The top 5 tech trends for the 2018 enterprise

The last few years has seen an explosion of new capabilities and innovations, all of which are interlinked. This year in particular will see IT teams swamped trying to execute on everything, all at once and at the same time, in accordance with existing systems. So what are the top five trends for enterprises to keep top of mind when stepping into 2018? Which are the ones that will upend how enterprises relate, operate and create business value this year? 

1. The rise of big data, analytics & artificial intelligence   

There’s endless hype in the B2B world around the potential of AI. In 2018, this technology is set to permeate almost every industry – and that includes becoming increasingly prominent in telecoms, where it will have countless different applications. Artificial intelligence will play a part in refining customer experience through increased customer intelligence, and will also drive operational efficiencies in the network, through automated closed loops of information. The ability of AI to analyse large amounts of data to predict certain behaviours will also play an increasing role in security.   

There have already been great strides in the big data and AI world. One example is global law firm, Clyde & Co, who through big data technology is turning what had been a manually intensive task into a competitive advantage. The firm is using analytics to automate the creation of case reports, adding value for customers where quantitative data bolsters qualitative opinion. Rather than simply relying on past experience, lawyers can instantly look back on hundreds of cases and tell a client their chance of winning the case.   

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The next year will see an increasing share of IT budgets allocated towards big data and AI technologies as companies realise how these will technologies can transform business. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, algorithms are expected to positively alter the behaviour of more than 1 billion global workers.   

2. Hybrid cloud model will continue at pace   

The reality is that although cloud first will continue, there is still a lot of critical infrastructure in the private data centre and private cloud. Even now, some workloads still aren’t cloud friendly, making current cloud-only estimates overly optimistic, and the hybrid cloud model an attractive proposition for the foreseeable future. Even by 2020, 68% of workloads will be in public clouds, while 32% will be in private according to Cisco Global Cloud Index.   

The cloud itself is now ubiquitous in the industry. The big shift in this area will be towards edge computing which will be driven by the need to consume and store ever increasing volumes of data and enable departments to respond in real time to other teams or customers. Here, latency requirements will be pivotal. Data centre to data centre traffic will grow faster than in data centre and data centre to user traffic. 

3. Digital transformation will continue to challenge the enterprise   

Digital transformation strategies will shift. Until now, companies have focused on adopting new innovations but in 2018, companies will be figuring out how to cope with the fallout. Innovations have flown in thick and fast and now it’s business processes that are falling out of sync. Now that the technologies have been invested in, what do teams need to put in place to maximise on this?   

For example, as virtualisation reaches some level of maturity in 2018, new on-demand marketplace capabilities allow enterprises to access value-added services beyond basic connectivity.   Yet this on-demand subscription model requires an entirely new corporate environment. Companies with budgeting and procurement processes that still rely on a three-year review aren’t going to be ready for an on-demand portal that they can dial up and down when needed. Over the next year, conversations around digital transformation will move away from identifying new opportunities for innovation and towards eliminating the bottlenecks of internal processes to take full advantage of digital transformation.   

There is hope though. Many companies are used to an on-demand consumption model through their use of cloud providers. Now they need to apply that same thinking to connectivity.   

4. Networks will become more central to enterprise business models   

Previously seen as a cost centre, we will see more emphasis on the role of the network in a company’s business model, and it will become an increasingly important part of the IT mix.   SD-WAN adoption will continue on an explosive trajectory, and harnessing the increased efficiency and scalability allowed by the network will become part of an enterprise’s business strategy. However, the more integral role of connectivity will not take away cost constraints for enterprises, and suppliers will therefore need to keep up to date with changes in pricing models driven by new ways of consuming services.   

The shift from a subscription-based to a consumption-based connectivity model – and the corresponding investment shift from CapEx to OpEx - is a significant trend that will continue to play out in 2018.   

5. Customer experience will become Customer Intelligence   

The consumerisation of the B2B experience will continue apace – with the focus soon evolving from customer experience to Customer Intelligence.   

The increasingly demanding consumer makes no strict distinction between different channels of communication, but expects a smooth, convenient user experience. By engaging more with our customers and listening to what makes a difference to them, we are embracing this trend in the B2B world. It’s about being smart - evolving from mass communication towards delivering the right interaction to the right customer at the right time, while growing revenue through a better customer experience.   

Organisations will change their model to manage the business and adjust to consumer demands as they want a more responsive and interactive environment. Moreover, consumers now expect all data stored about them to be targeted precisely to their needs or used to personalise what they experience. Business models that involve customers will ensure the improvement in product quality and the efficiency of service. 

Big data, hybrid cloud and networking are essential pillars for the future of the enterprise, and capitalising on the potential of these technologies will be central to business growth. For the 2018 enterprise, the key to streamlining operations, offering new services and, ultimately, driving business value will be about maximising these systems in a way that extracts the most benefit, with flexible commercial models that puts the customer in control. 

Carl Grivner, CEO of Colt Technology Services 

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