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6 Trends from 2018 and What 2019 Will Bring

By MRS on Friday, December 28 2018

We talk with a lot of IT and LOB leaders in our prospecting, sales, and networking activities. We never miss a chance to learn from our peers and clients: what are their concerns, focuses, struggles, successes, etc. Below is a rundown of our findings and where we think 2019 might take us.

1. “Cloud-first” has given way to “Cloud assumed”

From about 2015 onwards we saw more companies acquire a “cloud-first” strategy. At this point, most of our customers have moved to “cloud assumed”, meaning that unless there is a clear driver to be on-premises, clients now assume solutions are cloud-based.

Looking forward to 2019: Companies should continue to plan migrations for on-premises systems, especially legacy systems that may go out of support in the next few years. Of course, you shouldn’t migrate just for the sake of it. One approach we’ve seen is to make a 5 year plan and continue to revisit it as other systems move, since cost-benefit ratios may change as more systems are migrated. For example, there may be no impetus to migrate to Office 365 from Exchange on-prem today, but if the majority of your company’s desktop Office licenses are for 2013, that should impact your upgrade plans.

2. Companies have stopped worrying about cloud “security”; now the focus is on compliance and governance

From about 2010-2014 many IT leaders wondered about the data security in the cloud. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft have earned the trust of IT leaders from that perspective, so questions have shifted to compliance and governance. We’ve seen many different approaches with varying levels of success.

Looking forward to 2019: From 2016-2018, many of our clients wanted to “empower users with data”. In some cases it was successful, in others it got messy. There is no one correct approach so some business analysis is necessary. One client discussed approaches to scale back data access because of a failed self-serve approach. We see 2019 being another year of strategy development and alignment. Our recommendation would be to start with conservative data access and fairly strict policies and move slowly but it will always depend on your culture.

3. Speaking of cloud, Microsoft is cool again

For good reason: Office 365 is a winner and Azure has grown quickly over the past few years. And it isn’t just anecdotal; the stock market clearly agrees as Microsoft has had stints as the world’s most valuable company in December. Office 365, especially when combined with Azure, can be a shortcut to back-office digital transformation.

Looking forward to 2019: Continued improvements in the platform, especially related to the maturation of SharePoint and Teams. Flow, PowerApps and the Office Graph API (the glue that holds it all together) should be on your radar to quickly build forms, workflows, and full applications that brings information from across Office 365 together.

4. Low code solutions continue to gain traction

Through 2018 we worked with Flow, PowerApps, Nintex, K2, Mulesoft, and more. IT departments need to be agile, flexible, and responsive, but development talent is rare, costly, and hard to keep. If low code is possible, it should definitely be considered. That’s why our clients have gone that route, especially midsize companies in traditional markets like manufacturing and CPGs.

Looking forward to 2019: Don’t expect this trend to slow down in 2019. Low code solutions of course will never match the power and flexibility of custom developed solutions, but most companies aren’t inventing new; low code solutions excel in forms and process automation solutions especially as seen in the listed technologies above.

5. Many companies are experimenting with AI/ML but are still somewhat primitive with it

This is probably a combination of somewhat immature technologies and tools and a lack of trust from business leaders in AI solutions to date. Most of what we’ve seen can be described more as “Automated Discovery” rather than AI-based decision making. We have done this for knowledge base solutions, for example, to help company staff find the information they need as quickly as possible. We’ve also seen the integration of AI with low code tools like Power BI (which can be low-code depending on how it’s used).

Looking forward to 2019: The “Automated Discovery” will continue through 2019. Expect this to occur in CRM and other customer related processes. This may be combined with smaller decision making, perhaps like sending personalized content to prospects and past clients periodically without human intervention based on their data (industry, size, web buying signals, past business/interactions, etc.). Braver organizations may experiment with more complex decisions too.

6. Embracing open source

This has been true for a few years but even more so now. Microsoft is embracing Linux for Azure and open sourcing .NET slowly, using the Chromium engine for the new version of the Edge browser, Docker and Kubernetes container services are exciting solutions for IT departments, and languages like Python, javascript, and Go are the go-to languages for serverless development.

Looking forward to 2019: A cloud world requires interoperability, and interoperability is best suited for open systems. Expect the world to continue building upon existing open source tools, frameworks, and technologies. Hopefully we will see more companies contribute development time to open source projects and open source the solutions they build on top of these technologies!

Happy New Year from MRS and best wishes for 2019!