Technology in the new decade: from the cloud to the extinction of computers and the heyday of the robot age

Original author: Steve Ranger
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Summary: making short-term predictions about technology investments is relatively simple - trying to understand how the IT industry will develop over the next ten years is much more difficult.

For the industry, which, at least at first glance, is driven by logic and cold calculation, the technology industry is surprisingly easy to stir and is carried away by the latest “ new things that will change our future”.

Perhaps this happens because, in contrast to, say, sales or HR, where innovations are determined by new management strategies, technological investments come “from the product”. Purchasing new hardware or software often entails the potential for a disruptive leap forward toward higher productivity or some other critical business metric. Technology providers are therefore rightfully interested in promoting their products as actively as possible: the level of marketing and user engagement costs of some fast-growing technology firms can make many consumer brands turn green with envy.

As a result, CIOs are seduced by a host of ever-changing sets of “buzzwords” ( cloud services, wearable gadgets, the Internet of things - their representatives are known) that CIO has to weed out in order to find those concepts that turn out to be really useful for their organizations and will be comparable to the budgets of companies, acceptable in time and adequate to the level of risk accepted in the organization. Short-term solutions in this regard may be relatively obvious, but the further you look into the future, the harder it will be to predict who will emerge victorious from the competition.

Technological innovations in the long term from one to three years

Despite possible fluctuations, the technologies that many CIOs plan to implement in the near future are relatively risk-free - they are quite safe. According to a TechRepublic study, the key investment priorities for CIO in the coming years will be to increase security, mobility, use Big Data and cloud services for business. Fashionable trends like 3D printing or wearable gadgets will be at the end of the list.

Another studyfrom Deloitte confirms this data: many technologies that CIO are now launching as pilot projects and plan to implement in the near future have been around for quite some time - for example, business analytics, mobile applications, social media and Big Data tools. Augmented reality and gamification are considered lower priority technologies.

This assessment reflects the preferences of most CIOs, which seek to focus on reliability as opposed to disruptive innovations: a TechRepublic study says that: “protecting / securing networks and data” for technical managers who do not want to take risks again is more important than “ changing business requirements. ”

Another important factor in this matter is money. Few CIOs have large budgets to spend on potentially unprofitable innovative projects, even if they want to (and many, of course, remember the excesses of the dot-com era, and really do not want to repeat their past mistakes).

According to a Deloitte study, less than 10% of the budget is allocated for technological innovation (CIOs who spend more on this direction work in smaller and less conservative companies). There is another reason why CIOs are increasingly losing control over the budget allocated to innovation - this task is being redirected to other business units (for example, the marketing department), which are considered to have a better understanding of the entrepreneurial approach to technology.


CIOs tend to accuse their superiors of a conservative attitude to risk - according to them, this is the biggest restriction that prevents them from making more risky IT investments with the goal of higher growth and development of innovations. And although CIO say they are ready to take the risks of IT investment, this attitude does not match the portfolio of current IT initiatives of most companies.

Another problem is that it is very difficult to estimate the return on investment in some technologies. Managers have always measured the benefits of such investments using the standard ROI formula, which includes only the most obvious costs: for example, the amount of payments based on the number of employees or the cost of new devices. But determining a return on investment in a project related to social media or the Internet of things is a much more difficult task.

Medium-term technology investments

If the CIO investment plans in the short term remain conservative and tied to a limited budget, it is worth looking a little further to understand where the new technological revolution might come from.

One of the resources that you can use is perhaps the most famous set of predictions about the future of IT: the Gartner Technology Maturity Cycle , which reflects an attempt to assess the potential of new technologies, taking into account the expectations of society.

The graph divides technologies not only regarding how great their acceptance by the majority is, but also in terms of expectations from them - in this way it demonstrates what analysts call fundamental truth: the fact that we cannot but be fascinated by new technologies on the one hand, but on the other hand, they cool off quickly enough to them when we realize that it is extremely difficult to successfully implement them. The Peak of Excessive Expectations is inevitably followed by Ridding of Illusions, after which technologies finally enter the Overcoming of Deficiencies and fall on the Productivity Plateau.

“This pattern of behavior we see with almost all technologies - this is an up and down movement from expectations to getting rid of illusions and ultimately improving productivity,” says Jackie Finn, vice president and analyst at Gartner, who has been working on the project since the first Technology Maturity Cycle published 20 years ago. She considers this cycle an example of a person’s reaction to any new product.

“It's not just about technology as such - that is how we respond to every innovation. This approach is maintained in relation to new areas in management and work on projects. People told me that this is also true in personal life - the initial wave of enthusiasm, the realization that everything is much more complicated than it seemed, and the final understanding of what is needed for everything to work as it should. ”


Gartner Technology Maturity Cycle for 2014

According to Gartner forecasts for 2014, the directions that will reach the Productivity Plateau (where they become widely applicable) over the next two years are, in particular, speech recognition and in-memory computing technology.
In the next 5-10 years, forecasts include virtual reality, cryptocurrency and wearable user interfaces.

The most difficult thing is to understand when the technology will be successfully used as a mass product, and that is why CIO is so necessary to choose the right time for investment. Some of the technologies that Gartner noted on their first maturity curve in 1995 - such as speech recognition and virtual reality - still remain on the 2014 curve, and have never become mainstream.


Gartner's Technology Maturity Cycle for 1995.

These types of UI technologies took time to “grow,” Finn says. For example, voice recognition initially appeared in highly structured call center applications, but in its latest incarnation, Siri, the technology has advanced significantly, “although it has not yet become the universally applicable type of interface,” she adds.

Almost all technologies go through these roller coasters, because our attitude towards new concepts does not change, Finn explains. “This is an inborn psychological reaction - we are inspired when we see something new. What attracts us is partly related to the structure of our brain: we are interested in the first part of the cycle, in which new technologies seem curious and exciting; but with the advent of the second part, hard work begins, which we like much less. "

But despite the fact that it’s impossible to break out of this cycle, CIOs can use concepts like this to manage their own aspirations: if the company's investment strategy assumes that the company consistently starts working with new technologies at the peak of expectations from them (remember, a few years ago each CEO had his own blog?), maybe the time has come to reconsider the strategy, even if the pressure of colleagues on the CIO complicates this process.

Finn: “This pressure - the feeling that if you don’t do it, you won’t get anything - really exists. Evaluate at what point the new technology adds value to your business, and if this does not happen, then it will be quite normal to enter the majority later and let others fill the bumps, if this direction is not especially critical for you. ”

Moving on, it is worth noting that technologies that, according to Gartner, will become mainstream no sooner than in 10 years, are more likely to be science fiction: for example, holographic displays, quantum computing and human augmetics (mechanical modifications of the body). The analysis of this curve is an entertaining process of studying the near future of technologies, from relatively well-known to completely exotic. “Employers will need to weigh the pros and cons of augmetics versus the growing capabilities of robot workers, including because using robots does not affect the ethical and legal side of the issue, unlike augmetics,” says Gartner.

Plenty of room for futurists

Beyond the 10-year horizon, you find yourself in an area in which predominantly futurists who study the development of technology work.

Steve Brown, Intel's futurist, says three mega-trends will determine the future of computing within 10 years. “They are very simple - this is a decrease, increase and naturalness,” he says.

“Decrease” is a consequence of Moore’s law, this trend will determine the development of small devices with low power consumption and significantly increase the likelihood of the spread of wearable gadgets and the Internet of things. “Increase” refers to the continued growth of computer power, and “naturalness” is a state in which objects of everyday life will be endowed with some computing capabilities.

“The calculations were our final point: [before] you had to go somewhere to do them - for example, into a room with a huge buzzing computer that you had to serve - you had to get lucky to get there. And then came an era in which computing was made possible on the go, ”says Brown.

“In the next era, calculations will be built into the world around us - as soon as you can achieve this, you will ultimately make all the things around you capable of performing calculations - you can turn everything into a computer. And as soon as this happens, extremely interesting things will begin to happen, ”continues Brown.

At this stage, computing power will cause a new series of problems for business leaders, Brown notes. The challenge for CIO and enterprise architects will be that having made everything computationally capable, they will have to decide how to use it. “In the future, we will face philosophical questions that you will have to answer before deploying new technology,” says Brown.


He foresees the emergence of a world of ubiquitous computing power in which robots will be able to observe and understand all the processes taking place around.

“Autonomous cars will change everything", He states. “Enterprises will encounter difficulties when people have to work side by side with machines - both physical machines and algorithms. It will not be easy for companies to find the most effective solution to a particular problem, which will consist of human work and processes that can be optimized using algorithms in one way or another. ”

The pace of technological development is accelerating: where it took us decades to make decisions, now processes are happening faster and faster, says Brown. And all this means that we need to make more informed decisions about how to use new technologies, and we will have to face even more complex issues related to security and information protection.

“If we use this or that technology, will it improve ourselves? We all will have to decide in advance what to use in order to become better. At the enterprise level, we will need to determine what we are achieving and how we want to work. ”

It's not just about programs and hardware

For many organizations, an obstacle to this wonderful future is their own personnel and the methods of work adopted by the company. Determining what to invest in can be much easier than convincing the staff and the whole organization to change the usual format of activity.

“We need to determine the essence of the relationship between people and technology, because now the vast majority of people perceive technology incorrectly,” says Dave Koplin, head of forecasting at Microsoft (he says that is a rather ironic name for his post).

Koplin notes that many of us strive to use new technologies to carry out tasks in the usual way, as they have been done for years, while the essence of new technologies is to force us to fundamentally change our approaches to fulfilling tasks. A classic example is the concept of productivity: “We had to reconsider our attitude to productivity. Unfortunately, many people think that productivity is a process: the better I perform the processes, the more productive I am. This shifts the focus of our attention, because in reality productivity is associated exclusively with increased productivity. ” Three quarters of employees believe that a productive day at the office is to view and respond to all accumulated letters, he notes.


Developing more competent relationships with technologies is necessary due to impending major changes, Koplin notes: “What happens when technology goes by the wayside, what happens when each surface has the opportunity to display contextual information based on what is happening around and who is looking at her? This is the world we are moving towards - a world where data reveals many ethical issues. If we do not prepare people for these changes, we will never be able to implement most of them. ”

Nicolas Millar, a futurist from the giant of the telecom industry, BT, echoes these ideas, saying that CIO will have to take into account not only technological changes, but also how they will affect the staff: lengthening the work experience will require the creation of technologies that will be suitable and young staff, and people over 70. This entails a rethinking of the concept of an employee’s workplace: “Open space without partitions can distract employees from work,” he says, “But can innovations be generated in a gray nook? Employees using tablets may prefer to work without using traditional desks, and those who use gesturing responsive devices may need more space. Even the role of the manager can change - it will be less associated with the issuance of tasks and control over their implementation,

In the long run, not only the technologies themselves will change dramatically: employees and managers will also have to form a new type of thinking.

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