The Emperor in 2019 Will Wear Clothes—Real Ones

It’s easy to see when the emperor has no clothes, just as it’s easy to spot a truly bad technology.

What’s much harder is spotting an overhyped technology—one that has great promise that hasn’t been fulfilled yet, or one that is great for a given purpose, but positioned as the cure for world hunger.

The technology industry is famous for hype—for good reason. New technologies sometimes take off as rockets and no one wants to be left out the next time. Also, technologists are inherently optimists and love innovation.

The past year will go down as one of those in which even these optimists had to acknowledge the distance between the hype of exciting new technologies and the reality. For example, as we head into 2019, not everything is in the cloud and the unpredictability of cloud costs has become all too real. Blockchain hasn’t upended the core of ecommerce or supply chain. Hadoop is understood for what it is and what it isn’t. Dashed expectations are tough to accept, but once things get real, they can then get really good.

With that in mind, here are six predictions for what will happen in 2019:

1. AI Efforts Come Up Short. More money than ever is being invested into AI systems with IDC projecting $77.6 billion will be spent in 2022, more than three times the $24 billion forecast for 2018. Will enterprises get enough value for their investments? We predict not. Why? AI requires good data going in before good decision making comes out, and most companies don’t have their data in good enough shape to feed AI engines to get optimal results. For AI to truly pay off, enterprises need good, clean, well-governed data that they can trust. As a result, 2019 will be the year that organizations confront the reality that AI will only ever be as good as the data that feeds it.

2. Hadoop Data Lakes Get Drained. Hadoop revolutionized analytics for a number of large tech companies, and that success led many others to embrace it—but often for things it wasn’t designed for. Many companies that invested in Hadoop data lakes have found that they cannot trust, analyze, or share the collected data. This is particularly true in regulated industries, and these days, just about every industry is a regulated industry. Hadoop will continue to provide value, but in 2019 the emphasis will shift back to the use cases for which it was designed.

3. Blockchain Fever Dies Down. Clarity is emerging as to what the technology is great at, what it isn’t, and how long it’ll take to fully bake. An analysis by Axios shows that earlier in 2018, “blockchain” was mentioned 173 times by Fortune 500 companies and analysts in earnings calls. That plummeted by as much as 80% by early November. Blockchain is a truly innovative model for distributed trust, but it is a lousy database; which is how many are positioning it. A modern general-purpose database needs to provide rich context, fast queries, updates, and much more. In 2019, the companies that succeed with blockchain will be the ones that use it within its scope of capabilities. Those who buy into the hyped scope will be disappointed.

4. The True Costs of the Cloud Are Discovered. Cloud economics matter. Gartner predicts spending on public cloud services will top $206 billion in 2019, almost 15% of entire IT spending. As public cloud eats up more and more of the IT spend, enterprises will get more clarity on the true costs of the cloud, and the variability of those costs. Most organizations which have moved to, or experimented with, the cloud have had at least one very unexpected bill. This doesn’t mean that migration to the cloud will slow down—it won’t. It does mean that organizations will be much more cognizant of the true costs involved. That awareness will actually help them align spending to priorities by making it very clear where dollars are flowing to support various business initiatives.

5. Hybrid and Multi-Cloud for the Enterprise Becomes Mandatory. This isn’t so much a prediction as it is a strengthening of an existing trend. According to The Wall Street Journal, a Forrester survey of senior IT managers found that, among firms already in the cloud, 86% described their strategy as a multi-cloud approach, which included multiple public and private clouds, using cloud in addition to on-premise infrastructure, or using multiple public clouds simultaneously. There are good reasons for this, including: Multi-cloud enables enterprises to safeguard data by backing it up with different vendors, being able to take advantage of different services by competing platforms, and as a point of leverage between providers.

6. Lip Service to Digital Transformation Gets Exposed. Every established enterprise talks about digital transformation, but the hard truth is that few digital transformation efforts are actually succeeding. In a recent survey, 72% of corporate strategists said their company’s digital efforts are missing revenue expectations. It won’t be enough anymore to invest in digital transformation efforts, say progress is being made, and then not figure out what’s going wrong and actually fix it. To that point, what is going wrong? Data is at the heart of digital transformation and traditional ways of managing data, including costly and time-consuming ETL processes, are sinking digital transformation efforts. Now more than ever, agile, actionable, integrated data is paramount.

Incumbent enterprises have huge assets in their data, but only if they can actually leverage it in an agile, actionable, and cost-effective way. Integrated data enhances the power of analytics, which leads to more automation, better decisions, and new business models, in effect: digital transformation. Enterprises that figure that out will thrive and those that don’t will lose ground fast to digital natives.

Achieving Real Change

The current year will no doubt bring new technologies, opportunities, and challenges. As always, companies that focus first on what their customers or consumers need—and how they can make that happen—will lead their industries to real change and real gain.


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