Artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT devices are just a few of the tools that analysts and executives believe will play a huge role in the coming year.

“For 2020, many organizations will augment or expand digital transformation efforts into digital innovation to drive business results. Digital transformation isn’t going away and never will as long as there are ongoing opportunities for transformation,” said Mark Troester, vice president of strategy at the technology development company Progress.

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“Making digital innovation part of the fabric doesn’t necessarily call for separate teams or big investments,” Troester said. “It starts by developing a culture of innovation by grounding teams in objectives and their accountability for them, and then give them broad discretion to execute.”

“Try hackathons that aren’t limited to writing software—think about how you can improve business processes, experiment with different GTM approaches, new sales and marketing efforts and the like,” he added. “Hang on to your hats, folks—2020 is going to be an interesting year.”

Here are a few predictions and insights about what analysts and executives believe may happen across DesignOps, AppDev, artificial intelligence and 5G next year.

Application Development and Design Operations

The technological changes of the world have had a drastic effect on how almost every company and organization interacts with customers or participants.

People expect top-of-the-line web design and a brand of application development that meets their every desire. Without that, businesses are at a distinct disadvantage, as studies have shown people are increasingly likely to quickly discard an app or website that doesn’t work well.

“In the era of the digital reflex, consumers will no longer forgive or forget poor experiences. A great digital performance is now the baseline for any business, but the real winners will be those that consistently exceed customer expectations by delivering a flawless experience,” said Danny Winokur, general manager at the Cisco-owned AppDynamics.

Troester explained that DesignOps is now more important than ever “given the heightened user expectations set by the world’s digital giants and a certain social media behemoth.” He added that consumers are increasingly looking for a holistic experience when they buy as opposed to simply choosing the best product.

In the next year, companies will need to buckle down and make more of an effort to evolve their process and do a better job at working with designers and developers to create a cohesive vision for the user experience, he said.

SEE: Artificial intelligence: A business leader’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic Premium)

“The DesignOps evolution should include inserting the designer earlier in the development process and keeping them there throughout testing and production feedback, implementing technology that allows the designer to use their tool of choice and taking a design to code approach that generates the design automatically with round trip collaboration for dev changes,” Troester said.

Companies are also better off coordinating the AppDev process and customer experience efforts “by adopting flexible platforms and technology components to meet your specific requirements. While there’s no such thing as a single technology for all requirements, the technologies will become more interchangeable and agile, with open standards interfaces,” according to Troester.

This will become integral to digital transformation and modernization, which generally go hand in hand with application development and design operations. As companies shed legacy systems and pivot to newer, generally cloud-based solutions, it will become imperative for enterprises to have a companywide understanding of how to integrate all of their needs or services.

This integration will become vital when designing customer experiences that weave through multiple digital touchpoints.

“For example, customer interactions that take place over an integrated web, mobile and chat experience are integrated appropriately into employee and partner systems, not only to analyze and report on the customer activity, but to help ensure the right level of human support,” Troester said.

Internet of Things

IoT devices have suddenly become the rage this year, with manufacturers deciding to put a chip in almost every household appliance or tool available, including coffee machines, refrigerators and security cameras.

The deployment has upended industries including manufacturing, with dozens of companies deploying devices throughout their supply chains to gather more data and streamline processes.

There has been an explosion of interest among consumers and companies interested in IoT devices, and data from Statista shows that by 2025, as many as 75 billion IoT devices will be in the hands of consumers.

According to the research company Particle, the IoT industry may eventually have an economic impact of more than $11 trillion by 2025.

“The most successful IoT products are those that deliver recurring, continuous value for you and your customers. While there are a lot of ways you can create that value, we’ve found that remote monitoring, preventative maintenance, and asset tracking are the primary ways companies make money with IoT,” Zach Supalla, CEO and co-founder of Particle, said earlier this year.

But the devices are not perfect. Their rise in popularity has corresponded with an increase in attacks by cybercriminals who exploit the lax security of devices made by manufacturers without cybersecurity expertise.

Jonathan Langer, CEO of healthcare IoT security company Medigate, predicted that the next few years will see an increase in awareness about the security flaws inherent in IoT devices.

“I remember 10 years ago, IoT was kind of an anecdote and something futuristic that people were talking about with regard to security. The manufacturers that created these devices really didn’t have security in mind when manufacturing them,” Langer said.

“The good news is that the main thing that has changed over the course of the last couple years is awareness to the problem. Whether you’re a hospital or a bank or any other big retailers, you are now aware that the customers and users of IoT are now aware of the security aspects or hazards of IoT devices and are looking for solutions.”

Artificial Intelligence

AI has been around for a while but now that it is finally trickling down to companies without any technology expertise, the average person is gaining more exposure to the technology for better or for worse. We’ve all had the experience of dealing with a chatbot customer service rep or sitting on the phone mashing 0 until we finally reach a human representative.

But AI is even being adopted in places we can’t see, optimizing supply chains or helping humanitarian organizations save lives in times of crisis.

“AI is the next wave of innovation, and overlooking this opportunity will pose a threat to a region’s economic and national security,” said Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation.

“Gaining an early lead in AI will boost a region’s economic competitiveness, but there are many factors they need to get right.”

The Center for Data Innovation released a report in August highlighting the future of AI based on how countries around the world are investing in it. The world leaders by a wide margin are China and the United States, which have both pumped billions into spreading the gospel of AI’s multitude of uses.

It will even have an effect on cybersecurity as more malicious actors use it to widen attack surfaces and more security teams use it to address the deluge of threats.

“The United States is leading in AI today, but it should not rest on its laurels,” Michael McLaughlin, a Center for Data Innovation research analyst and the lead author of the report on AI. “To maintain its lead, the United States should focus on policies that grow its domestic talent base, enable foreign AI talent to immigrate, and increase incentives for research and development.”

Mobility and 5G

The spread of smartphones has pushed mobility to the fore and prompted companies to think of how they can offer better experiences for users that are constantly on the go. No other technology will have a greater effect on mobile communications in 2020 than 5G, which has already rolled out in some areas but will see greater adoption next year.

But greater customer demands will require technology that is up to the task.

“You would think that at network speeds 10x faster than 4G, it would negate the need for processing at the edge. But when it comes to the potential life and death consequences relating to data processing delays in the medical field, or the ability to automate automobiles or smart factories, there will be a need for processing at the edge,” Troester said.

“We see this as it is expected that mini- or micro-data centers will likely be added nearby cell towers.”

A survey from Rysavy Research released in September predicted that 5G will serve as the bedrock of an entirely digitized environment populated by autonomous cars, smart cities, wearable computers and “innovations not yet conceived.”

“5G will transform wireless network capability by facilitating extremely dense deployments, harnessing spectrum never before available for cellular systems, being able to use extremely wide radio channels, employing virtualization methods, and supporting new ultra reliable and low latency applications,” said the firm’s president, Peter Rysavy. “Wireless network capacity doubles every three years and is fueled by progressive densification, access to new spectrum and innovation that increases spectral efficiency.”

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