Forrester's top emerging technologies to watch, now through 2020

This year’s edition of our top emerging technologies addresses age-of-the-customer realities.
Written by Brian Hopkins, Contributor

Technology has given your customers choices and digital predators the edge. Ask marketing: They will tell you about the decreasing effectiveness of traditional campaigns. Look at your business strategy and find plans to address new digital competitors that have become serious threats overnight.

Across the board, Forrester finds high expectations that emerging technology will help firms stay competitive amidst these changes. But which ones should you pay attention to? Cloud, mobile, social, big data? Are these even the right things to be looking at in 2015?

Unfortunately, our survey data says that enterprise architects’ ability to anticipate business needs for emerging technology is trending in the wrong direction. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of businesses that were unhappy with their firm’s ability to introduce emerging technologies almost doubled. Now, in 2014-2015, we expect it to be even worse.

To help our clients, we radically rethought this year’s edition of our top emerging technologies to address these age-of-the-customer realities. My colleague Frank Gillett and I grouped our list into business solutions and three platform innovation groups that most strongly support customers’ engagement across their life cycle:

Four innovation groups organize our Top 15 emerging technologies this year:

Here is a summary of each group from our report, The Top Emerging Technologies To Watch: Now Through 2020.

  • Emerging business solutions enable new ways of doing business. We identify four technologies in this group:
    1. Customer analytics solutions help firms deeply understand what their customers need and when they need it; emerging technology packages help firms develop a complete contextual view, without lots of custom plumbing.
    2. Digital experience solutions offer a cockpit for managing the customer life cycle; these provide an integrated environment for firms to manage customers, content, segments, and offerings.
    3. Customer-driven design solutions enable collaborative experience design with customers; experience designers will get a rich environment to learn, test, and iterate with more customer input.
    4. Internet of Things (IoT) solutions offer packaged business process and integration; combining sensors, networks, platforms, and integration will accelerate IoT value and speed implementation for specific business scenarios
  • Emerging interaction technologies create news ways to engage customers. We identify three emerging technologies in this group:
    5. Next-generation connectivity enables a wide range of new digital endpoints; very low-power wireless technology will expand the types of devices that can connect, while cutting costs dramatically.
    6. Wearable technology creates many new information sources and displays; new gadgets are adding rich info collection or display on, in, and around the body, expanding digital reach.
    7. Natural user interfaces offer new methods for interacting with computing experiences; beyond point, type, and touch, people will be able to talk, wink, wave, and be tapped.
  • Emerging aggregation and delivery technologies drive contextual engagement. We identified four emerging technologies in this group:
    8. Real-time sourcing and delivery technology brings insight to the point of decision; marketing and operations will have deeper contextual insight from fresh data for engagement.
    9. Advanced analytics technology allows firms to cull deeper insight from more data; analysts and data science teams will get better and faster at teasing understanding from piles of diverse data.
    10. Digital identity management technology helps firms and individuals control access across channels; employees and customers will more easily gain access to services they need or want, in line with the dynamic privacy and security concerns of our digital world.
    11. Software acceleration platforms and tools help firms continuously deliver; firms will experiment with application development and delivery to maximize engagement and value.
  • Emerging infrastructure technology creates a powerful and agile foundation. In our final group, we identified four technologies:
    12. Advanced silicon devices offer new levels of computing, energy efficiency, and sensors types; reductions in silicon device size will enable improvements through 2020, when limits appear.
    13. Software-defined infrastructure will enable flexible, easy data center adjustments; abstracted hardware controlled by powerful software will create flexible, agile infrastructure.
    14. Cloud integration tools will integrate apps and management across cloud and on-premises; hybrid architectures will become easier to design and operate as tools take shape.
    15. Big data management technology provides a flexible, affordable foundation for insight; technology managers will embrace this software as the only affordable way to meet business demands for more insight from more data.

Closely watch these technologies as part of your business technology agenda, which my colleague Kyle McNabb discussed in his August 13 blog post titled Top Technologies For Your BT Agenda.

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