Pandemic has irreversibly changed both the world and business. However, a human being and his needs are still at the center of everything despite the changes in the way we interact. Digitalized processes in virtually every area of our lives have become necessary to satisfy them more than ever. What should we emphasize to prepare better for the forthcoming changes?
Analysts from the American Gartner Research Institute identified strategic technology trends that will impact the way most organizations operate in their annual “Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021” report. It is, in some way, a starting point for leaders responsible for company development. Focusing on innovation is a necessary condition for improving competitiveness and creating a forward-looking business model prepared for change and adaptation.
How will IT sector growth affect the world in 2021?
This year’s trends divided into three themes: people-centricity, ensuring location independence, and securing a resilient delivery. The first group includes Internet of Behaviors, total experience, and privacy-enhancing computing; the second group covers distributed cloud, anywhere operations, and cybersecurity mesh; and finally, the third group includes intelligent composable business, AI engineering, and hyperautomation. Let us have a closer look at each of the mentioned trends.
Internet of Behaviors
The idea of the Internet of Behaviors is to use the users’ data to influence their behavior. We leave traces as data of various sensitivity levels while enjoying the benefits of the digital world, as online stores customers, social media users, or, so popular lately, virtual events participants. More and more information is acquired, more and more data is processed, technologies are becoming more advanced and allow us to make more accurate outcomes. All this makes the Internet of Behaviors a powerful tool for social influence.
Do we (dis)agree to it?
Authors of the report, of course, pay attention to the ethical and legal aspects, pointing out that the public perception of the Internet of Behaviors instruments use will mostly depend on the goal of such activities and whether it takes into account the benefits for both sides – the users and the data processor. As an example to support their claim, experts mention the public acceptance of vehicle speed tracking and lower insurance rates for drivers while opposing the use of this information by law enforcement. For some countries, the use of the Internet of Behaviors services also depends on local regulations.
User Experience (UX), Multiexperience (MX), Customer Experience (CX), Employee Experience (EX). Until now, we used to deal with each of these topics separately. The concept of total experience connects them all and aims to improve the quality of the overall experience.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 contributed to strengthening the total experience trend. The user and customer experience upon interaction with a company are no longer the most important. A safe and comfortable working environment (including remote) provided to employees is equally important. According to Gartner experts, in 2021, innovative organizations should focus on new activities that could optimize the total experience of the enterprise ecosystem.
Ensuring secure data processing, analysis, and sharing becomes particularly important in the remote work environment. According to the report, three types of technology are crucial in this aspect.
The first one aims to provide a trusted environment for data processing, including for authorized third parties. Using the second one should secure the ability to process and analyze data in a decentralized manner, including using federated machine learning and privacy-based machine learning technologies. This includes differential privacy, homomorphic encryption, secure multiparty computation, zero-knowledge proofs, Private Set Intersection, and Private Information Retrieval.
Cloud solutions implementation is essential during the digital transformation of an organization. Defining relations between public and private clouds and designed solution implementation is a great challenge for IT departments. This process could be not only quite expensive but also requires the appropriate equipment and highly competent specialists in different, often very distant locations of the company.
Distributed cloud partially overcomes these problems. Distributed cloud partially overcomes the mentioned problems. Cloud services in the distributed model are delivered to different locations, but the solutions maintenance, administration, and development remain the responsibility of the public cloud provider.
“Digital first, remote first,” the authors of the overview emphasize the direction of change in technology consumption patterns under pandemic conditions and highly likely in post-pandemic reality as well.
Almost all business operations could be performed via cloud-based applications. Nevertheless, the anywhere operations trend is not the same as remote working. Gartner analysts point to a broader context and the need for a truly digital environment. A digitized service model should be the default. That doesn’t mean we should close physical stores and offices, though we shouldn’t wonder if we can use a digital service. We should know instead that we always have a choice.
The cybersecurity mesh is a distributed architectural approach to scalable, flexible, and reliable cybersecurity controls. Gartner analysts point out that leading companies are implementing these tools due to the pandemic impact.
The solution enables a flexible security model, which is particularly important in an environment where most of an organization’s resources, including hardware, are outside traditional physical security parameters. With a cybersecurity mesh, we can access any digital asset no matter where we are without worrying about keeping it secure.
Intelligent composable business
The authors of the report indicate we should focus not primarily on an efficient business model development but on its architecture that would allow its rapid scalability on the one hand and rapid changes under crisis conditions on the other.
Some of the damaging economic outcomes of COVID-19 result from the fact many companies have failed to adapt to a rapidly changing reality. According to Gartner analysts, a forward-looking business model should include better access to information, the ability to enrich data with new insights, and the creation of a composable company structure that can dynamically change in response to conditions and decisions.
Artificial intelligence is no longer the exclusive domain of data scientists in global corporations. In 2021, this technology is available to companies of virtually any size. However, AI project implementation often generates significant problems, including maintenance, management, and scalability. To fully benefit from AI-based IT services investments, it is essential to develop an implementation strategy. Only after the major business case questions are answered should we design truly efficient, scalable, interpretable, and reliable AI models.
It is not the first time Gartner lists this trend. Hyperautomation is based on the idea that everything that can be automated in an organization should be automated.
Electronic documentation and fully digitalized business process workflows should replace expensive and time-consuming traditional procedures. Numerous technologies facilitate digital transformation – AI, machine learning, Robotic Process Automation, or other solutions to automate processes and tasks. At the same time, we should ensure that the software we use is consistent and optimized.
Technology trends 2021 – summary
Digital transformation requires efficiency, speed, and democratization. Organizations that do not focus on creating an agile business model based on the digitalization of resources and processes have little chance of surviving during the current crisis or subsequent ones.
The world of technology is changing dynamically. And so quickly that it is sometimes difficult to keep up with these changes. Nevertheless, technology development has mitigated the effects of the pandemic on many levels. For that reason, despite all the difficulties, we cannot afford to stop or slow down.
Strategic technology trends do not appear to work independently, so it’s up to CIOs and IT managers to decide what combination of technologies will benefit their organizations the most. It’s not an easy but crucial task.