As I mentioned in my last blog, the analyst firm Gartner has just released its Top Ten Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond. This is an insightful look at some of the key changes that might take place in 2021 and, as you might expect, much of the change is coming from technological innovation.
More specifically, there is an acceleration of digital transformation taking place that was spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic. In some cases, organizations had to change fast just to survive – retailers that did not have a comprehensive online service for example. In other cases we have seen rapid change because new ways of working are being embraced, such as the majority of employees working from home.
But in an additional note to the strategic predictions, Gartner also published their view on digital disruptions that may take place in the next five years and dramatically impact how businesses operate in the near future. These are fascinating and range from DNA storage to human augmentation. They are describing a world where your Amazon Echo can run a test on your voice to check for dementia – and more importantly, this is all predicted to take place in the near future.
So what are some of the digital disruptions Gartner predicts before 2025, and why should we pay attention? Here are some that I think really stand out:
- Non-traditional computing: Moore’s Law has served us well for decades now, but it describes the constant evolution of binary computing. Deep neural networks, DNA storage, and quantum computing are expanding the power of computers and this could create enormous new opportunities for organizations. For a simple description of the power of quantum computing listen to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answering a reporter – who clearly expected the politician to be unable to answer the question. Areas such as cryptography will be enormously influenced by the increased power becoming available.
- Global digital twins: we are seeing organizations using digital twins far more than ever, but what happens when we can start merging data from various sensors to create a digital model of the earth? Can we use it to track climate change, pollution, traffic and plan how to move around cities? What if we could be alerted to fires the moment they start so the enormous wild fires regularly threatening places like California could be controlled more easily?
- Biohacking: many people are concerned about the privacy of their private data, especially health data, and yet they publish these views on tools like Facebook – an oxymoron. But with so many IoT sensors now being deployed, almost everything is being tracked and listened to. If a camera in a public park can identify that you have a health problem then the question is not so much how do we maintain privacy, it should be more focused on how our private data is used – it is already being collected, we need to control what happens to it.
- Greater organizational monitoring: I mentioned in my last blog that recording conversations will be more common in the organization. I believe it will start with meetings, but Gartner suggested it could possibly be everything said in the workplace. There may also be a dramatic increase in the measure of emotional experiences and engagement. This will determine how people are feeling at work – are they happy and comfortable or anxious? This type of measurement could also be used by advertisers to place ads in front of us depending on our mood, location, and personal preferences.
Some of these disruptions feel far away, as if they might have little impact on the immediate future, but think for a moment about how the next few years will play out. If the hackers are using quantum computing to bypass your security then they may have systems that are thousands of times more powerful than your line of defence.
There is a common theme running through many of these disruptions and this is the way that data is being used – what will remain private and what can organizations use. Is it ethical to check my mood before serving me an ad for a new soft drink? Can an airline really prevent me from boarding a plane if I can’t prove that I am vaccinated against Covid-19?
Many of these disruptions around data and privacy are going to dramatically change how organizations do business in the near future – creating some opportunities, but also many challenges. We need to start preparing for the way these disruptions will change consumer behavior and subsequently how companies need to evolve to serve those consumers.
What trends do you think are waiting for us in 2021?