Digital investments, be they in AI, cloud, security, or engineering, will be among the top technology drivers for 2022, according to Gartner’s annual forecast of what it expects will be leading strategic IT trends.
“It is an overarching drive for organisations to do more with and scale the digital environments they have been rapidly developing during the pandemic,” said David Groombridge, research vice president at Gartner.
“Most of these trends define technologies that together show how businesses will reconnect with partners and consumers to create scalable, resilient technical foundations for the future.” Gartner unwrapped its forecast at its virtual IT Symposium/Xpo Americas this week.
Office-centric networks will give way to distributed enterprises
The first of those trends is the growth of the distributed enterprise. Driven by the massive growth in remote and hybrid working patterns, traditional office-centric organisations are evolving into geographically distributed enterprises.
“For every organisation, from retail to education, their delivery model has to be reconfigured to embrace distributed services,” Groombridge said. Such operations will stress the network that supports users and consumers alike, and businesses will need to rearchitect and redesign to handle it.
In the end, Gartner expects that by 2023, 75 per cent of organisations that exploit the benefits of distributed enterprises will realise revenue growth 25 per cent faster than competitors.
Network tweaks to unleash data
Hand-in-hand with that will be the increased use of data fabrics that integrate data across cloud and non-cloud platforms no matter where they are located.
“Data is widely scattered in many organisation and some of that valuable data can be trapped in siloes,” Groombridge said. “Data fabrics can provide integration and interconnectivity between multiple silos to unlock those resources.”
Groombridge added that data-fabric deployments will also force significant network-topology readjustments and in some cases, to work effectively, could require their own edge-networking capabilities.
The result is that the fabric will unlock data that can be used by AI and analytics platforms to support new applications bring about business innovations more quickly, Groombridge said.
“If data is the new oil, then a data fabric’s real value is its ability to dynamically improve data usage with its inbuilt analytics, cutting data management efforts by up to 70 per cent,” Groombridge said.
Cutting the costs of security incidents
Protecting this distributed data fabric will be the job of Gartner’s third big trend: the use of an overarching cyber security mesh architecture (CSMA) that will let distributed enterprises deploy and extend security where it’s most needed. “Today, assets and users can be anywhere, meaning the traditional security perimeter is gone,” Groombridge said.
CSMA is a composable approach that will bring integrated tools with common interfaces and APIs into the security process as needed. It will also provide centralised management, analytics, and intelligence about what is going on across the enterprise, and push out policies to users and services being accessed, Groombridge said.
CSMA helps provide an integrated structure to secure all assets, regardless of location. By 2024, organisations adopting CSMA will reduce the financial impact of individual security incidents by an average of 90 per cent, Groombridge said.
Autonomic systems for adapting to changing environments
As enterprises spread out and adopt new security tactics, Gartner also looked at the technologies that will affect that evolution. Autonomic systems that can modify their own algorithms without an external software updates will let businesses rapidly adapt to new conditions in the field, Gartner says.
“Autonomic behaviour has already made itself known through recent deployments in complex security environments but in the longer term will become common in physical systems such as robots, drones, manufacturing machines, and smart spaces,” Groombridge said.
Autonomic systems can learn new tasks and react quickly to provide solution for large-scale management, Groombridge said.
The concept of hyper-automation has been on Gartner’s hot-trends list for a few years, but it is a technology that has grown rapidly, driven in part by pandemic requirements, Groombridge said. Hyper-automation systems can rapidly identify, vet and automate multiple processes.
Gartner says hyper-automation involves the combination of multiple machine learning (ML), packaged-software, and automation tools.
“Gartner research shows that the top-performing hyper-automation teams focus on three key priorities: improving the quality of work, speeding up business processes, and enhancing the agility of decision-making,” said Groombridge. “Business technologists supported an average of 4.2 automation initiatives in the past year, too.”
AI on the rise
Related to autonomic and hyper-automation growth will be the increased use of AI and in particular, generative AI -- machine learning methods that learn about content or objects from their data, and use it to generate brand-new, completely original content, Groombridge said.
Generative AI can be used for a range of activities such as creating software code, facilitating drug development, and targeting marketing. It could also be misused for scams, fraud, political disinformation, and forged identities. By 2025, Gartner expects generative AI to account for 10 per cent of all data produced, up from less than one per cent today, Groombridge said.
AI engineers needed
As the use of AI grows so does the need for AI engineering, a discipline focused on the governance and life-cycle management of a wide range of operationalised AI and decision models, such as machine learning and knowledge graphs.
“For fusion teams working on AI, the real differentiator for their organisations will lie in their ability to continually enhance value through rapid AI change,” Groombridge said. “By 2025, the 10 per cent of enterprises that establish AI-engineering best practices will generate at least three times more value from their AI efforts than the 90 per cent of enterprises that do not.”
Other trends Gartner says will affect the IT environment in 2022 include cloud-native platforms (CNPs) and the notion of lifting and shifting legacy applications to cloud environments doesn’t really play well in the real world, Groombridge said.
Rather, a cloud native architecture rebuilds applications to produce highly automated cloud services that deliver digital capabilities everywhere and anywhere. CNPs use the core capabilities of cloud computing to provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities as a service to technology creators.
For this reason, Gartner predicts that cloud-native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95 per cent of new digital initiatives by 2025, up from less than 40 per cent in 2021.
Meanwhile, composable application architectures allow for the quick change or breakout from an existing app to another to address a particular business need. Composable application architecture enables this adaptability, and those that have adopted it will outpace competition by 80 per cent in the speed of implementing new features, Groombridge said.
According to Gartner, privacy-enhancing computation (PEC) techniques protect personal and sensitive information at the data, software, and hardware level, making it possible to securely share, pool, and analyse data without compromising confidentiality or privacy. Gartner said it expects 60 per cent of large organisations to use one or more PEC techniques by 2025.
Specific to decision intelligence, Gartner cites this as a discipline used to improve decision making by explicitly understanding and engineering how decisions are made, and how outcomes are evaluated, managed, and improved by feedback. Gartner predicts that in the next two years, a third of large organisations will use decision intelligence to improve competitive advantage.
Furthermore, total experience represents a business strategy that combines the disciplines of customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), user experience (UX) and multiexperience (MX). The goal of TX is to drive greater customer and employee confidence, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Organisations will increase revenue and profit by achieving adaptive and resilient TX business outcomes.
IT skills shortage still looms
While it wasn’t included in the top technology trends for 2022 list, another trend Gartner has written about recently could play a big role in 2022, and that is the IT skills shortage.
A recent Gartner report found IT executives see the shortage as the most significant barrier to adopting emerging technologies, including compute infrastructure and platform services, network, security, digital workplace, IT automation, storage, and database.
IT executives surveyed cited talent availability as the main adoption challenge for the majority of IT automation technologies (75 per cent) and nearly half of digital workplace technologies (41 per cent). A lack of available talent was cited far more often than other barriers this year, such as implementation cost (29 per cent) or security risk (seven per cent), according to Gartner.
“The talent shortage will be a challenge in rolling any of these advanced technologies out,” Groombridge said. “The reverse is that some of these technologies, such as AI, automation and how companies employ technology for hybrid workers will attract new workers as well.”
Even with the skills challenges, IT leaders have increased the adoption of emerging technologies to drive innovation as organisations begin to recover from the pandemic, Gartner says. Across all technology domains, 58 per cent of respondents reported either an increase or a plan to increase emerging technology investment in 2021, compared with 29 per cent in 2020, Gartner stated.
According to the survey, building resilience and improving critical IT infrastructure are top priorities among IT leaders in 2021, hence their prioritising cloud and security deployments.