How our 2018 digital workplace predictions played out. And what 2019 will bring.

By: Matthew Johnson

We kicked off 2018 with the greatest expectations for the use of AI and automation in workplace technology. We forecasted brands worldwide would hear their employees’ pleas for more consumer-like experiences at work, and the CIOs for those brands would apply intense focus on user experience. We also anticipated the Microsoft’s digital workplace offerings would continue to mature.

Well… with the year coming to a close, I thought to look back at what happened in digital workplace in 2018. How did those expectations play out? And, of course, what comes next?

Join us at Think 2019 February 12 – 15 San Francisco, CA

AI and automation

Well, adoption has been slower than predicted. In particular, there are still some issues about how to best create a digital workplace that is anticipatory of the user’s needs. The main blocker is most companies don’t have a consistent method to collect, store, and process telemetry from the digital workplace. But there’s hope! (See 2019 predictions, below.)

User experience

True, many customers have added user experience as a priority—alongside traditional concerns of cost and performance. Many enterprises have created a new CxO level role—a chief employee experience officer to ensure internal users are engaged and have what they need to perform their roles in the enterprise. Employee experience is more than just the technology platform, though that is a major part of the initial emphasis.


Yes, with Microsoft the force is strong in the area of enterprise digital workplace as both the provider of a base platform (Windows 10) and the most common set of collaboration tools (Office 365).

The bundled offering introduced in late 2017, Microsoft 365, combines a number of services and tools into one subscription, thus making it easier to buy services from Microsoft.

Late 2018, Microsoft extended long-term support of Windows 7. For spring releases of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education, it also has extended lifecycle support from 18 months to 30 months. All other versions (Home, Pro) and the fall release remain unchanged at 18 months support.

These were in response to concerns from customers, so kudos to Microsoft for listening. On the plus side, companies now have more time to move off of Windows 7. But today you can’t buy hardware that runs Windows 7.

My opinion is companies’ slowness to act now delays needed hardware and platform upgrades. Deferring the work will cause more cost later as it will have to be done under greater time pressure as the end of support gets closer.

Also of note in 2018

Separate from the three uber trends, vendors continued to debut more and more products to enable and accelerate digital workplaces.

Two of those new products stand out to me as indications of where things are heading: Citrix Workspace and VMware Workspace ONE.

Both of these address similar questions of IT managers worldwide:

  • How do I provide a single, consistent means to my users to access all the applications and data needed?
  • How can I do this across different devices and platforms that I have?
  • How can I use device, user role, location, and other considerations to enforce the appropriate security in a user’s context?

There are many other vendors in this space. But the arrival of Citrix and VMWare—and the fact that each created the capability rather than acquire it—is a leading indicator of where digital workplace is heading.

Which leads to my 2019 predictions…

Prediction 1 for 2019: data consolidation

Data consolidation into a data lake will be the basis for a responsive digital workplace. Consolidating all the workplace data together will be a priority. This will be used to drive the AI and automation capabilities we were so excited about at the start of this year.

Expect a number of “workplace dashboard” solutions to appear, but don’t be sold on quick implementations. Workplace data lives in many different services. It’ll take time to extract, consolidate, rationalize and present the data in a manner that informs workplace decisions and drives greater opportunity for AI and automation.

Prediction 2 for 2019: multi-cloud and SaaS

Multi-cloud, and SaaS-based applications will help meet users’ demands for any device, any place, anytime access to corporate data and apps.

There will be less and less business capability within traditional data centers. What’s still there will increasingly be accessed via enterprise microservices. These will drive a different approach to ensuring compliance of users’ devices. You no longer will install as many applications onto devices.

There will be use cases where this does not apply, such as bank tellers and nursing staff. But most users will continue clamoring for a seamless integration of their work/life across their personal and enterprise-provided devices.

Prediction 3 for 2019: More Microsoft adjustments

Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has extended the life of previous operating systems and services a number of times.

Modernizing apps is very time consuming and expensive. Watch for the 2019 adjustments, including extensions of support, as enterprise customers need more time to get through what for many is a complex transformation to current technology.

These topics certainly will be part of the digital workplace conversation at Think 2019.  Are you going? Check out the Digital Workplace sessions and I will see you there.


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About The Author

Matthew Johnson

Senior Technical Staff Member for Global Technology Services, IBM

Matthew Johnson works with customers across the globe to transform their user computing environment into a superior, personalized, digital workplace. Specifically, Matthew works at the direction of the CTO of Mobile & Client Computing Global Technology Services to develop and extend product offerings, including publishing and maintaining the associated technical work products; assist on customer... Read more