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.
1. Amazon's next move will be in hospitality
"In the past year, Amazon has entered new spaces like grocery and healthcare, 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 US CERT for the Department Homeland Security 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 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 AI 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 desk 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 advisor 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, cofounder and CEO of Portworx, a cloud-native data storage company used by enterprises including 92 of the Fortune Global 1000
7. Healthcare will become a B2C industry
"Thanks in large part to digital technology, rising healthcare costs and increased competition, patients have become empowered consumers. As a result, they will be expecting more from healthcare. 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 healthcare options such as telemedicine and chatbot technology. Healthcare organizations are going to feel the pressure, and put even more emphasis on patient engagement, transparency into healthcare 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 healthcare revenue cycle to improve the financial health of more than 440,000 healthcare 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 AI 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, cofounder and chief strategy officer at D2L, a LMS platform serving millions of students across North America, EMEA 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 1 billion impressions per day and used by over 26 of the 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 AI and natural language processing (NLP) 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