The cloud offers flexibility, agility and scalability in an increasingly connected world but the technology is moving at a breathtaking pace. With advances developing rapidly, more organisations are looking to achieve greater operational efficiency and move away from traditional networks. Gartner predicts that by 2020 a corporate no-cloud policy will become as rare as a no-internet policy is today. But what’s likely to be in store for 2018 and what trends should businesses keep- up with? We’ll run down the current and most important developments for the coming year.

1. Artificial Intelligence

It’s no secret that face-to-face interactions improve relationships in both our business and personal lives. Next year and beyond, we’ll start seeing artificial intelligence play a larger role in the process of building relationships between colleagues, customers and their partners.

With more and more dispersed teams around the globe, remote collaboration tools have a great bearing on the way businesses communicate with each other. From increased productivity to effective collaboration, the benefits of the software are often touted. But is there room for improvement? Well, gradually we’ll see the incorporation of facial recognition technology and remote productivity tools, providing a practical way of reading visual cues. With the recent launch of the iPhone X there’s been a big buzz around facial recognition but the technology can be applied to more than authentication and expressive 3D emoji’s.

Applying facial recognition to an online meeting environment will enable hosts to pivot their conversation if needed, and inform more effective post-meeting follow-up. For example, a salesperson will know the likelihood that a pitch has been successful or alternatively an advertising executive could be given the heads-up that the idea they’re presenting to the client is falling flat. This “meta meeting,” which focuses more on the feeling of the meeting (body language, tone, etc.) rather than the actual conversation, will gather insights and learnings that help the meeting host facilitate better human connections and drive positive results.

Ultimately, we’ll see the combining of AI, emotion intelligence and conventional intelligence in order to facilitate improved workplace relationships and more successful business outcomes.

2. The Defining Of Digital Transformation

Increasingly many organisations are moving to embrace new technologies and implement strategic transformation. With a goal of improved productivity and collaboration, an importance is being placed on seeking new ways of nurturing innovation whilst maintaining a competitive advantage.

With the emergence of technology such as Blockchain, a digitised record of economic transitions, we’re already seeing businesses create value through new innovative technology. Similarly, other emerging technologies such as AI and IoT also require vast amounts of data and computing power. The growing demand for this type of innovation will drive large investments in SaaS, cloud and big data technology. We’ll also see more traditional industries begin to embrace new operating models and set their sights on digital transformation.

3. Integrated Productivity

Modern organisation’s implement a variety of cloud-based applications and services, however it’s becoming increasingly important for information to integrate between apps. As cloud-based environments often increase the number of systems being used, businesses frequently find themselves needing cross-platform integration – in order to pull together all of their relevant data. For this reason, the collaboration landscape is only set to grow next year and we’re going to see more cross-platform collaboration.

However integration won’t just be resided to applications, with a growing number of businesses storing workloads in both private and public clouds – we’re set to see hybrid computing established as standard in 2018. Creating, managing and enhancing these connections will be of great importance in the years that follow.

4. The Rise Of The Cloud Workforce 

More and more companies in the new economy are ditching their offices, in favour of a workforce made up of cloud employees. Gone are the days when a premium is placed on physical office locations. Currently we’re experiencing the rise of the cloud employee, as it’s no secret that cloud based applications and technologies easily facilitate remote working and personal interactions. Making it easier than ever for employees to collaborate with co-workers and received updates globally – without the need for in person interaction.

Certainly, we’re set to see an upward trend and a recent survey at the Global Leadership Summit in London, found that 34% of business leaders expect more than half of their company’s full-time employees to be working remotely by 2020. As businesses become more globalised and employees work across various time zones in a variety of settings, we’ll see business leaders recognise the benefits of distributed teams. Developing a cloud workforce requires full engagement of all key stakeholders and complete alignment of business strategies and objectives. But with increased savings, flexibility and the best use of real estate, many businesses will look towards a cloud workforce as a way to provide significant productivity gains.