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Executive summary

Tech Trends 2020

Several of this year's tech trends are responses to persistent IT challenges. Others represent technology-specific dimensions of larger enterprise opportunities. All are poised to drive significant organizational change.​

Macro technology forces

Last year’s Tech Trends report explored nine macro technology forces that form the backbone of business innovation and transformation. For a decade, we’ve been tracking the emergence and eventual ascent of digital experience, analytics, cloud, digital reality, cognitive, blockchain, the business of IT, risk, and core modernization. This year’s update takes a fresh look at enterprise adoption of these macro forces and explores how they’re shaping the tech trends we predict will disrupt businesses over the next 18 to 24 months. To realize the full promise of these forces, organizations are exploring how they intersect to create more value as well as new ways to manage technology and the technology function. This necessary step is becoming increasingly important as businesses prepare to tackle emerging forces that appear farther out on the horizon: ambient experience, exponential intelligence, and quantum.

Ethical technology and trust

In a growing trend, leading companies are realizing that every aspect of their organization that is disrupted by technology represents an opportunity to gain or lose trust. They are approaching trust not as a compliance or public relations issue, but as a business-critical goal to be pursuedIn this light, trust becomes a 360-degree undertaking to ensure that the many dimensions across an organization’s technology, processes, and people are working in concert to maintain the high level of trust expected by their many stakeholders. Business leaders are reevaluating how their products, services, and the decisions they make—around managing data, building a partner ecosystem, and training employees, among others—build trust. CIOs are emphasizing “ethical technology” and creating a set of tools to help people recognize ethical dilemmas when making decisions on how to use disruptive technologies. Leaders who embed organizational values and tech ethics across their organization are demonstrating a commitment to “doing good” that can build a long-term foundation of trust with stakeholders.

Finance and the future of IT

As technology strategy has increasingly become a core part of business strategy in organizations, the demand for improved outcomes has grown. To achieve this, we expect to see more IT and finance leaders working together to develop flexible approaches for innovating and operating at the speed of agile. Whether under the name of supporting innovation, defending against disruption, or enabling digital transformation, IT will need finance’s support to effectively rethink governance of technology innovation, adapt to Agile methodologies, and secure creative capital. The work of transitioning to new finance, budgeting, and accounting processes that support innovation will not happen overnight. But there are strong incentives for both CIOs and CFOs to find ways to effectively fund innovation. Some companies are already embracing this trend and are exploring possibilities. They are at the leading edge and will likely be the first to enjoy the competitive advantages that come when finance funds innovation at the speed of agile.

Digital twins: Bridging the physical and digital 

The idea of using virtual models to optimize processes, products, or services is not new. But organizations are finding that increasingly sophisticated simulation and modeling capabilities, power visualization, better interoperability and IoT sensors, and more widely available platforms and tools is making it possible to create simulations that are more detailed and dynamic than ever. Digital twins can increase efficiency in manufacturing, optimize supply chains, transform predictive field maintenance, aid in traffic congestion remediation, and much more. Organizations making the transition from selling products to selling bundled products and services, or selling as-a-service, are increasing use of digital twins. As capabilities and sophistication grow, expect to see more organizations use digital twins to optimize processes, make data-driven decisions in real time, and design new products, services, and business models. In the long term, realizing digital twins’ full promise may require integrating systems and data across entire ecosystems.

Human experience platforms

A growing class of AI-powered solutions—referred to as “affective computing” or “emotion AI”—are redefining the way we experience technology. In the coming months, more companies will ramp up their responses to a growing yet largely unmet demand for technology to better understand humans and to respond to us more appropriately. Historically, computers have been unable to correlate events with human emotions or emotional factors, but that’s changing as innovators are adding an emotional quotient (EQ) to technology’s IQ, at scale. Combining AI, human-centered design techniques, and technologies currently being used in neurological research to better understand human needs, human experience platforms will be able to recognize a user’s emotional state and the context behind it, and then respond suitably. Indeed, the ability to leverage emotionally intelligent platforms to recognize and use emotional data at scale is one of the biggest, most important opportunities for companies going forward.

Architecture awakens 

Growing numbers of technology and C-suite leaders are recognizing that the science of technology architecture is more strategically important than ever. Indeed, to remain competitive in markets being disrupted by technology innovation, established organizations will need to evolve their approaches to architecture—a process that can begin by transforming the role technology architects play in the enterprise. In the coming months, we expect to see more organizations move architects out of their traditional ivory towers and into the trenches. These talented, if underused, technologists will begin taking more responsibility for services and systems. Likewise, they will become involved in system operations. The goal of this shift is straightforward: move the most experienced architects where they are needed most—into software development teams that are designing complex technology. Investing in architects and architecture and promoting their strategic value enterprisewide can evolve this IT function into a competitive differentiator in the digital economy.

Horizon next: A future look at the trends

There’s growing interest among enterprises in looking beyond what’s new to what’s next, and no wonder—an understanding of what’s coming may inform early planning and enable relationships that could make reaping future rewards possible. Leading organizations have disciplined, measured innovation programs that align innovation with business strategy and a long-term technology landscape. They take a programmatic approach to sensing, scanning, vetting, experimenting, and incubating future macro technology forces—such as ambient experiences, exponential intelligence, and quantum—until the technology, the market, and the business applications are ready on an enterprisewide scale. Other organizations should consider following suit, using the knowledge gained to reimagine and transform their enterprises, agencies, and organizations before they themselves are disrupted. In a world of seemingly infinite unknowns, it is possible to focus attention on a meaningful collection of known technologies that, taken together, can help you chart a path to the next horizon.

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Contributors

Mukul Ahuja, Zillah Austin, Randall Ball, Sonali Ballal, Tushar Barman, Neal Batra, Jonathan Bauer, Mike Brinker, Randy Bush, Rachel Charlton, Sandy Cockrell, Allan Cook, Megan Cormier, Amit Desai, Anant Dinamani, Sean Donnelly, Matt Dortch, Deborshi Dutt, Karen Edelman, Michael Fancher, Frank Farrall, Jourdan Fenster, Bryan Funkhouser, Andy Garber, Haritha Ghatam, Cedric Goddevrind, Jim Guszcza, Maleeha Hamidi, Steve Hardy, Blythe Hurley, Lisa Iliff, Siva Kantamneni, Mary-Kate Lamis, Blair Kin, Kathy Klock, Yadhu Krishnan, Michael Licata, Mark Lillie, Veronica Lim, Mark Lipton, Kathy Lu, Adel Mamhikoff, Sean McClowry, JB McGinnis, Meghan McNally, Kellie Nuttall, Melissa Oberholster, Arun Perinkolam, Ajit Prabhu, Aparna Prusty, Mohan Rao, Hannah Rapp, Scott Rosenberger, Mac Segura-Cook, Preeti Shivpuri, Lisa Smith, Gordon Smith, Tim Smith, David Solis, Alok Soni, Patrick Tabor, Sonya Vasilieff, Aman Vij, Jerry Wen, Mark White, Drew Wilkins, Abhilash Yarala, Andreas Zachariou, and Jim Zhu.

Research team

Leads

Cristin Doyle, Chris Hitchcock, Betsy Lukins, Dhruv Patel, Andrea Reiner, and Katrina Rudisel

Team members

Stephen Berg, Erica Cappon, Enoch Chang, Tony Chen, Ankush Dongre, Ben Drescher, Ahmed Elkheshin, Harsha Emani, Jordan Fox, Riya Gandhi, Dave Geyer, Maddie Gleason, April Goya, Adhor Gupta, Alex Jaime Rodriguez, Morgan Jameson, Solomon Kassa, Pedro Khoury-Diaz, Emeric Kossou, Dhir Kothari, Shuchun Liu, James McGrath, Hannan Mohammad, Spandana Narasimha Reddy, Gabby Sanders, Joey Scammerhorn, Kaivalya Shah, Deana Strain, Samuel Tart, Elizabeth Thompson, Samantha Topper, Kiran Vasudevan, Greg Waldrip, and Katrina Zdanowicz.

Special thanks

Mariahna Moore for gracefully accomplishing the impossible year after year, making it look easy, and ensuring we always follow the rules. Your standards for excellence continue to help Tech Trends live up to its potential. And your ability to stay cool, keep a firm hand on the tiller, and always have a plan for navigating the upcoming challenges is unmatched.

Doug McWhirter for consistently developing deft, incisive prose out of copious streams of consciousness, innumerable interviews, reams of research, and stampedes of SMEs. Your wit, wisdom, and patience help make Tech Trends 2020 the research opus that it is.

Dana Kublin for your talent of conjuring insightful visuals, intuitive infographics, and fascinating figures out of thin air and unclear descriptions. Your ability to talk us out of our crazy ideas and then show us an improved version of what we told you makes all the trends better.

Stefanie Heng for your “gentle persistence” at managing the nonstop, day-to-day activities and always bringing a smile to everything you do. Your grace under pressure and your unflinching commitment to the project has enabled us to “get to done.”

Caroline Brown, Tristen Click, and Linda Holland for your depth of craft, inspired creativity, and immense patience. Whether dealing with infographics, chapters, or interviews, your collective talents, attention to detail, and willingness to go the extra mile made Tech Trends better.

Kaitlin Crenshaw, Natalie Martella, and Camilo Schrader for a fabulous freshman year. Your support as part of the Tech Trends family has been invaluable as you helped keep us on track for interview prep, secondary research, content reviews, designs, graphics, and more.

Mitch Derman, Tracey Parry, and Tiffany Stronsky for continuing to advance our marketing, communications and PR game. Your willingness to question, push, and share your ideas have helped take our program up to eleven. Your efforts to get the right buzz in the right places at the right times is amazing.

Laura Elias, Martina Jeune, and Faith Shea for an unbelievable impact on your first Tech Trends report. Thank you for bringing new ideas to the table and helping us push the boundaries of what we can accomplish.

Amy Bergstrom, Matthew Budman, Sarah Jersild, Anoop K R, Emily Moreano, Joanie Pearson, and the entire Deloitte Insights team. Your amazing partnership on Tech Trends helps us reach new heights every year.

Cover image by: Vasava 

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