Best of 2020: Top strategic technology trends for 2021 revealed

Monday, 28 December, 2020

Best of 2020: Top strategic technology trends for 2021 revealed

The top strategic technology trends for 2021, as identified by Gartner, include Internet of Behaviours (IoB), Total Experience, Privacy-enhancing Computation, Hyperautomation, Distributed Cloud, Anywhere Operations, Cybersecurity Mesh, Intelligent Composable Business and AI Engineering.

Brian Burke, Research Vice President at Gartner, stated that the need for operational resiliency across enterprises has never been greater.

“CIOs are striving to adapt to changing conditions to compose the future business. This requires the organisational plasticity to form and reform dynamically. Gartner’s top strategic technology trends for 2021 enable that plasticity,” Burke said.

Burke added that as organisations transition from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to driving growth, they must focus on three areas that form the theme of this year’s trends: people centricity, location independence and resilient delivery.

Internet of Behaviours (IoB) combines existing technologies that focus directly on the individual — such as facial recognition, location tracking and big data — with associated behavioural events, such as cash purchases or device usage.

Organisations can use this data to influence human behaviour. For example, organisations could monitor compliance with health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging IoB via computer vision to see whether employees are wearing masks, or via thermal imaging, to identify those with a fever. While the IoB is technically possible, there will be extensive ethical and societal debates about the different approaches employed to affect behaviour.

Burke identified Total Experience (TX) as another emerging trend; Gartner introduced multi-experience as a strategic technology trend in 2019, with TX going a step further, connecting multi-experience with customer, employee and user experience disciplines. TX strives to improve the experiences of multiple constituents to achieve a transformed business outcome.

“Gartner expects organisations that provide a TX to outperform competitors across key satisfaction metrics over the next three years,” Burke said.

CIOs are facing more privacy and non-compliance risks than ever before, as global data protection legislation matures. Privacy-enhancing Computation, identified as another emerging trend, protects data in use while maintaining secrecy or privacy. Gartner predicts that half of large organisations will implement privacy-enhancing computation for processing data in untrusted environments and multi-party data analytics use cases by 2025.

While business-driven hyperautomation has been trending for the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand with the sudden requirement for everything to be ‘digital first’. Hyperautomation is a disciplined approach that organisations use to identify, vet and automate as many approved businesses and IT processes as possible.

“Hyperautomation is now inevitable and irreversible. Everything that can and should be automated will be automated,” Burke said.

Distributed Cloud, another key trend, is the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations, while the operation, governance and evolution of the services remain the responsibility of the public cloud provider. Distributed cloud provides a nimble environment for organisational scenarios with low-latency, data cost-reduction needs and data residency requirements. It also addresses the need for customers to have cloud computing resources closer to the physical location where data and business activities occur.

Anywhere Operations, another strategic technology trend, refers to an IT operating model designed to support customers, enable employees and manage the deployment of business services across distributed infrastructures. It is more than working from home or interacting with customers virtually — it provides unique value-add experience across five areas: collaboration, productivity, secure remote access, cloud and edge infrastructure, quantification of the digital experience and automation to support remote operations.

The Cybersecurity Mesh enables anyone to access any digital asset securely, no matter where the asset or person is located. It decouples policy enforcement from policy decision-making via a cloud delivery model and allows identity to become the security perimeter.

Burke noted that most organisational cyber assets are now outside the traditional physical and logical security perimeters — with evolving anywhere operations, the cybersecurity mesh will become the most practical approach to ensure secure access to cloud-located applications and distributed data from uncontrolled devices.

An Intelligent Composable Business re-engineers decision-making by accessing better information and responding more nimbly to it. For example, machines will enhance decision-making in the future, enabled by data and insights. Intelligent composable business will pave the way for redesigned digital business moments, new business models, autonomous operations and new products, services and channels.

Gartner research has found that only 53% of projects progress from artificial intelligence (AI) prototypes to production, as CIOs and IT leaders find it hard to scale AI projects due to a lack of tools to create and manage a production-grade AI pipeline. The road to AI production means turning to AI engineering, a discipline focused on the governance and life cycle management of a range of operationalised AI and decision models, such as machine learning or knowledge graphs.

AI engineering involves three core pillars — DataOps, ModelOps and DevOps. A robust AI engineering strategy will facilitate the performance, scalability, interpretability and reliability of AI models while delivering the full value of AI investments.

Image credit: © Photo

This article was first published on 19 October 2020

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