Skip to main content

6 Tech Trends and Predictions That Are Happening Faster Than You Think

Roland Alston, Appian
December 7, 2020

Whoa! Another prediction season is already upon us.

Shaped by the fast-moving aftershocks of the COVID-19 crisis, 2021 promises to be a time of change.As usual, we made our predictions list and checked it twice. But rather than guess the future, we asked experts, business leaders, and big thinkers to help us size up noteworthy trends and technologies that should be on your radar in 2021 and beyond.

Here's a quick rundown of what we found out:

    • Integration of humans with bots and smart machines accelerates.

    • AI and data privacy tension heats up.

    • Work processes become more fluid and adaptive.

    • Operational resiliency separates winners from losers.

Tech trends are evolving far more quickly than anyone could have predicted. The experts say we'll experience more disruption in the next decade than ever before. The question is: How will the acceleration of tech trends impact your organization in the post-COVID era? And what can you do to adapt. Check out our top 6 predictions for 2021 to find out:

1. BPM Is Back (Again!)

The death and rebirth of the business process management market has been announced numerous times over the last 12-15 years. But BPM is more relevant now than ever. With the rise of cloud-based technology, BPM is easier to use and much cheaper.

COVID proved that fast, powerful process automation is crucial for organizations to keep people connected to each other and to enterprise data amid sudden and massive change.

The power of BPM is that it enables you to effectively coordinate work across teams and departments or the entire supply chain. And when you look at all of the trending automation-related technologies out there, BPM plays an important role as the conductor of all of these capabilities.

"You need a digital orchestrator because many of the technologies, services and frameworks you adopt to automate parts of your business are going to change over time," says Neil Ward-Dutton, VP, AI and Intelligent Process Automation European Practices, IDC.

"Digitally speaking," says Ward-Dutton, "you need some kind of backbone that lots of different capabilities can be plugged into and modified over time. From a strategic standpoint, BPM is the perfect solution.

2. Demand for "Hyperautomation" Will Force the Integration of the Modern Workforce

Hyperautomation will radically transform business, as the widespread adoption of low-code development unifies AI, bots, people and data in the same workflow. 2020 was about buying RPA bots and AI services.

But 2021 will see organizations look to scale these technologies and get the most out of their digital investments by unifying the modern workforce with humans in control.

"Hyperautomation is automation at speed," says Appian CEO Matt Calkins. "It's a combination of technologies that allow faster application authorship (like low-code and no-code) and automation technologies that coordinate different worker types," says Calkins. "Both are essential in the new decade."

"Tomorrow's enterprise will need agility, unification, speed, and collaboration, says Calkins. In a word, it will need hyperautomation."

3. "Low-code" Becomes the New "Cloud"

In the early 2000's, a company could be simply a "cloud company." Today, cloud computing is an infrastructure and delivery method for whatever a company does.

Gartner affirms low-code platforms are now fully in the mainstream for enterprise software development: "By 2023, over 50% of large enterprises will have adopted low-code as a strategic tool for app development."

"Low-code" will now become recognized not as a monolithic market, but rather as a mechanism for meeting a wide range of enterprise needs, from low-end citizen development to complex process automation.

"This (low-code) is going to be one of the go-to technologies for CEOs starting now," says Appian CEO Matt Calkins. "In 2019, I said most applications this decade will be written in low-code," said Calkins. And at the time that sounded a little bit bold.

But, like cloud technology, low-code is a major accelerator for developers, a force multiplier. I think it's just clear. We're going to need low code. We need so many applications and we need them quickly. And so low-code is absolutely the technology that organizations will be relying on."

4. AI Becomes Cheaper and More Accessible Than Ever

Omnipresent technology is a popular sci-fi trope. But don't underestimate the mainstreaming of AI to quickly bridge the gap between today and the future.

AI will emerge as a ubiquitous force in 2021, as software vendors and AI service providers like Google and Amazon Web Services continue to strip the complexities out of operationalizing AI with the help of low-code techniques.

Yes, COVID-19 upended everything in 2020. But it didn't slow the mainstreaming of AI into our lives. Turns out it did the opposite of that, as AI continued to catch on with CIOs and developers, and businesses embraced broadly-applicable and high-value use cases such as AI-enabled Document Processing to quickly adapt to the post-pandemic world.

"Businesses need quick, smart and stable solutions for the post-COVID world," says Muthulakshmi (Lakshmi) N, Global Head, Intelligent Process Automation and AI, TaTa Consultancy Services.

"This includes intelligent automation with integration of robotic process automation, business process management, AI and analytics, combined with low-code application development. That's the foundation you need to create adaptable and resilient organizations for the future," says Lakshmi.

5. Increased Use of AI Increases Data Privacy Tension

The mainstreaming of AI will exacerbate tension between stakeholders wanting to leverage AI and consumers seeking to protect their data privacy.

Omnipresent AI will enable companies to leverage personal data more than ever before. But experts expect stricter governance to emerge to protect privacy. Gartner calls this trend "privacy-enhancing computation," a way to protect consumer data while it's in use by applications that facilitate personal data transfers, monetization of personal data, fraud analytics and the like.

Looking ahead, half of large organizations will prioritize data privacy by implementing privacy-enhancing computation for processing data in untrusted environments by 2025, according to Gartner.

"There's no perfect solution, says Joanna Bryson, AI expert and Professor of Ethics and Technology at Hertie School in Berlin, Germany.

"People are going to know who we are, what we do, what we've done, and what we're inclined to do, says Bryson. "I think that what we have to do, and what's becoming the most important topic is how do we manage our governance of AI? And how do we coordinate our actions through governance to protect individuals?"

"...We made this huge leap in AI capabilities because we had more data and we got better at machine learning," says Bryson. In the long term, I think this will accelerate our rate of progress...So, now is the best time to figure out how to integrate AI into our lives."

6. Disruption is the New Normal Operational Resilience Will Determine a Company's Fate

Great brands thrive amid turmoil and change. But how will the after-shocks of the 2020 pandemic impact your organization for the next decade and beyond?

Digital leaders will survive and thrive on operational resilience in the "new normal". This is the ability to quickly pivot operations in the face of fast-changing business conditions.

But disruptions caused by the current pandemic have revealed many legacy systems are too rigid to adapt to the volatility of a crisis.

Over 90% of businesses say they've experienced some type of tech-related business disruption, according to a recent business survey by IDC. Which makes operational resilience essential to bouncing back from setbacks and sustaining business growth. To paraphrase the findings of IDC:

"Organizations with highly mature resilience strategies will be better positioned to succeed with IT and digital transformation now and in the future."

For a convenient way to stay focused on the tech trends that matter most, take a look at the infographic below: