Of all the “What to watch” lists gumming up your social media feeds, “Which tech trends are on the horizon” should be the one you pause long enough to read. It’s important to recognize what technology is increasingly in popularity so you can allocate the time and funds to make these trends pay off for your business.
Here are my takes on what to spend and save on for technology in 2017. CIOs should already be thinking about integrating the following tech:
- Cloud Migration. Cloud adoptions will be transforming to cloud-first strategies. Investing in cloud-first technology will mean substantial benefits for businesses, including reduction in hosting and equipment costs, increases in capacity, streamlined operations, enhanced collaboration, and increased productivity. I believe cloud-first is key to keeping your company agile.
- Cybersecurity. Security in the world of the internet of things (IoT) must be as agile at the components people use. It must be both fluid and adaptive. Designers must consider IT security early in the development of applications, solutions, and enterprise architectures. I expect entity behavior analytics will be required across enterprises, and multi-layered security measures will rule the day.
- AR and VR. Pokémon Go is fun—but we all expected it to change the way we can use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the marketplace of ideas. This year, we will see AR and VR get more mainstream use. There are AR and VR devices in early stage development, but expect versions of AR and VR to pop up everywhere in the upcoming year. In fact, Amazon Go has already hit the ground running by leveraging some of this tech.
- Automation for Data Centers and Marketing. Automation comes with a host of anxieties—and not just for factory jobs. But I see automation as an investment in the future; it will expand jobs, just in different sectors. Data centers already use open source automation tools, but I expect to see more marketing and data centers transitioning in this direction.
- Intelligent Apps. You’ve been working with intelligent apps on a small scale already. VPAs—virtual personal assistants—are one example. They can transform businesses by streamlining workplace processes, such as prioritizing emails and highlighting specific content. In2017, we will see the rise of intelligent apps that go beyond assistants. In fact, every software category—from security and beyond—will have artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. By leveraging AI, providers can focus on advanced analytics, more autonomous business processes, and more conversational interfaces. Gartner predicts that by 2018, the world’s largest 200 companies will be leveraging intelligent apps.
- Blockchain. This will be a big deal for a few crucial industries—music distribution, title registry, and identity verification, to name the big ones. A blockchain is a distributed database in which information—including bitcoins—are listed sequentially in “blocks.” This helps prevent the tampering of data and promises increased trust and less business friction by offering transparent access to the chain. Though I’m hoping this will hit 2017 strong, many blockchain initiatives are still in the early phases.
- AI and Machine learning. Artificial intelligence seemed like the stuff of movies not too long ago. Machine learning done by AI is an even greater leap. By 2017, however, expect more systems that can actually learn and change their behavior—leading the way for more intelligent devices. The race is on, though, to see who will dominate the market. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Apple, and IBM are all in the running. Machine-learning updates will rise across all tech, but who will be the big winner for this platform war is still up for grabs.
- Rise of Chatbots/Business Bots. Right now, the chatbots on our smartphones are fairly rudimentary, but that doesn’t stop us from using them. My guess is that as more people use smartphones—and those numbers increase by the day—chatbots and business bots will evolve to meet more demanding needs.
- Smart Beacons for Marketing and at Home. According to a Google study, eight out of 10 consumers use their smartphones to make purchases—in the store. Location-based marketing that engages smart beacon technology will become more prevalent this coming year for both marketing and home purchases.
- IoT, Smart Homes, and Offices. With all the talk of smart technology, we’ve been expecting every city to become a smart city and our homes to lock and regulate temps from our phones. While all that is a true possibility, it has lacked unity, making the revolution feel like it has yet to arrive. Expect 2017 to be the year when IoT and smart homes and offices become the norm, especially with big names like Google, Apple, and Amazon involved.
- Humanized Data. Humanized data has been a buzzword for a few years now. By leveraging the massive amount of data we now have access to, what happens to it should improve—from better planning for health to improved marketing. But its biggest strength—its numerical foundation—is also its biggest drawback. Expect advances to humanize big data that work to make bits of data qualitative and more accessible.
- As-a-service Economy Explosion. Encompassing everything from hardware as a service, data as a service, and cloud monitoring as a service, and beyond, we already have a name for what will likely be an explosive trend in 2017: XaaS—or anything as a service. These services are offered over the cloud and fuel cloud computing.
- Hyperconvergence. Hyperconvergence systems unify storage, computing, networking, and virtualization from a single vender. This tech is becoming mainstream, but it’ll have to overcome a few obstacles—like cost and slower systems—to fly high in 2017. Its lower footprint and easy acquisition may help it make the leap, however.
- More Mobility. The IoT has ensured that we’re all fairly mobile, but expect that reach to continue. More companies will likely see the benefits of engaging a ROBO—remote office/branch office—system, meaning our expectation of mobility, and the tools we use to connect, will be also be on the rise.
- Advanced collaboration. Collaboration with chat-based tech is the go-to for business applications. The number of competitors suggests just how important advanced collaboration will be for 2017, from Flock to HipChat. Some are whispering about whether Microsoft teams can upend Slack, since it comes with Office 365 for free. What I’m most excited about, though, is how collaboration and machine learning can partner to bring together users, resources, and data.
- Fog computing. Fog computing has a few names, all of which extend cloud computing and cloud services to the edge of the network, pulling the power of the cloud closer to where data is used and stored. It’s more efficient and reduces data transport. Because of this, it will be leveraged in the coming year for tech that will also be increasing and improving—smart grids, smart cities, and smart buildings.
- Cloud-to-Cloud Storage Backup. For many businesses, jumping on a new tech for storage back-up is a scary process, but this has been a few years coming. Cloud-to-cloud storage backup will be part of a business’s overall digital transformation in the coming year.
From technology budgets to knowing how tech will change business, tech trends matter for businesses big and small. CIOs should keep their eyes out for these changes, and leverage what they can to stay ahead.
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A version of this post was first published on Forbes.