If 2016 was a year of digital disruption and coping with the increasing pace of technological change, 2017 is shaping up as an even bumpier ride.
The trends that created challenges last year show no signs of slowing. Cloud, big data, analytics and mobility all continue to have a significant impact on how organisations operate and interact with customers, suppliers and partners.
Now some other exciting trends are entering the limelight with the promise of new opportunities for those prepared to harness them. Some key trends to watch in 2017 include:
Interest in microservices grew strongly during 2016, and their adoption will flourish this year. Their usage revolves around the strategy of creating small software components that do one thing and do it well. Multiple microservices can then be linked together to support business processes.
The area can be confusing, as it is not yet fully defined; however, things will become clearer as usage increases. That said, organisations need to understand that microservices can also create a lot more complexity within IT infrastructure. Instead of one monolith, you end up with thousands of small components.
While microservices have been shown to be good for early-stage implementations, as they become leveraged by larger groups of people, they will likely need to graduate into APIs. In 2017, expect to see organisations increasingly use APIs to manage microservices and interconnect points between microservices.
Security will continue to top the priority lists in organisations across all sectors. In a recent MuleSoft survey of 951 global IT professionals, 84 per cent cited security as a “very” or “extremely” important IT priority in 2017.
We’ll continue to see the shift away from point-to-point integration, which propagates complexity and strangles agility, and toward IT turning many assets into managed APIs for discovery and reuse. APIs are standardised and well-defined entry points for exchanging data and capabilities. They are easy to visualise and allow IT to create entry points that have security built in at the point of design. Security is built in because IT has defined a door through an API and, as a result, cleanly defined the organisation’s inside and outside.
Additionally this year, there will be an increasing focus on tokenisation. This approach to security allows data access to be controlled on a per-user basis even when multiple people are using the same API. For example, access to customer information may be via one API; however, tokens can allow the creation of user profiles that restrict individual access to only certain parts of that information. Rather than having to create multiple versions of the API, access can be restricted on a user-by-user basis, creating a cleaner way to move information around an organisation.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT continues to be a buzzword; however, the hype may be ahead of reality. As we move into 2017, many are recognising that a lot more work needs to happen before the promised benefits of IoT can be realised.
One of the biggest challenges to resolve is finding efficient ways to capture and filter all the data generated by connected devices. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can help but can’t yet solve the problem. However, ongoing advances in the capabilities of machine learning and analytics tools will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with rich data.
It’s also really hard to communicate between different systems. The real value of IoT won’t be seen until communication challenges are overcome and data can flow freely. This point may not be reached during 2017, but we will certainly see the needle being pushed through the use of APIs.
Chatbots for customer service
Chatbots grew quickly in popularity during 2016, led by sectors such as financial services. Some banks, such as ANZ Bank, have deployed the technology to allow customers to ask questions about their accounts, initiate transactions and receive basic financial advice. You can expect to see more experiments like this in 2017.
The goal of these experiments is to discover what’s next in the fusion of automated services and human interaction. Organisations need to figure out how much they can automate without driving their customers away. In the new year, we are likely to see more examples of chatbots that can detect the mood of a caller through the intonation of their voice. If the chatbots sense increasing frustration, they can route the call to a human agent for follow up.
The end goal for organisations using chatbots will be finding the best mix between automated responses to questions and the need for real human agents.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
There was a lot of interest in both AR and VR during 2016, driven by plenty of hype and large marketing budgets.
One often cited example of how it could be used in business is to overlay virtual plans on equipment to help engineers repair breakdowns and service parts. While this sounds great, it requires sophisticated system integration to get it to work. There will continue to be a lot of excitement around AR and VR in 2017; however, it will be a matter of waiting for software systems to catch up and integration to improve. Business leaders in 2017 should make careful assessments of any technologies before investing in them to ensure they are an appropriate fit and will actually deliver true business benefits.
Reflecting on the five tech trends above, it’s clear the pace of innovation and change will only increase as we move further into this year. Whether deploying customer service chatbots or improving the security of customer data through better usage of APIs, 2017 is going to be a pivotal year for organisations across industries.
Ross Mason is the founder of MuleSoft.
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