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As we closed out 2018, we stopped to look around and see what’s happening in technology to help you see what’s next on the horizon. Digital enterprise is evolving faster than ever, customer conversations are more dynamic than ever and technology is out-innovating itself. Here’s what you need to know about technology trends to prepare for 2019.

Increased use of cloud-based solutions, applications and security software.

The number and sophistication of cloud-based solutions and services are increasing. According to Forbes, by 2020, subscription-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) will grow at an 18% compound annual growth rate, investment in platform-as-a-service (PaaS) will be the fastest-growing sector of cloud forms by growing from 32% (2016) to 56%, and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is predicted to reach $72.4 billion worldwide by 2020. Further, 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by then as well, with 41% of enterprise workloads running on public cloud platforms and 22% on hybrid cloud platforms. The cloud is here to stay and visionary enterprises are migrating to make the most of their resources, staff time and deployment options.

In terms of security, breaches are now a matter of when vs. if they will happen. Cloud systems may feel less secure, because you don’t own or control the hardware, but the reality is that any system that can be accessed from the outside is at risk, whether on-premise or in the cloud. Controlling access to the data matters more than where the data is stored. That said, cloud providers know they are the line of defense for your data so more sophisticated measures of protection are being developed and deployed by the day.

More focus on marketing automation and customer service.

It isn’t smart use of business resources for employees to handle routine tasks when automation is an option. Mass personalization of marketing can only happen by using a marketing automation system. The deeper the personalization, the more important it is to have a good customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing system.

A stellar customer experience is the only sustainable advantage in business today, which means customer service must be stellar. The good news is that automation can also be applied in that modern savvy customers want online self-service and/or the first point of contact with customer service systems help direct the customer to the right service agent in your system for help.

According to Customer Experience Insight, customers prefer a personal interaction when making or changing appointments (only about a third want to do so online), and/or when they want to understand how their personal information is being used or when it’s been breached. However, people prefer online self-service when buying or paying for a purchase and when learning something new or troubleshooting.

Also, customers expect brands to deliver based on their last best experience with another brand (say, Amazon or Ikea). Good isn’t enough anymore. If Amazon can know about their customer instantly, that sets customer expectations for any other brand. Upgrade your personalized marketing and customer service to meet customer expectations and create trust, as well as long-term loyalty, for your brand.

More movement to Big Data

Moving to a Big Data model has several significant benefits. One such benefit is that, once data is collected and stored, users can sift and sort on their own without a lot of technical training or IT intervention. Having the capacity to read and report on data for business intelligence, meaning easy-to-read charts, graphs and slideshows, helps non-technical staff access the information real-time as needed for decision-making and trends projections.

Being a data-driven enterprise is a competitive edge in predicting customer behaviors and preferences. This supports personalized (and automated) marketing campaigns, innovation in products and services, route customers to the staff person for personal engagement and monitoring for potential customer issues before they become problems.

Something to consider is that data means more than numbers in a database; data now comes from audio, visual and text files. This requires processing tools with advanced capabilities, like data mining and predictive analysis, as well as the right people with technical skills to ask the right questions and ensure the right results from data analysis to set up systems properly.

AI and Machine-learning

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine-learning enable intelligent automation and decision-making as well as enhance productivity and frictionless operations. Machine-learning empowers customers as well as users in that the system can serve up content and behavior options based on their previous choices. That means that, over time, systems will continuously improve based on user actions. Another benefit of AI and machine-learning is pattern identification and recognition, especially in unstructured data, which helps connect previously unconnected data points.

According to Inside Big Data, organizations able to analyze all relevant data and deliver actionable information will achieve an extra $430 billion in productivity benefits over their less-analytically-oriented peers.

More tools embedded in legacy solutions

To make the most of existing or proprietary systems, companies may want to consider modernizing legacy applications so they work with mobile devices or function in use cases that were never visualized when they were developed. The ideal is to accomplish that non-invasively, such as making the original app accessible to users through a fresh portal or modern cloud service, although there are times when more invasive means are necessary, like re-coding parts of the app.

If the programming was completed in COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), that dates back to the 1950’s and may need to be brought current. If speed, like accessing real-time data for customer or user experience is important, or transaction speed requires faster processing, that can also necessitate having more tools embedded in legacy solutions. If your IT staff is more focused on maintenance than on strategic initiatives and innovations, that’s another sign that it may be time to extend the value of existing investments by embedding new tools in existing systems.

Enable your legacy applications to be more easily reused, updated, or modified using APIs. With APIs you can uncover the data and functionality while adding improved ability to leverage new applications and services.

In any case, one way to future-proof your technology is to consider the best way to upgrade legacy investments to meet the needs of digital business today.

By being aware, you can be ready to take advantage of opportunities as they show up.

And, as you do, XTIVIA is here to help you make the most of the technology you will need to deliver more streamlined value to your customers and out-innovate your competition.

This post was originally published to Linkedin.

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