The world of IT never gets boring, and new trends rise and fall at a rapid pace. Last year, wearable technology and AI chatbots were all the rage. And in the past six months, tech companies have released cutting-edge upgrades and tools that could certainly transform the way you do business, and companies quick to understand and embrace these trends can gain enormous success. With that in mind, here are some noteworthy developments in IT we’ve noticed.

New cloud opportunities

Cloud services are now a core component of most IT operations. A state of cloud study found that approximately 80 percent of all IT budgets will be focused on cloud-based services and solutions in 15 months.

There are plenty of reasons for the increased adoption rates. Given the cost-effective, pay-as-you-go pricing model of public and private cloud environments, moving to the cloud is an attractive option for cash-strapped small- and medium-sized businesses.

Several reports also suggest that the cloud market is going to get even bigger as more small and midmarket firms look to the cloud to support their ever-increasing and highly unpredictable computing workloads. And when you include enterprise-level email hosting, online backup, and productivity solutions like Office 365 into the mix, choosing whether to move to the cloud is an easy decision.

Communication tools grow

As remote employees become the norm, businesses will need more platforms for collaboration other than email. Due to this, Microsoft Teams, a chat-based office platform released in late 2016, is expected to dominate the cloud collaboration market within the next couple of years. Currently, the software has scheduling options, built-in access to SharePoint and Skype, and real-time document collaboration features right in the app. In the future, users can anticipate tighter integrations with third-party services like customer relationship management (CRM) software and more bots that automate routine tasks for people who need to get more done while on the go.

Meanwhile, Skype for Business usage has been on the rise, with 36 percent of companies currently using it and more expected to adopt it by the end of the year, according to a Spiceworks survey. So far, Microsoft has taken steps to improve call quality and add features like being able to display photos and videos seamlessly during a video conference.

Online payment goes mobile

With the addition of mobile-friendly online wallet services like Apple, Android, and Samsung Pay, consumers and businesses will have to get used to a new way of processing payments. According to a study by Javelin Strategy, in-app and in-browser transactions, currently a $161 billion market, could surge up to $319 billion by 2020.

To capitalize on this growth, businesses must have systems (and websites) that are compatible with online wallet applications. It’s also a good idea to tie in enterprise resource planning (ERP) products to help consolidate payments and track revenues in real-time.

Machine learning drives business performance

Machine learning technology may not be a priority investment for small- and medium-sized businesses, but when deployed properly, it can dramatically improve business performance. In fact, by 2018, Gartner predicts many industry leaders will exploit intelligent apps. Throughout the latter half of 2017, we expect to see more machine learning capabilities on ERP tools like Intacct.

When integrated with machine learning features, ERP software can accurately analyze overwhelming amounts of information and identify possible business outcomes. For example, marketing firms can use historical sales data to predict seasonal demands for certain products. With more data collected by machine learning features, the more accurate the predictive analysis.

Machine learning also tracks everything, recognizing product preference patterns and customer behavior. This allows you to better recommend products based on prior purchasing history and, ultimately, improve user experience.

Automation takes center stage

Thanks to machine learning tools and workflow features, employees barely have to lift a finger to get more done. Customer service can virtually be automated by configuring workflows in Dynamics CRM. For instance, you can program a workflow that instantly sends a follow-up email telling customers what to do once they’ve signed up for your service.

Today, users can anticipate even more automation features from a variety of technologies. One of these is Microsoft’s Calendar.help, a scheduling feature in Outlook. When you need to set up a meeting over email, you simply have to include your team members, add Microsoft’s AI assistant Cortana to the Cc: line, and state your meeting preferences. Then, Calendar.help will automatically find a timeslot that meets your team’s preferences, essentially performing the role of an event organizer.

These little automation features will seep into a lot of business processes, and it’s up to companies and their users to fully utilize them.

We have discussed plenty of mid-year tech trends for 2017, but there’s definitely more to come. Since the technology market is so volatile, new developments and updates can change the game at any moment. Still it pays to know the current technologies disrupting the marketplace so you can prepare and budget accordingly.

If you’re having trouble finding the right technology bandwagon to jump into, our experts at WhiteOwl can help you make the decision. To find the trend that’s right for you, call us today for a consultation.