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The futurist Paul Saffo often reminds IT leaders that it’s important to never mistake a clear view for a short distance. At the annual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo conference this week, the analyst firm once again identified the top ten strategy technology trends for 2020.

2020’s top technology trends

Hyper-automation: The combination of multiple machine learning (ML), packaged software, and automation tools that has its roots in robotic process automation (RPA).

Multi-experience: Conversational interfaces will change the way in which people interact with the digital world, while virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) will change the way people perceive the digital world.

Democratization of expertise:  Gartner expects democratization of access to data and analytics, application development, and IT management. Gartner specifically predict non-IT professionals will gain access to a range of tools and expert systems that empower them to exploit and apply specialized skills beyond their own expertise and training.

Human augmentation: Technology can be used to deliver cognitive and physical improvements as an integral part of the human experience.

Transparency and traceability: As organizations embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms they will need to address data privacy, ownership, and control issues, as well as ethical issues that will arise from relying on AI models.

The empowered edge: Edge computing encompasses information processing and content collection and delivery close to where that data is being consumed in real time to reduce latency.

Distributed cloud: A distributed cloud describes a scenario where public cloud services are running in different locations owned by different providers. Meanwhile, the originating public cloud provider assumes responsibility for the operation, governance, updates to, and evolution of the services. Cloud computing today is dominated centralized cloud computing models.

Autonomous things: Autonomous things are physical devices that use AI to automate functions previously performed by humans, such as robots, drones, autonomous vehicles/ships, and appliances.

Practical blockchain: Immutable databases will be more widely employed to enforce smart contacts.

AI security: Gartner is advising security and risk leaders to focus on protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defense, and anticipating nefarious use of AI by attackers.

Technology trends don’t last forever

All these things will eventually come to pass. However, the probability these technology trends will be widely implemented by even half of all IT organizations in 2020 is virtually nil. Gartner even notes that IT budgets for 2020 are only expected to increase 2.8 percent on average.

Nevertheless, managed service providers (MSPs) should consider themselves forewarned. IT leaders that subscribe to Gartner reports are going to be asking MSPs how feasible it might be to implement any of these concepts. Savvy MSPs will tell customers that while anything is possible.

However, the biggest challenge IT leaders will face is finding ways to cut costs enough to help fund those initiatives. A couple point increase in the IT budget is not going to make much of difference unless it’s accompanied by double digit reductions in IT spending elsewhere. The simple truth is it only becomes possible to realistically embrace the next big IT thing once that goal is achieved.

Rather than getting caught up in all the hype surrounding the next big thing in IT, MSPs will see a bigger payoff in the next year simply by enabling organizations to deliver IT services more efficiently. That may not be as exciting as AI and virtual reality. However, focusing on IT fundamentals in the coming year is likely to generate a lot more revenue for MSPs than anything Gartner has deemed “strategic” in 2020.

That’s not to say strategic isn’t important. MSPs, however, would do well to remember that any time an analyst uses the term strategic, it’s usually a euphemism for not any time soon.

Photo: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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