The most important digital and technology trends for CxOs globally

24 May 2016 7 min. read

Rapid technological advancements have in recent years sparked a wave of innovation, forming – across the dimensions of cultural-socio, economic and political – a number of megatrends, from the growing middle class and the Internet of Things to quantum computing. For business too, digitisation is, on the back of a convergence of several technologies, radically reshaping the very nature of business, challenging or even disrupting established strategies or operating models. Going forward, the speed with which technology will impact lives and business is set to further accelerate, implying that CxOs will increasingly have to come to grips with digital and technology trends.

The rate at which innovation is taking place, facilitated by a variety of new technological groundwork on which new innovations are able to be propagated, has been increasing over the past decades. For example, the innovation lead time to attain a modest 50 million users has increased markedly since the 1970s. The humble mobile phone took 18 years to reach the 50 million mark, while the internet took a surprising 12 years. Smartphones took a mere 8 years to reach the landmark, while social networks enjoyed a lead time of merely 3.5 years. Apps, facilitated by smartphones, took less than a year (0.4 years) to reach 50 million users.

The pace of change is having a major impact on corporate landscapes – more than half of the Fortune 500 companies that made the list in 2000 have since ceased to exist, with many analysts believing that in the next 10 years up to 80% of Fortune 1000 corporations may be replaced.

Innovation lead time

To stay ahead of the game, executives are finding themselves in a heated battle to understand the digital forces that are coming at them, as well as the threats and opportunities accompanying them, and subsequently use that information to define and execute winning strategies. To help CxO’s develop insight in such technological mega trends, Atos annually conducts in-depth research into the landscape, and provides analysis of the key emerging trends, business needs and technologies that are forecasted to drive innovation. The analysis is based on an assessment of three factors: the time of impact (2016 to 2019+), the business impact (from low to transformational) and the maturity of technologies (from emerging to mainstream).

This years’ edition (‘Look Out: Trends 2016+ – Digital’) suggests that when it comes to technology trends, some of the most transformational technologies to affect the business environment are already becoming mainstream. These include Omnichannel, through which customers are served across digital and physical channels, and Industry 4.0, in which horizontal and vertical value chains are integrated through digital means. According to a recent study by Strategy&, Industry 4.0 will add a forecasted $493 billion in revenue gains per annum over the coming five year period. “Industry 4.0 is a melting pot that combines the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced Big Data analytics, new generations of human-machine interfaces and reliable layers of ubiquitous connectivity. It helps organisations manage the flood of information from smart machines, connected workers and the products themselves,” write the authors. 

Servitization – a concept which describes the adoption of ‘as a service’ business models, is regarded as a technology that still finds itself in the early adopter phase, while Personalisation, in which customers are better understood through leveraging the cloud and the Internet of Things, is seen as being in its adolescence.

Top 20 technology trends

High impact trends which are in early adoption include Horizon Scanning, which allows organisations to systematically and continuously analyse evidence about future trends, emphasizing new technology and its effects. Other high impact - early adoption trends are Bi-Modal Business digitalisation models, where legacy systems are seamlessly operated next to emerging improvements, and the Economy of Data, where new business models are created using data and analytics, not simply for reselling data, but for creating completely new market offerings.

Medium impact trends include Cybersecurity Techniques, DevOps and Analytics for Social, in the short term, and Cyber-Physical Systems, an API Economy and Protecting Digital Property, as arising in the long term. Trends with the lowest impact include Amplified Intelligence (augmenting machine generated data-driven insights with the human intelligence) and Neurobusiness, the art of leveraging neuroscience capabilities to improve business decisions and interaction.

Top 20 technologies impacting CxO agendas
Building on the top 20 technology-driven trends, the authors further consider the most important technologies that are set to affect business- and operating models in the coming decades. The most transformational technologies, which could radically reshape human society by, for instance, reducing the need for workers, are typically connected with computer intelligence and industrial processes. In the short term Deep Learning, which recently saw a computer beat one of the best Go players in the world, and Insight Platforms, which combines big data and analytics through a focus on behavioural analysis to better understand process and users, are set to be transformative.

3D printing, a market which according to Bain is set to reach $12.5 billion by 2018, and the Internet of Everything, which would see most things connected through interfaces to the internet, is set to be transformative for a range of industries and relationships in general. Longer term transformational trends include Brain-to-Computer Interfaces, Autonomous Vehicles, Cognitive Computing, Advanced Robotics and Smart Machines, all of which may deeply transform the relationship between work and society. 

Top 20 technologies impacting CxO agenda’s

High impact technology trends, in the short term, include Cloud Based Service Integration, Web-Scale Computing and Blockchain, with the latter in particular earmarked to disrupt the payments industry within the financial services space. Longer term trends include Self-adaptive Security, which moves emphasis from protection to real-time detection and response that adapts defences immediately; Quantum Computing, which leverages the q-bit; and Biocomputing, which uses biological material to perform computations. Other technologies, with medium and low impacts for business include Open Source Hardware; Digital Workspaces, including asynchronous messaging, real-time voice and video communications, Screen Shares; and Trusted Devices, which provide terminals and software powered objects and machines that are made secure and trustworthy in order to protect data and process availability, integrity and confidentiality.

Other technological advancements highlighted by the authors as a top 20 trend include: NFC, Biometrics, Digital Signage, Cloud Service Integration, In-Memory Computing, Advanced Data Visualization, IPv6, Open Source Hardware, Web-scale Computing, LPWAN, Trusted Devices, Edge Computing, Semantic Technologies, Natural User Interfaces, Wearable Computing, Location-Based Services NG, Immersive Experience, SDx, Containers, WebRTC, Distributed Social Networks, 5G, Swarm Computing, Autonomous Vehicles, Memristors, Ubiquitous PIM, Wireless Power, Context Broker, Fabric-Based Computing, Exascale, Virtual Assistants, Privacy-Enhancing Technologies.