If we really are all technology companies now, as one of the popular business sayings goes, then as forward-thinking leaders we need to be taking notice of the annual tech trends lists which appear towards the end of the year. The analyst Gartner’s list is always keenly awaited by the tech community, but recent years has seen it garner broader business appeal.
Analysts gathered in Orlando, Florida, at the Gartner Symposium/ITExpo to identify the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019. It defines a strategic technology trend as one with “substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility,” reaching tipping points over the next five years.
Some of the trends are already familiar to business leaders as they have found their way into boardroom discussions, but Gartner’s insight serves to remind us quite how much more there is to come in terms of technological development and how it might impact businesses.
For example, it is no surprise that the distributed ledger technology, blockchain, is on the list, with its potential to “reshape industries” states Gartner. Without doubt it is one technology that all business leaders should take heed. But Gartner points out that current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and “unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations”. It advises organisations to begin evaluating blockchain now even if they don’t adopt the technologies yet.
Many organisations are already introducing greater levels of automation but do leaders truly understand how far these technologies could go? Even if you’ve thought about how robots can improve processes have you considered what part drones or autonomous vehicles could play? Under the heading of “autonomous things”, Gartner describes a future where artificial intelligence is used by such objects to deliver advanced behaviours that interact more naturally with their surrounds and people.
“As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working together, either independently of people or with human input,” says David Cearley, vice president and Gartner fellow. “In the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones on board the vehicle could then ensure final delivery of the package.”
Also featured on the list is augmented analytics, which uses machine learning to transform how analytics content is developed, shared and consumed. Gartner predicts augmented analytics capabilities that automate the process of data preparation, insight generation and insight visualisation, will eliminate the need for professional data scientists in many situations. According to the analyst, automated insights from augmented analytics will be embedded in enterprise applications for HR, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, and procurement to “optimise the decisions and actions of all employees”.
This will lead to “citizen data science”, reckons Cearley: “An emerging set of capabilities and practices that enables users whose main job is outside the field of statistics and analytics to extract predictive and prescriptive insights from data.”
Gartner predicts that through 2020, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists. “Organisations can use citizen data scientists to fill the data science and machine learning talent gap caused by the shortage and high cost of data scientists,” adds Cearly.
This is only a snapshot of Gartner’s trends and predictions for next year, but I think most will agree it already provides more than a few hints about how such technologies will continue to bring radical change to how we work and what we do. Leaders must remain firmly in change mode and be prepared to continually adapt as there is only one certainty about the future: more change and disruption is going to come.