If the premise for 2020 was survival, the 2021 directive for the enterprise is to get back on track, chasing the revenue and growth that stalled during the pandemic.
In the year ahead, the way back toward sustainable profits and expansion starts with technology. A solid digital strategy will let businesses compete, protect their IT assets and maximize profit. And it's in the CIO's to-do list to shape and enhance the IT backbones.
In Gartner's Top Strategic Trends for 2022, the overarching themes are engineering trust, sculpting change and accelerating growth, according to the annual report released Monday at the virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2021.
"The background to all of this is that businesses are digitalizing," said David Groombridge, research VP at Gartner, speaking ahead of Symposium. "And they need to do that quickly, because that's how they're going to win back the revenue they lost in the lockdowns and the pandemic."
Now comes the hard part, and where CIOs are expected to deliver for their companies: designing and maintaining a robust and scalable IT organization, one that can support the company growth strategy but can quickly respond if business conditions change once again.
"At the lowest level, CIOs are going to have to enable cloud and non-cloud environments, and they're going to have to connect those together securely, and share data across in a trusted way," Groombridge said. From there, it only gets more complex, with the CIO supporting the change throughout the business as digitalization unfolds.
In last year's roundup of priority trends, the focus was on pragmatic, responsive execution. In 2022, companies must connect their technology implementation to economic growth and market opportunity.
Here are Gartner's top strategic technology trends for 2022:
The hyperautomation playbook yields benefits for enterprise leaders in the year ahead. This strategy seeks to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many processes as possible.
The best companies to take on this initiative focus on a trio of top priorities: improving the quality of work, speeding up business processes, and enhancing the agility of decision-making, Gartner finds.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI)
Though businesses have discussed generative AI for years, Gartner has seen an acceleration in the past 12 months. By 2025, the analyst firm expects generative AI — which can generate synthetic data to train models or identify valuable products — to account for 10% of all data produced, up from less than 1% today.
"Generative AI is an extension of AI to the creative space," said Groombridge. "I think it's shown itself to be very powerful in areas that organizations couldn't previously address."
AI will help companies by identifying drug candidates, producing content or supporting software development, partly assisting companies as they deal with talent shortages.
Even the most data-rich companies struggle with data security, compliance and governance restrictions, among other factors that are making it difficult to turn data into actionable insights.
Leaders who are able to execute data fabrics — flexible, resilient integrations of data across platforms and business users — can accelerate time to value and cut data management efforts by up to 70%.
With AI assisting more company processes — from onboarding to the supply chain — companies that excel will take an integrated approach for operationalizing AI models, or AI engineering.
Companies can expect more lasting power from their AI investments with this approach, with Gartner predicting companies that fully adopt AI engineering will reap three times more value from AI efforts.
Almost immediately after an AI model is put in place, its value begins to drift as data inputs, real world conditions and the economic environment changes, said Groombridge. "You can't just deploy a once and done AI model: you have to sustain that value."
Among the group of top strategic trends outlined by Gartner, autonomic systems stand out as the longer-term trend, with maturity expected to play out over the next five years. This is automation's next stage, where a physical or software system is capable of self-managing.
"Autonomic systems with in-built self-learning can dynamically optimize their own performance, protect themselves in hostile environments, and make sure that they're constantly dealing with new challenges," Groombridge said.
Decision intelligence (DI)
Decision intelligence technology follows the model of an augmented human. Leaders stand to gain from data-driven decisions, but many companies still lack structure around decision-making.
"Decision intelligence tries to assist that situation by first of all, modeling decisions in a repeatable way," said Groombridge. In the next two years, one-third of large organizations will use decision intelligence for structured decision-making, according to Gartner projections.
Enterprises taking a composable approach can outpace their competitors by 80% in terms of new feature implementation. In turn, this is an extension of the composable organization concept Gartner says can help companies respond to change.
Cloud-native platforms (CNPs)
Cloud native platforms use the core capabilities of cloud computing to "provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities 'as a service' to technology creators," Gartner said. These platforms are expected to serve as the foundation for nearly all new digital initiatives by 2025.
Privacy-enhancing computation (PEC)
With consumer awareness of privacy on the rise, companies are wary of the loyalty impacts of data breaches or other privacy-related incidents. PEC techniques can protect personal and sensitive information, letting businesses protect confidentiality while sharing, pooling or analyzing data, and Gartner expects three in five large organizations will put in place one or more of these techniques by 2025.
Cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) is an integrated approach to securing all enterprise IT assets regardless of location. On average, companies adopting CSMA will be able to reduce the financial impact of individual security incidents by 90% by 2024, Gartner predicts.
Major technology changes will respond to the ongoing adjustments to operating models, as most companies continue to adjust their hybrid work models. By 2023, three-quarters of organizations that exploit the benefits of a distributed enterprise model — which allow for companies to operate while workers are geographically dispersed — will realize revenue growth 25% faster than their peers, according to Gartner projections.
Total experience (TX)
Total experience makes a comeback from last year's list, as the value of combined customer, employee, user and mixed experiences has the potential of improving business outcomes. But companies must break each of these silos, and understand the upside to improving every stakeholder's experience.