I love the annual Gartner predictions! They’re so many things to so many people. This year is no exception – something for everyone, especially for those who only read predictions once a year. If you’re following “trends” in the field, you can pretty much predict the predictions. But if technology is not part of your job description, you may well find the predictions useful.
Let’s examine the 2019 strategic predictions. I’ll look at the 2019 technology predictions next time.
Good, Silly and weird Predictions
On October 16, Gartner published its “top strategic predictions for 2019 and beyond.” It leads with the prediction that “AI skills don’t scale.” I love the way they describe the challenge: “through 2020, 80% of AI projects will remain alchemy, run by wizards whose talents will not scale in the organization.” This may be the most important observation-turned-prediction on the list. There’s no question there’s a shortage of AI talent. Demand is way outstripping supply, which means scalability, interoperability, standardization and best practices are in danger of atrophy. The only beneficiaries of the current shortage are the few with genuine skills and competencies whose compensation will continue to skyrocket. It’s time for everyone to invest in the education and training necessary to exploit the potential of AI, especially colleges and universities. Gartner got this one right.
The next one is speculative, at best: “by 2023, there will be an 80% reduction in missing people in mature markets compared to 2018, due to AI face recognition.” Will facial recognition become a law enforcement tool? Yes. Will it become the tool? Unlikely – and who knows exactly when or what impact will actually be felt. 5 years and 80%? Maybe, perhaps – no one knows. Silly. (I favor invasive-implanted wearables for finding missing people, but who the hell knows when or with what effectiveness this approach would yield.)
What about virtual medical (and, by implication, psychological) care? “By 2023, U.S. emergency department visits will be reduced by 20 million due to enrollment of chronically ill patients in AI-enhanced virtual care.” This is another solid observation-prediction. Evidence is emerging that measures how virtual visits with healthcare professionals can be cost-effective. As bandwidth-connectivity improves, we can expect to see virtual visitation explode across domains well beyond healthcare. Really good one.
From good to weird: “By 2023, 25% of organizations will require employees to sign affidavits to avoid cyberbullying, but 70% of these initiatives will fail.” 5/25/70 is apparently the formula, but I have absolutely no idea how it was derived. Do you? It will take lawyers, working closely with HR, at least 5 years to define “cyberbullying” – and another 5 to determine if it’s legal to require employees to sign anti-bullying agreements. But, no matter, 70% of these initiatives will fail anyway. Just plain weird.
My statistics professors are spinning in their graves: “Through 2022, 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets.” While this prediction could be accurate, there’s no way in the world to ascribe future causation to the presence of more-versus-less-diverse teams and future financial performance. Intuitively, the prediction sounds right to me – because I already believe in the inherent power of diversity. But I cannot predict future causal relationships – as much as I’d like them to be true. Silly and weird.
The next one is controversial: “By 2022, 75% of public blockchains will suffer “privacy poisoning” – inserted personal data that renders the blockchain noncompliant with privacy laws.” I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But there are always compliance issues with (especially new) distributed technology. “Privacy poisoning” – to the extent it occurs – will self-correct the moment the chain fails to transact. Maybe the problem will become real – for a while – but only temporarily. The prediction is therefore a little weird. As blockchain best practices emerge, compliance policies and procedures will be defined, and distributed ledgers will monitor – and correct – themselves for compliance violations.
Every list of annual predictions must include at least a prediction or two about cloud computing. Add revenue-generating product development to the list: “through 2022, a fast path to digital will be converting internal capabilities to external revenue-generating products using cloud economics and flexibility.” Sure, why not? Is this a prediction or a reason to indict for failing to exploit an existing capability? Business units will exploit every aspect of cloud computing they can. Obvious and silly.
I’ve examined this one before: “by 2022, companies leveraging the gatekeeper position of the digital giants will capture 40% global market share on average in their industry.” Technology oligarchs are already entrenched! But what does Gartner think is good/bad/ugly about this new – and likely permanent – reality? OK, but the treatment is weird.
The last prediction is an old one: “Through 2021, social media scandals and security breaches will have effectively zero lasting consumer impact.” Demographics explain a lot about attitudes here, but the major impact of security and privacy concerns will be consequences: if a breach costs someone more than some time and a little money, their online behavior will change. But there’s not much risk of sticking consumers will huge bills when there’s a breach at Amazon or across the eCommerce platform. If that were to happen, eCommerce would collapse, and if that were to happen developed economies – especially the US – would suffer at lengths unacceptable to politicians responsible for managing and regulating their digital economies. The likely outcome is slightly more regulation – depending on which way the political winds blow – and “protections” to consumers that will extend just far enough to keep them in the “e” game.
Entertainment Versus Value
Annual predictions are fun and sometimes useful. Gartner’s are no exception. In addition to some really good insights, Gartner takes some silly and weird turns that may also get us thinking about more likely scenarios or at least the variables that enable the scenarios. I look forward to these predictions every year. They always provide food for thought – and some smiles.