With uncertainty certain, reading the business technology tea leaves becomes a challenge, particularly as recent volatility lingers.
Sure, businesses will continue to operate, but in what form — in-person, remote or a hybrid combination — is still unclear.
Cyberattacks are also a given, but it is up to individual businesses to prepare their response, prepping for the unknown.
While Gartner presented a slew of predictions at the virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Tuesday, four are central to business technology operations, from new reporting structures to navigating external business threats. Here's what to look out for in the years ahead:
The pandemic has shrouded past operating models, and hybrid has become the rallying cry du jour. Even once it becomes safe to return to in-person operations, a combination of in-person and remote work seems most likely, though hybrid work won't work everywhere.
Businesses have to remember, "new work styles and sources of talent are going to expand resilience all around us" said Daryl Plummer, distinguished research vice president and fellow at Gartner, speaking Tuesday during the Symposium.
Where businesses operate has also changed how decisions are made. "Due to the self-directed and hybrid nature of work, work is becoming much more remote, teams are becoming much more autonomous — meaning independent; they can work on their own — and the idea of a boss is becoming less helpful," Plummer said.
This gives rise to Gartner's prediction that within three years, 30% of corporate teams will not have a boss, thanks to self-direction and hybrid operations.
That's not to say the role of a boss is obsolete. Rather, more teams are independently creating tactical instructions for how to operate, according to Plummer. Bosses can then morph into career development experts and guide individuals on how to work as part of a team. This also allows leaders to pivot attention to higher-level issues.
Modular model acceptance
In 2022, one of Gartner's core focuses and tenets for CIOs is composability, creating building blocks of business operations to facilitate innovation and quick response. Gartner research highlighted this concept in predictions too, emphasizing composability can help businesses navigate market volatility and the pandemic.
The analyst firm projects that by 2024, four in five CIOs will credit modular business redesign as a top 5 reason for business performance acceleration.
CIOs already say they want to be more agile and able to change, reacting in the moment, according to Plummer. That requires modular design.
"You need to be able to swap in different aspects of business for others and have redundancies in the system," Plummer said. "You need to be able to actually allow teams to work autonomously and to be able to orchestrate the behavior across teams in different ways."
Businesses can manage and reduce risk by having redundancies built into the system, swapping out one set of processes or business units for the other, he said.
Data techniques to avoid privacy violations
The collection and sale of personal data is a hot business, one that has inspired a host of regulations designed to protect consumers at large.
While regulatory enforcement is slow to act, some people and businesses are independently motivated to control what data is given and how it's used. Gartner expects that by 2024, 40% of consumers will intentionally obscure or devalue personal data to trick tracking metrics. This includes entering false data into a form.
"People will fight to retain sovereignty over their personal actions and data," Plummer said. "What you do, what you know about yourself, what others know about us, you should have a say in."
The trend toward personal privacy lends itself toward rethinking what data businesses can, and should, use. This lends itself toward a reliance on synthetic data, an IT technique where real events or data help generate artificial data.
The AI looks at "massive numbers of data points, anonymized data, across lots of complex scenarios, and frequently [models] different effects," Plummer said. "That set of data can create scenarios and create patterns of behavior that don't require us to look at any given information."
Gartner predicts by 2025, businesses will avoid 70% of privacy violation penalties by supplementing personal data collection with synthetic data.
For the CIO, the imperative is to look at the synthetic data as a means of lowering the total cost of data and supplementing the time to get to an AI solution because synthetic data will get there faster.
There's a business case for rethinking privacy too. Research found direct correlation between privacy investments and the ability to mitigate security losses.
Worst-case scenario cyberattack
As the uptick in cyber incidents highlights, security is going to get worse before it gets better. Reporting from Cybersecurity Dive shows the steady drumbeat of cyberattacks that are disrupting business operations. And in the first half of 2021, the value of ransomware-related transactions surpassed last year's total.
There is a risk that cyberattacks could elicit more intense federal responses. By 2024, Gartner predicts a cyberattack will cause so much critical infrastructure damage, a member of the G20 will use a physical attack to reciprocate.
"It's probably already happened, it just has not been declared as such and it's not been done on a large scale or with bigger countries in the world on any kind of regular basis," Plummer said. "We're saying that's going to get worse."
It's a worst-case-scenario analysis, but one that holds teeth following a year where the U.S. has seen numerous attacks on critical infrastructure directly impeding the flow of goods, from gas to food. Now, agencies are warning about attacks targeting water and wastewater infrastructure too.
"The reality is this: cyberattacks are increasing, the impact for every attack is growing, getting worse every time, and the critical infrastructure is what's being targeted," Plummer said.