Cobweb MD Michael Frisby looks ahead to 2019

Ross MacKenzie
Tags: Digital transformation Microsoft Teams

It’s always interesting at this time of the year, to look back at the developments in cloud and advances in technology during the past 12 months and identify the trends likely to continue, as well as to highlight new topics to look out for.

Below I list my top ten predictions for 2019:

1. AI (Artificial Intelligence)

This was number four in my 2018 list, but this year is number one.  AI has really come to life as 2018 has progressed and I recently heard that there are 250 AI start-ups a month in the UK at the moment. As more companies start to provide AI solutions and more customers use them, adoption I believe will explode, alongside a significant focus on the ethics of AI, and in particular around the question, should we do something just because we can.

A new term for me in 2018 was robotic process automation (RPA) – software that automates basic, usually office-type tasks, across applications, and with the ‘robot’ programmed to learn workflow comprising multiple steps, and in the same way that a human employee would work. This is a practical implementation of AI that advances previous process automation to improve efficiency.

Joe Macri, VP for Commercial Partners at Microsoft UK, comments, “With the rise of AI and machine learning, technology is altering every aspect of the corporate and social landscape.” (comms dealer, December 2018).

2. Security

Security threats continue to remain a critical issue for organisations to address regardless of industry and size. A feature of my 2017 and 2018 predictions, 2018 has unfortunately continued to see a rising number of threats, especially targeted attacks, and will continue to be a major issue throughout 2019.  For me implementing a layered set of defences, with multiple locks to pick, is the best form of protection.

The NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) report, The cyber threat to UK business 2017-2018 published in April, contains a foreword by CEO, Ciaran Martin: “The last year has seen no deceleration in the tempo and volume of cyber incidents, as attackers devise new ways to harm businesses and citizens around the globe. Despite these very real threats to the nation’s security, I am confident in the UK’s ability to combat the attacks that we face every day.”

3. Data Privacy

The importance of guarding data privacy will continue as a focus for organisations in 2019. Last year, we wrote about data privacy in the context of the then impending GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) introduction on 25 May 2018. As individuals, we have welcomed the additional protections imposed by the regulations to safeguard our personal data, and businesses have embraced the requirements, as evidenced by the flood of emails we all received last May asking us to confirm our desire to continue to receive communications.

However, there is no room for complacency – as the NCSC’s weekly threat report for December 2018 illustrates. Within the section titled A week of data breaches …, the NCSC mentions in particular, the recent ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) £400k Uber fine, Germany’s social media Knuddels’s €20k fine, and the discovery of breaches of personal data for millions of individual users of Facebook, Marriott Hotels and Quora.

4. Voice in the cloud

Last year, I wrote that voice in the cloud grew strongly in 2017 and would continue to do so in 2018 – and it has, with more than 3.5m hosted voice users at the end of 2018 (Cavell Group)!

At the beginning of the year, we were waiting for Microsoft’s Skype for Business capabilities to be incorporated into Microsoft Teams. This was completed in late 2018 and with more than 300,000 businesses already using Teams worldwide, this now forms the platform for the 150m+ Office 365 users to add cloud voice to their solution.

5. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s Office 365’s team hub, Teams, is a new entry for this year.

Introduced by Microsoft in 2016, the chat-based workspace that brings together content, conversation and people, has continued to evolve to meet the new ways in which we’re working today – and is rapidly becoming a key Office 365 feature.

Microsoft announced in September 2018, that 329,000 organisations were already using the solution, and which is now the fastest growing business application in Microsoft’s history.

I expect this rate of adoption to accelerate as more and more businesses realise the benefits of adopting Teams to empower employees to work more productively and effectively.

6. Business and digital transformation

A key message from the Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) recent research paper, Cloud – The Next Generationis that digital transformation continues to spread across UK organisations, and that “digital transformation sits at the top of near every board’s agenda”.

At Cobweb, we believe that business transformation made possible by digital technology is now deeply ingrained within UK business culture, and that organisations must transform to survive.

7. Customer experience is key

Businesses are increasingly investing to enhance the customer experience. With the growing availability and benefit of technology in our personal lives, customers expect the same level of experience with every business that they engage with, whether for personal or business needs.

The development of chatbot technology is an example of how businesses are looking to improve the customer experience. A Business Insider article Chatbots and voice assistants are gaining traction in the workplace reports that of 500 IT professionals in organisations located across the US and Europe, already 29 percent were confirming having implemented – or were intending to do so in the forthcoming year – at least one AI-based chatbot.

8. 5G – the next generation mobile technology

The UK government has a ‘clear ambition’ for the UK to “be a global leader in 5G so that we can take early advantage of its potential and help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.

I expect significant hype to build throughout 2019 as we see the first 5G devices come to market. However, mass adoption won’t occur until 2020 and beyond.

9. Skills shortage

Last year I highlighted the growing importance of training, due to the fast pace of change in technology. This aligns with the continuing IT skills shortage reported within both the IT industry and in businesses more broadly. Insight’s article Shortage of tech skills and 600,000 job vacancies costing UK economy £63 billion a year highlights the issue.

I believe the trend for outsourcing IT delivery and management will continue as organisations look to overcome this skills shortage, particularly in the area of digital transformation and the adoption of AI.

10. Blockchain

Whereas blockchain has underpinned crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, it’s now being increasingly used across a range of solutions and industries, “from the fine art world to clamp down on forgeries, to fishing to provide a transparent record of where fish were caught”.

I believe that the use of blockchain will continue to expand in to a broader range of applications, from proving when a document was electronically signed to that data backups haven’t been tampered with. 

And, as always, we will continue to write and blog about cloud news, updates and developments throughout 2019 – and until then, would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous 2019.

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