Most likely, we all think the phrase “inflection point” is now a tired and overused business cliché. However, we may well be at one of those defining tipping points where something new comes to the fore, having a significant and increasing impact on how we interact, work and play.
For several years, the central elements of Social, Mobile, and Cloud have played heavily into the mega-trends and inter-related parts that combine to influence our future. Those things have not gone away, but we do have another layer on the cake being set down now – we’ll label them as artificial intelligence/automation, bots (software and hardware), and the internet of things (IoT).
So without any further ado, here are our Top 9 Predictions for 2018 (in no particular order):
1) WORK AT HOME ANALYTICS arrives to gauge productivity for remote workers. One of the ongoing concerns surrounding remote working has been the ability for supervisors to ‘monitor’ the productivity of workers that are beyond their immediate view. So, we predict the arrival of new software-and-sensor-based applications that can assess the efforts, productivity, and compliance of those working remotely. Preemptive notifications can flag issues before they become problems, and likewise, great performance metrics can be acknowledged rewarded proactively as well! This new degree of visibility and control will likely meet with some controversy and resistance, but ultimately become an accepted part of managing certain remote job roles.
2) Taking prediction number one a step further, YOUR NEXT MANAGER MAY BE A (software) ROBOT that assigns and distributes work, monitors, evaluates, and even follows up with you interactively to ensure things are on track. Many management roles have a high degree of structure, predictable decision frameworks, and task distribution scenarios. So why not have a bot do that part in order to maximize effectiveness and efficiency?
3) CUSTOMER SERVICE BOTS GAIN TRACTION as interactive capabilities improve. Automated service bots have seen some uptake, but expect that to accelerate with the advent of smarter products and connected devices (self-sensing, self-diagnosing, usage-tracking, learning) within the Internet of Things. This means that automated service bots can understand, respond and converse more intelligently and generate outcomes that will more efficiently answer questions, resolve problems, and proactively suggest actions that may help customers’ and users’ experiences with their products and services.
4) We will see the onset of Internet of Things USER PARANOIA as security, hacking, and privacy concerns increase. The double-edged sword of intelligent, network-connected things will raise the hackles of consumers as they hear increasing numbers of horror stories of how smart devices have been compromised by hackers or designed in ways that users never realized (e.g. monitoring or listening to usage patterns and sending that information back to “headquarters”). We may even see a new rating system so consumers can quickly and easily understand the degree of invasiveness built into IoT devices, in order to make more informed buying decisions.
5) NEW COLLABORATION TOOLS will meet up with EMAIL FOR A SHOWDOWN as users become torn between “which to use and when”. As the critical mass of users grow, newer collaboration tools like Circuit will continue to create tremendous value as enablers for virtual teams and remote workers, but a struggle will emerge calling out for best practices, protocols, and decision guidance as to when to use the new web-based collaboration and when to fall back to the tried-and-true email systems. With the additional experience in hand, we’ll exit 2018 with a better understanding of this duality and how to make the best of both communication tools.
6) GRAPHICAL and TOUCH INTERFACES will TRANSITION TO VOICE and SENSOR interfaces in a significant way. This will be the year when finally we can talk to, dictate to, instruct and control our technology using natural language (that actually works consistently) and automated sensors (for example, imaging and scanning for security and authentication). A side benefit of biometric scanning for authentication is that you no longer will have to remember all those passwords!
7) DISPARATE REMOTE WORKERS WILL UNITE and create socials to overcome the perceived isolation of working from home or away from the traditional office. For almost a decade our research on virtual working has shown social isolation to be one of the big downsides. So, for those who miss the ‘beehive’ of activity of the traditional office, groups of people within urban areas will organize via social networks and convene in person at working locations or other venues, to break up their work day and provide that much needed in-person social contact. These socials may also become a popular networking opportunity for remote workers who otherwise would never meet other professionals with common interests.
8) ANTI-HACKING SENTIMENT and LEGAL CONSEQUENCES are ramped up, as the negative impact of white collar crime will be taken more seriously. At one time, hacking and other exploits may have been seen as a nuisance or prank, but starting in 2018 the wide-ranging damage of hacking and related fraudulent activities will not only be considered serious crimes but will also attract grave legal consequences in terms of prison time and compensatory damages. The ‘hacker’ lifestyle motif will no longer be considered cleverly rebellious, but instead become highly socially unacceptable.
9) At the risk of talking about “UBERIZATION” of things once again – the sharing economy will continue to thrive and expand to include virtual working scenarios, for example using social networks to distribute shared workspaces either within domiciles or in ‘hot desking’ office environments. Or perhaps brokering work packages or task sharing among the growing population of skilled independent freelancers. In these cases, the sharing economy will enable the freelancing ‘anywhere worker’ to become more productive and successful.
So there you have it – what is your reaction to these predictions? Agree? Disagree? Do you have a tenth prediction to add to our list? If so, feel free to comment below and continue the conversation!