2023 to 2024 Sliding Bar

IT Predictions and Trends 2024

In this blog, Simon Jefferies, Sharp UK’s Director of Technology, explores our 2024 IT and Technology Predictions. 

AI, Microsoft 365/Copilot

Everyone could become an AI ‘Expert’

With Microsoft Copilot being made available to license for Enterprise clients across Microsoft 365 apps – including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook from November 2023, 2024 will be the year AI goes truly mainstream as everyone with access looks to improve productivity, enhance creativity, and ultimately change the way they work. In addition, Copilot has also been made available for Windows 11 and within Bing, which at no extra cost, means businesses can already leverage this new technology.

With the unrelenting hype around Generative AI, businesses should be preparing to utilise the technology now, rather than simply turning it on when it’s made available. Understanding how AI can work for businesses and how employees should and will leverage it is key. However, security should also be at the forefront of AI decisions, ensuring sensitive business data isn’t seen by the wrong people or inadvertently shared within public AI platforms. Organisations can also prepare for this AI transition by creating responsible use policies, ensuring their organisation safely and securely leverages AI.  

This year, Sharp found that 63% of organisations lack the right knowledge in critical areas such as Microsoft 365, so in 2024 businesses need to plan their technology evolution to ensure they gain the best experience and leverage new technologies such as AI effectively and efficiently. Equally, organisations should be considering the potential threats as well as benefits of AI. The UK Government has warned that technology like AI could increase the risk of cyber-attacks and erode trust in online content by 2025. Our recent Webinar with a panel of IT experts explored this topic in detail. 

Organisations should also recognise that Copilot is still in its infancy, and it will be some time yet before its true potential is leveraged. Planning adoption of AI is key at this point. Now is the time for businesses to begin their AI journey and understand how it can help them. With technology continuously evolving and becoming more complex, getting the most out of AI will take time to get right.

Cloud computing

More migration for SMEs and more hybrid for Enterprise

This year, we found that one in five of UK SMEs planned to migrate their servers to the cloud, but 60% didn’t feel that they had the right knowledge about its benefits to make that crucial decision. Perhaps concerns around rising costs and the economic climate was a factor.

In 2024, we expect to see more organisations leveraging additional cloud technology over traditional on-premise alternatives. For many smaller firms this will mean extending their current Microsoft 365 environment with the additional productivity tools and benefits it brings so they can be more innovative, agile, and successful. Security functions, encryption, authentication, and disaster recovery are also key drivers. And of course, Copilot is an added benefit when using the most up-to-date apps next year.

Cloud-based, hosted telephony services will also become more prevalent, particularly with the end of ISDN in 2025. This type of telephony service uses the internet rather than landlines for business telephones, the shift to Internet Protocol (IP) reflecting how we work and operate in the modern day.

We will also continue to see larger organisations today adopt multi-cloud strategies to take advantage of best-of-breed solutions. Hybrid and multi-cloud approaches are likely to become the norm in 2024 for many organisations, and if they aren’t, they should be. 

Expect to see more emphasis next year on organisations securing cloud technologies and more products, services and software solutions from the major vendors that cover this.  However, businesses should be cautious because the threat landscape is large, and many organisations believe they’re protected when using cloud services. Unfortunately, this is not true, cloud services are publicly available, from any location and any device. This flexibility can make them more of a target and user identity and passwords, should be secured appropriately to help reduce the likelihood of falling a victim to a cyber-attack.

Cyber Security

Cyber wise, SMEs will need better support – AI and human.

Cyber security threats will continue to become more sophisticated in the era of AI, with more advanced attacks. 

We found this year that a third of businesses had already had their operations impacted by a cyber security breach such as phishing, malware and data loss, or via a new wave of malicious QR code-based threats. Most commonly, a bad actor will gain access to an employee’s credentials through phishing, which then allows them access to wider environments. It’s useful to understand that many bad actors will not immediately aim to disable environments once they gain access. They can be inside for days, weeks or even months, evaluating systems, data and users, to understand how they can best perform their attack and ransom. Additionally, with the rise in AI, this will have further security impacts which, unfortunately, will only become more advanced.

IT security is the biggest technological issue they expected to face in the coming year, yet we found in 2023 that over 60% of businesses are lacking confidence when it comes to dealing with and mitigating security risks. SMEs will need more support, looking to new tools from security vendors that use AI to counter threats.

We will see more AI-powered tools come to market that identify emerging threats and vulnerabilities, allowing organisations to proactively strengthen their defences by identifying emails and phishing attempts more accurately, reducing the likelihood of successful attacks. 

Of course, with most breaches being a result of human error, having the right human support will be vital next year. Technology alone is not a silver bullet. We expect that in light of the AI wave, 2024 will see a much bigger focus on staff training when it comes to the importance of cybersecurity and understanding the associated risks. 

As threats increase, we expect more businesses to take out specific Cyber Insurance or be required to as part of supply chain and large contracts they enter, as many are already in the USA. This will be in addition to exploring other important security certifications such as ISO27001 and Cyber Essentials. 

IT Recruitment/Skills Gap

Skills Gaps continue as demand spikes in Cyber security

Despite the widely reported job losses at large global IT companies this year, in 2024 there will continue to be a significant shortage of skilled IT workers.

With 2024 being the year AI goes mainstream and the ever evolving and increasing volumes of cyber threats, the need for consultants and IT managers with the right specialist skills will continue to grow.

The breakneck speed in which generative AI and LLM tools will be adopted in the workplace have major implications on data privacy, intellectual property, cyber security, and safe use by employees. Every business and organisation will need more support than they did in 2023.

The growing threat of cybercrime and the continual need for problem-solving when it comes to IT means that professionals equipped with these skills will be in demand in 2024.

Unfortunately, the IT talent shortage isn’t going to be resolved overnight. As a result, more businesses will invest in internal training, upskilling, and seeking out external outsourced expertise to help bridge the gap and address the immediate needs of their business. 

With Sharp’s research in 2023 showing that less than a quarter of SMEs have a person responsible for IT internally, the need for external support will be even more pronounced next year.

Hybrid working

Forget Hybrid this year we are all getting Phydigital

As more and more businesses move from a largely remote workforce to majority office based, 2024 is likely to be the first year since the pandemic that working patterns don’t change.

Although days in the office are, according to recent reports, different per region – with London business more likely to have three days in the office and two remote, and some businesses in smaller UK cities are nearing five days as the norm, we predict that this will be set now for the future. Whatever the working pattern on 1 January, it will be the same as on 31 December.

Given this we expect to see businesses further embrace the use of technology, to improve productivity, efficiency, collaboration, and creativity. So, watch out for more integration of virtual reality, augmented reality, and more integration between the physical and the digital, with less emphasis on the hybrid aspect of working and more on how virtual environments can be integrated.

This could be brand experience that mix physical reality with digital technology so are ‘Phydigital’, or working environments where the virtual world is where office and remote collaborate so ‘Vybrid’.

2024 will be the year business finally get to innovate through ambition not just through necessity.

Power Platforms/ERP

Putting the Enterprise into SMEs 

With productivity and efficiency high on the minds of most SMEs, 2024 could be the year that many more than before turn to Microsoft’s Power Platform to create a way to manage their business better.

Businesses will look to build on their existing use of Office 365 to develop ERP systems that help them manage their operation in the way large scale enterprises do.

We expect to see a significant increase in enquiries around how we can help businesses seamlessly extend the use and Power BI, Power Apps, or Power Automate and integrate how they use existing applications across the business, from finance, to workflow to communications.

Whilst AI might steal the headlines it might just be the Power Platform that transforms a majority of firms in 2024.

Print Security

IT security comes into focus 

The broadened threat landscape that hybrid working presents continues to expand and create very real challenges, from securing network connections to educating against human error. 

Our recent research found that hybrid working was the highest reason (38%) for increased IT security concerns amongst UK’s SMEs. Despite this, only two out of five (41%) cover hybrid working as part of their current IT security training and less than a quarter educate their employees about scanner (23%) and printer (23%) IT security. 

The research also revealed that almost one in five (16%) of UK’s SMEs admit to being impacted by a printer security breach. One third had been impacted by data loss (30%), malware (30%), phishing (31%) and a quarter impacted by computer virus attacks (25%).

While cyber security breaches enabled by complex security technology seem to earn the most media attention, underestimating day-to-day security essentials and overlooking employee training ends up being the root cause of most breaches. 

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. With the advent of AI, understanding and awareness of risks to business is growing. With the rapid evolution of technology, we expect that more SMEs will seek expert, external advice to ensure the right IT security decisions are being made, a holistic security view is being taken, and that solutions are always up to date.

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