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Gartner Reveals Predictions and the Tsunami of Digital Transformation

This week at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013, Gartner unveiled their top predictions for 2014 and beyond.  Here they are:
  • Digital Industrial Revolution (3D printing and its impact on manufacturing and IP)
  • Digital Business (social, mobile, analytics, cloud, code halos and their impact) 
  • Smart Machines (self-learning machines and artificial intelligence)
  • The Internet of Things (network centric operations, situational awareness, etc.)
These predictions align closely with what I have been writing about and teaching for the past 12 months. However, I have not covered the "Digital Industrial Revolution" in the context of 3D printing.  I will have to start paying more attention to that area.  I blame some of my inattention on those that came up with the term "3D Printing." When I read the word "printing" I lose interest.  I guess I need to start being interested.

In fact, we all need to start paying more attention to the four areas listed above.  Gartner is not just highlighting new IT trends, but warning that these trends will have a significant impact on politics, economies, cultures and societies.  They are predicting the process of "digitizing" businesses and manufacturing will displace large numbers of workers that will not find available jobs waiting.

I talk about the speed and the pace of business often these days.  Information volumes are exploding, innovations are accelerating and real-time communication is nearly universal.  Secrets are hard to keep, and entire populations and markets are swarming around new ideas and causes that burst forth in seemingly spontaneous manners.

As more data is captured and analyzed by the big data engines, this information will start to have a larger impact on each of our personal lives (see Code Halos).  Our automobile insurance, mortgage loan rates, educational opportunities, job prospects and the products and services offered and the prices of these items will all be the result of big data analytics.

The digitization of our world means computers will be able to do more of the work that until recently supported the middle class.  Here is a summary of what Thomas L Friedman had to say about this phenomena last year in an article titled, The Theory of Everything (Sort of) in the New York Times - Because of cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, Linkedin Twitter, the iPad and cheap Internet enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected.  Today to be in the the middle class, you have to study harder, work smarter and adapt more quickly than ever before.  All of this rapid change is eliminating more and more “routine” work – the sort of work that once sustained a lot of middle-class lifestyles.

Displaced middle class workers are not going to be happy.  We need to watch carefully the unintended consequences of these technological innovations.  The middle class are not the only potential losers of these changes.  Large numbers of businesses will not be able to decipher the meanings of rapid changes around them, and those that do may not have the expertise or capital to act fast enough to keep up with the pace.

In 1970 Alvin Toffler published a best selling book called Future Shock that predicted that affluent and educated citizens of the world’s most technically advanced nations will fall victim to the disease of change. Unable to keep up with the pace of change, brought to the edge of breakdown by incessant demands to adapt and evolve, many will plunge into future shock. The main thrust of the book is that both individuals and societies need to learn how to adapt to and manage the sources and pace of change.

The bottom line is that companies need to invest today in change management education and watch emerging trends very carefully.   Companies need to fully understand what it means to move from industrial to digital.  These emerging trends then need to quickly be analyzed so executives can understand how these changes should translate into today's business strategies, budgets and investments.  Those in politics also need to pay attention to these rapid changes because they are already impacting societies and economies.

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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.