Last week, Gartner, Inc. announced its top nine strategic technology trends for 2021. Analysts presented their findings during Gartner IT Symposium, which was virtual this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Just as the pandemic reshaped the conference, it has also reshaped the trends, as many of them are brought about or will be emphasized to a greater extent due to the health crisis that the world continues to face.
The top nine strategic technology trends for 2021 are:
1: Internet of Behaviors
The Internet of Behaviors (or IOB) refers to leveraging data to change behaviors. This brings together data from both the digital and physical worlds to influence actions and behaviors through feedback loops.
Gartner offers the example of how telematics can monitor behaviors of the drivers of commercial vehicles, and how that data can be used to drive better safety, driver performance and routing. The report highlights the many sources of data including, “commercial customer data, citizen data processed by public-sector and government agencies, social media, public domain deployments of facial recognition, and location tracking.”
The report also highlights some of the complicating factors related to IoB, including societal and ethical implications that must be taken into consideration.
2: Total experience
Total experience combines customer experience, user experience, employee experience and ultimately multiexperience to impact and transform business outcomes. The overlap in these experiences can be improved with technology, and it enables companies to take advantage of disruptive aspects of the current pandemic such as distributed customers, remote work, virtual and mobile.
Gartner highlights an example of a telecommunications company that transformed across these vectors of experience to improve both satisfaction as well as safety. The report notes, “First, it deployed an appointment system via an existing app. When customers arrived for their appointment and came within 75 feet of the store, they received two things: 1) A notification to guide them through the check-in process and 2) an alert letting them know how long it would be before they could safely enter the store and maintain social distance. The company also adjusted its service to include more digital kiosks and enabled employees to use their own tablets to co-browse customers’ devices without having to physically touch the hardware.” As a result, the experience for customers and employees was more seamless and integrated while also being safer.
3: Privacy-enhancing computation
Privacy-enhancing computation focuses on three technologies that safeguard data while its used. The first provides a trusted environment in which sensitive data can be analyzed and processed. The second performs analytics and processing in a decentralized fashion. The third encrypts data and algorithms before analytics or processing.
Gartner highlights that this trend allows organizations “to collaborate on research securely across regions and with competitors without sacrificing confidentiality. This approach is designed specifically for the increasing need to share data while maintaining privacy or security.”
4: Distributed cloud
Distributed cloud refers to cloud services being distributed to different physical locations, while the operation, governance and evolution continue to be the responsibility of the public cloud provider.
By having these organizations’ services physically closer, latency is reduced, as are the costs of data, helping to ensure compliance with laws that dictate data must remain in a specific geographical region. Gartner notes that distributed cloud is the future of cloud technology generally.
5: Anywhere operations
Anywhere operations is a model that has been underscored due to the Covid-19 crisis, and will remain after the pandemic is over. Given the fact that more business looks to be done remotely, this model facilitates business being done anywhere.
Gartner notes that this is a “digital first, remote first” model. The report notes that digital should be the default for business at all times. Even the physical spaces that remain should be digitally enhanced. The report notes examples like contactless check-out at a physical store.
6: Cybersecurity mesh
The threat landscape expands with a remote workforce, and the cybersecurity mesh offers enhanced security to help with this new reality. Cybersecurity mesh allows the identity of a person or thing to define the security perimeter. Centralized policy orchestration and policy enforcement facilitates a more responsive security approach.
7: Intelligent composable business
Intelligent composable businesses can adapt and rearrange themselves based on changes to the business. The pace of change is ever increasing, and this will continue to drive a faster pace for digital transformation. Data must be available in a timely fashion to enable the agility required to succeed in this environment.
Gartner says, “To successfully do this, organizations must enable better access to information, augment that information with better insight and have the ability to respond quickly to the implications of that insight. This will also include increasing autonomy and democratization across the organization, enabling parts of the businesses to quickly react instead of being bogged down by inefficient processes.”
8: AI engineering
Getting the most value from artificial intelligence (AI) investments requires a robust AI engineering strategy to driver scalability, better performance, reliability and interpretability of AI models. Many companies have had issues with AI projects due to governance, scalability and maintainability.
AI engineering pushes AI to be part of DevOps rather than being something separate from it. By using a multi-discipline, multi-AI-technique approach, a clearer path to value from AI projects can be achieved. Gartner notes, “Due to the governance aspect of AI engineering, responsible AI is emerging to deal with trust, transparency, ethics, fairness, interpretability and compliance issues. It is the operationalization of AI accountability.”
Hyperautomation, which was the number one trend listed in Gartner’s predictions for 2020 offered a year ago, notes that anything that can be automated should be. Without hyperautomation, companies with legacy business processes that are not streamlined will suffer from expensive and extensive issues due to this inefficient approach.
The Gartner report notes, “Many organizations are supported by a “patchwork” of technologies that are not lean, optimized, connected, clean or explicit. At the same time, the acceleration of digital business requires efficiency, speed and democratization. Organizations that don’t focus on efficiency, efficacy and business agility will be left behind.”
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His has written two bestselling books, moderates the Technovation podcast series, and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.
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