Tech trends 2014: inspiring disruption

Tyson Ngubeni
By Tyson Ngubeni
Johannesburg, 20 Mar 2014
Organisations need strategies that are cognisant of the pace of technological change, says Deloitte global CTO Mark White.
Organisations need strategies that are cognisant of the pace of technological change, says Deloitte global CTO Mark White.

Deloitte SA today released its annual Technology Trends Report, which identifies technologies that could impact business in the next 12 to 24 months.

This year's report, titled "Inspiring disruption", splits the trends into two sections: the first five are "disruptors", which Deloitte says are opportunities that can create positive changes in IT capabilities.

The second five trends are seen as "enablers" - technologies in which many CIOs have already invested time and effort, but warrant another look because of new opportunities which exist.

Kamal Ramsingh, technology leader for Africa at Deloitte, says "at their core, these trends inspire disruption by having the potential to reshape organisations, business models, and even entire industries in South Africa and beyond.

"While some of these technologies might seem far-fetched for some, the reality is that the evolving competitive landscape means they can provide companies with a distinct business advantage," adds Ramsingh.

Mark White, Deloitte's global CTO, presented the report at a Johannesburg event. Explaining the rationale for including each trend, White said: "The trends identified in the report have to adhere to very strict criteria which include having to be business-led and technology-enabled, as well as have at least three real world instances of adoption."

Deloitte's trends


1. CIO as venture capitalist

Deloitte saysCIOs who want to help drive business growth and innovation need to develop a new mind set and new capabilities.

Like venture capitalists, CIOs should be able to manage their IT portfolio in a way that drives enterprise value while evaluating portfolio performance in terms of what business leaders understand - value, risk and time horizon as reward.

2. Cognitive analytics

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing have moved from experimental concepts to potential business disruptors, says Deloitte.

This disruption harnesses Internet speed, cloud scale and adaptive mastery of business processes to drive insights that aid real-time decision-making.

White says increased adoption of analytics could be important for a shift to cognitive analytics, which makes use of AI to sift through big data challenges. "For a long time, artificial intelligence has not been relevant to business, but in next 18 to 24 months it can play a role," he adds.

3. Industrialised crowdsourcing

Enterprise adoption of the power of the crowd allows specialised skills to be sourced from anyone, anywhere and only as needed.

Companies can use the collective knowledge of the Internet to help with things from data entry and coding, to advanced analytics and product development. White believes industrialised crowdsourcing could be attained quickly because of its potential cost-saving impact for businesses.

4. Digital engagement

Content and assets are increasingly digital, are consumed across multiple channels, including mobile, social and Web, as well as in retail outlets or other places of business.

Whether for customers, employees or business partners, digital engagement is about creating a consistent, compelling and contextual way of personalising and sometimes monetising the user's overall experience - especially as core products become augmented or replaced with digital intellectual property.

A shift in focus, from enhancing user experiences to ensuring users are empowered, could be the next goal arising from this trend, according to White.

5. Wearables

Wearable computing shows "tremendous" potential, says Deloitte, and could reshape how work is done, how decisions are made and how businesses engage with employees, customers and partners.

The technology breaks boundaries of previously prohibitive scenarios where safety, logistics or etiquette constrained the use of laptops or smartphones.

Deloitte expects business to drive acceptance of wearable technology and transformative use cases.


6. Technical debt reversal

Managing spending on technical by switching from older, legacy systems is necessary for IT to drive business innovation. This could address quality and architectural issues, says Deloitte.

According to Deloitte, legacy systems can constrain innovation because of an inability to scale, or be extensible to new usage scenarios such as mobile. Underlying performance and reliability issues may also put businesses at risk.

However, the report notes new systems can also incur 'technical debt' before launching, which means organisations should purposefully reverse their debt to support innovation and growth. The debt is the cost of the new system.

7. Social activation

Companies should focus on measuring the perception of their brand and then changing how people feel, share and evangelise.

This trend urges companies to activate their audience and drive their message outward - handing them an idea and getting them to advocate their own words to their own network.

White says social activation allows companies to not only listen, but ensure they respond to the "true sentiment" expressed by other people.

8. Cloud orchestration

While cloud adoption might be growing, the report says companies are increasingly connecting cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-core systems, bringing together distinct services for an end-to-end business process.

But tactical adoption of cloud is giving way to the need for a coordinated, orchestrated strategy built around business outcomes.

According to White, the orchestrated cloud is delivered through data-, service- and message-driven orchestration.

9. In-memory revolution

As in-memory technologies move from analytical to transactional systems, there is a potential for business processes to be reshaped.

Technical upgrades of analytics and enterprise resource planning engines may offer total cost of ownership improvements, but potential also lies in using in-memory technologies to solve new business problems.

CIOs could help businesses identify new opportunities and provide the platform for the resulting process transformation.

10. Real-time DevOps

Deloitte says IT organisations need to better respond to business needs with speed and agility.

IT could improve the quality of products and services by standardising and automating environment, build, release and configuration management.

This could be done using tools like deployment managers, virtualisation, continuous integration servers and automated build verification testing.