Five IT trends to watch in 2023

Issue 8 2022 IT infrastructure

Any hopes we had that 2022 would be a year of post-pandemic growth and rebuilding were shattered in its early months. From the unwelcome return of inflation and record levels of Eskom load shedding, to war in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain disruptions, 2022 proved to be as challenging a year as 2021. But the IT industry and South African enterprises have weathered the storm remarkably well.

Rob Godlonton.

South African companies continued to build on the investments they made in technology in 2020 and 2021 as well as accelerate their migrations to the cloud. As we look ahead, these efforts have positioned them equally well for the next wave of growth and innovation – or for continued economic disruption. Here are some of the trends that are likely to shape enterprise IT in 2023.

Cloud-native software devs

Enterprises have been moving towards DevOps for a while – a set of practices that bring together the worlds of software development and IT operations. We can expect to see a surge in cloud-native software development that will take DevOps to the next level. Cloud-native software development embraces microservices, containerisation, application programming interfaces, service meshes and serverless computing.

According to Gartner, more than 85% of organisations will embrace a cloud-first principle by 2025 and will not be able to fully execute on their digital strategies without the use of cloud-native architectures and technologies. In this environment, dev teams will be under growing pressure develop software fast, deploy it quickly, and still ensure security and quality.

Software developers will increasingly need to have cloud engineering and architecture skills, too. To make the most of modern cloud-native tools and processes, software developers will need to have an intimate understanding of cloud platforms, technologies and infrastructure. They will work in multi-disciplinary teams spanning a full stack of skills, from the business logic and data management in the back-end to the front-end user experience.

Finding gold in data reserves

We call it the ‘information age’, but the reality is that most businesses are overwhelmed by the amount of data they collect and need to manage. Finding and interpreting the golden nuggets of insight in the massive volumes of data that flow into the business is far from easy. During 2023, one of the major trends we are anticipating is that CIOs and enterprises will become even more serious about using data to drive better decisions, superior business outcomes and generating revenue from their data.

A Gartner survey shows business intelligence/data analytics is a priority investment area for 55% of CIOs in 2023 – second only to security. That is not surprising since data and analytics are central to strategic programmes ranging from sharpening the customer experience to improving operational efficiency. Some of the data priorities for the year are likely to include:

• Ensuring good data hygiene: Enterprises will want to ensure that their data sources are clean, reliable and compliant with data privacy regulation.

• Finding ways to operationalise data-driven insights: Companies will want to get the right data to the right person or artificial intelligence (AI) system to make better and faster operational decisions.

• Unlocking strategic value and becoming truly data-driven: Tomorrow’s winners will be organisations that can use predictive analytics to make smart strategic decisions.

Personal touch, digital efficiency

One of the reasons that companies will be refining their data strategies next year is that it is key to achieving the ambition of gaining a single view of the customer. This, in turn, is essential for offering personalised, engaging customer experiences at scale in a digital world. There are opportunities to use data to fuel better experiences at every step of the customer journey – from research and discovery to purchase and post-purchase support.

Personalisation will become especially important in sectors such as banking and ecommerce, where companies don’t get much face time with their customers. Companies will need to go beyond sending a generic email with the customer’s name on top towards deep understanding of their behaviour, interests and needs. According to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions and 76% get frustrated when it doesn’t happen.

Tomorrow’s market leaders will be companies that win customers’ trust and permission to use their data for personalisation. Machine learning and AI will have an important role to play in dynamically segmenting audiences into ‘markets of one’ based on the insights companies collect in CRM systems, transactional platforms and digital touchpoints.

Destination workplaces

A recent headline claims that “bosses in South Africa want workers back in the office”. Our experience shows that many employees also want to return to the workplace. As a company founded during lockdown, our people told us that they missed face-to-face collaboration and mentoring. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be returning to a full five-day week working in the office across the board.

Instead, we’ll see a more nuanced approach, where companies and employees find ways to create flexible working environments. For some teams, it might mean hybrid working models and for some it could mean full-time office work. But forward-thinking companies will strive to create a workplace where people will want to come to in order to drive talent engagement and retention.

This is not about ping-pong tables, arcade games, gyms, and the other trimmings companies offered in the dotcom era. Sure, great coffee is a drawcard, but the real attraction of a cool workplace is getting to work with and learn from smart people as well as becoming immersed in a dynamic culture. There will be a major focus on offering a balance between shared purpose and individual empowerment that gets people excited about coming to the office.

IoT gets real

The Internet of Things is a perennial favourite on annual IT trends predictions lists, but there are signs that the technology is finally coming of age. With 5G rollouts accelerating and AI maturing fast, we are seeing some compelling use cases emerge for IoT in sectors such as mining, manufacturing and logistics. Autonomous cars and fridges that order your shopping are not going to be mainstream in South Africa for some time yet, but predictive maintenance in factories, AI-driven security cameras and even precision agriculture are fields where we can expect to see IoT adoption happen.

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