We're getting to that time around the end of fall and early winter when businesses are in the middle of planning for the New Year. People evaluate the current year's successes and failures, as well as goals for the upcoming months if not years. These days, most departments in every business can't complete their strategic planning meetings without talking about technology.

Every year, old technologies fade, new technologies rise, and pretty much all of them undergo change of some kind. Instead of looking at individual products, companies planning for 2017 and beyond may want to look at technology on a continuum. Recognizing where useful technologies were, are, and are going helps departments focus on problems and solutions rather than trends.

Here are some of the major trends of 2016 that are disrupting old technologies and paving the way for new ones:

1. Security has never been more important.

For the past several years, cyber security has been a technological trend. Since security practices change noticeably every year, security deserves a spot on this top trends list. As the field of technology expands, security is simply turning into a fundamental business service, just like accounting and legal solutions. Cyber security practices are a part of risk management that every business with Internet-connected assets must consider now.

Companies may want to consider adding an annual security audit to their list of year-end to-do's, if they haven't already. Recognizing vulnerability is one of the first steps in creating a business-specific approach to cyber security.

2. Machine learning is creeping into daily life.

Already, major companies like Google, IBM, and Amazon are developing deep learning systems that represent endless opportunity. While many machine learning products (such as Siri and Alexa) exist at the consumer level, IBM's Watson and solutions currently in development will likely disrupt the way that businesses gather and use data across enterprise activities. One example is the subject I write about most - online marketing. AI is already affecting how marketers are researching, planning and executing campaigns.

Watson is already helping companies gain insights into big data sets. In one example, the smart program is helping health care organizations make sense of massive data sets and optimizing the diagnosing process. Small and large organizations may not need to invest in machine learning solutions in the next year, but they should consider the availability of the technology in future investments.

3. This may be the year that you actually use augmented reality solutions.

Developers are currently working with Microsoft's HoloLens, a goggle-based solution that blends the digital and real worlds. Currently, Boeing uses Google Glass to streamline the airplane assembly process. DHL Supply Chain is incorporating Google's glasses into its warehouse picking process. In addition to wearable devices, augmented reality includes blended display screens on mobile devices, much like the Pokémon Go mobile game. While trends lists have included augmented and virtual reality solutions for several years, 2016 was a big year for real-world applications. The number of use cases and solutions will likely continue to rise over the next year.

This year, businesses may want to think about their top workflow problems and whether an augmented reality solution could help. The benefits of implementing an existing solution or one currently in development may outweigh any associated costs.

4. Cloud solutions are replacing onsite solutions.

Generally, modern cloud solutions are secure, cost effective, easy to maintain, and user friendly, making them a no brainer for many businesses. For data storage, processing, and running applications, the cloud and service-based solutions models are starting to take the place of traditional ownership models and onsite infrastructure.

5. The customer experience is getting more refined.

This is another area that has seen considerable change in recent years, and it's not slowing down. With digital CRM systems and integrative customer journey models, businesses can work smarter instead of harder. Many businesses are using collaboration platforms to break down interdepartmental silos and focus on building a customer-centric business model. Consumers can expect more personalized interactions and a better brand experience online as a result.

Most of these trends build on those reported in 2015 and even 2014. Every year, however, you will notice small changes driving major business outcomes. If you can recognize some of the more influential trends of today, you'll always be better prepared for what comes next. Hopefully this list helps you along that path.

Published on: Nov 23, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.