Predicting the future is hardly an exact science, but when you watch an industry closely it is possible to identify trends and chart a course for where things are likely headed. Here are predictions made by 31 successful executives who believe they can see what will be different in 2019.
1. Amazon's next move will be in hospitality.
"In the past year, Amazon has entered new spaces like grocery and health care, has hinted at venturing into banking, and is even selling live Christmas trees--so what's next? If you look at consumer share-of-wallet as an indicator, one other area that's ripe for Amazon expansion is hospitality. They've just started dipping their toes into local services like house cleaning and handymen. I see great potential value for Amazon to venture into travel and restaurants and leverage its enormous customer base to capture a share of the hospitality spend in 2019."
--Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, a customer-engagement platform used by more than 500 retailers, including Sephora, Patagonia, Home Depot, and Gap
2. Cyber attacks will move into the real world.
"[Next year] will be the year of cyber-physical hacking. We've seen the damage a ransomware attack can cause on a company's digital assets, but what happens when we move beyond cyberspace and into the real world? From attacks on manufacturing equipment to surveillance cameras to data centers, we're talking about extremely costly and damaging events that have the power to shut down business operations entirely. Unfortunately, this could be the year of the cyber wake-up call the industry has warned about for years."
--Amit Yoran, first-ever director of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and current CEO of Tenable, which just had one of the biggest cybersecurity IPOs in five years
3. Security will move upstream.
"Everybody is waking up to the fact that data security is a critical problem that needs to be addressed earlier in the development process. This is true not only for customers whose data is on the line, but also for business leaders and software developers who are charged with protecting it. Today, these parties are trying to understand how they can incorporate security into their DevOps process. In 2019, businesses will implement what they have learned. Tech leaders will educate developers on how to avoid errors like coding security holes into their apps. Additionally, developers will increasingly add security detection features at the code level. Not only will code be better protected against intruders; it will watch out for anomalous activity as well."
--Derek Choy, CIO of Rainforest QA, an on-demand quality-assurance testing company that was recently named one of Inc.'s 2018 "Best Places to Work" and services hundreds of companies, including Adobe, Oracle, and SolarWinds
4. Customer success will be the new growth for startups.
"As the foundation for growth within a B2B organization, customer success will play a more critical role within companies in 2019. Traditionally, enterprise sales were focused on new logos, which missed opportunities to nurture existing customers. Growth would then suffer as a result. Without a stable base of customers, companies can't grow as fast because they are constantly filling a leaky bucket. In 2019, we will see a new lens on customer economics, from churn to retention and cohort growth."
--Dale Chang, operating partner at Scale Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in early-in-revenue enterprise software companies such as DocuSign, Box, and HubSpot, and raised $400 million to close its sixth fund earlier this year
5. The workspace will evolve.
"The rise of A.I. and automation software means humans are moving away from repetitive tasks and are increasingly focused on tasks only humans can do: think creatively and interact with other humans. For workspaces, this means people spend less time sitting at their desks and more time in a diversity of settings. The most innovative companies are no longer thinking about workspace as a single location, but rather a network of spaces that employees can access based on what they are trying to achieve--brainstorm a new product, train a new sales team, impress a client, or work quietly on their own. Uber and Spotify have revolutionized access to music and mobility, by giving everyone a private driver or a personalized playlist for a specific occasion. Employees will increasingly expect the same level of choice and diversity from their workspace."
--Dror Poleg, real estate and strategy adviser at Breather, a provider of space-as-a-service across 10 cities, serving more than 500,000 people and used by companies such as Spotify, Away, and Tesla
6. People will stop talking about containers.
"Containers are the hottest topic in enterprise IT since the cloud itself. For a while, everyone was obsessed with what technology leaders like Google were doing with the technology, and the top three topics of conversation at any DevOps meetup were containers, containers, and containers. But as the rubber hits the road, enterprises are increasingly driven by what containers allow them to achieve--multi-cloud operations, highly-available global scale applications--rather than the technology itself. So as container adoption radically accelerates, people counterintuitively talk less about containers, and more about the apps and services that containers enable."
--Murli Thirumale, co-founder and CEO of Portworx, a cloud-native data-storage company used by enterprises including 92 of the Fortune Global 1000
7. Health care will become a B2C industry.
"Thanks in large part to digital technology, rising health care costs, and increased competition, patients have become empowered consumers. As a result, they will be expecting more from health care. Much like the retail industry, patients want easy, seamless, and transparent consumer-like experiences. We will see more and more patients become discerning shoppers, comparing prices for physicians and health plans and expecting accurate upfront costs for services, just as they would with other products. They will increasingly look for ways to receive care outside of traditional doctor's office visits by exploring digital health care options such as telemedicine and chatbot technology. Health care organizations are going to feel the pressure, and put even more emphasis on patient engagement, transparency into health care costs, quality, and value-based care. Consumers won't stand for anything less."
--Matt Hawkins, CEO and board member at Waystar, a technology platform that simplifies and unifies the health care revenue cycle to improve the financial health of more than 440,000 health care providers
8. Soft skills will become the differentiating factor.
"Technical skills have been the holy grail of hiring in years past, but these skills have rapidly declining shelf lives. The rise of A.I. and automation means employees are increasingly tasked with jobs that only humans can do: thinking creatively, using judgment, employing empathy, etc. Adaptability will be the most durable skill in the years to come, as the ability to learn and adjust becomes more important than any one skill. Companies, as well as education systems, will need to shift how they assess and train people accordingly."
--Jeremy Auger, co-founder and chief strategy officer at D2L, a LMS platform serving millions of students across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia in K-12, higher ed, and corporate institutions
9. Traditional IT and operations will vanish.
"The best-performing companies of 2019 will be developer-driven. Developers will need to be in the driver's seat at all times and in the room when decisions are made. Traditional IT and operations will disappear and instead, they will support the needs of development and engineering teams. They will be measured on driving developer velocity versus server availability."
--Steve Burton, DevOps evangelist at Harness, a continuous delivery startup with Fortune 500 customers and 300 percent headcount growth in its first year
10. Agile development will play a bigger role across the organization.
"In 2019, the role of agile will take on a broader role in product development--one in which developers and designers will use agile processes to enable experimentation, not just development. Just as agile comes from collaboration and cross functionality, so should experimentation--the more data, the more collaboration, the better. They'll test ideas early on, measure the results of their campaigns and make logical improvements, all based on data. As consumers continue to demand more personalized experiences, we'll see more organizations lean on this experiment-driven approach, which will help them to quickly pivot when things aren't working out and focus their time and resources on developing products that matter most to their core audience."
--Bill Press, SVP of engineering at Optimizely, which powers thousands of digital experiments every month, serves a billion impressions per day, and is used by more than 26 Fortune 100 companies
11. Technology will play a bigger role in improving workplace wellness.
"The changes rocking the workplace--driven by new technologies, a tight labor market, and the exponential growth of employee data and tools to make sense of it--are showing no signs of letting up. At the same time, employees are under more pressure than ever before, with a recent Gallup poll finding 44 percent report feelings of burnout at work. In 2019, technologies designed with empathy in mind--that augment the human touch, rather than overpower or direct it--will come to the forefront as employers increasingly prioritize the holistic wellness of their people as the foundational way to improve their organization. Specifically, we will see businesses go beyond basic wellness programs, and increasingly turn to transformative technologies that improve workplace wellness through a true understanding of the employee experience. Maturing technologies like A.I. and natural language processing will help companies instantly understand their employee's day to day lives, including critical qualitative insights like how they feel and why. As you can't fix what you can't measure, this will directly lead to actionable insights that actually improve organizations, not just drown them in more data."
--Armen Berjikly, senior director of growth strategy at Ultimate Software, an HR tech software company with 4,400 customers and employees in 160 countries
12. For blockchains and B2B, real transaction volumes will start to flow.
"Blockchain in the B2B world has been all hype with no significant transaction volume, but there are signs that this will change in 2019. To deal with cash flow, financing, settlements, and other ways of sharing value at scale, you need to get past the current hour-by-hour volatility and ensure a stable medium of exchange. The emergence of mature stablecoin players such as TrueUSD (backed by IBM and others), USD coin (backed by Goldman Sachs and IDG) and DAI stablecoin (an algorithmic stablecoin) signals the start of a transition from a floating bubble crypto-economy to an internet of value tethered to the established economy. In addition, after years of talk and discussions, it seems that Ethereum and Bitcoin are implementing architectural changes to address the scalability challenges that have been considered a barrier to widespread adoption. For B2B blockchain use, 2019 could be a significant year."
--Gert Sylvest, co-founder and SVP of global network strategy at Tradeshift, a supply chain payments platform that connects 1.5 million companies across 190 countries and processes $500 billion in transaction value
13. Companies will hire more candidates from nontraditional educational backgrounds.
"The workplace is constantly shifting and the market for talent in the tech industry is evolving even faster than most others. With skills and talent coming at a premium, managers are looking at non-traditional education programs such as coding bootcamps to fill developer positions, especially as debates around the value of a four-year degree rage on. Bootcamp students learn more immediately applicable skills for the workplace, and hiring managers are taking notice of the value. Some notable tech companies have even eliminated college degree requirements all together, opening the door for an influx of hires from non-traditional backgrounds."
--Loren Boyce, director of talent acquisition at DigitalOcean, a cloud platform for building modern applications, with a community that is more than 3.5 million developers strong and a $200 million run rate
14. Voice tech will not kill the keyboard or the display.
"Consumers use more devices than ever when interacting with brands, and with the launch of smart panels like Facebook's Portal, yet another device is being added to the brand journey. Smart panels won't replace keyboards, smart speakers, or mobile voice search, but supplement any and all of them. People don't think twice about using different devices, they just want flexibility and ease of use, and they expect brands that they have a relationship with to keep track of their info no matter how they are making contact. What brands really need to keep top of mind is that smart panels will offer new opportunities to make human connections with customers and provide the emotional support people need when making difficult purchases."
--Ian Dailey, senior director of product marketing of Invoca, a marketing software company that uses A.I.-powered call tracking and analytics to power 100 million calls to brands per year
15. Industry consolidation will continue in cybersecurity.
"Following the recent IBM and Red Hat deal that just took place and what it meant for open source, the trend of industry consolidation will continue in cybersecurity. Next year, smaller security players will be snapped up for a variety of reasons--for talent, for a company's underlying technology, to boost sagging toplines of legacy security or networking vendors trying to modernize themselves, etc. In addition, some traditional large public security vendors have stagnated due to their legacy on-premise box-oriented architectures and are ripe for private equity firms gobbling them up, being split up (especially those with consumer and enterprise businesses), or a combination of both."
--Sanjay Beri, founder and CEO of Netskope, a cloud security startup with a total of $400 million in raised funding that also grew its subscription numbers by triple digits in 2017
16. Brands will shift to using innately intelligent marketing technology.
"As customers become more discerning and data-savvy, their expectations around how and when retail brands communicate with them will continue to rise. This will push more brands to take a more sophisticated approach to marketing tech, adding extra layers of innate intelligence through machine learning and A.I. into their marketing stack and freeing up human marketers to do what they do best--create. We will see a broader shift from rule-based marketing--where the marketer defines all the logic--to innately intelligent marketing, where the marketer only sets the framework, and the A.I. takes it from there."
--Pini Yakuel, CEO of Optimove, an A.I.-powered customer-relationship management software that helps over 300 brands like 1-800-flowers, Adore Me, and Freshly send emotionally intelligent and personalized communications to its customers
17. Financial companies will use artificial intelligence, but not for financial advice.
"As we enter 2019, more financial services firms will test and implement artificial intelligence as a fundamental part of their businesses, but it won't actually impact the advice they give to consumers. Instead, A.I. will be used for very niche, back-office applications that clients won't see. That's because in its current state, A.I. is effective at solving a very narrow, well-defined set of problems. It is not good at solving open-ended, situations with lots of roads to take. However, that won't stop many companies from emphasizing their implementation of A.I. in hopes of impressing consumers."
--Dan Egan, director of behavioral finance and investments at Betterment, an online financial advising platform with more than 150 employees, 300,000 customers, and $15 billion in assets under management
18. More companies will turn to synthetic biology for innovation.
"Biology is already changing the way we live, eat, manufacture, and treat human health. In the next few years, synthetic biology--a $40 billion industry--will be the premier technology of the 21st century that will be used to solve real-world problems facing millions. We will see more collaboration between science, technology, and engineering communities, along with more involvement by the next generation of local leaders solving local problems all around the world, in a safe, ethical, and responsible manner."
--Meagan Lizarazo, EVP at iGEM, a nonprofit foundation advancing synthetic biology innovation within its global network of 35,000 people through education, competition, and industry collaboration
19. The CIO will strike back.
"The days of forgetting that the 'I' in CIO stands for 'information' are over. The CIO role will become more identified with leading a company's data and information strategy than with infrastructure and security. Much like digitization and data have transformed the CMO role, the CIO role will be unrecognizable from its current form in a few years. We can expect this process to pick up steam in 2019."
--James Markarian, CTO at SnapLogic, a software company that provides integration tools for connecting cloud data sources, SaaS applications, and on-premises business apps to hundreds of members of the Global 2000
20. Tech companies will stay private longer, which means more pressure to ensure liquidity.
"Capital markets data show that the median age at which companies go public has increased from 6.3 years in the 1980s to 10.2 years in this decade. In 2019, CEOs and their boards will continue to balance the needs of a wide range of stakeholders as they evaluate whether and when to go public. We will likely see the two largest IPOs in history if Uber and Airbnb both go public as expected more than 10 years after they were founded. But in a world where staying private remains an attractive path for many companies, ensuring liquidity for both investors and employees prior to major exit events will be a critical tool in helping these companies sustain their momentum."
--Kelly Rodriques, CEO at Equidate, a stock market for private tech companies that has completed over $1 billion in transactions
21. Your customers will be as powerful as your board.
"Today we live in a subscription economy. And like it or not, your customers are at the epicenter of your business model. Jeff Bezos coined the term 'the divinely discontent customer.' Think about it--we have all become this customer. And we expect that your business consistently delights and delivers your service conveniently--in the way we want it, and with the outcomes we expect. We have become your second board of directors and we will have increasing power in the future, so you'd better build a healthy ongoing relationship with us if you want to succeed."
--Mark Heller, VP of global brand and communications at Zuora, which provides a cloud-based subscription-management platform that functions as a system of record for more than 1,000 subscription businesses around the world across all industries
22. More companies will create sustainable ethics codes for the use of data.
"Privacy experts, regulators, and the public will push companies to establish sustainable ethics codes that better address the challenges of a digital world--forcing new standards for the complex uses of collected, inferred, and derived data sources. Ethics policies will be incorporated into the governance of data analytics--and particularly A.I. and machine learning--so that companies can defend their commitments to the ethical use of data, fend off public pressure, and avoid backlash. But companies will have to bring great minds together to figure out how they can measure and track transparency, accountability and ethics for themselves and their clients and partners."
--Barbara Lawler, chief privacy and data ethics officer of data analytics company Looker, which has received $180 million in funding from Google Capital G, Redpoint, First Round Capital, and Kleiner
23. The next wave of A.I. startups will generate new data with each use.
"Some of our A.I. emperors have no clothes. Expect to see a wave of once-hot A.I. startups shut down or get acquired as their technology stacks are exposed as commoditized algorithms at best or smoke and mirrors at worst. At the same time, a new wave is on the horizon: A.I. startups that create proprietary data by providing products that generate new data each time they're used. We call these coaching networks and believe they represent the future of enterprise software."
--Jake Saper, partner at Emergence, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage enterprise companies that recently unveiled ECP V, a $435 million fund over 35 percent larger than its last raise, in 2015
24. Visual data and A.I. will dramatically expand the value of communications services.
"In 2019, visual data and artificial intelligence will provide a more valuable and personalized experience in communications. Imagine a meeting where each participant can see each other's LinkedIn and other social media information; where meeting notes and action items are automatically synthesized and distributed to stakeholders; where the next meeting is automatically scheduled based on in-meeting discussions and based on participants' calendars; where digital signage is customized based on who walks by it or where the last few documents the participants worked on are automatically pulled up on the screen. Deals will close faster, the administrative work around meetings will shrink, compliance will have complete meeting records, and virtual meetings will become even more productive and valuable than in-person meetings. With the audio conferencing industry shrinking and the video communications industry growing, and with the ability to store massive amounts of data in the cloud and the computing power to analyze it, we believe visual data and A.I. will disrupt the communications space in 2019."
--Oded Gal, head of product management for Zoom, provider of enterprise video communications, which is ranked third on the Forbes 2018 Cloud 100
25. Multi-cloud will reduce costly downtime.
"Just as multi-data center deployments became the new normal years ago for companies that have been successful at digitally competing in their chosen market, multi-cloud deployments will begin to usurp their place. The Uptime Institute's latest report shows that, while single cloud designs can benefit enterprises, they've become the second-leading cause of application downtime, much like single data center deployments were in the past. Those moving their data-driven apps to the cloud will need to architect them in a way so they are hybrid and multi-cloud in design to ensure zero downtime and uniform performance for their global customer base."
--Robin Schumacher, SVP and chief product officer of data-management company DataStax, which supports more than 400 of the world's leading enterprises, including Comcast, Macy's, and Macquarie
26. The online marketplace will become the new traditional business model.
"Marketplaces will continue to be the new department store. [This year]--2018--saw the death of the beloved Toys R Us. Sears and JCPenney are having their fair share of struggles as well, despite once being successful forces in retail. Marketplaces are continuing to thrive. In 2019 and beyond, we will continue to see marketplaces take over as top revenue drivers in retail versus the traditional department store. Even though some retailers like Walmart or Target are working to innovate beyond their traditional business models, this won't be enough to save most department stores from slight (or in some cases, rapid) decline."
--Greg Chapman, SVP of business development at Avalara, a maker of tax compliance software that offers more than 500 hundred prebuilt connectors into leading accounting, ERP, ecommerce, and other business applications
27. 5G will go full throttle.
"Businesses will need to start preparing for how they will leverage 5G to gain a competitive edge. Across almost every vertical, increasing network bandwidth and speed while lowering latency can improve efficiencies at nearly every department level. But while businesses can be near certain about how they can effectively apply 5G to improve operations, predicting what security threats will come is going to present a significant challenge for IT. With IoT growth posing huge unknown risks to enterprises with the introduction of 5G, businesses will increasingly need to invest in both technology and employee training to prepare for the next generation threat landscape. What's more is that 5G will not only give rise to new threats, but it will also provide cyber criminals with new opportunities to carry out attacks that we have seen grow in popularity over the years with greater force and impact. With this in mind, even an organization that does everything right to combat threats posed by 5G could still be impacted just as easily as those that are less security savvy."
--James Willett, VP of technology at Neustar, a neutral provider of real-time information services with more than 11,000 clients worldwide
28. The demand for enterprise risk management will increase.
"Risk management is going to become an extremely critical topic for both the public and private sector next year. As a nation, we are facing complex geopolitical issues and state-sponsored attacks targeting our businesses and government on an enormous scale. Large financial institutions and Silicon Valley companies have already experienced billions of dollars in losses due to decisions being made without effective enterprise risk management. Data is both an asset and a liability and next year we are going to see the regulatory environment become even more complex around data governance, which will see enterprise risk management become a huge priority for the C-suite and board."
--David Pigott, chief compliance officer at Neustar, a neutral provider of real-time information services that provides more than 11,000 clients worldwide with the power to make the most well-informed decisions to grow and guard their business
29. Cybersecurity becomes more than just an IT problem.
"Year-end cyber predictions often focus on specific threat categories and whether or not to expect an increase or decrease in their activity. [Next year], however, promises a more fundamental shift in the cyberthreat landscape, for example the impact of social media as an exploding vector for malicious activities and the implications for businesses protecting their assets. Cybersecurity is not an IT problem--it is far wider than just computers and the threats ahead in 2019 will make this painfully obvious."
--Raj Samani, chief scientist at device-to-cloud cybersecurity company, McAfee, which has more than 92,650 corporate customers worldwide and monitors 400 million consumer endpoints
30. A tsunami of SMBs will abandon their attempts to maintain their own IT.
"Small and medium-size businesses face ever-greater complexity around supporting a rapidly expanding remote workforce and taking advantage of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, multi-cloud storage, and big data. As a result, in 2019, we will see a tsunami of SMBs abandoning their attempts to maintain their own IT infrastructure in favor of a service approach that relies on a single, expert provider that can pull together the resources and solutions necessary to deliver a simple, integrated, and fully managed IT environment."
--Dennis Curry, deputy CTO of global technology company Konica Minolta, which has over two million customers in 150 countries
31. Gig workers will be younger and more selective in their career choices.
"The rise in today's gig economy obviously means more options. However, Millennial and Gen Zers are proving to be more selective job seekers than older generations, so companies will need to rethink their recruiting strategies in how to attract top talent from a pickier crowd to begin with."
--Shobhit Gupta, business strategy and operations lead at AllyO, an A.I. human resources technology company used by Fortune 500 enterprises