By all accounts, we have a lot to look forward to in 2016. Leap year! A Presidential election! The Olympics!

And, oh yeah, our jobs. With the end of the holiday season, we’re coming back to work.

Admittedly, the delineation between years when it comes to IT is pretty artificial. Other than ensuring that the systems actually will be able to handle the leap year—assuming they all made it through this year’s “leap second” all right—the computers don’t much care if it’s 2015 or 2016. (2038 may be another story.)

That said, we poor frail humans love to make these distinctions, if only in hopes that This Year Will Be Different. So what tech trends can we expect this year?

Artificial Intelligence. We have Apple’s Siri. We have Microsoft’s Cortana. We have Facebook’s M. And we have IBM’s Watson, which in 2015 went from helping cure cancer to advising people what the hot holiday gifts would be. The point is, more and more we’ll have computers, smartphones, and apps trying to help us out. “Digital assistants are just the beginning,” writes Larry Dignan in ZDNet. “IT and business decision makers need to ponder how they will deploy their digital workforce–an army of algorithms and machine learning systems that will automate many tasks.”

Dignan isn’t alone. Gartner, too, predicted at its annual Symposium conference in October that companies needed to go beyond big data and start thinking in terms of algorithms.

This means, too, thinking about how companies will be able to keep up with this expectation from customers. And, moreover, we need to ensure our own place with our new overlords, Dignan warns. “For your career, the race will be on to find a role for humans,” he writes. “Let’s face it: Artificial intelligence may destroy as many jobs as it creates.”

“The machines are not just cleverer, they also have access to far more data,” warns the Economist. “The combination of big data and smart machines will take over some occupations wholesale; in others it will allow firms to do more with fewer workers. Text-mining programs will displace professional jobs in legal services. Biopsies will be analysed more efficiently by image-processing software than lab technicians. Accountants may follow travel agents and tellers into the unemployment line as tax software improves. Machines are already turning basic sports results and financial data into good-enough news stories.”

(This blog is still written by a person. For now anyway…)

Personalization. Ironically, with all the emphasis on apps and artificial intelligence, a number of experts are predicting that users will be expecting more of a human touch in their interactions with companies. This could end up being through loyalty programs or by making a point of using actual humans—the way that Uber is becoming successful at the same time we’re talking about driverless cars, writes John Rakowski, director of technical strategy at AppDynamics.

Forrester, too, is predicting personalization as a major trend this year. “The level and quality of contextual, personalized experiences will be a key determinant of who wins mindshare and share of wallet,” writes senior vice president Carrie Johnson in Computerworld. “Your relationship with your customer is based on personalization and context — your technology investments need to reflect that and create this affinity.”

In fact, such personalization developments could even go so far as “friendship as a service,” predicts Siddhartha Lizcano of the design firm frog. “Despite our claims of connectivity and down-to-the-minute updates on our thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, there seems to be a distinct sense of loneliness (perhaps spurred by FOMO [fear of missing out]) that the millennial generation experiences more than those before us,” writes Lulu Chang in Digital Trends.

More of the same. Finally, some of the trends we’ve seen in the past few years—the Internet of Things, BYOD, security, enterprise content management, and so on—aren’t going away. If anything, as they become mainstream, new developments in these areas may slow down a little. Really, is there anyone in the office who doesn’t already have a smartphone? Does anyone not know about workflow? And after the myriad hacking attacks of the past couple of years, anyone with any sense has heeded the warning call, beefed up their security, and is checking it religiously.

Ready to leap into 2016?

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