In 2017 we saw technology make business smarter and more efficient through digital ID, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT)—to name a few. But what will the new year bring? Here are my top six predictions for the biggest trends to look for in 2018.
1. Consolidation of enterprise technology
Postmodern ERP has taken its toll. In the counter-trend, successful companies will consolidate numerous disconnected enterprise applications into fewer, more centralized platforms to streamline their processes, improve insights, and increase business agility. Having a core platform promotes data sharing across departments, increasing the pace of business, and arming teams with the tools and insights required to successfully tackle new market dynamics. In 2018, rather than stringing together “best-of-breed” workloads with countless integrations in between, expect to see successful companies consolidating around the master customer record and customer journey.
2. Revenue recognition reckoning
The shift to diverse business models in the new services economy requires more complex revenue recognition reporting that manual, Excel-based tracking cannot handle. New standards for reporting services revenue will force many businesses to migrate from spreadsheets to cloud-based revenue management applications capable of ensuring compliance from a single source of truth. The deadline for public companies to comply with new regulatory requirements—ASC 606 and IFRS 15—is here, with private companies following a year later. It’s an imminent shift for back office finance teams. (You can read this< to learn more.)
3. Experimentation with voice
Improvements in natural language and speech recognition technologies will accelerate voice inputs as an area of experimentation. Amazon’s recent Alexa for Business announcement provides a management plan for the smart office that’s powered by digital assistants. Google, Microsoft, and Apple are also positioning their assistants for enterprise use cases. While businesses will continue to evaluate voice interaction for the workplace, voice-driven assistants are bottlenecked by severe limitations—most notably around insufficient security and identity protocols—and will require much more refinement and conversational intelligence to be useful. But they will get there.
4. AI becomes real in the enterprise
Increasing use of AI in business applications will make predictive analytics and real-time insights available to a wider range of companies. However, many early business AI projects will fail due to the unreliable set of historical data these tools rely on. Organizations will need to return to their core ERP systems to create a better foundation on which their AI systems can then operate —the more historical data available, the more effective AI will be. Companies will also need to recognize the importance of data science expertise, as the more tools there are to mine the data, the more there is a need for expertise in data science to apply them effectively.
5. GDPR will shake up data privacy—and catch some companies off guard
Initially, companies may have dismissed this as only an issue in the European Union (EU), but any company with customers or employees within the EU will need to assess their data privacy strategy and adapt to comply with the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Consequences of non-compliance could be severe: authorities can fine organizations up to the greater of €20 million or 4% of a company’s annual global revenue, based on the seriousness of the damages incurred. Many companies will be caught off guard, whether because they don’t understand the ramifications, don’t have the expertise to deal with them, or simply make changes too late to comply. GDPR will expose companies to expensive non-compliance issues. Analogous to a “denial of service” (DoS) attack, data privacy activists will challenge top cloud companies Facebook, Google, and Amazon aggressively, testing their ability to comply. Companies will realize just how deep their data dependence rabbit hole goes, exposing the plethora of vendor relationships they depend on for compliance. (Find some additional information here.)
6. Blockchain use cases will widen and develop
Blockchain will continue to move from a technology simply for Bitcoin to wider business use cases. Though blockchain will disrupt business applications in 2018, mass adoption will come later. Most immediate use cases include enterprise transaction handling, triple or hyper ledgers, and the automation of smart contracts. The immutability of transactions can be applied to accounting records, which will provide an unprecedented traceability of historical transactions. Audits will become trivial. Meanwhile, blockchain will also facilitate machine validation of obligations, auto-bill, and auto-collect.
I am excited about what’s in store for 2018 and what businesses will do with the new technology, the new challenges, and the new opportunities ahead.