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The digitalization of the workplace is challenging businesses globally to adapt quickly to meet the needs of their talent and customers. While a simple solution is to update current business technology to the latest and greatest, business leaders quickly find that this is not a sustainable practice in the long run. The solution for most enterprises is to introduce a digital transformation strategy, which, in turn, is posing a direct threat to traditional business models and companies.

Technologies such as social media, mobile applications, analytics, the cloud and the internet of things (IoT), have been successful in attracting and keeping talent and customers. But, it goes beyond changing technology — company culture needs to change. When we asked a number of C-Suite executives what they thought would be trending in the digital workplace over the coming year, 10 trends emerged, many of which had already been identified at the beginning of 2018 as disruptors.

1. Data Security and GDPR

Lawrence Flynn, CEO of Artificial Solutions, believes that data security and data sensitivity will be two principal considerations of enterprise leaders as GDPR is applied across data-driven industries. GDPR legislation is changing company culture. Every single company is concerned with sharing their data on cloud-based platforms, and it will only continue to accelerate through 2019. 

We should expect to see CIOs adopting platforms that allow developers to store info with their own security models, and that are more applicable to their future needs as data security becomes a key enterprise consideration.

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2. Tackling Fake Data

The debate about fake news has dominated the political climate and is now making its way into organizations, said Nicole Alvino, co-founder and chief strategy officer at SocialChorus. With anyone in an organization able to spread information on social and collaboration platforms, “digital water coolers” run rampant and make it difficult for companies to tell a succinct story to employees. In 2019, it will no longer be an option to ignore this seismic shift and the implications that could arise if employees begin distrusting their leaders. Over the next year, we’ll see organizations hone in on establishing a single source of truth for communications, a sole place where employees can go to know where their companies stand and what their leaders believe.

3. Deskless Workers Become More Important

Today, 80 percent of the global workforce are “deskless” — i.e. do their jobs away from a desk or computer screen — yet only 1 percent of the $300 billion in software venture capital each year is spent on technologies for this group. In 2019, organizations will be forced to solve the challenge of better reaching, connecting and engaging this underserved group of employees. “Every worker matters” will become the new mantra as companies tap new technologies and strategies aimed squarely at giving the deskless worker a voice.

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4. Learning Goes Deeper

Rephael Sweary, president and co-founder of digital adoption platform developer WalkMe, said that in 2019, many companies will begin leveraging machine learning technology as a way to understand the system GUI. This will allow enterprises to view any Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform or website as a human would see it, which includes understanding the context and intent. This can help bridge the gap by reducing confusion, supporting issues, increasing adoption and improving user satisfaction. This will bring us one step closer to realizing the value of machine learning.

5. Voice-Driven Search

Voice search will have a big impact on the way we approach SEO in 2019, according to Will Craig, managing director of LeaseFetcher. With the increasing use of voice-search devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, we're likely to see a lot more searches carried out verbally, rather than in writing, he said. This obviously means that the way we optimize pages is going to have to adapt — voice searches generally use long-tail queries as opposed to the short-tail queries that are commonly used, creating a need for a new series of SEO tactics when it comes to keyword research.

6. Data Authenticity and Accuracy

The result of this new kind of search, Craig added, is that 2019 will be the year that the authenticity of data and content will become more important than ever before. With the explosion of content and data that the digital world has created, we've really got more content than we know what to do with — and we also often have trouble filtering fact from fiction. Expect search engines, media outlets and even social media to start cracking down on unverified data and unreferenced facts.

7. Customization in the Cloud

The cloud will continue to play a key role in the enterprise, but the way it is being used will change, said Stefano Bellasio, CEO of Cloud Academy. From data they have pulled together using the company’s benchmarking tools he believes organizations will begin building their own internal certifications. He said organizations are customizing public cloud platforms, deploying their own software, and customizing their technology stack with their internal processes in an effort to develop innovative technologies.

8. Quantifying Employee Development

He also points to a skills gap that continues to persist, costing organizations $258 million per year. Organizations must work harder to build and retain the skills of existing talent so they can build or maintain a competitive edge in their respective industry. To track skills growth, organizational leaders will invest in a new breed of learning solutions that track skills growth, measure effort and offer assessment to gauge capability and opportunity.

Finally, to implement all the digital initiatives across enterprises, organizations will start appointing digital skills officers to manage their team’s technical skills. The digital skills officers will help manage their team’s technical skills in an effort to create structure in their training efforts. Digital skills officers will work closely with the office of the CTO and CIO to align training efforts with technical roadmaps, focusing on contextualized training to drive successful learning outcomes.

9. Kubernetes to Drive Multi-Cloud Adoption

More organizations are adopting containers so software can be migrated quickly and reliably between computing environments. Containerization at scale is possible through orchestration tools, led by Kubernetes, an open-source tool known for its robustness in deploying and managing container-based applications. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services recently began offering Kubernetes services, making it easier for organizations to deploy their applications across multiple cloud platforms and implement multi-cloud strategies.

10. IT as a Digital Enabler

Brad Ptasienski, director of technology practice West Monroe Partners  told us that IT departments need to continue the transition toward being the facilitator of a growing digital business model in 2019. The CIOs and IT departments that are thriving are those that have focused time and energy on defining areas in the business that need additional attention and digitization. The beauty of digital, when focused within the four walls of an organization, is that it can bring IT and the business closer together as they try to re-imagine new and better ways to run their business.