Gartner: 10 predictions for the next decade of IT

Gartner unveils top predictions for IT organisations and users in 2021 and beyond

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This is a contributed article by Daryll Plummer, Distinguished Research VP


The technologies we have today, have been stretched to their limits. But to enable the next rebound of innovation and efficiency, we need to look at non-traditional approaches – the place where ‘the next big thing’ is born. Knowing this is the road businesses need to take in 2021 and beyond, CIOs can expect the next decade to be dominated by radical technological innovation, changing their business models for good.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the need for radical digitalisation must be a principle, not a project, ultimately forcing organisations to consider a different type of future.

As radical innovations are accelerated, in turn, traditional computing technologies are simultaneously being edged closer to hitting a digital wall, forcing the shift to new computing paradigms.

Gartner outlines 10 predictions for the ‘reset of everything’ that will have a transformational impact on society and business, driving us towards these new paradigms.

Traditional computing will fail to deliver

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision, and speech recognition demand substantial computing power. As they become pervasive in the business environment, general-purpose processors will be increasingly unsuitable for these digital innovations.

Silicon processors are approaching performance, economic and sustainability limits, and they will become the bottleneck for technological innovation and thus business growth.

New computing technologies, like neuromorphic computing — a computer that thinks and acts more like the human brain — will begin to take their place. As these new technologies mature, and follow the lead of quantum computing, they will become increasingly available and more affordable for businesses to begin experimentation. This space will become especially exciting as large vendors begin to roll out reliable as-a-service solutions in the marketplace.

DNA data storage will be used by 30% of digital businesses

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

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. Currently 30 years is the limit.

DNA on the other hand is inherently resilient, capable of error checking and initiating self-repair, which makes it an ideal data storage and computing platform for a range of applications. DNA storage enables the storage of binary digital data in the double helix. It would mean a year’s worth of human knowledge could be stored in a gram of synthetic DNA for thousands of years. In fact, all of human knowledge could be stored in a small amount of synthetic DNA.

It sounds complex, but the technology is well-established and understood. Once adopted by businesses this will provide a longevity that traditional storage mechanisms simply cannot compete with.

Digital twins will make AR/VR experiences ubiquitous

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

As the immersive sensory technologies evolve, their applications are getting more affordable, seamless, and understood by the general public. Businesses that provide physical experiences, like rock climbing or white-water rafting, must extend into offering paid virtual reality experiences that rival the physical ones through the use of digital twins.

At the same time, COVID-19 has transformed attitudes about physical versus virtual and changed the discussion about what people can do without physically being present or putting their safety at risk.

Examples are endless, for consumers, a virtual bike ride alongside Tour de France riders during the competition from home will be an experience fans would pay a premium for. For businesses, using AR to preview robot programming from the office in real-time will redefine the factory of the future. For Gartner, going virtual for this year’s IT Symposium/Xpo has shown us the big opportunity to deliver hybrid AR-integrated events in the near future to leverage the best of both worlds.

Farms and factories will leverage hyper-automation

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

New technologies are automating an increasing number of human tasks, a trend that has been hyper-accelerated by the pandemic. This is leading to new opportunities to rethink product design, material use, plant locations and use of resources.

Customers will increasingly become the first humans to touch manufactured products and agricultural produce. Automated machines in factories and farms will do most of the work, including farming, picking, packing and shipping.

Automation, much like during the industrial revolution, will be a new source of competitive advantage and disruption. For example, an intelligent machine may not squish grapes in the same way a human packing them might. CIOs should see hyper-automation as a way to change the way the business operates, not just improve the efficiency of standalone tasks.

CIOs will become chief digital operating officers (CDOOs)

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

A large percentage of end-user businesses don’t have a COO, a vital role in digital acceleration. This is someone who understands the business and ecosystem and how to implement technology for greater impact.

As a “COO by proxy,” the CIO will take on the organisation-wide role and begin to close the gaps between what the technology can do, what the business can do, and what the business wants to do. As they close these gaps, they can create business value and selectively create composability in the business.

Recording work conversations to drive change

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

Every piece of technology, from smart speakers to virtual meetings to messaging platforms, now actively records conversations or has the ability to do so embedded in to it. Organisations need to begin to think about how to collect that data, how to analyse it, and how to use it to improve the employee and customer experiences.

For example, it might be possible to measure — and work on improving — overall employee satisfaction by using AI to analyse line manager meetings. However, all this data collection comes at a risk. Any organisation attempting this should create a board of ethics to ensure that the data is used responsibly, people’s privacy is respected, and an opt-out option is clearly communicated.

Freelance customer service experts increase

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

Everyone has experienced the frustration of a bad customer service setup, and many turn to outside help like web forums, online tutorials, and social media to navigate tricky situations. Gartner predicts that through 2021, there will be a 15% rise in customers seeking outside help after being frustrated by traditional support channels.

The good news is that this means organisations will have reduced costs in certain customer service areas. The bad news is that more instances of outside help removes an important company-consumer touchpoint.

CIOs must look to partner with these freelancers early on to make sure they are trained and have what they need. Building the partnership instead of shunning it will reduce the customer experience, brand and monetisation risks created by third-party customer service providers.

Voice of society metric matters

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

The “Voice of Society” is the shared perspective of people in a community — one that works toward acceptable outcomes for all by advocating for fair and equal representation and adherence to ethical values.

Organisations must consider how society affects the performance of the business, and they have a responsibility to reduce or eliminate tone-deafness or insensitivity to public concerns. Failure to do so is becoming increasingly damaging for businesses as more people turn to the internet to voice their concerns.

Sentiment analysts, media metrics figures and contributions to society measurements will matter in 2021, and opinion metrics are now as reliable as click-through analysis. Such measurement will become a C-Suite imperative so that business composition can react quickly to societal change.

On-site childcare entices employees

By 2023, large organisations will increase employee retention by more than 20% through repurposing office space as on-site childcare and education facilities.

Worker demand for childcare is still an unmet need, and lockdown restrictions have pushed this trend over the edge. Gartner predicts that by early 2021, 20% of private childcare centres will have closed permanently, leaving a shortage of qualified providers.

Accessible on-site childcare can increase retention, employee engagement and productivity. Plus, not having to choose between childcare and a job may result in more women in leadership positions over the long term. Organisations with on-site childcare will attract more candidates. This is also an effective way to use empty office space as businesses move toward more remote workers.

Malicious content takes over

By 2024, moderation services for user-generated content will be surveyed as a top CEO priority by 30% of large organisations.

With most social unrest spilling in to the virtual world, content volatility on social media has increased. Investing in content moderation, enforcement and reporting services will be critical for businesses to understand the providence of the content on their sites.

In many cases, brands and influencers 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 neutralising polarising content using hybrid human-AI systems, especially as industry standards for content moderation will emerge.

Daryll Plummer is the Chief of Research for Emerging Trends and manages the Gartner Fellows Program, which is designed to allow senior analysts the opportunity to explore new research ideas and to elevate the Gartner culture and brand with clients. He is also chief of Research for cloud computing and interacts with clients on topics ranging from application development to enterprise architecture.