As we turn the calendar page on 2021, what has been a challenging two years in the midst of the pandemic is finally giving way to hope and promise for the new year. As the pandemic greatly accelerated companies’ digital transformations and their use of innovative technologies, the new normal will see businesses needing to innovate just as fast without being forced to.
With an eye to the next year, leading analyst firm Gartner recently released its “Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022,” and while I agree with all of them, I have added a few of my own areas of innovation and new technologies that will help organizations of all sizes capture new efficiencies, reduce costs, maintain greater control over their operations and delight their customers and employees.
Here are my top 10 predictions.
- Despite a desire to return to normal, the distributed enterprise will remain. While more organizations are expected to return to the office this year, the distributed or hybrid model will continue to endure, especially since it has clear key benefits, such as access to a wider pool of talent, increased productivity and employee morale. Digitizing the employee’s experience will be key to retaining talent in this marketplace.
- Hyperautomation will free up routine enterprise tasks at scale. While many of the benefits of automation are known, such as driving efficiencies and freeing up workers for skilled tasks, hyperautomation will streamline and speed up the ability to extend automated processes across the enterprise. AI- and ML-based solutions will be key to scaling this automation technology and enabling a new era of intelligent technology to work collaboratively alongside their human counterparts.
- AI engineering will become a critical new discipline to address the skills gap. With the infusion of AI in all types of work, the lack of talent in AI is a real threat. Focusing on maturing the AI engineering discipline may help to address this shortage by creating the tools to help with the development, training and deployment of AI algorithms for real-world applications. The companies that figure this out will distance themselves from their competition; according to Gartner, about 80% of AI projects never reach deployment.
- Demand for SASE will grow to address an increasingly distributed workforce. As the pandemic continues to accelerate digital transformation initiatives, applications and data have become increasingly distributed and mobile, challenging traditional enterprise security. Safeguarding this new distributed and mobile edge requires a new approach, namely SASE. A trusted partner will be key here for organizations looking to implement SASE, as many perceive the need to quickly move to this architecture but aren’t sure of the best path forward.
- Organizations will rely on decision intelligence as essential to their decision-making processes. Aiming to bring structure to decision making, decision intelligence brings together data and analytics, enabled by AI, to business challenges. In the future, before making large business decisions, organizations will routinely examine data insights and model the outcomes, all while speeding up the process of making better decisions and creating ways to replicate them at all levels. The next coming of “big data” includes hyperautomation applied to massive amounts of data to enable outcome-driven decisions.
- Cloud-native platforms (CNPs) will bring the cloud within reach of more developers. The enormous impact of the cloud cannot be understated, and soon cloud-native platforms will make cloud-based applications easier than ever to develop and deploy at the edge. These edge CNP deployments will ease the process of building, deploying and running applications in the cloud and on the edge, accelerating the move to “as-a-service” transitions and making the cloud even more accessible for developers.
- POTS transformation solutions will provide an alternative for businesses. Despite the popularity of digital services, many businesses still use analog plain old telephone service (think analog lines and copper wire) lines for daily services like faxes, security, fire alarms, POS devices and emergency elevator communication. These services are increasingly at risk as major carriers retire and remove support. The emergence of solutions that provide low-cost digital alternatives for analog lines, along with enhanced monitoring of these critical applications, will continue to provide solutions for businesses that rely on these services.
- Cybersecurity mesh will be adopted to help maintain greater security controls. In a distributed enterprise, securing the perimeter of an organization has posed an even bigger challenge. Cybersecurity mesh will address this by providing a standardized, user-focused, connected approach to securing assets from any place, by independently securing each piece of data by access from its individual user, which will lessen the focus on a physical perimeter. I like to think of it as the marriage between zero trust and data loss prevention.
- CX teams will use total experience strategies to ensure successful customer interactions. As Gartner points out, TX is critical “as interactions become more mobile, virtual and distributed, mainly due to Covid-19.” As more of us work from anywhere, offering both employees and customers a differentiated experience should be an integral part of any digital transformation project. TX combines user experience, customer experience, etc. into a complete journey.
- Increased comfort with digital interactions will breathe new life into VR/AR. While still mostly theoretical, the recent announcement of the creation of a “metaverse” and the Webex Hologram will certainly help usher in VR/AR adoption and play a greater role in how we live and work. 5G will bring wider bandwidths and faster speeds, continuing to propel everything from telemedicine and remote surgeries to fully immersive experiences to the workplace and the home.
The global pandemic has forever altered the way we’ll work and live moving forward. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that innovation and ingenuity have continued to move forward as organizations of all sizes have adapted and continued to digitally transform work. As technological advances continue to accelerate, it should bring excitement and hope as we close the chapter on another year, begin anew in 2022 and look forward to great things to come.
This article was originally featured on Forbes.