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December 8, 2016
Trends & Predictions 2017: Information TechnologyBy Stephen F. DeAngelis

Information technology (IT) is a broad subject area; but, since we live in the information age, IT has a significant impact on our lives. One of the greatest impacts IT has is in the area of connectivity. For those of us old enough to remember the days before email, the Internet, and mobile phones, today’s connected world remains a wonder. With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), connectivity will only increase. I plan on discussing IoT trends and predictions in a future article so, in this article, I will look at other IT trends and predictions offered by some of the leading analytic organizations.

Digitally-enhanced Products, Services, and Experiences

Analysts from IDC predict, “By 2020, 50% of the G2000 will see the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally-enhanced products, services, and experiences.”[1] Although that prediction may not sound like an IT prediction, the fact is that digital enterprises are built upon information technology systems. Digitally-enhanced products include products that can connect to the IoT or provide artificial intelligence applications to consumers. Digitally-enhanced services primarily refer to services connected to the cloud. And digitally-enhanced experiences involve everything from individual personal assistants to virtual and augmented reality. Concerning digitally-enhanced experiences, analysts from Gartner predict, “As mobile device usage becomes an ingrained behavior, further blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds, brands and their retail partners will need to develop mechanisms to leverage this behavior to enhance the shopping experience.”[2] Augmented Reality (AR) is more likely to experience rapid growth than Virtual Reality (VR) because VR is an immersive experience best enjoyed indoors and in a safe environment.

Although mobile technologies, especially smartphones, are currently the preferred platform for most consumers. Gartner analysts observe, “New audio-centric technologies, such as Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, are making access to dialogue-based information ubiquitous and spawning new platforms based on ‘voice-first’ interactions,” As a result, they predict, “By 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.” Analysts from Forrester Research note consumers are more likely than ever to purchase new technologies as soon as they are introduced. “In fact,” they write, “their year-0 intention to buy a new product or service when it first launches is already as much as five times greater than it was just a decade ago. That translates into faster uptake in each subsequent year. In 2017, expect that rapid tech adoption to center on new technologies that bridge the digital/physical divide like AR, the IoT, and AI.”[3]

IDC analysts conclude, “By the end of 2017, revenue growth from information-based products will be twice that of the rest of the portfolio for a third of G2000 companies. By 2021, a third of CEOs and COOs of G2000 companies will have spent at least 5 years in a tech leadership role. In 2019, worldwide spending on digital transformation initiatives will reach $2.2 trillion, almost 60% larger than 2016.”

Platform Technologies

IDC analysts predict, “By 2019, 3rd Platform technologies and services will drive nearly 75% of IT spending — growing at 2X the rate of the total market.” They define 3rd platform technologies as cloud, big data/analytics, social, and mobile technologies. I’m assuming cognitive computing platforms are included among those platforms. Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly), founding Executive Editor of Wired magazine, believes going digital doesn’t go far enough. He tweeted, “In the very near future you will cognify everything in your life that is already electrified.” Because cognitive technologies have so much to offer businesses, Technavio analysts forecast the Americas’ smart machines market will grow at a CAGR of nearly 15% over the next four years.[4]

David Powers, professor of computer science at Flinders University, told Beverly Head (@BeverleyHead), “What sets the present generation of cognitive computing solutions apart from the past is the advent of hugely more powerful and cost-effective computer systems that can process information at high speed.”[5] Speed is becoming an important IT quality. Forrester researchers note, “CIOs in B2C companies have been dealing with this accelerated pace of change for a while — with varying success.” They predict, “In 2017, CIOs of even the most conservative and traditional B2B firms — firms filled with legacy systems and entrenched staff — will need to dive headfirst into the age of the customer and make operational changes that drive speed.”

Artificial Intelligence

Cognitive computing is, of course, a subset of the artificial intelligence (AI) field. IDC analysts predict, “By 2019, 40% of digital transformation initiatives — and 100% of IoT initiatives — will be supported by AI capabilities.” They go on to predict, “By 2019, over 110 million consumer devices with embedded intelligent assistants will be installed in U.S. households. In 2017-2020 period, 7 of the Top 10 AI use cases will be industry-focused and will account for 85% of top 10 use case investment. We will see a ‘battle of AI platforms,’ with a strong competition for developers in AI space.” Gartner analysts believe that AI systems will transform humans as well as the organizations in which they work. “Human beings tend to be emotionally charged and factually drained,” they write, “causing them to be irrational. Algorithms can positively alter that behavior by augmenting their intelligence with the large collective memory bank containing knowledge that has been socialized and put to the test. This will help workers ‘remember’ anything or be informed of just-in-time knowledge that they have never even experienced, leaving them to objectively complete the task at hand but also to better appreciate life as it unveils. Use of algorithms can raise alarms of ‘creepiness,’ however, when used to effect positive outcomes, it can bring about changes to multiple industries.”

Summary

The information technology arena is set to drive the business world forward. IDC analysts predict companies failing to transform will perish. “By 2020,” they write, “all enterprises’ performance will be measured by a demanding new set of benchmarks in leadership, customer engagement, digitization of new and traditional offerings, operational efficiency and organizational agility. At least 1/3 of leaders in every industry will fail to clear these digital transformation hurdles.” Ryan Francis (@ryan4francis) observes, “Businesses are becoming comfortable with migrating away from the security of physical servers and towards the benefits and flexibility of virtual servers.”[6] Nevertheless he writes, “Security concerns are paramount for those that choose to employ could-based solutions. … Despite the risks, however, many organizations utilize cloud services or are planning to implement some type of cloud services solution in 2017. This is due to the potential increase in revenue, reduction in IT costs and business benefits, which are too great to ignore. Carefully evaluate cloud vendors, and select the one that eases your fears the most.” I’ve only touched on the trends emerging the information technology sector; but, it should be clear that advances in IT are going to have a continuing impact on our lives.

Footnotes
[1] Gil Press, “Top 10 Tech Predictions For 2017 From IDC,” Forbes, 1 November 2016.
[2] “Top 10 Predictions for IT in 2017 and Beyond,” Information Management, October 2016.
[3] “14 Top Tech Predictions for 2017 by Forrester Research,” Information Management, November 2016.
[4] Technavio, “Smart Machines Market in the Americas 2016-2020,” Research MOZ, May 2016.
[5] Beverly Head, “Why cognitive computing is a growth engine for businesses,” The Australian Financial Review Magazine, 8 July 2016.
[6] Ryan Francis, “Frightening Technology Trends to Worry About,” IT News, 24 October 2016.

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