Nils Bohr, a Nobel Laureate in Physics, once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” While predicting what will occur in the future can be difficult, there have been lots of signs in 2017 that give us a good glimpse at what’s to come.

Probably the most pervasive theme, which will be a key driver to other trends in the new year, is the focus on the end-user experience and gaining visibility from the endpoint perspective. There was lots of talk about this in 2017, but in 2018 understanding the endpoint perspective will be critical to all IT initiatives.

While IT departments of the past — and even through most of 2017 — were still focused on managing incidents and fire-fighting, they will shift their focus to more strategic priorities that help the business perform – and this means better understanding the health of the network and its endpoints, the challenges impacting end-user productivity, and the technology initiatives that will improve operations.  But to do all this, they need to be more proactive, gain greater visibility into issues impacting productivity, and be able to quickly resolve them so that the focus is on finding new ways to improve the experience and productivity of end-users, not putting out fires.

So, what else do I see on the horizon of 2018, that point to a more strategic role for IT? I see the following five trends: 

  1. Employee digital experience becomes top priority. The balance between the external customer-facing digital world and internal employee-facing one has been slowing shifting in the past year as organizations realize they cannot be effective externally if they are not equally effective internally. This shift will accelerate in 2018. Evidence for this can be found in the many large organizations investing strongly in strategic digital workplace programs and in the creation and hiring of new roles such as director of digital workplace or chief employee experience officer. ING, Estée Lauder, IKEA, Accenture and Adobe are examples of organizations leading this shift. This rebalancing toward the internal from the external opens up exciting new opportunities for digital workplace teams to set bold visions and make digital experience at the workplace a top priority not only for IT but the entire company.
  2. AI-based solutions become IT’s best friend. AI and other cognitive capabilities, will enable greater awareness and immediate resolution of business user problems. This will free up IT staff to focus on strategic solutions to drive business growth. In fact, a recent Forrester report, “explains that technology has grown too much and too quickly for humans to monitor and operate it effectively, so being able to predict and prevent incidences will be the key to success.
  3. Cybersecurity begins at the end. Security remains a top item on the CIO’s agenda. While there have been enormous efforts to secure and flag issues in the data center, network and applications, the enterprise end user remains the weakest link. Sophisticated attacks targeting employees to get access to the corporate data will continue to rise in 2018 and new methods need to be implemented to protect this rising threat.
  4. Digital experience solutions drive outsourcing growth. Managed services are a huge trend in end-user computing since they enable companies to cost effectively outsource key functions, and access the latest and greatest innovations such as digital productivity and security in a faster/safer way, and do so economically. This trend will only grow in 2018 with key managed service providers (MSPs) adopting new technologies to enhance their offerings and provide the workplace of tomorrow.
  5. Collaborative tools will boost teamwork. As more young people, who increasingly have been educated using collaborative tools, enter the enterprise digital workplace, they assume that shared working, knowledge exchange and collaboration are standard processes in work. This represents a systemic shift from individual to team, enabled through technology, and the ripple effects will be substantial over the coming years. Collaboration tools and technology at the workplace will become not only the norm but adopted more and more to help team collaboration, data sharing and productivity.

As we wind down 2017 and look ahead to a bright new year, it’s all about end user computing. CIOs certainly have a tough task ahead: sorting through the IT complexity, addressing increasing cybersecurity concerns and staying current with an ever-changing IT landscape – all while taking on a more strategic role with the C-suite. Taking a proactive approach to IT by focusing on the internal end user will help them develop a powerful foundation for a successful business that leverages technology as a key driver to internal end-user success and ultimately business growth.