Now that we’ve packed away our beach clothes and put our holidays behind us, it’s time to get to serious business: trying to read the tea leaves of the integration world to pick out the trends for the coming year. Having canvassed some of our industry’s finest thinkers – and Google – here are my picks for the biggest, most important or just plain noisiest issues of the year.
Looking back, we can see that last year’s predictions turned out pretty well. It seems crazy to say that only 12 months ago we debated internally whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) should even be on the list – 2023 was the year that Generative AI went mainstream. The predicted staffing issues have persisted, and the migration to the cloud still seems firmly tethered to on-premises systems. If all of this seems familiar, you’re not alone – 2024 is shaping up to be 2023 on steroids…
1. AI in integration moves from toy to tool
If 2023 was the year that AI broke into the mainstream, 2024 will be the year when it starts to deliver for integrators. The ability to seamlessly embed AI within an integration platform will become a differentiator, splitting the market into haves and have-nots. We are already seeing leading platforms finding ways to use AI in alignment with their philosophies. Boomi has taken their low-code, high-productivity philosophy one step further with Boomi.ai, a large language model (LLM) which can generate entire integration processes. Similarly, following on from their traditional developer focus, Microsoft has embedded their Copilot bot within the Azure portal to assist with coding and templating and improve developer productivity. Platforms that do not find a way to catch the AI wave risk being left behind, regardless of their other platform strengths.
2. Pandemic technical debt comes due
The amount of upheaval in business over the last four years can scarcely be believed – and we lived through it. Business models pivoting overnight, a rush to work from home (and a crawl back to the office), systems thrown together with chewing gum, rubber bands and a promise to fix that “in the future”. Well, “in the future” is now. Faced with the combination of ever increasing labour costs and cooling customer demand, it is no longer tenable to continue with the inefficient and fragile band-aid solutions which were put in place through the pandemic. The focus of integration projects will switch from the business enablement of the zero-interest years to driving business efficiency, and the ability to deliver rapid results will be paramount.
3. Skills shortages are here to stay
Despite coming back from last year’s historic highs, the IT labour market in 2024 continues to be in the grip of a mass skills shortage. With almost nine in ten employers experiencing a skills shortage, and a shrinking skills pipeline, undercapacity has become a structural issue in the market.
Skills shortages have become so acute in many areas that they are driving integration platform selection. Low- and No-Code integration platforms have gone from strength to strength over 2023 due to their low barrier to entry; conversely “traditional” code-first platforms are struggling as high staffing costs and general lack of resources challenge their ability to deliver.
Resourcing constraints are also likely to drive structural changes within organisations. Companies which may previously have delivered their integration projects with internal resources will be increasingly challenged to recruit and retain specialist integrators in the tight talent pool, with integration partners playing an increasingly important role in delivery.
4. Clear data strategies essential to catch AI wave
After one of the biggest hype cycles in recent memory, there can be few business leaders who are not aware of Generative AI and its potential to upend the status quo. 2024 will be the year when IT teams are challenged to understand what Generative AI will mean for their business and how they can meet its needs.
The key differentiator for a business looking ahead to an AI-driven future is their data. Organisations without a comprehensive understanding of what data they have, how to ensure its quality and how it should be structured will struggle to define how AI can enhance their business. The impetus provided by the AI wave should empower CIOs and CDOs to bring data strategies to the top of their priority list.
5. The year when AI hype meets reality
2024 will be defined by the tension between the challenges of the present and the opportunities of the future. Managing to thread the needle of addressing the pandemic hangover and meeting the AI future, while finding ways to succeed despite the skills shortage, will be the challenge of the year.