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Gartner crystal ball: Top tactical predictions for 2021 and beyond

Gartner crystal ball: Top tactical predictions for 2021 and beyond

Gartner forecasts everything from digital moves to DNA storage and social interactions will impact businesses in the near future

Credit: Arthur Ogleznev / Unsplash

Gartner is taking a swing at predicting future trends in IT, flagging neuromorphic computing and DNA storage technologies, and an expanded responsibility for CIOs to deliver digital-business outcomes.

Future technologies are resetting everything as current technologies are being stressed to their limits, and conventional computing is hitting a wall,  Daryl Plummer, distinguished research vice president and Gartner fellow told the virtual audience at the firm’s IT Symposium/Xpo Americas.

The industry is on a roller-coaster ride that will lead the "reset of everything," Plummer said. The future technologies Gartner forecasts will impact the industry the most have three key common threads: they promote greater innovation and efficiency in the enterprise; they are more effective than the technologies that they are replacing; and they have a transformational impact on society, Plummer said.

Those key trends forecast by Gartner for next year and beyond include:

By 2025, traditional computing technologies will hit a digital wall forcing the shift to new paradigms such as neuromorphic computing.

Plummer said CIOs and IT executives will be unable to deliver on critical digital initiatives with current computing techniques as system performance, power consumption and cost aren’t supporting digital innovation. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision and speech recognition, which demand substantial computing power, will become pervasive, and general-purpose processors will be increasingly unsuitable for these digital innovations.

“A variety of advanced computing architectures will emerge over the next decade,” Plummer said. “In the short-term, such technologies could include extreme parallelism, Deep neural networks-on-a chip or neuromorphic computing. In the long-term, technologies such as printed electronics, DNA storage, and chemical computing will create a wider range of innovation opportunities,” Plummer said.

By 2024, 30% of digital businesses will mandate DNA storage trials, addressing the exponential growth of data poised to overwhelm existing storage technology.

Gartner says DNA storage allows the storage of binary digital data in the double helix from of DNA, taking binary coding and turning it into coding that fits in the human DNA strand. It would mean a year's worth of human knowledge could be stored in a gram of synthetic DNA for thousands of years, Gartner says. Digital data such as music, video, or statistics would be encoded in the nucleic acid base pairs of synthetic DNA strands. It sounds complex, but the technology is actually well-established and understood, the firm says. DNA is inherently resilient, capable of error checking and self-repair, which makes it an ideal data storage and computing platform for a range of applications.

“More information is being collected than ever before, but today’s storage technology has critical limitations on how long data can be stored and remain uncorrupted,” Plummer said.  “With DNA storage, digital data is encoded in the nucleotide-based pairs of a synthetic DNA strand. This provides a longevity that traditional storage mechanisms simply do not have.”

By 2025, 75% of conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed, enabling the discovery of added organizational value or risk.

Because in part of the shift to remote working some of this is already happening.  Work conversations are shifting from traditional, real-time, face-to-face communications, to taking place over cloud meeting solutions, messaging platforms and virtual assistants, Plummer said.  In most cases, many tools are keeping a digital record of those conversations. “We have no privacy, get over it. Everything records,” Plummer said.

Analytics of conversations happening in the workplace will be used to not only help enterprises comply with existing laws and regulations, but also to help them predict future performance and behavior. As the use of these digital surveillance technologies increases, ethical considerations and actions that bring privacy rights to the forefront will be critical.

By 2025, 40% of physical experience-based businesses will improve financial results and outperform competitors by extending into paid virtual experiences.

The increasing capability of internet of things, digital twins and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) is making the provision of immersive experience more attractive and affordable to a wider range of consumers, Plummer said.  This trend has been accelerated as the social effects of the pandemic have positively altered people’s attitudes towards remote and virtual engagement. Physical experience companies must begin building and acquiring skills in disciplines related to creating, delivering and supporting immersive, virtual experiences. In 2022, at least three leading providers of physical experiences will make more than 10% of their revenue from virtual, immersive experiences.

By 2025, customers will be the first humans to touch more than 20% of the products and produce in the world.

Driven by the world of hyperautomation and the impact of the pandemic, customers will be the first to actually touch everything from product to produce. Eliminating the amount of times people touch things from the farm or factories via automated systems will speed up the development of fully automated factories and farms. This leads to new opportunities to rethink product design, material use, plant locations and use of resources. As automation becomes the new imperative, customers will increasingly become the first humans to touch manufactured products and agricultural produce, Plummer said.

By 2024, 25% of traditional large enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming “COO by proxy.”

After years of decline, the chief operating officer (COO) role is rising in prominence among born-digital companies. A COO is an essential component for digital success, as they understand both the business and the ecosystem in which it operates – technology and business are inseparable.  The CIO, with an in-depth knowledge of the technology that facilitates business impact, can increase enterprise effectiveness by taking on components of the COO role to fuse technology and business goals. “As more CIOs become accountable for the enterprise’s digital performance results, the trend of CIOs in highly digitalized traditional businesses reporting to the CEO will become a flood,” Plummer said.

By 2024, 30% of major organizations will use a new “voice of society” metric to act on societal issues and assess the impacts to their business performance.

Being tone deaf to societal issues can hurt an organization quickly, Plummer said. The “voice of society” is the shared perspective of people in a community that drives the desire to represent and shift ethical values toward a commonly acceptable outcome. Business measurement tactics are expanding to include a focus on opinion-based metrics, such as voice of society, equal to that of more tangible metrics like click-through rates. Such measurement will become a C-Suite imperative so that business composition can react quickly to societal change. “By responding to the voice of society, more product brand names or messages are going to be changed or dropped through next year than in the previous five years combined,” Plummer said.

By 2024 content moderation services for user generated content will be surveyed as a top CEO priority in 30% of large organizations.

With the social unrest of the past year, content volatility on social media has increased. Investing in content moderation, enforcement and reporting services will be critical for enterprises to understand the providence of the content on their sites. “In many cases, brands are going dark altogether on user-generated content platforms until appropriate policing measures are in place. Yet site and app publishers must walk the line between enforcing policies to provide a safe environment and being accused of censorship. Therefore, brand advertisers will become responsible for neutralizing polarizing content, and industry standards for content moderation will emerge,” Plummer said. Through 2021, brands that create or commission content will develop industry standards for authentic content on brand- owned websites, Gartner predicts.

By 2023, large organizations will increase employee retention by more than 20% through repurposing office space as onsite childcare and education facilities.

Global worker demand for childcare assistance is still unmet. This will become even more challenging in the wake of COVID-19, as Gartner predicts that by early next year, one-in-five private childcare centers will have closed their doors permanently. To meet increased demand, large companies will begin repurposing empty facility spaces for offerings that have a societal value-add, such as childcare or educational services. This will significantly increase employee satisfaction, productivity and retention, particularly among women in the workforce, Plummer said.

By 2025, customers will pay a freelance customer service expert to resolve 75% of their customer service needs.

Traditional customer service methods create bottlenecks and pain points for customers. Resolving service issues outside of official company channels is often more effective and creates a better customer experience. Rather than contacting the company directly, customers will increasingly turn to what Gartner calls “freelance customer service professionals” who are experts in the technology for which they are seeking assistance. CIOs must look to partner with these freelancers early on to reduce the customer experience, brand and monetization risks created by third-party customer service providers. Through 2021, there will be a 15% rise in customers seeking outside help after being frustrated by traditional support channels, Gartner predicts.


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