad. Mobile, with the introduction of the iPhone, brought touch into the mainstream and accelerated the use of voice. AR and VR use has expanded beyond niche use to mainstream in consumer apps and will have big impacts on businesses over the next few years as the use cases expand. Conversational UIs, particularly with AI based systems, saw a big increase over the past few years with consumers. Mobile phones and computers have found expanding use for virtual assistants like Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has taken the conversational system to the smart home movement, followed closely by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and others. The use cases in business systems will grow this year.
- Digital marketing and micro-targeting: Digital marketing, or the delivery of marketing through online channels, is a significant part of most marketing programs. Over the past few years several technologies have converged to create highly targeted and individually impactful messaging. This new capability, micro-targeting, uses big dusts through data clouds and other rapidly growing data sources, advanced analytics, behavioral modeling and a variety of delivery channels ranging from social networks to proximity based sensors and is highly effective. The accuracy of the models and the broad use of micro-targeting is moving mainstream.
- Marketplaces: Online marketplaces evolved out of some of the earliest online business models pioneered by B2C companies like eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Amazon. From consumer roots though, it expanded to B2B with companies like Ariba, CommerceOne and others. Today the model is disrupting businesses in transportation, hospitality and commerce. Marketplaces are an important distribution channel for an increasing number of B2B products an services.
- Data clouds: The massive growth of data and the increasing business need for more and more diverse data sets led to the growth of data aggregators using the Internet as a distribution method and a subscription business model. While data aggregators aren't new, the Internet created both an easier way to collect more relevant data and a more effective method for distributing that data.
- The Next generation Cloud: The next generation of cloud applications and infrastructure is emerging and includes the use of many new technologies ranging from containers to in-memory computing. The digital platform is being redefined to include more services and the entire "stack" is being broken apart into smaller and more granular micro-services.
- Digital platforms: The platform to support the new nimble and flexible business is evolving into a more modular set of services that can rapidly be configured and reconfigured to support changing competitive initiatives and strategies. The combined platform contains many more services embedded into the platform layer (like collaboration, security, storage, analytics, AI, etc.) and provides a rapidly configurable foundation for flexible business processes and models.
- Intelligent security: The past few years have shown that anything connected to the Internet is vulnerable using existing security methods and tools. The need for inherently smart technologies to both react and predict in an increasingly complex IT environment and with high risk threats that are more intelligent, have more resources and are potentially government supported is a business imperative. Combining AI into new security solutions have the potential of offering a more effective approach to increasing overall security for businesses.