In early October of this year, the tech research institute Gartner held a symposium in Orlando, Florida which featured a presentation by the company’s vice president David Cearley on the areas CIOs and IT professionals should be focusing on for their 2015 strategies. As he explained, “We have identified the top 10 technology trends that organizations cannot afford to ignore in their strategic planning processes.” Cearley’s list includes topics like the Internet of Things, 3D printing, smart machines, and the continuing growth of the cloud. But he points out that these ten areas fall into three basic categories of business technology you’ll want to plan for.
1. Blurring of the line between the real world and the digital world
Smart phones, tablets, and wearables are just the beginning. As devices get better at serving the needs of users, the focus will gradually shift from the devices themselves toward incorporating details from the context and environment in which they’re used. The goal will no longer be so much to provide valuable functionality as to create holistic experiences for the users. Devices will need to be increasingly aware of the context they’re being used in, including other devices and machines that the applications may be interacting with.
Users will be able to switch between devices and have the functions handed off from to another, and applications will pick up operating at different stages of a regular process depending on cues from the user’s environment. So, on the consumer side, you’ll be able to do things like using one device on the road and then pick up working with the same application on another device at home. And, on the business side, the applications you use will guide you to different functions based on things like what stage of a business process you’re in at the moment.
2. Intelligence and adaptability for every application and device
The behind-the-scenes processes that go into providing those great experiences to users are going to be increasingly based on metrics showing how the technologies are being used. One way to think about this is to consider that all the smart machines that make up the Internet of Things run on applications that not only carry out functions but also record data. This data can in turn be incorporated into algorithms that determine how those same machines should adjust how they function. The data can also be converted into metrics that can in turn become the basis for reports that business leaders use to make higher-order decisions.
The sheer volume of information coming in from smart machines, social media, wearable devices, and countless other sources is already presenting businesses with new challenges. You’ll need to find ways to collect, structure, share, and analyze all that data so it can inform wise decisions. The businesses that find ways to take in the most data and make the most of the data they take in will have the competitive edge over those with less sophisticated analytics.
3. The overall shift of businesses to digital
Companies in nearly every industry are being run more and more like web giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. The continuous development and fine-tuning of applications that adapt to and streamline business processes is playing an increasingly central role, as so-called DevOps is facilitated by technologies like cloud infrastructure services. Virtualization and autoscaling provide ready-made platforms to create applications with the flexibility and capacity potential to serve users in whatever numbers and in whatever locations the business situation calls for. The result is the ever greater integration of technology into business processes and the ever greater responsiveness of that technology to evolving business needs.
There may of course be a number of big surprises in store for business tech in 2015, but it seems the things to keep an eye on are mobile devices, cloud services, and smart machines. The underlying issue that will determine how widespread and successful all of these technologies will be is security. If you don’t have adequate guarantees that your business’s environment will be safe, you’re not going to want to integrate still more technology into your processes. But security measures, like all other devices and applications, are going to be increasingly adaptable, aware of their surroundings, and able to discern the issues of highest priority.