While trend casting can be speculative at best, here’s a snapshot of four trends shaping business and IT decisions for 2023 – no clairvoyant required. Credit: Cox Communications

To say the past several years have been filled with tremendous change across all business sectors is an understatement. This tectonic shift shows no sign of slowing in 2023. Where is that crystal ball when we need it?

Businesses of all sizes must manage the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of global conflicts and economic uncertainty, all while grappling with talent shifts and shortages and an unprecedented need for technologies.

While trend casting can be speculative at best, here’s a snapshot of four trends shaping business and IT decisions for 2023 – no clairvoyant required.

Trend 1 – Digital Transformation Accelerates

Nostradamus may have predicted the success of Louis Pasteur’s vaccines, but he didn’t weigh in on digital transformation. In 2020, technology enabled the pivot to remote work, allowing business sectors to adapt and survive during the height of the global pandemic. Software, cloud, managed services, and mobile devices kept stakeholders connected. Three years into the pandemic, digital-first investments have proven worthwhile.

In 2023, digital transformation will accelerate, even as businesses are reducing costs in other areas. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) are some of the hot investment areas in the new year. Information technology, research and consultancy company Gartner forecasts that worldwide, IT spending will total $4.6 trillion in 2023, an increase of more than 5 percent over the previous year.

An easy prediction is that the shift from on-premises hardware and software to managed cloud-based offerings will continue, especially as employers embrace in-person, fully remote or hybrid schedules for employees. The integration of and reliance on AI or IoT increases the bandwidth of humans who can focus on more strategic work. The subsequent increase in efficiency and productivity offers real return on investment and influence how budgets and technology resources are allocated and deployed. The combination of automation and delivery as a service (DaaS) impact every aspect of a business, from research and development to sales and marketing to customer service. These advances allow for more efficient use of resources and better alignment with the needs of customers and employees.

Trend 2 – Economic Uncertainties Shift Spending

It would be cool to have a DeLorean and travel back to an economically stable future, but supply chain and global distribution issues persist thanks to ongoing global conflict, workforce shortfalls and inflation. A heightened fear of recession tops the list of economic concerns, with nearly 83 percent of companies concerned about a 2023 recession, as surveyed by Spiceworks Ziff-Davis (SWZD). In response, 50 percent of companies are taking precautionary budget measures, including reducing non-essential spending, re-evaluating outside costs and contracts, consolidating redundant technologies and adapting some products and services.

IT spending, however, will remain a priority; only 6 percent of surveyed companies plan to cut back on IT budgets. In fact, 51 percent plan to increase them.

Trend 3 – The Future of Work is Flexible

If businesses are atop a sea change, the workforce is a gale-force wind. The Great Resignation and “quiet quitting” are two results of the workforce’s reevaluation of work/life balance, work environment and opportunity. Every sector has had to do more with less, and today’s economic uncertainty – with rising living costs – adds a layer of concern for the employees and workers alike.

The latest Bureau of Labor job survey reports 10.7 million job openings, with the number of hires at 6.1 million and the number of separations nearly equal at 5.7 million.

SWZD’s research finds outsourcing technology to managed services providers continues, especially with the rise in hybrid workplaces that make managing decentralized technology more challenging. The Future of Work requires businesses to reimagine the workplace, the work itself and the workforce. For example, today’s workers question the purpose of their day-to-day jobs and want the Future of Work to be flexible, human-centered, and equitable.

Part of recruiting and retaining today’s workforce is what resources and work options are available to them. Hybrid work is here to stay, and with it comes a need for employees to have the right tools and infrastructure to do their best work. Training and developing employees on new technologies and processes is critical to addressing knowledge gaps and keeping pace with technology.

Trend 4 – Customer and Employee Experience Evolves

The expectations of both customers and employees continue to evolve. “Celebrity to the Stars” Tyler Henry could have closed his eyes and predicted this. Employees demand a different workplace experience as evidenced by the rise of hybrid workplaces and the use of technologies to increase efficiency and connection. Customers, meanwhile, expect a personalized, immersive brand experience. Price and product aside, the interaction with the brand’s representative — human or digital or both — drives purchasing decisions.

Increased adoption of AI and IoT will help manage daily tasks and streamline processes. Virtual and augmented reality technologies are expected to play even more significant roles in this next iteration of digital commerce, particularly in the retail sector. But even with the rise of these technologies, human soft skills can’t be replicated…not even by WALL-E

Employees need the right tools and infrastructure to do their jobs effectively, whether in person at an office or remotely. These tools might include additional hardware, such as laptops or smartphones, or cloud platforms for desktop, infrastructure, security, contact centers, communications, and collaboration. Enabling workers to do their work anywhere seamlessly improves the employee experience and boosts recruitment and retention.

Rebecca Rosen is the Senior Director of Field and Product Marketing, West Region, for Cox Business.