Here are four ways corporate leaders can sharpen their vision when faced with a dizzying pace of technology and pandemic challenges

The past two years of constant changes, surprises and uncertainty have kept organizations pivoting with technology, which itself has undergone a dizzying pace of pivoting and improvisation to meet new pandemic-linked challenges.

One technology consultancy has been keeping its looking glass focused on over 100 individual technology trends. With its cumulative insights, Thoughtworks has created ‘lenses’ to help organizations view and respond to technology trends so as to make the right decisions.

According to the firm’s Global Head of AI Advisory, Jarno Kartela: “By 2023, businesses will understand that AI is not the art of trying to force value out of historical data, but actually, the art of creating new data and insight by interacting with the world.”

Here are four lenses which the firm believes are useful for corporate leaders who are already investing in AI and ML:

  • Evolving the human-machine experience

    The increasing convergence of the physical and digital worlds means that consumers will be expecting more from their interactions with their devices.

    To users, digital products now need to look good, feel good, understand emotions, and be more aware of their users’ needs. Aside from the Metaverse (a 3D virtual world), trends like natural language processing (NLP) remain something that companies will continue to invest in to build more attentive and personalized customer experiences.

    Aside from customer service responses, NLP can also be used to understand consumer sentiments, create summaries of larger texts, interpret legal documents such as contracts, and much more.

  • Realizing the potential of platforms

    Platform building is core to modern business strategy, yet it is also an area fraught with ambiguities. As platform failures mount, Thoughtworks sees a new focus on resolving the uncertainties around platforms and connecting platform building to clearly defined business goals.

    These re-vitalized strategies are likely to materialize more strongly in 2022, taking the form of “more seamless cloud portability” which will give organizations more freedom to choose providers with expertise that serve dedicated platform needs; “super apps” that ensure more holistic integration of consumer needs into a one-stop-shop; and a “decentralized net” stemming from the rise of blockchain and other distributed technologies to counter the outages and security breaches seen in 2021.

    According to Rachel Laycock, the firm’s Global MD of Modernization, Platforms and Cloud, simply building a platform is not necessarily enough to achieve corporate ambitions. “Developing a strategy that clearly sets out how the platform connects to the organization’s immediate and long-term priorities is just as critical as technology to peak performance.”

  • The expanding impact of hostile tech

    As technology grows more complex, the ways in which it can be misused will surely rise. Criminal tech (e.g., malware and hacking) and malicious attacks aside, existing biases in algorithms or machine learning systems—which exclude certain customer groups without having been deliberately designed that way—are likely to become increasingly common.

    As such, in addition to seeing improvements in supply chain security to counter the attacks on the tools, processes, and libraries that get software into production, businesses can also expect to have the spotlight on ethical decision-making frameworks to bring transparency and clarity into processes that lie behind the inclusion of emerging technologies like AI.

  • Accelerating towards sustainability

    As consumers, governments and investors demand greater environmental accountability from companies, going green has gone from being optional to being a business imperative.

    One of the best sustainability steps businesses can take in 2022 rests on adopting a greener approach to data centers, which models predict could take up over 10% of the global electricity supply by the next decade. This includes establishing an environmental impact baseline for data center infrastructures as well as creating collaborative environmental initiatives with cloud, colocation, edge and hosting service providers.

    Awareness is also growing that programming languages and practices have a direct bearing on energy consumption and the environment. Developers must now look to actively integrate languages, technologist stacks and algorithms to reduce the amount of carbon produced by software throughout the process.

    Tools to actively support businesses in this journey, like the Software Carbon Intensity (SCI) Specification from the Green Software Foundation, are thus also likely to experience an increase in prominence in the coming years.

Use the ‘lenses’ above to focus on what tech trends imply for your enterprise and how you need to prepare. The lenses can be used individually, or combined to create additional perspectives and prompt new avenues of investigation and lines of thinking.

When all the opportunities, threats and implications seen through each lens are zoomed-in and given further internal considerations, organizations will be able to gauge how fast something is approaching in terms of two dimensions: the time horizon and the most appropriate strategic response in terms of adoption, analysis or anticipation.