Watch Out: 7 Digital Disruptions for IT Leaders

Here are seven digital disruptions that you may not see coming.

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor

November 18, 2019

5 Min Read
Image: beeboys -

Be like Apple, not Kodak. Years ago, Kodak was the first to offer digital film. But instead of pursuing the market that would disrupt one it already commanded, Kodak opted to invest in its traditional business by buying a chemical company for its conventional film business. Other companies went on to market digital film. Then came digital cameras and mobile devices with cameras in them. Kodak chose the wrong path.

Apple went down the path of disrupting its own successful product, the iPod MP3 player, to develop and sell the iPhone. It turned out to be the right decision.

Gartner VP, analyst and chief fellow Daryl Plummer recounted these stories in the introduction to his keynote address titled 7 Digital Disruptions You Might Not See Coming at the Gartner IT Symposium recently. So how do you be Apple instead of Kodak?

"It's really about protecting yourself from what might happen to you," Plummer said. "Futureproofing yourself means that you are ready for the things that are coming, and even if you don't know what they are, you can adapt."

What disruptions may be coming down the pike that you aren't expecting? Plummer provided a peek into the following 7 digital disruptions that you may not see coming:

1. Emotional experiences

Inexpensive sensors can now track physical biometrics, and organizations are working on providing hyper-personalized digital experiences, according to Gartner. The firm is forecasting that by 2024, AI identification of emotions will influence more than half of the online ads that you see.

This trend will reach beyond marketing to consumers. It could also be used in HR applications and be applied to employee evaluations, for instance.

Gartner recommends that CIOs identify emotional trigger-based opportunities with employees and customers, add emotional states evaluation to 360 Review processes, and mitigate privacy concerns with opt-in for-pay emotion mining.

2. AI decency, trust, and ethics

How do we know that the decisions AI is making are fair when there are many examples of questionable results that exhibit bias? What about fake news and deep fakes? Plummer said that this trend will disrupt trust models, certification of developers, auditing rules, and societal norms for trust. Gartner is predicting that by 2023, a self-regulating association for oversight of AI and machine learning designers will be established in at least four of the G7 countries.

CIOs should prescribe principles that establish an AI trust framework for developers and users.

3. Distributed cloud

Plummer said that in its most basic form, this trend means that the responsibility for cloud will shift entirely to the provider. About 75% of private clouds won't work out in the long run because the DIY effort won't be as good as what is available in the public cloud. Openshift, Cloud Foundry, and Azure Stack are taking us along this path to distributed cloud.

The trend will disrupt private cloud, hybrid cloud, data location, and data residency.

CIOs should demand packaged hybrid services, identify latency-sensitive use cases, and request explanation of economics of cloud operations.

4. Democratization of space

While it cost 4% of the entire U.S. budget to put a man on the moon, putting a satellite into orbit now costs just $300,000, Plummer said. That has led to a low space orbit getting mighty crowded with hundreds of satellites. It also raises a host of new questions. What rules apply to data residency in space? What laws apply? What about crime in space? Countries and companies will be competing in space, and the cheaper it gets to launch a satellite, the more crowded it will become.

This trend will disrupt the economics of space-based systems, connectivity, and legal issues.

Technology providers will need to explore LEO (low earth orbit) connectivity options as space-based compute options become real.

5. Augmented humans

People will have technology such as chips and storage embedded in their bodies, and it will drive disruptions such as PC thought control, brain computer interfaces, and mind-link technology.

To prepare, tech providers should enhance disabled access to compute technology using brain computer interfaces and begin the shift from lifestyle to lifeline technologies, according to Gartner.

6. Technological biohacking

What if an illness can be diagnosed just by listening to the sound of the patient's voice? Or what if amateurs could develop drugs?

This trend will disrupt diagnoses by doctors and health analytics, and it will change the regulation of drug creation.

CIOs should prepare for new types of security, new data ownership policies, and the restriction of embedded enhancements.

7. DNA data storage

Data that is encoded in DNA strands breaks through the previous storage limits of our existing technology, Plummer said.

This technology will disrupt digital and analog storage, data volumes, data replication, and error management.

To get ready, CIOs should seek DNA solutions for long-term data storage, consider DNA storage trials, and design roadmaps for DNA storage adoption as part of a cost-optimization effort.

Keep these disruptions in mind as you plan for your long-term IT and technology future. Because to protect yourself from disruptions, you need to disrupt yourself.

"It's not enough to innovate," Plummer said. "You also have to disrupt."

For more from the Gartner event check out these articles:

10 Data and Analytics Trends for 2020

How to Fail: Digital Transformation Mistakes

10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020

AI Ethics: Where to Start

Achieving Techquilibrium: Get the Right Digital Balance


About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Senior Editor

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: @jessicadavis.

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