UPDATED 12:30 EST / OCTOBER 19 2020

Crystal ball CLOUD

Gartner predicts resilience and customer experience will top 2021 technology trends

As Gartner Inc. kicked off its virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas today, the information technology analyst firm issued its list of top technology trends, focused this time on business continuity, responsiveness and what Gartner Research Vice President Brian Burke called the “organizational plasticity to form and reform dynamically.”

Spurred by the pandemic, Gartner sees organizations becoming more people-centric, location-independent and resilient. “Intelligent composable business” models will be adopted to speed up informed decisions aided by machines and fueled by large bodies of data.

Moreover, the need to automate as much as possible to support distributed operations – a term Gartner dubs “hyper-automation” – will drive investments. “Everything that can and should be automated will be automated,” Burke said.

Those composable models will require a more disciplined approach to the development of artificial intelligence applications, given that more than half of current AI projects never go into production, the firm asserts. “AI engineering” will emerge to manage such projects with the same governance and lifecycle management processes that are now applied to transactional applications. AI engineering will combine DataOps, ModelOps and DevOps to improve “the performance, scalability, interpretability and reliability of AI models,” the company said.

Operate anywhere

An operating model Gartner calls “anywhere operations” will emerge to support customers and employees wherever they might be while deploying business services across distributed infrastructures. Gartner expects the model to cover five core areas: collaboration, secure remote access, cloud and edge infrastructure, digital experience and remote automation. These anywhere operations will be used by 40% of organizations by 2023, the firm predicts.

Distributed cloud will support that model. That means deploying public cloud services to different physical locations with operations and governance handled by the cloud provider. Distributed cloud is more than just edge computing, Gartner explains. It addresses the need for low latency applications to move closer to the point of decision without requiring the customer to manage all those resources. “It represents the future of cloud computing,” Burke said.

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Another element of the new distributed organization will be a cybersecurity mesh that enables “anyone to access any digital asset securely, no matter where the asset or person is located.” Identity will become the security perimeter as digital assets increasingly migrate outside of perimeters the organization can control. More than half of digital access requests will be mediated by a cybersecurity mesh by 2025, the firm predicts. In other words, it sounds a lot like zero trust security.

Organizations will also continue to explore new horizons in technology-fueled interactions with customers and employees.

‘Internet of behaviors’

The “internet of behaviors,” as Gartner calls it, is one way they’ll do it. This concept combines people-focused technologies such as facial recognition and location tracking with analytics for purposes that can be used as both behavioral carrot and stick.

On the one hand, IoB will let organizations predict individual customer preferences based on observable events, thus enabling more personalized interactions. On the other, it will be used to monitor employee health through thermal images and spot people who aren’t wearing masks. Gartner predicts that more than half the world’s population will be subject to at least one IoB program by 2025 and that the trend will be flash point for ethical debate.

IoB could be one component in another megatrend that Gartner calls “total experience.” This builds on the multi-experience concept the firm introduced last year to reflect the profusion of ways customers now want to interact. These include a variety of devices but also technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and data-informed in-person interactions. Gartner expects TX to be the approach innovators use to outperform their competitors on satisfaction metrics over the next three years.

While technology will enable people to be watched more closely than ever in the future, there will also be unprecedented pressure on institutions to protect privacy. Gartner sees this trend giving birth to what it calls “privacy-enhancing computation,” a set of protections that cover data while it’s in use.

That includes applications like personal data transfers, monetization of personal data and fraud analytics. The research firm believes that half of large organizations will implement privacy-enhancing computation for processing data in untrusted environments by 2025. Perhaps this will give blockchain the boost it needs.

Gartner has been issuing predictions for almost 20 years. A look back shows that it has been spot on with most, if often aggressive with timeframes. That’s the Gartner style, though. You don’t stay atop the IT analyst ranks by stepping gingerly.

Photo: Flickr CC

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