Continued uncertainty, cybercrime, AI adoption and more: Our outlook on the year ahead

January 19, 2024 Michael Flannery 5 min

When navigating a new year, we must always consider where we have been to understand where we are going. Our President Michael Flannery looks back at the past 12 months of industry triumphs and hardships to offer foresight into what businesses should expect in 2024.

2023 offered a humbling reminder of how much the business landscape can shift in a year and wrote a prescription for how resilient we must be in the face of change. We can expect 2024 to be no different, bringing a unique set of obstacles and opportunities to enterprises that will be reshaped by a potent confluence of disruptive and transformative forces.

With lessons learned from an animated year behind us, here are four big trends I believe will influence a great deal of decision-making for business leaders and, as a result, impact how enterprises will operate in this new year.

Trend 1: Business continuity will be jeopardized by multiple forces out of your control

Whether it’s protection from fierce natural disasters, complex cyberattacks—or even from an accidental coffee catastrophe in the server room—ensuring business continuity must stay top of mind for leaders in 2024. A great place to start (if you haven’t already) is to develop a business continuity plan that draws out a roadmap and set processes in the occurrence of an unpredictable event. Proactive planning around one’s IT infrastructure is designed to futureproof operations, implement cost savings and safeguard against many forms of disruption. Another tip is to adopt company-wide best practices around maintaining critical functions, helping your businesses remain agile, flexible and adaptable to change.

I’ve also been a firm advocate of implementing business continuity and disaster preparedness by moving away from outdated legacy technologies—things like Time Division Multiplexing (TDM), DS1 and DS3 Access solutions and copper-based services, such as primary rate interfaces (PRIs) and plain old telephone services (POTS)—and migrating to a more modern, malleable digital infrastructure. Through these various strategies, I staunchly believe you can stay one step and ahead and be better equipped to achieve unimpacted collaboration and connectivity. Our business continuity checklist can help you outline the first steps your organization needs to take to make this possible.

Trend 2: The threat landscape enters a new era of sophistication, but the right security solutions will keep you protected

It’s a tale that stands the test of time: Every year, security threats grow increasingly advanced and more aggressive than we’ve seen—and this will also be true for 2024. Cybersecurity experts are preparing for never-before-seen security threats derived from the advancements in artificial intelligence. Not to also mention that, according to Gartner, by 2025, lack of talent or human failure will be responsible for over half of significant cyber incidents. As mounting challenges confronting CISOs and other security-centric business leaders mutates beyond technology, IT talent and controls, how can organizations strengthen their IT and Security programs in the face of these hurdles?

All it takes is one cyber incident to inflict permanent damage on any enterprise of any size, which is why in 2024, I’ll continue to stress the significance of trading out outdated and disjointed security solutions for a holistic, integrated network security architecture—a solution like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). If SASE seems too large of a commitment, there are more targeted actions businesses can take to protect themselves from looming threats. An independent security expert can work with your IT team to determine exactly which measures are most appropriate for your organization.

Trend 3: Don’t trip—make sure you can walk before you can run with AI

One of my favorite trends to watch in 2023 was around discussions of how artificial intelligence will transform the future of business. While fear around AI adoption remains, we have also become familiar with circumstances where AI creates, not diminishes, workforce opportunity. According to Gartner, by 2027, the productivity value of AI will be recognized as a primary economic indicator of national power, largely due to widespread gains in workforce productivity.

Automation through generative AI (GenAI) has become a critical component that allows enterprises to achieve operational efficiency, cost efficiency, greater productivity, compliance, improved CX and so much more—especially when budgets are constrained. While 2023 was centered around a lot of “AI hype”, analysts predict that a more realistic understanding and implementation of these technologies will occur in 2024—one that address the concerns around cost and real-life application of these new solutions.

This mindset shift will encourage more honest conversations about AI across the industry. In order for organizations to take advantage of emerging technologies like machine learning, AI and Internet of Things (IoT), it cannot be done without a rock-solid digital infrastructure in place. By first building a reliable foundation of modern technology, enhanced security and optimized IT operations, businesses can then operate with the future in mind, supporting the evolving needs of their customers through the latest and greatest technology.

Trend 4: More organizations see the wisdom in outsourcing IT infrastructure and management.

The number of large organizations who have a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud (mixing cloud with on-premises infrastructure) strategy is predicted to rise from 76% to 85% during 2024. A hybrid-cloud motion offers numerous cost and flexibility advantages, but it also adds complexity to data governance and integration with legacy systems. That’s because not everything within an enterprise’s infrastructure was built natively for the cloud—resulting in performance issues and high costs of managing everything in these types of environments. That may leave leaders wondering, how do we manage it all—especially as it exists in the current disparate state of their infrastructure?

This is where IT managed services steps in, filling in gaps, enabling business agility and guiding leaders on how to strike the right balance across their people, processes and systems. Rather than asking their internal teams to buy, implement, monitor, protect, manage and troubleshoot increasingly sophisticated IT systems themselves, we will see more organizations handing those responsibilities over to a managed service provider in 2024. That way they can get a solution to support 24/7 connectivity, collaboration, security, etc.—plus an outcome, supported by an expert third-party.

The business case for managed IT services is strong for several reasons. Generally, they provide an organization with greater cost certainty by shifting a capital cost to an operating cost, along with less risk by shifting the cost of equipment failure to the managed service provider. They simplify matters by consolidating products and services under a single vendor. And they function as an extension of your IT team, a critical consideration with IT talent so scarce and many IT and cybersecurity teams running dangerously lean.

Importantly, a managed service provider can also help organizations deal with the complexity of a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud strategy, where they rely on cloud services from multiple providers or a mix of cloud and on-premises infrastructure.

What’s your outlook on 2024?

A new year brings fresh perspectives, and I would love to hear what you have to say. Connect with me on LinkedIn to share your thoughts and spark a conversation.

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Key Takeaway
Whatever opportunity and obstacles arise in 2024, all of us at Windstream Enterprise look forward to supporting your journey towards achieving business agility and digital transformation strategies.

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