Across industries and geographies, business strategy is being transformed by the rapidly changing technology landscape, according to Deloitte’s sixth annual tech trends report, released today.
As technology and business become ever more intertwined, the report outlines the top macro technology developments that will disrupt businesses in the next 18 to 24 months.
This year’s theme is inspired by a fundamental transformation in the way business C-suite leaders and CIOs collaborate to harness disruptive change, chart business strategy and pursue opportunities.
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1. Ambient computing
As the Internet of Things (IoT) is maturing from its awkward adolescent phase, ‘ambient computing’ is the backdrop of sensors, devices, intelligence and agents that can put the concept to work. For example, getting a vending machine to trigger an order replenishment from the supply chain, through embedded sensors tracking stock levels. Practical applications in UK industries include those within healthcare and life sciences (remote monitoring patient care in the community), within transport (accident response sensors on the roadside), and within energy (smart metering in homes).
2. IT worker of the future
The scarcity of technical talent on multiple fronts is a significant concern across many industries. Having access to the right number of people, with the exact skills, who can cope with the very latest innovations, whilst maintaining legacy systems, will require business leaders to access a new type of employee. The IT worker of the future will have habits, incentives and skills that are inherently different from those in play today. Design lies at the heart of this new generation, and requires new skill sets such as graphic designers, user experience engineers and behavioural psychologists. IT leaders should add an “A” for fine arts to the science, technology, engineering, and math charter. Aiming for “STEAM”, not just “STEM”, skills.
3. CIO as chief integration officer
In a world that is being reconfigured by technology, CIOs should be at the centre of this change. As technology transforms existing business models and gives rise to new ones; the role of the CIO is evolving rapidly, with integration at the core of its responsibility. CIOs must view their responsibilities through an enterprise-wide lens to ensure that critical domains like digital, analytics and the cloud do not negatively affect other departments. In this shifting landscape of opportunities and challenges, CIOs can be not only the connective tissue, but the driving force for intersecting, IT-heavy initiatives.
4. Dimensional marketing
Marketing has evolved significantly in the last half-decade. The evolution of digitally-connected customers lies at the core, reflecting the dramatic change in the dynamic between relationships and transactions. A new vision for marketing is being formed as Chief Marketing Officers (‘CMOs’) and CIOs invest in technology for marketing automation, next-generation omnichannel approaches, content development, customer analytics, and commerce initiatives. This modern era for marketing is likely to bring new challenges in the dimensions of customer engagement, connectivity, data and insight.
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5. Amplified intelligence
Analytic techniques are growing in complexity and companies are looking to new areas such as machine learning and predictive modelling to help process increasingly large and complex data sets. Artificial intelligence is now a reality. Its more promising application, however, is not replacing workers – but for amplifying their abilities. Amplified intelligence is focused on deploying tools at points when a business really needs it for effective decision-making. Examples include techniques like natural language processing (allowing conversational interaction with a complex system), visualisation tools (letting individuals explore data on their own terms and find new patterns of discoveries), or advanced analytics mobile solutions (such as those embedded inside smartphones or tablets).
6. API economy
Application programming interfaces (APIs) have been elevated from a development technique to a business model driver and a boardroom consideration. An organisation’s core assets can be reused, shared and monetised through APIs. The focus is shifting from internal APIs between applications to public APIs, which have doubled in the past 18 months.
A number of industries have embraced APIs, including telecommunications and media, finance, travel, tourism and real estate. The Internet of Things is also contributing to this trend, as the number IoT applications across a number of industries expand at a rapid pace. APIs should be managed like a product – one built on top of a potentially complex technical footprint that includes legacy and third-party systems and data.
7. Software-defined everything
Amid the excitement surrounding digital, analytics and cloud, it is easy to overlook advances currently being made in infrastructure and operations. The entire operating environment – server, storage, and network – can now be virtualised and automated. The data centre of the future represents the potential for not only lowering costs, but also dramatically improving speeds and reducing the complexity of deploying and maintaining technology footprints. Software-defined everything can elevate infrastructure investments, from costly plumbing to competitive differentiators.
8. Core renaissance
Organisations have significant investments in their core systems, both built and bought. Beyond running the heart of the business, these assets can form the foundation for growth and new service development – building upon standardised data and automated business processes. To this end, many organisations are modernising systems to pay down technical debt, replatforming solutions to remove barriers to scale and performance, and extending their legacy infrastructures to fuel innovative new services and offerings
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The report also includes a section dedicated to six exponential technologies – innovative disciplines evolving faster than the pace of Moore’s Law – whose impact may be profound. These include: artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, quantum computing, industrial biology and cyber security.