Guest author Jesus Rodriguez is the founder of KidoZen.

The last few years have brought a new wave of innovation to enterprise software. From companies like Workday and Zendesk redefining traditional business processes to Slack and Box opening new areas of innovation, the enterprise software space have seen companies rise up to bring innovation to a space that didn’t see a lot of creativity in the previous 30 years. 

The momentum in enterprise software is far from over. The latest technology movements in areas such as augmented reality or drones promise an exciting future for software businesses who primarily serve other businesses.

Cloud computing, mobility, the Internet of Things, and big data are enabling this momentum, as are emerging trends in areas such as 3D printing or augmented reality. They all offer unique opportunities to reimagine enterprise software in the decade to come. 

By thinking about some of the trends that can become foundational to the next generation of enterprise software, I’ve identified some interesting ideas:

  • enterprise hardware
  • the industrial Internet of Things
  • applications powered by the blockchain
  • proactive analytics
  • 3D printing
  • enterprise marketplaces
  • domain-specific data science
  • augmented reality in industrial settings
  • mainstream machine learning
  • drone platforms
  • next-generation cybersecurity
  • platforms for microservices
  • the Docker ecosystem
  • new application-development platforms for the enterprise

I’m going to explore some of these ideas in more depth—and I’d love to hear your thoughts on these and other promising areas.

Enterprise Hardware

The rapid evolution of smart, connected devices is going to play a role in the next generation of enterprise solutions. While we use software to automate most business processes today, we are starting to see companies leverage smart devices to bring new levels of intelligence into business processes. 

From vertical solutions in industries like transportation, retail, healthcare, and the public sector, to horizontal solutions in areas such as security, payments, and monitoring, we believe hardware is going to become more prominent within large organizations—both on its own and as an adjunct and accelerator to software automation.

The Industrial Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is already having a big impact within businesses. By leveraging smart devices, enterprises will be able to provide new levels of automation and intelligence to industrial solutions. Manufacturing, healthcare, and automotive are some of the industries leading the charge to adopt the Internet of Things. From a market perspective, we should expect to see the emergence of platforms that provide both horizontal and vertical-specific capabilities for adopting IoT in industrial settings.

Blockchain-Powered Applications

Within circles familiar with Bitcoin, blockchain is known as the foundational infrastructure that supports transactions in the cryptocurrency. However, the capabilities of the blockchain are completely independent of Bitcoin. From a functional standpoint, the blockchain provides the foundation to enable decentralized, secure, and trusted data exchange. By focusing on solving a highly complex problem such as decentralized financial transactions, developers of blockchain technologies have created capabilities that are foundational to many mission-critical applications. From vertical[-specific scenarios like electronic voting or trade settlements to next-generation peer-to-peer messaging applications, the blockchain is definitely an interesting trend in the future of enterprise applications.

Domain-Specific Data Science

In the last few years, we have seen the emergence of a series of platforms that have simplified the adoption of machine learning, data analysis, and visualization for large volumes of data. That evolution has allowed businesses to achieve levels of data intelligence that were impossible before. As this trend continues, we believe businesses and other large organizations are going to start tackling more complex data problems in their specific industry. Consequently, data-science platforms are going to shift from horizontal to vertical-specific capabilities. We should expect to see more and more platforms that leverage the power of current data-science platforms and adapt them to specific domains and industries.

Enterprise Marketplaces

Marketplaces like Uber or Airbnb have evolved to become some of the most important private technology companies. The economics of marketplace models scale to levels that were unthinkable before wide adoption of the Internet and smartphones. While startups have implemented these marketplace models in consumer scenarios, enterprises are slowly starting to discover their value. From crowdsourcing the development of applications to building marketplaces for data and analytics, we should expect to see an increase in the number of enterprise-centric marketplace platforms in the next few years.

Augmented Industrial Reality

Augmented reality (AR) platforms like Facebook’s Oculus or Windows Holographic have been at the center of tech news all year. Consumer applications like gaming seem to be the classic scenario for AR platforms. But enterprises can greatly benefit from the advances in AR technologies. AR technologies will drastically change industries like education, construction, healthcare, and manufacturing. Expect to see the evolution of AR platforms focused on specific industries over the next few years.

3D Printing

The mainstream adoption of 3D-printing technologies is rapidly revolutionizing established industries like manufacturing, construction, automotive, and healthcare. As enterprises make 3D printing a mainstream process, the need for platforms that can operate 3D printing at an industrial scale will become more relevant. Expect to see vertical-specific 3D-printing platforms emerge for specific industries.

Proactive Analytics

Over the last few years, data analytics has become one of the fastest-growing areas in enterprise software. However, most of the enhancements in analytics platforms have been focused around simplifying the way we interpret data with richer data visualizations, reports, data governance, and so on. Those traditional models are based on reactive behaviors in which the data analysis is presented to a human who ultimately take some action after interpreting the data. As analytic platforms continue gaining traction in the workplace, we should expect to see a shift from reactive to proactive models where platforms trigger actions based on intelligent machine interpretation of the data.

Mainstream Machine Learning

The commoditization of computing power as well as the evolution of frameworks like Azure ML, AWS ML, Spark, and Scikit Learn have democratized the usage of machine learning in business applications. Despite the rapid evolution of ML platforms, most enterprises still see machine learning as an academic discipline. As ML platforms continue evolving, they are called to experience a mainstream adoption in the enterprise. In the next few years, we should expect to see ML platforms becoming as mainstream in enterprise applications as databases as BI-reports are today.

Platforms For Microservices

At a conceptual level, microservices predicate splitting an application into a series of small, autonomous services that perform atomic operations and can be independently deployed and managed. While microservices can be seen as an architecture style that can be implemented with any service-oriented technology, the fact of the matter is that most enterprises struggle with the effort required to implement solutions built on microservices. As microservices continue gaining popularity, we should expect to see the first generation of platforms focused on the development and management of microservices.

The Docker Ecosystem

Docker is one of the greatest phenomena we’ve seen in the last few years of enterprise software. Rarely have we seen fierce competitors like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, VMWare, and others universally adopt a third-party technology as a foundational piece of their platforms. While Docker is certainly interesting, we believe the platform ecosystem around it could be even more valuable. As enterprises continue to adopt Docker, the need for solutions in areas such as monitoring, security, and deployment automation will become increasingly relevant. Additionally, traditional enterprise applications like as content-management or line-of-business systems will start supporting Docker deployments. The combination of these two trends should make the Docker ecosystem a vibrant source of growth.

Drone Platforms

Unmanned devices capable of flight, more commonly known as drones, are seeing faster adoption by enterprises than consumers—the rare exception in technology’s recent history. Starting with the obvious military and defense scenarios, drones have also seen adoption across such heterogeneous industries as agriculture, energy, and the public sector. With the increasing adoption of drones, the need for horizontal platforms that facilitate common tasks such as monitoring, data transmission, security, and fleet management is becoming more and more evident.

Next-Generation Cybersecurity

In the last few years, cybersecurity has evolved from an enterprise discipline to an element of modern warfare. This industry has seen an explosion in both the variety of technologies and the level of investment deployed. Expect this trend to continue for the next few years and produce a new generation of cybersecurity technologies that will be adopted in the enterprise.

New Application-Development Platforms

The last 15 years of software development in the enterprise have been dominated by two platforms: Java and .Net. While movements like Ruby on Rails and Node.js have increased developer productivity and addressed some of the limitations of Java and .Net, they have failed—so far—to become mainstream in the enterprise. The rise of mobile and big data, which require new programming paradigms, may change that. We think enterprise information-technology departments will soon be ready to adopt new programming platforms that are better equipped to support the architecture of modern software applications. 

Photo by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite