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Gartner: 10 changes coming to data analytics

The year began with an ambitious data mandate for organizations: leverage data analytics and AI techniques to keep up with the competition and increase efficiency.

Pressed by the challenges of a redrawn business landscape, leaders searched for guidance in their data and analytics toolkit. In the pivot to distributed work, AI helped field rising help desk requests from a mobile workforce. Data analytics informed leaders in near-real time how consumption patterns shifted, helping manage supply chain constraints.

Radical change and uncertainty now challenges organizations to forge new paths within their data and analytics strategies, said Rita Sallam, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner speaking at a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas session last week.

“It’s not just to make it to the other side, but to thrive when we get there,” Sallam said.

Organizations emerging from the initial reactive phase will look to their data analytics initiatives to enable a smarter company, one that automates insight generation and finds ways to monetize its data inventory. 

Diverse types of data — such as audio and video — will come under the magnifying glass to equip companies with richer insight into their operations.

Here are 10 trends set to shape businesses’ data strategies:

Smarter, faster, more responsible AI

Initially groundbreaking and available to a select few, access to AI techniques has expanded across company departments. More enterprises wll operationalize their AI initiatives by 2024, according to Gartner. 

But “if users don’t trust data, if they can’t understand how a model works, the more complex it gets, the more opaque it typically gets, the less likely they are to trust that model and use it,” said Sallam. Organizations need to arrive at AI strategies that augment employees in their daily work and decisions.

AI that’s smarter, faster and more responsible powers the applications technology that can help cities manage traffic flow, assist doctors in diagnosing illnesses or applying algorithms in near-real time to manage time-sensitive tasks in the financial market. 

Still, challenges lie ahead. Data sets may no longer be accurate at predicting outcomes amid disruption induced by COVID-19.

Decline of the dashboard

Dashboards are a ubiquitous tool in platforms that promise AI-driven insights. A quickly adjustable tool to let analysts and middle management arrive at conclusions from available data sets.

“The predefined dashboard with predefined KPIs, predefined relationships, is likely to be displaced,” Sallam said.

In its stead, platforms will combine techniques such as augmented analytics, natural language processing and anomaly detection to keep users from performing tasks associated with analysis.

But Gartner projects that by 2025, data stories will be the most widespread way of consuming analytics, with 75% of those stories automatically generated through augmented analytics techniques. 

Decision intelligence

By 2023, Gartner projects more than one-third of large organizations will have analysts practicing decision intelligence, including decision modeling.

Decision intelligence includes a range of decision-making techniques such as rules-based approaches to AI and machine learning in order to fine-tune decision-making, Sallam said.

Though current adoption remains low, these techniques are used by financial services companies to assist in deciding mortgage applications. 

Enterprise adoption will increase, with business leaders lured by the reduction in time and effort it delivers to the design, development and deployment of complicated business logic.

X analytics

The types of data points that companies use to make decisions will expand, with organizations reaching into video, audio, olfactory, vibration, natural language, sentiment or emotion data to derive actionable insights. 

In the term “X analytics,” X works as a variable that can be replaced with any type of content.

“Over the past 10 years, with the rise of big data, we’ve done a great job at storing and managing content, or X data,” said Sallam. “What we haven’t done is a great job at using that pervasively across the organization.”

By 2025, AI for video, audio, vibration, text, emotion and other content analytics will trigger significant innovations and transformations at more than three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies, according to Gartner. 

Some examples of these data points include analyzing video and audio data for supply chain optimization, predictive maintenance traffic management or inventory optimization. 

Metadata is the new black

Richness in data leads to challenges in its management. The ability to analyze data across silos through machine learning is at the center of an architectural concept called data fabric, where business use continuous analytics over existing, discoverable and inferred metadata assets.

By 2023, organizations utilizing active metadata, machine learning and data fabrics to dynamically connect and automate data management processes will reduce their time to data delivery, and impact on value by 30%, Gartner expects.

The strategy will let businesses rapidly plug in new types of data regardless of where it sits and how it is formatted, in order to support new types of analytics, said Sallam.

Cloud is a given

Prior to the pandemic, the trend was already clear: there was a significant acceleration of organizations moving their data management, analytics, machine learning and AI workloads to the cloud. 

Expect this to continue and accelerate, with cloud-based AI increasing fivefold by 2023, Sallam said. This spike would make AI one of the top workloads in the cloud.

“Public cloud services make it possible for us to do lots of innovation rapidly,” said Sallam. It’s led many leaders to move to the cloud in search of a more agile AI strategy that accelerates change.

Data and analytics worlds collide

Convergence lies ahead for analytics and business intelligence platforms, with many vendors adding on-board data management capabilities, from data preparation to data cataloging and data profiling.

Platforms will aim to “enable end-to-end flows within single platforms,” and making these tools accessible “to less skilled users,” said Sallam.

By 2022, Gartner expects 40% of machine learning model development scoring will be done in products that don’t have machine learning as their primary goal.

Data marketplaces/exchanges

If data has long been “the new oil,” then organizations searching for additional revenue streams will look to break out the drills and monetize what they own.

The robustness of data-sharing capabilities will rise in importance. In the next two years, more than one-third of large organizations will be either selling or buying data via online marketplaces, Gartner projects. 

The prediction marks an increase from current corporate presence in data marketplaces. Just one-quarter of companies currently buy or sell data through such marketplaces as of 2020. 

Practical blockchain (for data and analytics)

Blockchain shouldn’t become a science project within the company’s tech stack. An ideal blockchain deployment should aim to find an adequate fit between the use case and the technology’s capabilities.

Successful initiatives let business outcomes drive deployment, with payment settlements and providence asset tracking as examples, said Sallam.

By 2023, Gartner projects companies using blockchain smart contracts will increase overall data quality by 50%, but reduce data availability by 30%, “conversely creating positive data and analytics ROI.”

Relationships form the foundation of data and analytics value

Organizations need to efficiently relate multiple data sets, such as people, places, things or locations. 

“And that often impacts performance, Sallam said. “The more tables we join together, the more the more complex data, we see performance degrade.”

But graph modeling techniques allow brands to establish relations between products people are more likely to buy alongside another item. Graph analytics will facilitate rapid contextualization for decision making in 30% of organizations worldwide by 2023.

US Chamber, universities sue Trump administration over revised H-1B rules

Dive Brief:

  • Several business groups and universities sued the Trump administration this month, challenging updated regulations that restrict immigration through the H-1B visa, which-allows highly skilled international workers to work for U.S. employers.
  • Among those behind one of the lawsuits are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation. It also includes a number of universities, including Stanford University, Cornell University, the University of Rochester, University of Southern California and University of Utah. Plaintiffs in the other lawsuit include medical and dental organizations and another group of universities, including Purdue University, Indiana University and University of Michigan.
  • “Despite their massive impact, defendants promulgated these rules without the notice-and-comment rulemaking required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA),” the Chamber of Commerce complaint said. “Because defendants have no ‘good cause’ to dispense with the APA’s most fundamental protection for the regulated public, the Court should swiftly set these rules aside.”

Dive Insight:

Throughout the Trump presidency, employers have expressed frustration with the administration’s stance on immigration, particularly the H-1B visa, which is widely used in the business world, particularly in the tech community. 

“Any Fortune 500 company absolutely has immigrant workers, and has H-1B workers, so I think not too many industries are untouched by this,” said Roger Tsai, a partner at Holland & Hart.

The regulations being challenged by these lawsuits came from two different federal agencies: the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security.

DOL’s regulations increased the wage scale for H-1B holders significantly, by 30%-60%, according to an analysis by Tsai.

Additionally, DHS released an interim final rule that narrowed the degree requirements for H-1B holders to work in certain jobs, such that a math major would not qualify for a data science position, or an electrical engineering major might not qualify for a programming job. It also attempts to limit the terms of contractors hired through the H-1B program from three years to one.

Normally, the procedure to pass new regulations like these includes periods for public comment before an interim final rule is released, according to Tsai and Liz Espín Stern, a partner at Mayer Brown and head of its global mobility and migration practice.

“Suddenly, you’ve got the Department of Labor saying H-1B workers must be paid [more], because our own system, which we’ve been using, is obviously wrong,” Stern said. “It just has a gaping hole as to the rationale behind any change in the rule, and it definitely doesn’t address the timing,” she said.

Tsai and Stern said they do not expect these regulations to hold up, particularly given the expedited timing with which the administration approached them.

“I think most immigration attorneys expect that there will be a reversal of such policies, either through the election, or through federal court injunction, I would anticipate, over the next two to four months,” said Tsai.

Still, employers in many industries are affected, including those who may be filing for renewal of their H-1B this year.

If someone moved from one location to another, there’s a requirement for an amended filing almost inevitably,” said Stern. “In that moment, that amended filing for somebody who simply just moved because they were working virtually […] can trigger the need for filing and suddenly their salary must be a completely different level.”

The administration’s latest regulations, along with its previous efforts to curb immigration, has driven employers to look to other countries, as well as delay filings and keep job openings vacant for longer periods of time as they’re forced to navigate uncertainty in workforce planning, according to Tsai and Stern.

“I think there is absolutely no question that all of these industries are already, first of all, taking on the fight to prevent this from becoming a reality and yet, at the same time, anticipating that there’s some vulnerability,” Stern said, with respect to future workforce needs.

Leveraging low-code capabilities for digital transformation success

Digital transformation has been become increasingly apparent in all aspects of society at large in the last six months, business included. In both their personal and professional lives, people have relied on new and innovative technology solutions to support the processes they rely on day-to-day – whether that be replacing in-person get togethers with video conferences, trips to grocery stores with home-delivery services, or in-classroom courses with virtual learning opportunities. 

Businesses, too, have relied on technology to overcome massive hurdles to their operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It didn’t take long for executives to realize that embracing digital transformation is the key to surviving the downturn. For many leaders, however, achieving this is easier said than done. That explains why, in a recent study by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services and sponsored by Quick Base, less than 22% of business and IT leaders surveyed were willing to rate their current digital transformation efforts as “very effective”. 

When asked what primary factors were at play when digital transformation fell short of an organization’s goals, over 400 executives identified the following as strategic and cultural gaps that undermined their projects’ success: 

  • 45% of respondents attributed it to “an organizational culture that doesn’t easily adapt to changing business conditions.” 

  • 21% of respondents said, “backlogs in the IT or operations departments for creating new or updating business processes.” 

  • 25% listed “an organizational culture that doesn’t foster innovation.” 

The good news is that these challenges are not insurmountable, and with a proper strategy in place, companies can avoid these pitfalls and achieve true digital transformation success

Enter Dual-Track Transformation 

When looking for sustainable solutions that can allow your business to weather disruption, identifying digital transformation as the “what?” is the first step, but the next step (the one that leaders struggle with most) is figuring out how to get there. 

A dual-track digital transformation strategy answers the “how” question and addresses the issues that commonly cause transformation efforts to fall short. As the name suggests, a dual-track approach combines two forms of digital transformation initiatives: innovation at both the enterprise scale and the business-process level. 

Activating this second track, known as rapid-cycle innovation at the business-process level, accounts for any strategy and cultural gaps that often result from a traditional approach that only focuses on enterprise-wide efforts. 

Business and IT leaders across industries have found that low-code platforms like Quick Base target specific pain points that hold back their transformation efforts by allowing traditionally overlooked but essential-to-business processes to undergo rapid-cycle innovation. 

Low-code Unleashes Rapid-Cycle Innovation 

Low-code application development allows for a quick turn-around time from ideation all the way through implementation. This eliminates the budget and resource strain of traditional software development techniques, allowing for teams to pursue quick-wins that boost efficiency and deliver real business value while longer term enterprise-wide initiatives are still in the works. 

Better yet, low-code applications are designed to be iterative and can be easily modified to scale with your business and adapt to support your company’s unique and changing needs. This means that the progress you make at the business-process level will last as new technologies emerge and processes evolve. 

Citizen Development Enables IT Where They’re Needed Most 

IT departments face the unique challenge of implementing grand-scale digital transformation initiatives across the enterprise while also supporting the technological needs of individuals and teams in the business. With the added stress of many IT teams now having to support a fully remote workforce, saying that IT has a lot on their plate is nothing short of an understatement. 

IT departments struggling with maxed-out bandwidth have identified Citizen Development with low-code as a tool to help lighten their load. By allowing people in the business to build application solutions to solve the issues they face day-to-day, IT can offload non-priority tasks and put the opportunity for innovation in the hands of those closest to the actual work. And with robust administrative and governance tools, IT can still have the oversight to ensure that application development adheres to company policy and any industry compliance standards without having to get deep in the weeds of each specific project. 

Raising Employee Capabilities to Foster a Culture of Innovation 

Most enterprise-wide transformation efforts aim to influence the culture of an entire organization but are often met with resistance from employees who are hesitant to change the way they work. Citizen Development, however, turns this on its head – allowing change to start from the bottom up. 

Buy-in from leadership at the top where resources are provided is crucial but ensuring that people in the business are supportive of the change is what makes organization-wide cultural change happen naturally, and stick. It is truly the people within and on the frontlines of your company who can make-or-break your digital transformation. Getting everyone on board can not only accelerate transformation, but also align teams across departments to focus on business goals. 

The Benefits of Low-Code on Your Digital Transformation Strategy 

When asked about the primary benefit of using low-code application development to support distributed innovation, IT leaders and CIOs ranked the following: 

  • 44% reported “[delivering] business applications more quickly than with traditional development processes” as a primary benefit.  

  • 20% said that it “let professional developers within IT focus on complex applications that require their expertise.”  

  • 52% also said that it “[encourages] business professionals and business-process managers to be more involved in innovation and idea generation.”  

In a world where companies can’t afford to let their digital transformation efforts fall short, it’s no surprise that so many business and IT leaders are turning to low-code as a solution. 

Hyperautomation set to clear tasks off managers’ desks in future of work

Dive Brief:

  • Automation is reshaping and replacing manager duties, said Gavin Tay, VP analyst at Gartner, speaking at Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas Tuesday. Bosses will be able to oversee larger sets of humans as more tasks are taken off the desk.
  • Two critical sets of tasks will continue to require human intervention: strategy setting, which requires creative skills; and advanced team management tasks, which require social skills. “Pretty much everything else can be replaced with existing technology,” said Tay.
  • Companies leaning on “robobosses” will be twice as likely to be listed as top-performing when compared to companies that haven’t deployed them over the next three years, Gartner predicts.

Dive Insight:

Automation has stretched throughout the office landscape, reaching more processes as the technology evolves and adoption grows. The next target: clerical work clogging up bosses’ schedules.

The technology proved its worth in the pandemic, helping organizations react and adapt. It assisted companies overwhelmed by peaks in customer service, eased the friction in the remote onboarding process and supported remote IT help desk duties for staffers strained by the lack of co-location.  

As adoption grows, the technology will impact what company structure looks like. The scope of middle management will shrink, adding oversight of digital workers to the job description, according to Forrester.

But the existence of robobosses isn’t new. It already shapes how ride-hailing companies allocate their drivers within a geographic area, using an algorithm to be able to keep up with demand, Tay said.

Unilever deployed an automated training program for new entries, saving 50,000 hours of candidate time. Virgin Atlantic Airline also used algorithmic “bosses” to ensure that pilots use the right amounts of fuel during take-off and landing. “That saved them $3.3 million worth of fuel,” said Tay.

It’s an acceleration of a trend already underway prior to COVID-19. In January, Gartner found 69% of what managers currently do can be replaced by existing technology, and will be completely automated by 2024. 

Facing a reworked to-do list, “managers will be able to manage many more people and more complex business strategies as they will now have more capacity,” Tay said.

Digital business technology platforms: The all-in-one solution for company needs

Business leaders can now sense, decide, and act on companywide needs in a one-stop-shop for management through the development of a digital business technology platform. 

Nearly two-third of companies surveyed by Gartner in a forthcoming report accelerated digital business efforts to fuel modernization of existing systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Bill Swanton, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, during a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas session Tuesday.

“We only saw 9% of the companies saying that they cut back or were not executing because of COVID-19. So overall, digital business is thought to be a very important part of how companies are dealing with new issues in the world,” Swanton said. 

A digital business technology platform combines the needs of stakeholders across the enterprise — customers, partners,operational technology and employees — to provide a central hub for conducting business. Rather than replacing existing IT systems, it unites capabilities across customer engagement, ecosystems, internet of things, information systems, and data analytics platforms.  

“Those are all big platforms that were major investments, sometimes made over decades. You’re not going to get rid of them, and you’re not going to change them to work on some new digital platform,” Swanton said. 

Instead, a digital business platform is “going to integrate and orchestrate capabilities. You’re going to use all the capabilities you already have in these existing systems and you’re going to string them together in a new way to create your digital business,” said Swanton. 

But a digital business platform can’t be bought, according to Swanton. It must be built and modified to accommodate individual company needs. 

“There’s some assembly required … you’re basically going to have to think about, ‘I got to build this myself,'” Swanton said. 

Budgeting and setting goals

Business growth, efficiency and cost optimization, and market expansion targets lead companies to consider taking the plunge to invest in building a digital platform. 

Overhauling business management, however, isn’t cheap. Large and global enterprises surveyed reported spending several million dollars in their 2020 fiscal year to establish a digital business technology platform, according to the Gartner survey.

For respondents to the survey, the investment largely paid off. Digital teams are meeting or beating the goals set out at the beginning of the process to prove integrating platforms is worth the sticker shock, according to Swanton.

“You need to have set those clear expectations, because you’re going to be looking for a multiyear budget here,” Swanton said.

Establishing the team

Investing in the organizational structure around the digital business technology platform is key to making the most of what is sometimes a multimillion dollar investment. 

Scaling the digital team to build the platform requires board-level investments into the project, new tech skills, and strong product management, according to Swanton. While 45% of respondents built the digital team to report to the CIO, some organizations created federated digital teams or shifted IT to report to a newly created digital business unit, according to the survey.

With an understanding of how the digital business team will fit into the larger organizational structure, companies must also arrange the right team to handle building challenges. Businesses will have to either reskill existing teams or hire entry level employees to upskill, Swanton said. 

Building the platform

Once budget, goals and teams are in place, companies can finally begin building the digital platform to support business needs.

Respondents agreed large cloud vendors dominate the initial build because of the ability to scale, the open source nature of the tech, and the option to incrementally invest, according to Swanton. 

“It’s primarily a platform as a service approach that people are using and a lot of that is because they realized they need to scale what they were doing,” Swanton said. “They realized that it’s going to be hard if they tried to do something on premise.”

Companies seeing the most luck with digital business platforms weren’t afraid to invest in advanced architectural approaches and development. 

The more new tech acquired, the more success organizations realized, according to Swanton. Common traits of successful platforms included DevOps, API management, IoT, hybrid integration, and streaming data.

8 tips for leading with intention from a Morgan Stanley exec

Millennials and members of Generation Z join the workforce seeking transparency, inclusivity and feedback from leadership. 

Intentional leaders provide a sense of stability for employees at a time when companies are ushering in new generations and managing during a crisis, according to Carla Harris, vice chairman of wealth management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley, at a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas keynote on Wednesday.

For old-school execs, effective management of the next generation relies on crafting an intentional leadership style to build relationships in the workplace.

“If you are a boomer like me or an older [Generation] X-er, you certainly didn’t get a lot of feedback along your career journey,” Harris said. “You were definitely told, ‘keep your head down, work really hard, and if you don’t get fired you know you’re doing okay.’ That kind of leadership will never do in today’s environment.”

Harris outlined eight “pearls” of becoming an intentional leader, but with a qualifier  it relies on a foundation of fearlessness. “The strand that holds all of these pearls together is courage,” said Harris. Each step of her guide toward intentional leadership depends on that base — and an expectation to win.

1. Bring your authentic self to work

Masking the unique qualities you bring to the workplace undermines the value proposition a company saw in you at time of hire, Harris said. Showing visibility, transparency and empathy demonstrates to employees the humanity behind a leader to strengthen the relationship. 

Because of the uncertainty following crisis, fostering authentic connections establishes trust. 

“When you bring your authentic self into the environment, people trust you, and trust is at the heart of any successful relationship,” according to Harris. 

2. Build trust

With authenticity on your side, building trust helps leaders bring new ideas to the table as confidence in your abilities grows among the team, Harris said. 

Trust relies on following through and consistently delivering. This generates “currency” to be reinvested into the relationship to build a strong connection, according to Harris. To show customers and colleagues the team’s reliability, Harris offers them ways to help before ever asking for anything in return.  

3. Worry about creating clarity instead of about being wrong

The workforce doesn’t expect leadership to predict the future, but creating clarity about what success looks like provides employees with marked and measured goals. 

Even if a project changes direction, creating clarity along the way and adapting to the changing circumstances helps the team become more flexible to ultimately foster innovation, according to Harris. 

“Don’t worry about being wrong. If you start on the journey and you see that it is the wrong path, you simply take the learning of that destination where you stop and let it impact your next try,” Harris said. 

4. Develop leadership all around you

Good leaders know just because they can do all the work, doesn’t mean they should, Harris said. The journey to becoming a leader often involves being a powerful contributor to the team, but it’s time to leave that behind for others as you work your way through the ranks. 

“You should be disproportionately focused on creating other leaders because that is how you amplify your impact in the organization,” according to Harris.

5. Diversity doesn’t just happen

Diversity breeds innovation, Harris said. Bringing more voices to the table amplifies the spread of ideas and elevates what’s possible.

Intentionally creating diversity in the workforce brings together employees from different backgrounds to arrive at the innovative idea with the potential to grow your business, Harris said. 

6. Innovate — and reward failure

To teach teams how to innovate, leadership must first teach them how to fail, Harris said. Even when failure comes with negative consequences, a constructive and productive reaction encourages teams to keep trying. 

Teams uncomfortable with failure will never reach far enough to truly innovate, according to Harris. 

7. Include everybody in the conversation

Admit you’re not the smartest person in the room and solicit colleagues by name to join the conversation, Harris said. Including everyone in the conversation helps each employee feel seen and heard as valuable members of the team invested in the project. 

8. Your voice is your power

Powerful, impactful leaders exercise their voices, Harris said. Willingness to call out what’s wrong and praise what’s going well builds trust among the team, especially when times may be tough for the company. 

“When you submerge your voice, that’s when you become irrelevant,” said Harris.

Gartner’s predictions show CIOs’ expanding responsibility — and authority

The CIO role that emerges from the pandemic will look different than in years past. CIOs reporting directly to the CEO will become the norm, as tech executives lead companies through supply chain, IT and compliance challenges. 

The shift in the executive’s profile stems from changes in how businesses view technology within the organization, according to Daryl Plummer, distinguished research VP and Gartner Fellow, who released the analyst firm’s top predictions for the next five years during the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Wednesday. 

Trends forecast by Gartner range from IT infrastructure to C-suite dynamics and bleeding edge technology trials.

“We live in a world where things are always on the change,” said Plummer. “What we have to do is be able to keep up, not just with technology, but in the way we work, our processes, and in societal issues that we face every day.”

Here are five key Gartner predictions CIOs need to know: 

“By 2024, 25% of traditional large enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming ‘COO by proxy.'”

Technology is more central to business operations than ever, given the reliance on digital commerce led by customer behavior changes and accelerated by the pandemic. As technology shifts closer to the core, so will the CIO.

“The digital generation of above-the-line value has to be done through a real deep understanding and a fusion of technology and business goals,” Plummer said. It’s a challenge that leaves the CIO in an ideal position to help organizations execute on those goals.

CIOs will report more frequently to the CEO, taking a role closer to the line of business as they help companies differentiate products and services.

“They have to start figuring out how to close the gaps in the business between what technology can do, what the business can do, and what the business wants to be,” said Plummer. 

“By 2025, 75% of conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed, enabling the discovery of added organizational value or risk.”

In the aftermath of the remote work pivot, more of the daily workload takes place in digital platforms that record every single keystroke, attachment or sentence. When digital platforms replace in-person interactions, recording becomes is normalized.

In response, companies will begin to measure data from these recordings.

“The imperative for the CIO is to create a board of ethics to make sure that the data is used responsibly, that people’s privacy is not violated for no good reason, that in fact it’s used as an advantage for them, and they can opt out of things that they would rather opt out of,” Plummer said.

“By 2025, traditional computing technologies will hit a digital wall forcing the shift to new paradigms such as neuromorphic computing.”

With organizations needing more from their digital products and IT infrastructure, computer vision, artificial intelligence and speech recognition will “become pervasive,” according to Gartner. 

“Neuromorphic computing is an idea that says we need computers that act and think more like a human brain,” said Plummer.

Company reliance on these technologies to enable digital products will exhaust the strength of existing processors, accelerating adoption of bleeding-edge advanced computing architectures.

“By 2024, 30% of digital businesses will mandate DNA storage trials, addressing the exponential growth of data poised to overwhelm existing storage technology.”

Data currently means opportunity and risk for companies. The upside to holding treasure troves of customer data is empowering predictive analytics. The downside, as companies who’ve suffered breaches know too well, is the financial and legal implications of failing to protect personal information.

“We are collecting more information every year that we’ve ever collected before,” said Plummer.  That information is running into limitations on how long it can be stored.”

From a security and infrastructure standpoint, the long-term protection of data is a challenge enterprises must face. CIOs can lead organizations to experiment with technologies to solve for the shortcomings of traditional storage.

The firm envisions companies running data trials on a DNA storage mechanism that can save binary digital data in the double helix, encoding the digital zeros and ones into DNA strands.

“We’re talking about storing all of human knowledge in a small amount of synthetic DNA,” said Plummer. 

“By 2023, large organizations will increase employee retention by more than 20% through repurposing office space as onsite childcare and education facilities.”

Lack of access to tech workers threatens plans of expanded CIO oversight in the organization. Without technologists, IT organizations can’t build products that improve efficiency, maintain critical infrastructure or deliver additional revenue streams. 

With office space redefined by the pandemic, companies can leverage unused office space to support employees through on-site child care. Businesses will need to evaluate real estate holdings in order to identify office space that can be turned into childcare or educational space.

Benefits can lure tech workers looking for a change. Two-thirds of tech workers are entertaining the idea of relocating away from tech hubs as remote work becomes the norm, a Blind survey found.

Expedia aims for tech efficiency in long-term remote shift

Dive Brief:

  • To adapt to remote work long term, Expedia Group worked to make its team efficient regardless of location, “We’re not making [these changes] for the short term,” said Tom Bennett, director of technology at Expedia Group, speaking at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas Tuesday.
  • Expedia support teams spun up dedicated channels to provide in-the-moment updates, which saw “increased engagement and feedback compared to more standard communication channels such as email,” Bennett said.
  • As the company’s workforce shifted to remote, messaging volumes on Slack jumped 61% compared to the previous four week average, according to Bennett. Videoconference attendance spiked by 66%.

Dive Insight:

Following a quick sprint to remote work, businesses now grapple with sustaining work operations permanently while maintaining efficiency under a flexible model.

“We want people to be able to be as effective whether they’re at home, in the office, on the train or in a coffee shop. I think what the last six months have done is raise the priority of that,” Bennett said.

Organizations don’t have much of a choice, as remote work strategies —  alongside the tools that support it —  became a must for employees, particularly in the talent-constrained tech labor market. Half of workers say they won’t return to jobs that don’t allow them to work remotely after COVID-19, according to data from Owl Labs’ annual State of Remote Work Report

“I definitely can’t see us reverting any of those changes as things potentially return to normal over however many months it might be,” Bennett said. 

Remote work infrastructure comes under different pressure with organizations the size of Expedia, as tools must support more than 20,000 employees operating across 57 different countries. 

In the collaboration vendor market, Slack sees itself as a digital manifestation of the company headquarters. It’s “the place where your teams come together, your information comes together,”  said Brian Elliott, VP, Future Forum, Slack, speaking on the panel.

As companies cobble together permanent collaboration strategies, businesses are consolidating their stack in an effort to reduce app sprawl, making their workforce coalesce around a single platform. It’s a battle Slack wages with Microsoft Teams, a platform that can leverage its bundle-ability with the rest of Microsoft’s efficiency tools. 

SaaS titans dictate the future of apps. Where do small companies fit?

In full swing this year, the historical triggers of application innovation — economic and geopolitical disruption, market disruption, and technology advancement — accelerate software as a service (SaaS). 

“Digital dragons,” the household names and hyperscalers leading app development, join disruptors as the fourth trigger driving the next wave of tech. Small- and mid-sized SaaS companies should look at what those businesses have in common as they drive future strategy, according to Paul Saunders, senior director analyst at Gartner, during a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas session Monday. 

Digital dragons include companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google, which change what organizations previously thought possible in the digital space. The innovation spurred by those companies advance and influence how people work, business capabilities, scalability, and elasticity across the application market, according to Saunders. 

While each business brings a new value proposition to the market, each also relies on a common set of characteristics. Powerful ecosystems with a mastery of data, strong digital talent, and massive research and development investments fuel digital dragon offerings throughout the supply chain in principles beyond tech, said Saunders. 

Instead of just looking in awe or intimidation at what these companies are capable of, small- and mid-sized SaaS brands can learn lessons to generate similar success. CIOs and IT leaders studying and implementing digital dragons in their strategies enable themselves as competitors, according to Saunders. 

Digital dragons help smaller businesses deliver software without delay. “The elastic delivery is where the digital dragons really come in. They enable you to deliver. We don’t have to think about it’s going to take me 12 weeks to get a server stood up, you can commission infrastructure at the drop of a hat,” Saunders said. 

Learning from digital dragons stretches beyond tech implementation. Understanding how SaaS companies changed the application landscape provides insight into strategic fixes that companies can make in the coming year. 

Saunders calls this a sense of humble disrespect. This means “looking at yourself, your organization, your industry, your competitors, and saying, ‘is there a way that we can do things better?'” Saunders said. 

Digital dragons drive success through a laundry list of habits, including: 

  • Strong vision

  • Minimum viable management

  • Making people a top priority

  • Long-term focus

  • Prioritizing innovation. 

For small and mid-sized companies, many of these tenets are ultimately centered around employee management. 

The technology should be there to enable the people, not replace them, according to Saunders. Instead of pushing people away when things get challenging, management should clear obstacles to enable the workforce to move forward. 

Meanwhile, customers now demand a digital experience. “For those of us who’ve been fortunate to survive so far through this pandemic, and the businesses surviving, what we have realized and what we’re seeing here at Gartner is customers saying digital it’s not an option, it’s a must,” Saunders said. 

Brute force and determination won’t be enough to keep small and mid-sized SaaS companies afloat in the coming year, according to Saunders. Customers and leadership now expect the agility and speed offered by digital dragons at companies of all sizes.

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