5 Driving Digital Predictions for 2019

With Thanksgiving behind us and the new year approaching, it's time to take stock on where we collectively are in our various transformational journeys.

You'll see that I have a mixed message in my predictions. While some technologies and transformation programs will see increases in 2019, there will be strong culture and financial headwinds that will challenge CIO, CDO, CEO, Boards and leaders to defend their investments.

Let's look at some numbers that are top of mind as I make these predictions.

1. Leaders will need to promote Digital Transformation benefits

I have been consistent with this message to CIO and CDO all year. As hard as it is to get leadership on board with digital transformation programs, aligned on digital strategy, and ready to make big investments - and as hard as it is to implement digital transformation programs - it's even hard to sustain these programs in the face of detractors, speed bumps, and pivots. 2019 will be a more challenging year if tech stocks continue to take a beating or if there is a recession.

What can leaders do? Continue to communicate and market the transformation benefits. CIOs in particular should be developing agile cultures, devops programs, and analytics that are the new Driving Digital operating practices for transforming organizations.

2. DevOps, AIOps / Digital Operations is the new IT Operations

Let's look at the math: More companies are trying to become technology companies and develop proprietary applications, but CIO are still struggling with supporting legacy technologies and technical debt. Meanwhile, Gartner states that IT budgets will only increase 3.2% in 2019.

This math doesn't work. CIOs can't keep adding new apps at a high velocity while shutting down legacy bumps along slowly if their OpEx budget is essentially flat.


They invest in automation. Developing DevOps CI/CD pipelines and IaC will reduce the costs of supporting new applications while investing in AI and digital operations will stabilize the costs of providing operational support.

3. Reality Check on AI

Two competing AI reality checks will surface in 2019.

Companies making big AI bets will get a dose of reality on what AI and machine learning can easily do versus what takes long term, ongoing investment. Outside of GAFA and other large technology companies that have very deep pockets and strong cultures that support ongoing R&D, large enterprises without the same finances and culture may put their AI investments through a reality check in 2019.

On the other hand, I do see more enterprises and large businesses taking more steps to leverage AI and machine learning. Some of this will come because there are more AI tools and technologies that make working with data, AI, and machine learning easier. Even deep learning is becoming more mainstream. Others will take basic steps with their data and agile practices, then take on modest AI POCs.

4. Enterprise Transformation will have its lowcode day

CIOs are going to have find better platforms and tools to transform their enterprises. Some will invest in RPAs where they have insurmountable legacy systems and significant financial opportunities to automate. RPAs will continue to see adoption in 2019, though I do believe vendors will have to prove out that adding bots on top of legacy application is not another layer of technical debt locked in with a proprietary vendor.

Other businesses will look to leverage no code and low code platforms. The cost for talent is too high, and there's so much the CIO can do to reduce technical debt. Organizations with strong-willed development teams may resist these platforms, but as the wars for developer talent aren't slowing up, more CIOs will have to look for easier ways to build and support enterprise and departmental applications.

5. Data Governance will become a top priority

GDPR compliance took the headlines in 2018 and so maybe in 2019 more organizations will shift their efforts to the larger and somewhat more challenging task of implementing data governance.

Organizations need to look well beyond a reactionary investment in data governance based on how Facebook has handled its fake news and data breaches. In the US, more data regulation may be coming but none of this addresses data governance that can drive innovation and growth.

If data is the new oil, then having a refinery to cleanse it, proper tanks to manage it, and defined policies on how to provide access to it is of key importance. In 2019, more organizations will seek out expertise to help them kickoff these programs.


Oh it's not all doom and gloom. Don't get me wrong. Enterprises, CIOs, and CDOs need to continue to drive transformation in their organizations and there will be many more industries being disrupted in 2019. Being stagnant is no solution. Just ask Sears and Toys R Us.

What did I miss?


  1. Great post, Isaac. No doubt about it, we're in the midst of the most massive transformation in business processes since the Industrial Revolution. That intensity will only increase in 2019.

    The one thing I would add--in 2019, CxOs will find that the need to define the business case first, tech second, has only grown more pointed. It's not enough to embark on transformation just because. These advancements are incredible, but the business case must come first, then the technology in support of that. The need to put the business case first will only increase as these technologies evolve further and gain more and more capabilities.

    Capabilities are daunting; the business case gives CxOs a roadmap for navigating capabilities and choosing only those technologies that support the business case in question.

    Again, great post--thank you!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Tech driven changes are not typically transformations - more like transitions - because they rarely change the business model and operations in fundamental ways.

      On the other hand, I hope businesses don't become overly conservative and seek fully baked business plans before embarking on transformation programs. Takes too long and there are too many uncertainties. It's a recipe for waiting too long.


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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.