Tech executives expect their technology budgets to rise during the next year, according to predictions from analysts and other surveys, despite the economic headwinds. ZDNET spoke to tech executives and industry insiders to find out, as spending continuing to rise, where digital leaders are looking to prioritize their investments in 2023.
1. Using the cloud as a foundation for machine learning
Barry Panayi, chief data and insight officer at John Lewis Partnership, believes the big trend next year in most traditional businesses is going to be about getting the most from the cloud.
“It’s a 10-year-old conversation. Until now, many people have treated the cloud like a huge hard drive, but it gives you huge capabilities,” he says.
Panayi says one example is how companies can create significant value by using cloud-stored data as a foundation for MLOps, which aims to make machine-learning workflows across an organisation more effective.
“Proper, automated MLOps – certainly in retail and fast-moving consumer goods – can be a game changer, especially as people are shopping more online. We’re famous for our John Lewis shops, but the shift online has been so big that having everything relating to data moving in near or real time is big deal for us.”
2. Get ready for the metaverse
Lisa Heneghan, global chief digital officer at consultant KPMG, recognises that the metaverse is overhyped. However, she also believes business leaders will need to start getting to grips with this fast-moving area of tech in 2023.
“In some ways, I hate saying the metaverse will be the next big trend, and I don’t think the metaverse and Web 3.0 is going to come to life in the next year. But I do think we need to change the way we’re thinking, so that we’re understanding how the world will change during the next five years.”
Heneghan says she looks at the way younger people are already comfortable with increasingly immersive experiences and suggests companies must get to grips with the metaverse now – something many failed to do in the past with other big trends.
Also: Metaverse and immersive experiences: How one company is getting started on the journey
“I remember when cloud came and everybody was asking: ‘What’s cloud?’ We can’t take as long as it took to get things going with the cloud. With the metaverse, we have to get our act together. We have to understand it and start to test and see how that technology might make a difference to us.”
3. Ensuring data is reliable and explainable
David Charnley, head of transformation and strategy at NatWest, points to a range of key data-led concerns, such as open banking, artificial intelligence and regulation: “All of those are important trends and activities that we need to keep a really close eye on.”
Charnley says another key issue is demand for talent, particularly when companies like his are trying to grow their data practices: “I think the trend that we’re seeing is scarcity in the labour market for data professionals and I see that only getting tighter. I think that’s a feature of the UK market, the market in India, and elsewhere too.”
As his bank continues to look to do exciting things with the information it holds, Charnley says it’s also important to keep an eye on data ethics and potential bias. He recognises machine-learning models can have unintended bias – and dealing with those challenges will be a big priority for 2023.
“Getting to a place where we’re able to explain and monitor models to ensure that there isn’t a drift or bias in the way that we do business is a part of delivering great data propositions. And that’s something that we are really investing time and effort in right now at NatWest.”
4. Getting the most out of the cloud
Bev White, CEO at recruiter Nash Squared, is another expert who says the big priority for most digital chiefs is going to be getting the most from their investments in the cloud.
“There’s no doubt about it,” she says. “Talk to any tech leader and it’s the first or second thing they talk about. Every time, this is where they’re putting their big investments – and they’ll be continuing to do so for the next few years.”
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White says this investment in cloud will be supported by a commitment to cybersecurity investments.
“The more exposed we make our businesses online, the more risk we carry,” she says. “And while we hear every week about lots of examples of cybercrime and ransomware and all these other things that are going on, I’m sure we don’t hear a lot about many of the attacks. So, we’re expecting the requirement to invest more in cyber to continue.”
5. Dealing with cybersecurity concerns
A strong focus on proactive and preventative cyber measures is something that chimes with Andy Pocock, IT director at TrustFord, who says his priority is simple: keeping data safe and secure.
“I think the big trend will be security and addressing that concern. It’s certainly the focus for me. To just ensure that I’ve got the capabilities and the protections in place to protect my company’s data and my customers’ data,” he says.
“You’ve only got to go and read the National Cyber Strategy and you’ve only got to listen to the National Cyber Security Centre. The cyber threat is ever-evolving, and it’s going to get bigger.”
6. Using the IoT to take control
Ed Higgs, group director of IT shared services at pest control specialist Rentokil Initial, says his organisation will be looking to make more of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the data from connected devices.
His company uses IoT-connected traps to spot signs of infestation automatically, which allows the business to take prompt preventative action before the problem worsens.
“We’ve got millions of connected devices out there. For us, it’s going to be more IoT, much more control over that endpoint, and much more functionality connected to that endpoint,” says Higgs.
“We’ve moved from just having a SIM card within a device, which sends an SMS, to adding a camera to the device, so that when it sends an SMS, it can also send the details of what it is that they’ve caught. So the management, security and compliance around those endpoint devices is going to be big for us.”