Gartner reveals its top IT predictions for 2021 and beyond

Following a turbulent 2020 full of unprecedented transformation driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, Gartner predicts that in 2021 and beyond, the leading future technologies in IT have three key commonalities: promotion of greater innovation and efficiency; being more effective than the tech they are replacing; and the ability to transform society.

“Technologies are being stressed to their limits, and conventional computing is hitting a wall,” said 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 non-traditional approaches to technology.”

A rise in CIOs becoming “COO by proxy”

The role of the COO is gaining prominence among digital-born companies, and with the enterprise tech knowledge that CIOs have, 25% of those in this role at large enterprises will be held accountable for digital business operational results by 2024, effectively becoming “COO by proxy.”

By taking on components of the COO role, CIOs can fuse tech and business goals, and increase enterprise effectiveness in the process.

“As more CIOs become accountable for the enterprise’s digital performance results, the trend of CIOs in highly digitalised traditional businesses reporting to the CEO will become a flood,” said Plummer.

Work conversations will be recorded and analysed

Due to a shift from face-to-face conversations to virtual meetings, discussions are being digitally recorded, and this could lead to analytics being used to ensure that companies comply with existing laws and regulations, as well as help with predicting future performance.

Gartner predicts that 75% of work conversations will be recorded and analysed by 2025, enabling the discovery of added organisational value or risk. This will bring ethical considerations and actions that bring privacy rights to the forefront.

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Neuromorphic computing and other new paradigms will emerge

New innovation methods, such as neuromorphic computing, are set to become more common as traditional computing technologies hit a digital wall, the latter of which is predicted to happen by 2025.

The likes of AI, computer vision and speech recognition, which demand substantial computing power, will become pervasive, rendering general-purpose processors unsuitable.

“A variety of advanced computing architectures will emerge over the next decade,” said 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.”

DNA storage for data will increase

By 2024, 30% of digital businesses will mandate DNA storage trials as the exponential growth of data looks set to overwhelm traditional storage methods.

With DNA being inherently resilient and capable of error checking and self-repair, it can provide adaptable storage and a suitable computing platform going forward.

“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,” said 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.”

Extension into virtual experiences will improve financial results

The increasing capability of internet of things, digital twins and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) is set to make virtual experiences more appealing to consumers, and by 2025, 40% of physical experience-based businesses are predicted to reap financial rewards for offering this.

This trend has been accelerated by the improvement in attitudes towards remote and virtual engagement.

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Customers will be first to touch products more often

As automation technologies continue to develop, increasingly disrupting human tasks, new opportunities to re-think product design, material use, plant locations and use of resources will emerge.

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

“Automation is a new source of competitive advantage and disruption,” said 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.”

Employment of freelance customer service experts will increase

With traditional customer service methods creating bottlenecks and pain points for customers, official comapany channels will become less effective, and therefore less commonly used in favour of freelance customer service experts.

It’s been forecasted that by 2025, customers will pay a freelance customer service expert to resolve 75% of their customer service needs, meaning that CIOs must look to partner with these freelancers early on to reduce the customer experience, brand and monetisation risks.

A rise in ‘voice of society’ metric usage will occur

By 2024, 30% of major organisations will use a new “voice of society” metric to act on societal issues and assess business impacts, as consumers increasingly prioritise societal values such as those relating to the environment.

This metric, according to Gartner, will be treated as equal to more tangible metrics like click-through rates, and will become a C-Suite imperative.

“As we’ve seen time and time again, being tone deaf to societal issues can rapidly and irreparably hurt a brand,” said 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.”

Office space repurposing to lead to staff retention

With global worker demand for childcare assistance still being unmet, Gartner predicts that by early next year, one-in-five private childcare centres will have closed their doors permanently.

This will lead to office space being repurposed as onsite childcare and education facilities, leading to employee retention being increased by over 20% by 2023.

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Content moderation services to be prioritised by the CEO

With concerns surrounding brand presence on social media increasing, it’s predicted that by 2024, content moderation services for user generated content will be surveyed as a top CEO priority in 30% of large organisations.

“In many cases, brands are going dark altogether on user-generated content platforms until appropriate policing measures are in place,” said Plummer.

“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.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.