Gartner’s top tech trends for the next decade

December, 2010 — This posting presents what Gartner believes are four converging trends that will impact enterprise business and IT for the next decade.

Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, Gartner, Inc. is a leading global information technology research company with 4,300 associates, including 1,200 research analysts and consultants, and clients in 80 countries.

On November 15, the company held its 20th Gartner Symposium/ITxpo event in Sydney, Australia to gather together CIOs, senior IT executives, and key technology providers. This posting was prepared using information from the Gartner website and supplemented with additional information from IT Business Edge.

Speaking in the keynote presentation, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research, said that successful organizations are those that can quickly evolve their strategies from recessionary cost control to innovative implementations of technology that generate revenue. “At the heart of the change in the next 20 years will be intelligence drawn from information,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Information will be the ‘oil of the 21st century’. It will be the resource running our economy in ways not possible in the past.”

From social media to intelligent devices to cloud computing, evaluating how these technologies fit into an organization and their impact on the bottom line will become a critical function of the C-level executive, according to Gartner. In the future, the financial compensation of CIOs may even be tied to the impact of IT on revenue.

The company believes that the worldwide IT industry will show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 percent for the next five years.

Gartner has identified four broad trends that will change IT, and the economy, in the next 10 years.

“The combination of these four trends creates an unimaginable force impacting not just IT and the IT industry, but the capability of business and government,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Each of these four trends is about driving IT business value. Whether IT acts now or not, the combination of these trends will drive dramatic change in your enterprises’ business model and strategy.”

The trends are:

1.  Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” to external customers using Internet technologies. It constitutes the basis of a discontinuity that amounts to a new opportunity to shape the relationship between those who use IT services and those who sell them.
“Cloud computing will transform the IT industry as it will alter the financial model upon which investors look at technology providers, and it will change vertical industries, making the impact of the Internet on the music industry look like a minor bleep,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “For the CIO, it will require a shift from multisourcing to microsourcing, which is quite a different skill.”

Gartner predicts that all Global 2000 companies will use public cloud services.

2.  The Business Impact of Social Computing

The second major trend is the business impact of social computing. Not simply more platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, the real impact will come as the underlying ethos, culture and attitudes which shape social computing and have driven growth to date, pervade the enterprise and blur the boundaries between personal and professional activities.

“The rigid business processes which dominate enterprise organizational architectures today are well suited for routine, predictable business activities. But they are poorly suited to support people whose jobs require discovery, interpretation, negotiation and complex decision-making,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Social computing, not Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, but the technologies and principals behind them will be implemented across and between all organizations, it will unleash yet to be realized productivity growth, it will contribute to economic growth.”

Gartner predicts that 80% of organizations will lack a coherent approach for dealing with information from the collective.

3.  Context-Aware Computing

The third major trend impacting IT leaders is context-aware computing. The proliferation and availability of wireless technologies — coupled with an explosion of super intelligent devices such as notebooks, tablets and smart phones in the hands of consumers -– linked to cost effective compute and communication capabilities in all physical products has created a new Internet fabric.

“This enables the creation of software and services that will blend data, text, graphics, audio and video with context such location, language, desires, feelings. Services not imagined today will use people’s location – whether physical or virtual – as the foundation and then use data that determine your patterns of behaviour, your desires,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Context Aware Computing while linear in its impact on IT will have profound impact on organizations, on the way we do business.”

Gartner predicts that by 2016, one-third of worldwide mobile consumer marketing will be context-awareness-based.

4.  Pattern-Based Strategy

The last trend is pattern-based strategy, a framework to proactively seek patterns from traditional and non-traditional sources, model their impact, and adapt according to the needs of the pattern.

This builds on pattern-based technologies such as social network analysis, context aware technologies and predictive analytic tools. It will allow IT leaders to seek-out patterns amidst the burgeoning information sources and model future possibilities.

Gartner predicts that pattern-seeking technology will be the fastest-growing intelligence investment among the most successful Global 2000 through 2015.

Other Enterprise Issues

Two other enterprise IT issues identified at the conference include operational technology management and sustainability.

Cost savings and management efficiencies might be able to be gained by integrating information technology and operational technology (OT) groups. Such integration could include coordinated planning and consistent technology architectural decisions, yielding greater technology purchasing power and streamlined budgets. Although integrating these two groups could be challenging, the benefits might yield a compelling business case.

Enterprises should expect that the current focus on energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions will continue, and that other environmental issues may potentially come to the fore, including resource depletion, species extinction, bio-diversity and environmental justice. If so, there will be continued — and perhaps additional — trade-offs between financial, operational and environmental performance. Information systems will be critical for governance, risk, and compliance as organizations adapt new and more-sustainable business models. Gartner believes that, by 2016, sustainability could be the fastest-growing enterprise compliance expense worldwide.

About Market Metrics

Market Metrics Inc. helps knowledge-based businesses with strategy, planning and innovation. We offer our clients a unique combination of top-shelf professional skills, competitive pricing, and real-world industry experience in business planning, marketing, and technology.

The consultancy was founded in 2003 by Greg Graham, a seasoned strategic marketing professional. Greg is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), a Fellow of the Ontario Institute of Management Consultants (FCMC), and an Accredited Small Business Consultant (ASMEC) in the United States. He holds MBA/BEE degrees plus a Certificate in Strategic Management.

Prior to founding Market Metrics, Greg's 21 years of corporate experience encompassed tech start-ups through Fortune 500 companies. He is an expert in subscription-based business models (including SaaS). Greg frequently performs consulting engagements on behalf of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).