In the ever-evolving world of technology, change happens fast. In a new report, our team of tech wizards examines eight emerging trends that could soon usher in unprecedented change in business, government, and society.

From augmented reality and the Internet of Things, to socially responsible applications of technology, Tech Trends 2016 identifies eight themes that are likely to disrupt businesses in the next couple of years. These trends embody macro forces fueling innovation: digital, analytics, the cloud, and the changing role of IT in the enterprise, along with the implications of cyber risk: security, privacy, regulatory mandates, and compliance.

In today’s business climate driven by powerful digital forces, disruption, and rapid-fire innovation, CIOs and executives are in a rare position to transform “business as usual” and imagine the future. Here are eight trends that will shape how that happens.

1. Right-speed IT

Many IT organizations are progressing beyond the traditional single-speed delivery models that work well for high-torque enterprise operations but not for high-speed innovation. While organizations have needs at both ends of the speed spectrum, they often find that bridging the gap between the two is difficult. A growing number of CIOs are building capabilities that link the two edge points or operate along the continuum, with targeted investments in process, technology, and talent to reengineer the business of IT, enabling delivery at the right speed for the business

2. Augmented and virtual reality go to work

The future of mobile is tilting increasingly toward wearables, especially as augmented reality and virtual reality solutions hit the market. Long the objects of sci-fi fascination, the looming potential of AR and VR technologies lies in the enterprise with capabilities that could potentially reshape business processes or fundamentally recast customer experiences. While the consumer world waits for the dominant AR and VR players to emerge, the enterprise can fast-track adoption—and begin the process of fundamentally reimagining how work gets done

3. Internet of Things: From sensing to doing

Forward-thinking organizations are focusing their Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives less on underlying sensors, devices, and “smart” things and more on developing bold approaches for managing data, leveraging “brownfield” IoT infrastructure, and developing new business models. Meanwhile, others are developing human-impact IoT use cases for boosting food production, cutting carbon emissions, and transforming health services. Rapid prototyping can help determine the impact that IoT will have on businesses.

4. Reimagining core systems

Core systems that drive back, mid, and front offices are often decades old, comprising everything from the custom systems built to run the financial services industry in the 1970s to the ERP reengineering wave of the 1990s. Today, many roads to digital innovation lead through these “heart of the business” applications. For this reason, organizations are now developing strategies for reimagining their core systems that involve re-platforming, modernizing, and revitalizing them. Transforming the bedrock of the IT footprint to be agile, intuitive, and responsive can help meet business needs today, while laying the foundation for tomorrow.

5. Autonomic platforms

IT may soon become a self-managing service provider without technical limitations of capacity, performance, and scale. By adopting a “build once, deploy anywhere” approach, retooled IT workforces—working with new architectures built upon virtualized assets, containers, and advanced management and monitoring tools—could seamlessly move workloads among traditional on-premises stacks, private cloud platforms, and public cloud services.

6. Blockchain: Democratized trust

Trust is a foundational element of business. Yet maintaining it, particularly throughout a global economy that is becoming increasingly digital, is expensive, time-consuming, and, in many cases, inefficient. Some organizations are exploring how blockchain, the backbone behind bitcoin, might provide a viable alternative to the current procedural, organizational, and technological infrastructure required to create institutionalized trust. Though these exploratory efforts are still nascent, the payoff could be profound. Like the internet reinvented communication, blockchain may similarly disrupt transactions, contracts, and trust—the underpinnings of business, government, and society.

7. Industrialized analytics

Data is a foundational component of digital transformation. Yet, few organizations have invested in the dedicated talent, platforms, and processes needed to turn information into insights. To realize data’s full potential, some businesses are adopting new governance approaches, multi-tiered data usage and management models, and innovative delivery methods to enable repeatable results and scale. They’re treating data analysis as a strategic discipline and investing in industrial-grade analytics.

8. Social impact of exponential technologies

As strategic discussions increasingly focus on how business can evolve
and capitalize on new innovation, it is important to recognize the enhanced role companies should play in the responsible use of disruptive technologies. Their challenge will be finding ways to design and architect models for driving transformative change and positive social impact, both for philanthropic good and for more commercial purposes. Harnessing exponentials for social impact can help build markets, drive adoption, and light a powerful beacon for attracting and retaining top talent. 

Download the full 2016 Tech Trends report.