Gartner’s annual overview of technology trends for the year ahead is always worth a read. The 2021 edition is no exception. It’s inevitably been influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic and the upheaval businesses continue to face. Yet it also looks beyond the next 12 months, emphasising how this year’s technology trends support the long-term need for ‘organisational plasticity’. According to Gartner, being able to adapt fast in the face of evolving customer demands and volatile market conditions is more important than ever. We agree and DevOps plays a central role enabling this – it’s the reason we focus our DevOps framework on ‘Adaptive IT’.
How does DevOps link with Gartner’s tech trends?
Gartner’s nine technology trends are grouped into three interconnected themes, which are in turn united by an overarching theme: combinatorial innovation.
The concept of combinatorial innovation (sometimes called secondary innovation) is rooted in the idea that success doesn’t depend upon ‘new’ invention (primary innovation). You just have to combine existing primary innovations into products or solutions which meet the needs of customers and market segments. For followers of DevOpsGroup this idea is well established, we spoke about combinatorial innovation back in 2016 at the DevOps Pro Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Henry Ford said it best:
“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work. Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed. So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable.”Henry Ford
Combinatorial innovation is a response to the continued need for digital transformation, which the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief. Indeed, in Ford’s terms, the pandemic was the final factor that made change and innovation ‘inevitable’. But what does this mean in practice? This means new ways of working that emphasise fragility, adaptability and responsiveness to change. Making decisions based on immediate opportunities, priorities and challenges while keeping longer-term strategic goals in mind. Testing different approaches and combinations of approaches, then honing and improving them over time. Embracing new technologies like cloud, AI, IoT, DevOps automation etc. which eliminate toil and create competitive advantage.
This iterative, agile and decentralised way of working mirrors the mindset and methods seen in businesses that have successfully embraced DevOps. In a DevOps-led business, customer-centric strategy and cloud-based technologies are combined with frictionless software delivery and mature operational capabilities. Together these factors provide a springboard for success, even during extremely challenging and changeable times.
A snapshot of Gartner’s nine trends and three themes:
Theme 1: people centricity
Although the pandemic changed how many people work and interact with organisations, people are still at the centre of all business. And they need digitalised processes to function in today’s environment.
- Internet of Behaviours
- Total experience strategy
- Privacy-enhancing computing
Theme 2: location independence
Covid-19 has shifted where employees, customers, suppliers and organisational ecosystems physically exist. Location independence requires a technology shift to support this new version of business.
- Distributed cloud
- Anywhere operations
- Cybersecurity mesh
Theme 3: resilient delivery
Whether a pandemic or a recession, volatility exists in the world. Organisations that are prepared to pivot and adapt will weather all types of disruptions.
- Intelligent composable business
- AI engineering
More information on Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021 is available here.
DevOps joins the dots to achieve greater things
Volatility is set to remain a defining factor for businesses in 2021. So, while strategic goals might be stable, the changing circumstances of customers, employees and the wider world need to be accounted for. Digital business strategy has always demanded agility and fleetness of foot; navigating the current environment in an effective and sensitive way takes this requirement to another level.
Gartner’s trends all relate to this. To a greater or lesser degree, they are relevant to technology businesses of all sectors and sizes. Yet as my colleague Raj explained in a recent post, achieving true business agility often demands a business-wide paradigm shift.
Prioritising new approaches and practices that will be most beneficial to your business and its unique circumstances is key. DevOps can help here, homing in on specific areas for improvement while ensuring the wider system is helped, not hindered, by localised changes.
How DevOps enables combinatorial innovation
DevOps is the glue that binds Gartner’s nine tech trends. It brings cohesion and enables focused and purposeful adoption of combinatorial innovation to deliver tangible business benefits.
Take the total experience trend. According to Gartner, this:
“combines multi-experience, customer experience, employee experience and user experience to transform the business outcome. The goal is to improve the overall experience where all of these pieces intersect, from technology to employees to customers and users.”
With DevOps ways of working, everything employees do is geared towards the desired business outcome. In most cases this equates to satisfied customers. To achieve this, products need to adapt fast to evolving customer requirements and online experiences must be reliable, secure and intuitive.
This is very much aligned with the total experience trend, but it also goes further than that. The adoption of DevOps principles enables the business to become inherently composable with product development firmly rooted in customer insight and feedback. Software delivery is accelerated too, partly through hyperautomation, but also because developers and operations engineers work more cohesively and autonomously with shared responsibility for success. Cybersecurity is also enhanced via automated updates. What’s more, because operations engineers have less toil and unplanned work to contend with, they can focus on advanced security measures and more sophisticated delivery of anywhere operations.
Building on Gartner’s 2020 tech trends
Last year, before the pandemic struck, Gartner identified hyperautomation as the top tech trend for 2020. At the time, we wrote about how DevOps represents hyperautomation at its finest. We emphasised how DevOps practices enable businesses to work more effectively to meet of-the-moment customer needs in the digital age.
Today, in a world redefined by Covid-19, many things are harder than they were last year. Just as things seem to settle, the rug is pulled from under us again. But opportunities still exist, and they can still be seized despite the instability we’re all grappling with. When you accept the uncertainty and prime your business to ride it rather than resist it, you can face the future with confidence.