Gartner has revealed its top strategic predictions for 2021 and beyond, exploring the role of technology in resetting, restarting, and responding to a world of uncertainty.
“Technologies are being stressed to their limits, and conventional computing is hitting a wall,” says Daryl Plummer, distinguished research vice president and Gartner Fellow. “The world is moving faster than ever before, and it’s essential that technology and processes are able to keep up to support digital innovation needs. Starting now, CIOs can expect a decade of radical innovation led by nontraditional approaches to technology.
“The future technologies that will lead the ‘reset of everything’ have three key commonalities: 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.”
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. 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,” says Plummer.
By 2025, 75% of conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed, enabling the discovery of added organizational value or risk
Conversations at work are shifting from traditional, real-time, face-to-face communications, to taking place over cloud meeting solutions, messaging platforms and virtual assistants. In most cases, such tools are keeping a digital record of those conversations.
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, traditional computing technologies will hit a digital wall forcing the shift to new paradigms such as neuromorphic computing
CIOs and IT executives will be unable to deliver on critical digital initiatives with current computing techniques. 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,” says Plummer. “In the short-term, such technologies could include extreme parallelism, DNN-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.”
By 2024, 30% of digital businesses will mandate DNA storage trials, addressing the exponential growth of data poised to overwhelm existing storage technology
As humanity’s computing needs evolve, more advanced systems will be required, capable of radical adaptation and resilience in complex and hostile environments. 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,” says Plummer. “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, 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.
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.
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 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.
“Automation is a new source of competitive advantage and disruption,” said Mr. Plummer. “For example, an intelligent machine may not squish the grapes in the same way a human packing them might. CIOs should see hyperautomation as a principle, not a project, as they move forward in updating their processes for the future.”
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 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.
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 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.
“As we’ve seen time and time again, being tone deaf to societal issues can rapidly and irreparably hurt a brand,” says Plummer. “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.”
By 2023, large organisations 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 centres 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.
By 2024 content moderation services for user generated content will be surveyed as a top CEO priority in 30% of large organisations
With the social unrest of the past year, content volatility on social media has increased. For brand marketers and advertisers, this creates brand-safety concerns and other related challenges. 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 neutralising polarising content, and industry standards for content moderation will emerge,” says Plummer.