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Trends 2021: Technology Part One, Deloitte

January 26, 2021


Technology is defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. It’s a fool’s errand to believe that such a broad topic could be covered in a short article. To narrow the discussion, I will look at the technology trends identified by two of the world’s largest consulting firms — Deloitte and Gartner. Each firm has identified nine technology trends they believe will have significant impacts on businesses over the next couple of years. In Part One of this two-part article, I will discuss the technology trends identified by Deloitte. In Part Two, I will discuss Gartner’s nine technology trends. Deloitte’s trends address how technologies will be applied in organizations rather than simply listing emerging technologies. Such lists often include things like 5G telecommunications, cognitive technologies, edge computing, hybrid clouds, blockchain, and virtual reality. Below are Deloitte’s nine technology trends.


Deloitte Technology Trends


Trend 1. Tech-enabled Business Strategy. According to Deloitte analysts, tech-enabled business strategy, optimized for agility, will be a game changer for many businesses. They explain, “In a world where technology has emerged as a mighty strategic disruptor, savvy strategists are looking to make more clear, timely, and inspirational choices about future possibilities, continually scanning the horizon for new competitive advantages they can deploy and threats they should avoid. … Winning in a volatile environment requires an integrated corporate and technology strategy, enabling organizational nimbleness, scalability, stability, and optionality. The traditional process of strategy development is too infrequent and labor-intensive to enable strategists to sense and seize opportunities as they emerge. A growing number are shifting to a fluid and agile process for formulating, evaluating, and executing corporate and business unit strategies by employing technology tools that continually sense, anticipate, and monitor the effectiveness of their strategic choices and execution.”[1] At the heart of tech-enabled business strategy processes you find cognitive technologies.


Trend 2. Core Technologies Revival. Deloitte analysts note, “In the current economic climate, it’s more strategically important than ever to help your legacy core systems support the agility, innovation, and new modes of working that fuel that digital potential.”[2] They add, “Even before COVID-19 disrupted the global economy, pragmatism — and a growing focus on the business case for core modernization — had begun informing more transformation decisions. Today, we see renewed interest in migrations to the cloud, particularly from organizations that in this time of uncertainty need an efficient, cost-effective way to move rigid yet essential core assets. Revitalized in the cloud, these assets can provide a strong foundation for mission-critical innovation and growth strategies in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing, and quantum.”


Trend 3. Supply Chain Transformation. For years, supply chain experts like Lora Cecere (@lcecere), founder and CEO of Supply Chain Insights, have insisted, “The supply chain IS Business, not a department within a business.”[3] Deloitte analysts believe more business leaders now recognize that fact and are learning how to transform “a traditional cost center into a value driver.”[4] They explain, “Over the next 18 to 24 months, we expect to see manufacturers, retailers, and others take supply chain transformation to the next level by optimizing their supply chain ecosystems for resilience and risk. Moreover, they will begin transforming their supply chains from traditional back-office cost centers into value-driving operations.” The key to supply chain transformation, they insist, is capturing, analyzing, and utilizing data. “By mining this data for operational insights,” they write, “[companies] can continuously optimize systems and processes throughout the organization. And by sharing the data more widely, they can look to optimize their entire supply ecosystem.”


Trend 4. Increased Implementation of Cognitive Solutions. It should come as no surprise that technologies clustered under the artificial intelligence umbrella are predicted to have significant impacts on businesses in the years ahead. Deloitte analysts write, “Sophisticated machine learning models help organizations efficiently discover patterns, reveal anomalies, make predictions and decisions, and generate insights; Forrester reports that more than half of global data and analytics technology decision-makers have implemented or are in the process of implementing some form of AI.”[5] They add, “To integrate AI and machine learning into every process and system, businesses must be able to deploy them consistently and at scale. To realize the broader, transformative benefits of AI and machine learning, the era of artisanal AI must give way to one of automated, industrialized insights. Enter MLOps, also known as ML CI/CD, ModelOps, and ML DevOps: the application of DevOps approaches and tools to model development and delivery to industrialize and scale machine learning.”


Trend 5. Managing Big Data Better. We live in the Digital Age and lifeblood of the age is data — or as Deloitte analysts put it: data feeds the machine.[6] That being the case, they insist the diet of data fed to machines must be tweaked for machine, not human consumption. They explain, “To achieve the benefits and scale of AI and MLOps, data must be tuned for native machine consumption, not humans, causing organizations to rethink data management, capture, and organization. … In the next 18 to 24 months, we expect to see companies begin addressing this challenge by reengineering the way they capture, store, and process data. As part of this effort, they will deploy an array of tools and approaches including advanced data capture and structuring capabilities, analytics to identify connections among random data, and next-generation cloud-based data stores to support complex modeling.”


Trend 6. Zero Trust Environments. During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan famously quoted an old Russian proverb, “Doveryai, no proveryai” meaning “Trust, but verify.” In an era where hacking has become commonplace, trust is no longer the initial position organizations should assume. Deloitte analysts explain, “A zero trust cybersecurity posture provides the opportunity to create a more robust and resilient security, simplify security management, improve end-user experience, and enable modern IT practices.”[7] They note, “Conventional castle-and-moat cybersecurity models, which rely on secure network perimeters and virtual private network-based employee and third-party remote access, are proving to be no match for evolving cyberthreats, particularly as business models and workforce dynamics evolve. … While perimeter-based security assumes the trustworthiness of users and devices connected to the organization’s network, stolen credentials cause more than a quarter of security breaches. … Streamlining the security stack can eliminate considerable management headaches, significantly reduce operational overhead, and help scale to tens of thousands of users. Similarly, onboarding employees, contractors, cloud service providers, and other vendors can become more efficient, flexible, responsive, and secure.” Their advice, “Never trust, always verify.”


Trend 7. Rebooting Digital Enterprises. Empty offices and remote work have characterized many organizations during the pandemic. Deloitte analysts note, “The digital workplace represents a fundamental shift in the way work gets done. Organizations are embracing technology to optimize individual and team productivity, collaboration, and the employee experience at large.”[8] They add, “Driven by COVID-19, the abrupt shift to remote work as the default for much of the labor force has altered work as we know it. … With the work-from-home cat out of the bag, it could prove challenging to coax these professionals back to prepandemic levels of in-office work. … As organizations manage a growing number of offsite employees — working from home or other nontraditional workspaces — many are beginning to accept the inevitability of a digital workplace where work is completed by a mix of onsite and remote workers that must operate in synchrony to meet business objectives.”


Trend 8. Personalization and the Digital Path to Purchase. On the digital path to purchase, the consumer reigns. Deloitte analysts explain, “By necessity or choice, people have increasingly embraced digital interactions in all aspects of their everyday lives, whether in working remotely, online schooling, or ordering groceries.”[9] At the same, Deloitte analysts assert, “Our growing reliance on digital interactions has left many of us pining for more personalized human experiences. … In what we recognize as an emerging trend, consumers are becoming less satisfied with distinct physical or digital experiences. They want the best of both: personalized interactions combined with the convenience of digital. During the next 18 to 24 months, we expect to see leading companies embrace the bespoke for billions trend by exploring ways to use human-centered design and digital technology to create personalized, digitally enriched interactions at scale.”


Trend 9. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Over the past couple of years, movements, like #metoo and Black Lives Matter, have had significant and important impacts on society and businesses. According to Deloitte analysts, “Organizations have access to increasingly sophisticated tools to support their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives across the talent life cycle.”[10] They add, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to current as well as potential employees worldwide.” As important as DEI might be, they note a recent survey found “only 13% of respondents said their organization is ‘very ready’ to address the trend.” To help organizations address DEI issues, Deloitte analysts write, “We expect enterprises looking to close this readiness gap to increasingly use technologies to support DEI outcomes across all aspects of the employee journey — from talent sourcing and selection through employee experience, compensation, retention, and development.”


Concluding Thoughts


As noted at the beginning of this article, in Part Two I will discuss Gartner’s nine technology trends. Although there is some overlap in the two lists, analysts from each consultancy look at technology trends from different perspectives and place different emphasis on their importance.


[1] Staff, “Strategy, engineered,” Deloitte, 2020.
[2] Staff, “Core revival,” Deloitte, 2020.
[3] Lora Cecere, “Sage advice? Only for turkeys.” eft, 1 February 2013.
[4] Staff, “Supply unchained,” Deloitte, 2020.
[5] Staff, “MLOps: Industrialized AI,” Deloitte, 2020.
[6] Staff, “Machine data revolution: Feeding the machine,” Deloitte, 2020.
[7] Staff, “Zero trust: Never trust, always verify,” Deloitte, 2020.
[8] Staff, “Rebooting the digital workplace,” Deloitte, 2020.
[9] Staff, “Bespoke for billions: Digital meets physical,” Deloitte, 2020.
[10] Staff, “DEI tech: Tools for equity,” Deloitte, 2020.

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