What innovations and trends lie beyond the digital frontier? To see clearly and stay ahead of the game, companies must work methodically to sense new possibilities and define their ambitions for tomorrow.
LOOKING back a decade to headlines of the day, we are reminded how at that now-distant moment much of the world was still grappling with a cataclysmic recession. In the technology sector, Oracle announced it was acquiring Sun Microsystems. Apple was gearing up to launch the iPad® mobile digital device, and a mean-spirited worm called Stuxnet was changing the rules of cybersecurity.
And a small number of dedicated tech enthusiasts at Deloitte Consulting were preparing to launch our firm’s first annual Tech Trends report. Though this freshman effort was only one-third the length of subsequent Tech Trends reports, it effectively captured the awe that we and our clients felt about the incredible pace of technology-driven change underway, and the profound impact that change was having on business. This report featured chapters on cloud, cyber security, the Internet of Things, mobile’s looming impact on the enterprise, and user-centered design—all topics that at the time felt overwhelming and fantastical. Interestingly, many of things that seemed so incredible 10 years ago are now foundational.
Looking back, we can see the value these emerging innovations offered, but in the moment, their promise seemed less clear. It is, therefore, remarkable how quickly organizations across sectors and regions navigated through the so what and into the now what for these trends and went on to successfully traverse the new digital landscape.
This journey from uncertainty to digital transformation informs our latest offering, Tech Trends 2019: Beyond the digital frontier. A persistent theme of every Tech Trends report has been the increasing, often mind-bending velocity of change. A decade ago many companies could achieve competitive advantage by embracing innovations and trends that were already underway. Today, this kind of reactive approach is no longer enough. To stay ahead of the game, companies must work methodically to sense new innovations and possibilities, make sense of their ambitions for tomorrow, and find the confidence to boldly go beyond the digital frontier.
So here’s to the next decade of opportunity, whatever it may be. Along the way, embrace that queasy feeling of uncertainty. Be excited about it. Because what you are actually feeling is tremendous, unimaginable opportunity. Today, when every company is a technology company and everyone is, in some way, a technologist, there could not be a more exciting time, a more opportune time to leave your mark on your company, your industry, and on an entire world of possibility that awaits just beyond the digital frontier.
Macro technology forces at work
Technology trends past, present, and future
Digital experience. Analytics. Cloud. In the previous nine issues of Tech Trends, we have examined these powerful forces as they evolved from promising innovations and novel approaches into full-fledged trends. We recognized their disruptive potential and looked to the horizon to find innumerable strategic opportunities they could—and eventually would—present. Indeed, each proved to be far more than a trend; over time they evolved and expanded across industries. Today they are considered foundational components not only of enterprise IT, but of corporate strategy.
So in the context of technology trends, there is nothing much left to say about digital, analytics, and cloud, right? Not so fast. Despite their ubiquity and proven value, these technologies’ full potential remains largely untapped. Investments in them are often departmental and limited in scope. Likewise, in some companies, analytics, cloud, and digital initiatives are disjointed, even competing efforts.
Meanwhile, three newer trends—digital reality, cognitive technologies, and blockchain—are growing rapidly in importance. In the last several issues of Tech Trends, we discussed how virtual reality and augmented reality are redefining the fundamental ways humans interact with their surroundings, with data, and with each other. We tracked blockchain’s meteoric rise from bitcoin enabler to purveyor of trust. And as cognitive technologies such as machine learning, robotic process automation, natural language processing, neural nets, and AI moved from fledgling siloed capabilities to tenets of strategy, we have explored their profound potential for business and society. These three trends are poised to become as familiar and impactful as cloud, analytics, and digital experience are today.
Of course, any pursuit of tomorrow’s promise should start from the technical realities of today. Three formative forces have proven essential in the pursuit of digital transformation past, present, and future: modernizing core systems to serve as a foundation for innovation and growth; elevating cyber and the broader risk domain from a compliance-based activity to an embedded, strategic function; and reengineering an organization’s technology function to deliver against the promise of technologies emerging and existing—or risk failing at its mission.
Just because these nine forces—digital experience, cloud, analytics, blockchain, cognitive, digital reality, business of technology, core modernization, and cyber—are no longer particularly novel doesn’t mean they are not vitally important. In fact, one of the most pressing challenges technology and business leaders face is how to excavate and harness the value these macro forces can deliver collectively.
For example, the factory of the future needs to bring together next-gen ERP, machine learning, embedded sensors across the production floor, augmented reality training, mobile visualization and predictive flow scheduling, secure networks, and cloud-based tools for managing workflow across the supply chain. Not to mention the need to retool workers and cross-pollinate between traditional information and operational technology roles and skills.
Through their collision and the innovation unleashed, these forces will likely dominate enterprise IT, business, and markets to an even greater extent than they have as individual technologies. With macro forces, it’s the controlled collision that leads beyond the digital frontier.