Everyone can think of at least one well-known brand that went bankrupt recently because it severely underestimated the impact of digital on its business. Given the speed with which technology trends emerge and grow, it can be hard to differentiate between those that present real opportunities and those that could pose risks. Each technology trend can have different kinds of potential impact: broad and global, or narrow and niche.
Trends don’t act in isolation. Established digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, combine to generate new trends that create an exponentially bigger impact.
It’s easy to be seduced by overhyped trends, but not all trends are equal and not all will apply
For example, data generated from IoT is feeding advanced analytics and machine learning. This is producing more intelligent applications and agents that can suggest the best response in a given situation. The combined effect of all three has resulted in the digital twin, a digital representation of a real-world entity or system, which may not prove to be relevant across all modern enterprises. This is where approaching these trends in a comprehensive, “big picture” manner comes into play.
“It’s easy to be seduced by overhyped trends, but not all trends are equal and not all will apply to your organization or industry,” says Samantha Searle, Principal Analyst at Gartner. “The question then becomes, ‘How can we tell which technology trends will evolve to cause significant disruption or create new opportunities for our specific organization?’"
Trendspotting digital technologies: 3 criteria
Three key factors will ultimately enable you to identify the potential impact of a particular technology trend on people, business, IT and the technology market:
- New value. Identify clear business opportunities that this technology trend could help exploit or challenges that it could help solve to produce better business outcomes.
- Level of digital disruption. Decide whether adopting this trend would mean changing your organization's business model or inventing a new one. Could this new trend replace existing technologies or ways of doing business? How could this trend disrupt the technology market? Although there will probably be opportunities for new providers, new trends can disrupt the services and performance of existing providers on which your organization may rely.
- Type of impact. Investigate whether the trend's impact will be felt only within your organization, or whether it will have an external impact on your organization. Investigate whether the trend's impact will be felt only within your organization, or whether it will have an external impact on your organization.
Technology trends can also differ in the global reach of their impact. A trend may affect one or more countries, or may have a big impact on an entire region. The size of a trend's impact will depend on the social, cultural, geopolitical and economic factors in a particular country or region.
Eventually, a trend becomes more mainstream and gains a stronger social and cultural response
“Keep in mind that a trend may directly or indirectly impact the interactions between people, businesses, IT departments or technology markets, and the tasks and operations they perform," says Searle. "Virtual reality, augmented reality and virtual personal assistants (VPAs), such as Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa, are trends that have had a direct impact. This is because these trends have changed the way we interact with devices and businesses."
“Cloud computing and mobile technology trends have also had a huge, direct impact on businesses, IT departments and the technology market. They have forced a complete overhaul of application strategy, which now bases applications on software as a service (SaaS) and extends them onto mobile devices via apps,” Searle says.
Consider the degree of maturity of a technology trend
There are multiple factors that influence an organization’s ability to respond to a particular technology trend and the technologies that relate to it, including cost, regulation and privacy considerations, usability and societal response. The extent to which these factors affect an organization’s response to a technology trend varies according to trend maturity.
For example, emerging technology trends carry much higher risk, security and privacy concerns. As a trend grows, factors such as cost and risk decrease in importance, while other factors, such as implementation activity and usability, increase.
“Eventually, a trend becomes more mainstream and gains a stronger social and cultural response, while increasing adoption means authorities need to provide more regulation relating to the trend,” says Searle.
Next steps after identifying tech trends to watch
When responding to a technology trend that appears on their trendspotting watchlist, you can do the following:
- Ignore the trend, as it is unlikely to be relevant to your organization’s business model and strategy.
- Monitor the trend periodically to see if its potential impact or maturity has changed. In addition, you can explore potential impacts and applicability into modernization and innovation efforts on a continued basis.
- Mitigate the impact of the trend, or prepare but prepare for how it might negatively affect your business and industry even if you decide not to adopt it.
- Adopt the trend and apply it in business, actively factoring it into projects given its potential and business value.
- Leverage the trend to reinvent the business model because it has a very clear relevance to concrete and current business needs and opportunities that could deliver significant competitive advantage and enable your organization to be the disruptor, not the disrupted.
Spotting technology trends before the hype and understanding their nature from the organization’s perspective before responding to them is crucial.
This article has been updated from the original, published on December 1, 2017, to reflect new events, conditions or research.