Ahead of the game: The 2019 tech trends 5 Chicago companies are watching

by Alton Zenon III
November 20, 2018

Keeping up with emerging trends is mandatory for tech companies, but those who truly excel know when to look a step ahead. We spoke to technology leads at five Chicago companies about the technologies they expect to be highly impactful in 2019, and how their teams are preparing for the shift.

 

Sphera staff chatting near a window
image via sphera

With a specialization in environmental health and safety, operational risk, and product stewardship, Sphera provides companies across the globe with integrated risk management software and information services. Perry Marchant, chief technology officer, said serverless computing will be a key to increased efficiency and cost savings in the near future.

 

What’s the biggest tech trend you’re watching as we head into 2019?

We see serverless computing as a strengthening trend in 2019 for two reasons. First, engineers like serverless computing because it allows them to focus on writing code instead of thinking about infrastructure deployment and operation. Second, the benefits are becoming increasingly interesting from a business perspective — you’re only paying for the resources you use, and you get managed services so you avoid any administrative overhead. The scale flexibility is compelling, too, because it reacts to events by providing more computing power as needed.

Engineers like serverless computing because it allows them to focus on writing code.”

 

How is your team working to take advantage of that trend?

We’re looking at the cost and scalability benefits of using Azure Functions in SpheraCloud. Our engineering team is actively building out a React JS front end for our SpheraCloud platform. As part of that, we’re evaluating if we can move some of our back-end processing to Functions.

 

Signal CTO Jason Yanowitz
image via signaL

Signal helps companies improve their customer experiences through its identity platform, which aggregates customer data from a number of locations, helping brands reach consumers with consistent messaging across channels. Chief Technology Officer Jason Yanowitz said the company is taking a collaborative approach to optimizing what it sees as the next big trend to watch. 

 

What’s the biggest tech trend you’re watching as we head into 2019?

We believe that in 2019, serverless computing will finally be ready for the large-scale
advertising analytics we provide. To take full advantage of serverless, we’re rethinking data processing workflows across all parts of our stack — for example, our back end has to be broken into smaller, composable pieces. Our user interface must still provide the tools to manage these smaller components, and our infrastructure must offer observability into the health and performance of these workflows, just like any other part of our stack.

To take full advantage of serverless, we’re rethinking data processing workflows across all parts of our stack.”

 

How is your team working to adapt to that trend?

Because this architecture impacts so many different parts of our engineering organization, we can’t have just one person or one team own this transformation. We’re designing the architecture through collaborative requests for comment that let every member of the engineering team weigh in. We’re also providing the time for ‘bake offs,’ allowing teams to develop competing solutions for this architecture, and letting the most effective ideas succeed. This approach ensures that everyone is fluent in the new architecture.

 

DAIS Technology team posing in group photo
image via dais technology

DAIS Technology is an insurance software startup currently in stealth mode. Vice President of Technology Mike Goldstein said his team is focusing its attention on automation over the next year.

 

What’s the biggest tech trend you’re watching as we head into 2019?

Automation — what new technologies and patterns will pop up, and how far we can use automation to help scale and deliver better product. Also, the continued trend of role responsibilities for going from manual to automated, such as quality assurance engineers becoming automation engineers and DevOps using tooling to automate infrastructure.

We created a solution to generate our own software developer’s kit, saving 100,000 lines of code.”

 

How is your team working to take advantage of that trend?

Repeatability and scalability is so important to changing an industry such as insurance, we even created a team dedicated to it — the A-Team. We created a solution to generate our own software developer’s kit, saving 100,000 lines of code. We’ve also been able to standardize all our applications, which allows us to automate quality metrics like code coverage and complexity for all our apps. 

 

SilkRoad tech team in group photo
image via silkroad

SilkRoad provides HR teams with digital solutions that allow them to better manage things like applicant tracking, onboarding, and employee engagement and retention. David Winter, senior vice president of products and innovation, said creating tech-enabled systems for both prospective and new hires will be a major point of focus for the company.

 

What’s the biggest tech trend you’re watching as we head into 2019?

SilkRoad is attuned to how more job seekers are expecting their employers to have a seamless and tech-enabled experience, much like what they experience in other industries that are mobile-friendly, quick and convenient. When job seekers expect this, so do new hires. So we focus both on the application and recruiting experience, as well as on onboarding into new roles. It needs to be as convenient, tech-driven and, most of all, as measurable as possible.

We’re creating intentional, strategic onboarding programs that are user-driven and flexible.”

 

How is your team working to take advantage of that trend?

Since new hires have changing expectations for their first-day experiences, so, too, must onboarding change to address their needs. For instance, our new Activate Offers solution serves as the critical first step in strategic new hire onboarding. It enables the creation, approval routing, digital signature, tracking and analysis of offers so they happen prior to an employee’s first day. 

Through strategic onboarding that’s addressing the next-generation expectations of recruits and new hires, we’re creating intentional, strategic onboarding programs that are user-driven and flexible enough to support each employee journey.

 

Mars Wrigley Confectionery Chief Information Officer Romain Apert
image via Mars Wrigley Confectionery

Mars Wrigley Confectionery is responsible for some of the world’s most beloved candies, like Skittles, M&M’s, Snickers, Twix and more. Chief Information Officer Romain Apert said the company is investing its time and resources into the development of machine learning capabilities.

 

What’s the biggest tech trend you’re watching as we head into 2019?

I’ll continue to watch machine learning. Machine learning enables businesses to learn quicker, test more efficiently and make decisions regarding the path forward with speed. While not a new technology, machine learning should be embraced as a vehicle to inspire a culture of human reinforcement learning. When insights gathered from machine learning prove our hypotheses incorrect or inconclusive, we need to embrace re-learning

The more use cases we uncover for machine learning and big data, the more motivated we are to build effective solutions for the business.”

 

How is your team working to take advantage of that trend?

We take development seriously, from offering training courses to exposing our people to external thinking and inspiration — that’s exactly what we aimed to do with our recent hackathon at 1871. The teams developed at least three big data solutions that can help us bring even greater value to consumers and customers, and you can bet we plan to test the products’ viability. The more use cases we uncover for machine learning and big data, the more motivated we are to build effective solutions for the business.

 

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