The new year brings new hope for technology to accelerate progress for businesses in this challenging and changing world. I have identified the tech trends that will give organizations not only an opportunity for digital advancement but traction for better business and customer outcomes. I would suggest readers take a glimpse at my 2021 Top Business Trends for the business context that these tech trends play out in for 2021.
Hyperautomation Hits High Gear
With the pressure to do more with less in 2021, hyperautomation gets the early nod in 2021. The taste that RPA gave businesses for savings gets a big boost as other technologies play in the automation game too. This puts a premium on reality-based automation that gets an assist from data/process mining that desperately needs AI to suggest areas of opportunity through the ability to learn quickly from emergent data patterns. In addition, automation will start to collaborate as a full partner in completing work with workers and customers. Hyperautomation will be combining smarter capabilities with users and developers to push low code to the front lines to help with the "innovation democracy".
AI in Everything
Smarter and faster organizations will reap the benefits over others. This means that AI and its cousin analytics will play a key role as they become inline and real-time in assisting businesses to attain outcomes. This means an explosion of smart to every corner of the organization. The IQ may not be the highest, but AI is so much faster than the human eye can see or that the human mind can calculate. Over time, emergent complexity or complications will increase the IQ of AI needed to kick off a race to results through smarter delivery of balanced outcomes.
Sentiment Analysis Drives the Empathy Focused Organization
The need for organizations to be plugged into the feeling of their constituencies, especially customers will create a huge vacuum for voice-driven sentiment analysis. This will be interaction driven in real-time to create better interactions and relationships. These very listening post capabilities will also allow organizations to catch trends such as mentions of the completion as well as alternative products or services. At a very minimum, the present products or services can evolve incrementally through this analysis process.
The dream of the composable organization from technical infrastructure to applications to processes to the knowledge bases will start to take off in 2021. The driver for this trend is not wanting to recreate anything that already exists. By using what is there in different combinations and for different goals has always been an "End Game" target for many architectural approaches. This may start at microservices and common APIs, but it will reach business components and templates. The constraining issue has always been discoverability for the user who doesn't know of the "reusable bit". Through better data structures and AI discoverability, this hurdle will start to lower.
Computer Vision: A New Source of Learning
Computer vision has always had a place in manufacturing for inspection of parts for flaws, but now things are going to expand past static images to images in motion to look for success and failure patterns. Computer vision will be used to learn how the most productive workers deliver in an assembly or service environment to train others in better practices initially which could evolve to machine/bot enhancement. Putting vision at the edge will allow for autonomous adjustments in any movement focused applications from security to dynamic assembly. This will allow for more deep learning opportunities for AI as well.
Monster Data Explodes
Monster data represents data that is overwhelmingly large, unduly complex, can’t be trusted for accuracy. Typically it is composed of multiple kinds of data including structured, unstructured text, voice, image, or video. Some monster data may be unknown or emergent, making it scary to deal with for most individuals, technologies, or organizations. The growth of all sources of data is going to create volume issues along with the IoT awakening. The hunger for human behavioral data of all kinds will drive more data complications and complexity. The amount of inaccurate data will become mind-boggling, but the tolerance for errors will become looser for some applications.
The Internet of Behaviors Emerges
Watching how people behave has been the source of many studies for sales and marketing opportunities. Not only will this trend continue, but it will also accelerate and complicate because of new channels and new sources of behavior mining from the IoT with complex and complicated data sources. Additionally, behaviors will be mined and aggregated for better customer relationships to create customers for life. On the dark side, behaviors will also be mined for potential security threats and other bad behaviors.
Spanning the Data Divide with the Data Mesh
Data management needs a boost to cope with all the new sources and uses, so the data mesh will emerge this year and gain momentum. A data mesh approach reorients data management efforts to align consumers of “data products”. Instead of thinking about many data pipelines and datastore types, a data mesh provides a unified view and architecture for organizational outcomes supported by applications, processes, or dashboards. It combines data inside the cloud with data outside the cloud. A data mesh hides the complexity and variety of data from the end-user. All of this while the speed of business approaches real-time.
Distributed Cloud Advances the Edge
Edge computing allows for the handling of certain work or events at the edge. This means that data and applications work together at the edge without the interference of central control under allowed freedom levels guided by goals and guardrails. While the transparency of behavior will likely reach central observation, decisions or actions can take place close to the point of origin. The distributed cloud will enable this kind of computing behavior for both expected work and unexpected events or patterns.
Putting Bets on New Maturing Advanced Technologies
Because of competitive pressures and emerging business scenarios, organizations will be more aggressive in placing bets on technologies that are emergent in nature and not fully baked for their respective industries. These technologies that have this kind of allure are 5G, Blockchain, IoT, Quantum, and Autonomous Smart Bots. Organizations can't afford to do all of these at once, so the leaders of savvy organizations will pick one or two of these to extend their competitive advantage.
2021 will be a watershed year. With a tech-savvy incoming leadership in the west and the need for an organization to recover from 2020, I expect these trends to take off along with the advancement of automation to glean savings to drive these efforts. Simultaneously there will a drive for inclusive or better customer journeys driven by a new desire for organizational empathy needed to under-served customers or markets.