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What disrupts the disruptors? Tech industry leaders sound off on emerging issues

Security, data and regulation are seen as areas with the most disruptive potential.

In this age of discontinuity, the technology industry is being propelled and buffeted by a number of powerful “winds of change.” These include advances in science and technology (e.g., artificial intelligence, quantum computing, augmented/virtual reality, cyber/bio convergence), new models (e.g., web3, next-generation manufacturing), societal backlash (e.g., regulations) and growing dangers (e.g., data-related issues, threats to truth, privacy and surveillance, cyber warfare). Technology industry leaders are closely monitoring these drivers of change to understand how they may impact both their industry and society.

To gain more insight into these forces and their disruptive potential, we conducted a short survey of tech industry leaders. We asked, across a list of 11 emerging issues, how disruptive was each to their company today and in the next three to five years.

In general, we found that issues associated with data were the ones where leaders had the most anxiety. Companies are collecting and protecting ever-larger volumes of data and dealing with the associated increases in cost and complexity. Issues around data governance and privacy are at the forefront of C-suite and board discussions. Data also powers AI. Its ubiquity and vitality are creating both new opportunities and vulnerabilities.

Taking a closer look, our survey revealed that cybersecurity and data-related issues (data-driven competitiveness) are currently seen as the most disruptive and are expected to remain so. As a new factor of production, data drives innovation. Tech leaders believe that if that data is compromised and there is a loss of trust, every facet of their business would be impacted. Companies are therefore constantly questioning their security status amid the escalating cyber arms race driven by state and nonstate actors and cybercriminals.

Regulation is expected to become much more disruptive over the next three to five years, showing the greatest change from today (+14% saying it will be “very disruptive”). Today, we are seeing regulatory and government action across a broad range of issues that could impact the industry, including data privacy, content moderation, antitrust, cybersecurity, AI and cryptocurrency. A great deal of uncertainty exists around how technology industry regulation will play out, in addition to concerns about different standards increasing complexity and reducing flexibility and innovation.

Some areas that survey respondents deemed less disruptive, such as web3, quantum, AR/VR, were seen as just too far out or not practical enough to achieve widespread disruption yet. However, with the fast pace of technological change, their attitudes and responses could quickly change.

Recommendations for tech leaders

Given this uncertain and evolving future landscape, how can companies best manage their fears and create new opportunities?

  • Strive to create “future-resistant” data and cybersecurity strategies. Having structured, collaborative and cross-functional data and cybersecurity practices is important, especially to prepare for whatever data-related regulation and global standards emerge. To help tackle complexity, explore adopting AI or machine learning tools to help automate data audit, security and compliance to free up resources to focus on more strategic tasks.
  • Develop a clear long-term perspective. Companies should engage in some self-examination and ask where they realistically see themselves playing in the future marketplace. What change drivers do they think will be the most impactful to their business? How will they interact and evolve? Make sure to align short- and mid-term actions with this longer-term perspective.
  • Don’t ignore what isn’t disruptive yet. For issues that leaders don’t believe are ready to disrupt markets yet, companies should set up “sensing mechanisms” to monitor and evaluate current trends and be on the lookout for emerging winds of change. Companies can also proactively engage and collaborate with the broader industry and governments to help prepare for these issues before they hit mainstream adoption.

Technology, Media & Telecommunications

Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) industry practice brings together one of the world’s largest group of specialists respected for helping shape many of the world’s most recognised TMT brands—and helping those brands thrive in a digital world.

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Cover image by: Jaime Austin

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