Strategic Directions

According to a recent Gartner report, “Top Strategic Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: The Future Is a Digital Thing”, the dramatic rise of smart machines and autonomous devices is driving radical shifts in business practices and individual behaviors. Enterprises and individuals face the urgent need to define and develop harmonious relationships between people and machines.

Gartner’s top predictions for 2016 and beyond continue to offer a look into the digital future, a world driven by algorithms and smart machines, where people and machines will need to define and develop harmonious relationships. These predictions help companies understand the radical changes they face in the digital world.

Those changes are coming fast. Gartner predicts, for example, that in 2016 spending on new Internet of things (IoT) hardware will exceed $2.5 million a minute. And, as mind boggling as that number is, it pales in comparison with the corresponding prediction that, by 2021, 1 million IoT devices will be purchased and installed every single hour. That level of density of deployment and use will present dramatic challenges to enterprises and IT organizations that need to manage and track IoT activities.

The changes that are coming extend far beyond the IoT. The increasingly smart, autonomous nature of machines means that we’re seeing the beginning of “robos” rising – the worldwide spread of autonomous hardware and software machines to assist human workers in practical scenarios.

Robowriters are now creating business content. Roboagents are conducting ever more critical economic transactions. And, robobosses are emerging that will eventually supervise significant portions of the workforce. The rise of robots is a serious challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to increase the use of smart machines to develop more effective work strategies.

The “robotrend,” the increasing practicality of artificial intelligence, and the fact that enterprises and consumers alike are now embracing the advancement of these technologies, is also driving the development of risky scenarios. The risk to human jobs when roboworkers enter the workforce in volume is obvious, but it’s balanced by the need for talent capable of developing smart systems and autonomous processes.

Companies like GE, GM and IBM see Silicon Valley talent as an inducement to move more of their operations to those locations. The future will belong to the companies that can create the most effective autonomous and smart software solutions. So in the near future, at least, jobs are more likely to be created than to be eliminated on a massive scale.

The real risks are less obvious. As digital capabilities are included in more and more systems, the ability of unscrupulous individuals – including software-based thieves – grows. Digital smart buildings are being attacked as more access to software systems means more control surfaces will become vulnerable.

Digital signage; heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and even lighting and environment controls are subject to attack, especially in industries where few policies for detecting and preventing hacks on these kinds of systems are in place. The savvy digital officer must now contend with risks that fall outside the normal assumptions of risk related to computing technologies.

Planning Assumptions

The Gartner report states that by:

  • 2018, 20% of all business content will be authored by machines.
  • 2018, 6 billion connected things will be requesting support.
  • 2020, autonomous software agents outside of human control will participate in 5% of all economic transactions.
  • 2018, more than 3 million workers globally will be supervised by a “roboboss.”
  • YE18, 20% of smart buildings will have suffered from digital vandalism.
  • 2018, 50% of the fastest-growing companies will have fewer employees than instances of smart machines.
  • YE18, customer digital assistants will recognize individuals by face and voice across channels and partners.
  • 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment.
  • 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions, and the post-app era will begin to dominate.

The Gartner report provides strategic predictions for each of these planning assumptions. To read the full report, you can register for free at this Gartner web page.