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Beyond the digital frontier

​It is no longer sufficient to embrace innovations and trends that are already underway. To stay ahead, companies must work methodically to sense new possibilities that exist far beyond the digital frontier.
Bill Briggs
Scott Buchholz

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.1 Apple was gearing up to launch the iPad® mobile digital device,2 and a mean-spirited worm called Stuxnet was changing the rules of cybersecurity.3

At this same time, 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 publications, 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, cybersecurity, 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 the things that seemed so incredible 10 years ago are now foundational.

Looking back, we can see the value these emerging innovations offered; in the moment, their promise seemed less clear. It is, therefore, remarkable how quickly organizations across industries and regions navigated the so what? and 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, define their ambitions for tomorrow, and journey beyond the digital frontier.

But the question remains: How can we sense and act upon a future that remains unclear? The good news is that much of the tech-driven disruption each of us experiences today—and will likely experience going forward—is understandable and knowable. Today, the most promising technology trends are grounded in nine powerful macro forces that form the backbone of technology innovation, past and present. In chapter 1, we examine how once-disruptive trends such as cloud, analytics, and digital experiences have been embraced to become foundational components of business and IT strategy. We also discuss how the work of reengineering technology’s full life cycle, reimagining core systems, and elevating cyber to a strategic function are now critical elements of digital transformation. And finally, we take a look at three more recent trends—blockchain, cognitive, and digital reality—that are poised to become macro forces in their own right.

In the following six chapters, we spotlight emerging technology trends that, over the next 18 to 24 months, will likely offer new avenues for pursuing strategic ambitions. Three of them spotlight “top of the iceberg” technologies such as AI, intelligent interfaces, and experiential marketing. Three other chapters focusing on serverless computing, advanced connectivity, and DevSecOps, are more foundational and enabling, though no less critical to innovation and growth. Those feeling overwhelmed by change may take some comfort in the fact that all of these trends are grounded in the nine macro forces. As in chaos theory, patterns and structures eventually emerge from perceived disorder.

In our final chapter, we try to demystify the future of digital transformation by examining approaches for turning something seemingly nebulous and uncertain into a process that is measurable and knowable.

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 a technologist, there could not be a more exciting or 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.


Today, business and technology are inextricably linked. And keeping pace with the emerging technology landscape can be difficult for even the most tech-savvy leaders. Deloitte can help. Our technology professionals have deep experience applying technologies to help you achieve your business goals.

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Mariahna Moore for your gift of accomplishing the difficult and doing the impossible. Your deft touch has once again helped steer the Tech Trends ship to greatness, building and supporting the team in continually exceeding standards of excellence. You consistently show up cool and collected—and always, always have a plan.

Doug McWhirter for creating salient points and writing brilliant prose from streams of consciousness, volumes of research, mountains of interviews, and stampedes of SMEs. From inception to birth, Tech Trends 2019 would not have happened without your wit, wisdom, and patience.

Dana Kublin for your brilliance, vision, and ability to pull vivid and insightful visuals out of raw potential. No matter the format, from artwork to infographics to motion graphics and beyond, your spark and understated leadership always make us shine brighter.

Megan Cormier for jumping in to catch the bullet train in midstream. You helped steer, create, and shape the report as it barreled along to completion. Your willingness to step into big shoes, keep myriad plates spinning, and rise to the challenge has been greatly appreciated.

Sonali Ballal for also joining the team in full swing without missing a beat, and keeping a firm hand on the many, varied control levers. Your “gentle persistence” at ensuring that deadlines are met and quality is not sacrificed—no matter the obstacle—has been paramount to our success.

Stefanie Heng, Patricia Staino, and Ellen Kauffman for having a continued boundless impact. For you, as seasoned veterans, expectations are high, and you delivered. You always step up and step forward wherever help is needed to get us to the finish line and beyond. Your vision, creativity, and attention to detail are unmatched. We are beyond lucky to have you on the team.

Paul O’Hara, Meghan McNally, and Tristen Click for a fantastic freshman year. You have been an invaluable part of our OCTO family, helping make sure we stayed on track for activities ranging from content reviews to interview prep to secondary research to infographics, product design, and more.

Tiffany Stronsky, Chuck Stern, Mitch Derman, Tracey Parry, and Lauren Leimkuehler for continuing to advance our marketing, communications, and PR game while providing a helpful outside-in perspective on what’s needed to take our program up yet another level. Your work to make sure Tech Trends gets the right buzz at the right times is truly incredible.

Matthew Budman, Anoop K. R., Emily Moreano, Joanie Pearson, Amy Bergstrom, and the tremendous Deloitte Insights team. Without your hard work, collaboration, and support, Tech Trends simply wouldn’t happen. You help us reach new heights every year.

Mark Lillie, Will Beech, Mel Quinn, Elliott Ojuri, Max Cantellow, and Leanne Spitzer for helping us reach around the world to shape the report and for driving efforts to extend Tech Trends even further into the global market.

Cover image by: Andrew Bannecker

  1. Andrew Clark, “Oracle’s takeover of Sun Microsystems comes as surprise to software industry,” Guardian, April 20, 2009.

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  2. Tech Trends 2019 is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc. iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

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  3. Kim Zetter, “How digital detectives deciphered Stuxnet, the most menacing malware in history,” Wired, June 7, 2011.

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