In many ways, the technology topics that have been brewing for much of 2019—think big data, cyber hunting, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, customer preferences and user experience—will continue to dominate conversations in the new year as companies begin to take action and look for the impact of their strategic investments.

We spent some time talking with customers and gaining insight from our own internal experts here at Riverbed Technology to develop some predictions around what to expect in 2020. Between myself, Senior Director Paul Griffiths and Chief Customer Officer Dan Smoot, this is a summary of what we expect to see in 2020.

The days of data hoarding are over

 The proliferation of the cloud and its immense data storage capabilities are double-edged swords for organizations that have been “data hoarding.” As we move into 2020, many organizations will realize that while big data has tremendous value, some of that data may be a liability. The potential risk of a breach involving sensitive client data is too substantial to a company’s bottom line, especially with the emergence of more consumer data protection laws, such as CCPA, coming down the line in 2020. To combat this, organizations will start reviewing collected data to determine what clearly enhances the business’s performance and delete the rest, as the risk is too high to continue to store customer data without a foreseeable purpose.

Cyber hunting will become mandatory for organization’s security

In 2020, we will see an increase in the number of “advanced persistent threats,” sophisticated, systematic cyber-attack programs that continue for an extendedperiod of time, often orchestrated by a group of skilled hackers. These are the hacks that do the most damage to organizations and if an organization doesn’t have proactive threat detection measures in place, it could be unaware of the attack until after the damage is done.

As networks for organizations have grown, they have become like the Roman empire—big, sprawling and hard to defend. Throwing up a “wall,” or firewall, to defend against attacks is less likely to be effective when the advanced persistent threats have multiple ways to attack the cracks in those walls.

The best way to combat advanced persistent threats is to engage in “cyber hunting,” the process of proactively and iteratively searching networks to detect and isolate advanced threats that evade existing security solutions. As hackers become smarter and find new evasive ways to infiltrate a network, organizations in 2020 will begin adopting the proactive cyber hunting approach to complement traditional reactive threat management approaches of installing firewalls, intrusion detection systems and SIEM systems.

The increase in edge applications and need for more visibility

Distributed cloud will become the new data center and truly empower the edge. As more organizations start incorporating IoT technologies, their applications will need to run at the edge to ensure high performance and faster response. With IoT heading to the forefront—and soon to be enabled by the proliferation of 5G networks—organizations in 2020 are starting to think about how to address the new visibility challenges that will stem from the need of edge applications to communicate back to a centralized point.

Also, the security of that network traffic is going to be paramount. There is no getting away from security being at the top of the agenda for organizations’ investments in 2020. It’s going to be imperative for organizations to be able to track which devices are communicating with other devices and determine whether they’re part of a distributed cloud or still being sent back to a consolidated location.

The “digital transformation” march will continue

This will be the year when “the rubber meets the road” for digital transformation. The adoption of SD-WAN and other transformational technologies has been a much slower process than many vendors in the industry were expecting, given that analysts predicted the technology would skyrocket during the 2018-2019 time period. The reality is that many organizations were not ready for a true digital transformation or to embrace SD-WAN. Even organizations that started down the road in 2018 and 2019 have realized that an organization and its infrastructure cannot be completely transformed overnight and that it will be an ongoing exercise for many. As we head into 2020, the digital transformation march will continue to move forward, along with the adoption of SD-WAN.

Consumer preferences will consolidate the market

Today everyone has an unbelievable appetite for flexibility to flip to the shiny new thing—whether it’s an app, a model or a novel blend of software, hardware and services—at the moment they want to try it. The Amazonification of consumer expectations has reshaped enterprise go-to-market strategies in a huge way by going beyond just situating a solution in the cloud. The winners here will be those who can deliver the desired experiences—and outcomes—at the speed customers demand. Anyone who thinks that enterprise customers don’t expect incredible speed and convenience should think again. They have been shaped, as we all have, by getting what we’ve asked for at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it level of service. Not everyone will be able to keep up so expect to see some players merge with others—or simply fall by the wayside.

Organizations will continue to focus on user experience to boost productivity

Friction kills. Getting rid of it, both inside an organization and with customers, will be a major theme in 2020 for smart companies. If internal tools are outdated and deliver a poor user experience, employees can become frustrated and it will show in their work. Today, companies have a number of strong, cloud-based productivity tools that make it easy to onboard and ramp up quickly, without heavy customization. That makes it easier for a prospective customer to quickly shift from “I’m interested in that solution” to “Adopting this was so easy.”

Why these matter

Overall, there is a sense of pushing technologies forward in 2020 to see maturation and a real impact on organizations. Market forces will require organizations to make stronger moves to shore up security, protect data, upgrade networks and improve user experience.

As we move into 2020, it will be interesting to watch as technologies continue to have an impact.