The term ‘digital transformation’ can mean various things to different companies, depending on their current use of technology and the changes they want to make moving forward. With no standard process and no endpoint, the term is one that’s hard to define, and is difficult to plan for.
The risks of falling behind are more pressing than the risks of investing.
Because the term is often thought of as vague, many business leaders make the mistake of chalking the phrase up to being jargon. However, by ignoring the benefits of digital transformation and the actions needed to set your business on the right course, you are exposing yourself to a different type of risk—falling behind.
As we’ve discussed in recent articles on the paths to succeed, the role of the cloud in digital transformation, and best practices for manufacturers, distributors, and organizations in the chemical industry, falling behind can be costly..
Tomorrow’s trends build on today’s technology.
Imagine still taking 100% of your orders by fax. Seems like a distant memory, but as the technological landscape speeds up, some of the processes that currently exist may feel just as antiquated five or ten years from now.
Knowing this, it pays to not only take steps to put a digital transformation plan in action, but keep an eye out for trends that are taking shape in the coming decade—so you can understand what steps you need to take to get there.
Gartner’s annual list of strategic technology trends for 2020: People-centric ideas and smart spaces.
As a leading analyst firm both domestically and internationally, Gartner has been on the forefront of digital transformation for years. To help companies understand where technology is heading, Gartner releases its Strategic Technology Trends report each October at its Gartner IT Symposium event.
Rather than a list of things that will be used immediately, these technologies are defined as having “substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which is rapidly growing with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.”
How accurate are these? Look back to the Gartner Strategic Technology Trends five years ago, which predicted “an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments,” an expansion of the Internet of Things, advanced analytics, web-scale IT, and an advanced cloud/client architecture built to support the growing intelligence of the client device—all things which have entered the mainstream of the business world.
So, what will be the main talking points for businesses in 2025 and beyond? Hyperautomation, blockchain, AI security, distributed cloud and autonomous things are just a few of the technologies Gartner predicts will drive disruption and create opportunities.
Knowing this, every single of these strategic trends relies on technologies currently being used or being considered by businesses including AI, automation, blockchain, cloud computing and more.
Trend 1: Hyperautomation
Businesses have long wanted to rid themselves of manual and error-prone processes. Manual workflows are a detriment to business visibility and speed. Automation is considered one way to cure this, often turning to software that simplifies processes and connects products.
The quest to automate has delivered a wide variety of benefits. For example, automation has helped financial staff to spend less time reporting and more time informing strategy. However, by combining automation with artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, Gartner predicts an era of “hyperautomation.”
Defining Hyperautomation: Hyperautomation deals with the application of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to increasingly automate processes and augment human capacity
Trend 2: Multiexperience
Immersion is already taking a variety of industries by storm. Whether that’s in the form of things like Microsoft’s HoloLens, that gives users the ability to break down an item into components in an augmented reality display or the promise of autonomous vehicles, most experiences are single faceted.
Multiexperience refers to an ambient experience where technology will provide users with a unique, multi-touchpoint experience that completely immerses a person.
Trend 3: Technology democratization
While today’s business intelligence solutions get companies on the path to more intelligent analytics, the concept of democratization promises another step. Leveraging AI within business intelligence and analytics applications, democratization provides people with easy access to technical or business expertise without extensive (and costly) training.
As this evolves, democratization will focus on four key areas: application development, data and analytics, design, and knowledge. In turn, a citizen data scientist will be empowered to generate data models, relying on AI-driven development to generate code and automate testing.
Trend 4: Human augmentation
The term human augmentation, defined as the use of technology to enhance a person’s cognitive and physical experiences, has already been in existence for years. Hearing aids, laser eye surgery, prosthetics, seizure-reducing implants—all things that leverage technology to enhance the way we live.
In this, both physical and cognitive augmentations will improve in the next half-decade, “moving beyond augmentation that replaces a human capability and into augmentation that creates superhuman capabilities.” For example, physical augmentation may include the use of exoskeletons or advanced prosthetics to increase safety and efficiency, while cognitive augmentation may bring people closer to the applications they use or facilitate learning.
Trend 5: Transparency and traceability
People want to know how their data is being used, and the next five years will present an evolving regulatory landscape that could produce a new liability for organizations as they collect and store data.
People want to know what you know about them, and if the GDPR taught us anything in 2019, it’s that the regulatory space will get more complex. As standards evolve, it’s on businesses to protect this data at all costs. Ethical controls and AI governance will also be needed as AI and ML are increasingly being used to make decisions.
The right ERP system can improve data collection and governance for today while evolving to meet the needs of tomorrow. We explored this topic in a recent blog.
Trend 6: From cloud to edge to ‘empowered edge’
The concept of edge computing is built on the theory that information processing needs to be done as close to the data sources as possible, as keeping traffic local and distributed will reduce latency.
Edge computing is considered the next evolution of cloud computing, and could even experience a renaissance in the next five years. The empowered edge will be built on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, relying on location data and moving applications and services closer to make these spaces even smarter.
For those companies still relying on on-premises solutions, it may be helpful to look into this technology as IoT creates new opportunities in the cloud—and the edge.
Trend 7: The distributed cloud
Data centers are getting smaller, greener, and more efficient. They’re also getting closer to the user. As the cloud becomes even more omnipresent, it’s becoming easier to justify an evolving data center environment. Like the idea of building a warehouse near your own customers, public cloud services may move closer to the end user.
Distributed cloud refers to the distribution of public cloud services to locations outside the cloud provider’s physical data centers, but which are still controlled by the provider. In distributed cloud, the cloud provider is responsible for all aspects of cloud service architecture, delivery, operations, governance and updates.
Compare this with the current centralized cloud landscape, in which data needs to move from client to server for processing before coming back to client. This landscape is okay for current computing needs, but as more devices are added and applications become bigger, it will become harder to manage in a centralized environment.
By breaking up the processing power from one centralized processing hub to a ‘mesh’ of seamlessly interconnected hardware, processing power will increase exponentially and end users will be able to do more even faster.
The move to distributed cloud will tackle the main cloud challenge of latency and regulatory issues such as data sovereignty, as well as matching the benefits of a public cloud service with the benefits of a private, local cloud.
Trend 8: Autonomous things
Autonomous things have already begun to exist in controlled environments. Today, warehouses can leverage pick-and-place robots and drones are making construction site management and surveillance easier, but much of this relies on a limited environment with few variables.
However, empowered by AI and improved processing, autonomous things will eventually move from controlled environments to open, public spaces.
Trend 9: Practical blockchain
You’ve spent years hearing about blockchain—how it’s set to change the way businesses operate, make payments easier, and redefine logistics. But until recently, it hasn’t seen a great deal of adoption. The past couple years, however, did create a renewed focus in this technology. Traceability has created more blockchain use in food and beverage, manufacturing, chemical, and more.
Blockchain can’t recognize its true potential until more users jump on. By 2025, blockchain will be considered practical, allowing everyone from source to consumer access to the network. In the future, true blockchain or “blockchain complete” will have the potential to transform industries, and eventually the economy, as complementary technologies such as AI and the IoT begin to integrate alongside blockchain.
Trend 10: AI Security
Cybersecurity and AI are challenges for today’s businesses. What happens if AI lands in the hands of attackers?
This creates an intriguing technological dynamic—using AI to protect AI from malicious AI.
Companies on the leading edge of cybersecurity have begun turning to AI already. Intelligent automation has helped cybersecurity experts to understand patterns, detect threats and mitigate attacks, things that many cybersecurity professionals may not have the time or keen eye for. As AI-powered cybersecurity advances, these solutions will learn from and adapt to threats that exist.
While AI-based cybersecurity will be used to protect data of all forms, one of the most important things it will need to protect is other AI at your organization. AI is designed to learn as it goes, but that learning ability leaves systems vulnerable to hackers in unexpected ways. One example of this is called data poisoning, where a hacker may insert bogus information into the stream of data that an AI system is using to learn.
Finally, just as the ability to defend against attacks using AI evolves, malicious actors will use AI and ML learning ability to find new attack vectors, launch increasingly sophisticated attacks, or change constantly to evade detection.
This combined environment in which threats evolve and are quashed with no human interaction, learning from each other as they go will make for an intriguing evolution of the cybersecurity landscape.
Make strategic transformation part of your business: first steps
Technology is rapidly advancing, and nearly every single trend mentioned above is already being used—albeit less maturely than promised in 2025.
AI is being used to empower ERP systems, business intelligence solutions are being used by more people than ever before, and things like blockchain, autonomous vehicles, and augmented reality are already finding a fit in companies today.
Digital transformation is very real, and putting the right systems in place today will make it easier to adopt these strategic technology trends in the future. One of the best steps toward a transformed business is to find a solution-based product that can deliver the platform you need, offer dashboards, allow your business to focus on customer experience, and ultimately get your business on the right path quickly.
As a leader in helping businesses like yours to leverage the right technology to and through their digital transformation journeys, NexTec Group has the skills to help you implement products that position you for success. Get to know more about our work and contact us for a free consultation.