Technology Predictions Your Company Should Invest in Today… for 2020 and Beyond

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I’ve been in technology for the last 26 years. I was fortunate to participate in work study role after going back to college where I learned about networks and network technologies.

Way back then, during the first year I started, 'advanced' included:

  • Microsoft DOS ver. 3.3 was the biggest desktop operating system
  • Intel's 80286 processor chip was cutting Edge technology
  • Novell had a 70% market share in the networking world with Novel versions 1.1, 2.2 and 3.0
  • Microsoft was getting ready to release Windows 3.11 and windows for work groups
  • WordPerfect had a 90% market share for word processing software
  • Lotus 123 had the biggest market share in spreadsheet technologies
  • The Internet did not allow public websites
  • The latest email program was called ELM 

This is only a partial list, but here’s my point: Technologies come, they grow in popularity, and they inevitably fade away into obscurity.

When the printing press came along, it was over 300 years before there was a type writer. Unlike the Gutenberg printing press, technologies now have about a 2 to 5 year average life span. It is possible to predict the many technologies that are, or will soon be disappearing.

Examples you ask?

  • WordPress – Innovative in its time, but quickly disappearing and being taken over by much simpler platforms which are simpler to use and offer more benefits.

  • Email Servers – Once every small business needed at least one email server. Now with Office 365 and Google any business can run their email for less than 10% of the cost of maintaining an email server.

There is a long list of technologies being replaced by the cloud. What this means is that information services really don’t require a company owning a single Server (and in many cases a single workstation). Small companies are stepping away from the capital investment in hardware and transferring that cost to solutions that directly grow revenue and profit.

Those companies that invest in computer hardware today competing against those that don’t will not have a competitive advantage. Computer hardware is not what makes the company money which is why leading edge businesses are directing capital costs into new areas and leveraging servers in the cloud.

As a technician, I learned early that being the best at a technology nobody uses any longer will lead to not having a job. Companies that invest in the wrong technologies have a similar problem. They can’t compete with their competitors because:

  • Their product cost more
  • Their product quality is low and products are boring
  • Products are slow to market

During my tenure as a college instructor, I taught technicians that there is a time to invest in a new technology and a time to get out of an old technology. Investing in a new technology determines risk, competitiveness and income level. The following chart shows the acceptance of new technology.

This chart represents the stages a new technology goes through until it’s an old technology and then disappears. Within each of the stages, there are risk levels and income opportunities.

Technology Bell Curve

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  • Bleeding Edge Technologies

    I refer to it as 'bleeding edge' because anyone taking on a new technology at this stage is an explorer rather than a pioneer. Explorers are the first and make mistakes. There are only a few explorers in the technology world.

    There is rarely any good documentation. These first people are writing the documentation that the other stages will be using.

    There is also a risk that the new technology will not be adopted by the mainstream. Sometimes technology moves in a different direction.

    The advantage of bleeding edge technology is that if the technology does take off, there is a great potential for high income. Not everyone can handle the risk. After 25 years in technology, I am able to see the patterns and understand the opportunities new technologies offer. 

  • Cutting Edge Technologies

    These are the pioneers that marketers like to call the early adopters. Customers and companies looking for a competitive advantage will use early technologies. The cutting edge is now more reliable, but does not yet have industry momentum. Typically, that momentum begins after a 15% market saturation. Before that saturation, companies can catch up and even pass industry leaders.

    There is still a risk that the technology won’t take off. If it does, it’s because of the early adopters. When this happens, early adopter companies develop competitive advantages over the rest of the industry. (Technicians can become high-paid consultants for a few years until the technology is mainstream.)

  • Mainstream Technologies

    Once early adopters have proven that cutting-edge technology offers value, others scramble to catch up. Everyone is adopting the technology. The risk is lower as proof becomes more available. Mainstream adopters are playing catch up and they can only get ahead if they can catch up to the Early adopters. Otherwise, early adopters will become the new industry leaders and mainstream competitors will be the industry followers.

  • Legacy Technologies

    When competitors move to the mainstream technologies, there will always be hold-outs. You have heard the phrase, “This is how we did it before, so we’ll keep doing it this way.”

    There is a great deal of risk as competitors outpace those using legacy technologies. There are fewer and fewer jobs for legacy technology experts, but the pay is higher since fewer technical experts are sticking with the 'old' technology. As technology experts leave, salaries go up because there are fewer and fewer experts.

    Most technologists find that when a technology is 'over', they have not kept up and become unemployable. The same is true for the company that depends on legacy technologies.

Every technician and company has their own level of risk. The leadership teams and business owners must decide how early they will start investing in new technologies.

  • Bleeding Edge has the highest risk, but the least cost if the technology fails to catch on.
  • Cutting Edge has less risk than Bleeding Edge, but more than mainstream. New technologies though, will give them a competitive advantage.

  • Waiting until a technology is Mainstream has the least risk, and the lowest rate of return on the technology investment. Companies (and technicians) are forced to implement it just to compete.

College students asked me questions such as; “What cutting edge technologies are going to be the next mainstream technologies?” They did not yet realize their responsibility to assess the marketplace and future opportunities.

Here are new technology predictions to invest in and be prepared for 2020... and beyond.

Cyber-Security

Over the last five years we have seen hacking increase exponentially. With a growing number hackers around the world, it is no longer possible avoid them by staying under the radar. The medical and banking industries are particularly at risk as they have the most to lose. Unfortunately, they tend to be conservative with their capital spending. Companies which have in the past tried to stay under the hackers radar are more at risk than ever.

Additionally, there are two hidden problems.

Internal Hacking - Only 25% of hacking is done externally. 75% of hacking is from people trusted inside an organization. With employees, outsourcing contractors and offshore work forces, this 75% is becoming a bigger problem.

Decentralized Cloud - As we work with more cloud solutions, it becomes exponentially more expensive to support multiple security platforms. In many industries, savings gained by using the cloud are being lost due to the exponential cost of supporting so many different security platforms.

Big Data 

There has been two economic views; Macro and Micro. In micro, we look at the individual, but can’t judge what the community will do. With Macro data, we can predict the average of the community, (i.e. the sales pipeline) but can’t predict the behavior of the individual.

Big Data allows macro data to predict what each individual will do. As this technology improves, it will have ramifications for marketing, production, inventory management, logistics and more. Big Data is very expensive and is still in the bleeding edge technology world. This can change quickly.

The biggest players are investing in and experimenting with Big Data. There is a consensus that once they harness Big Data, it will be very difficult for smaller players to compete. It is expected that in the future customer information will primarily come from Big Data providers, or not at all. 

Risks with big data investment are related to new technology. It is predicted that Moore’s Law will no longer apply. As computer chips get smaller, they are leaving the Newtonian physics world and moving into the Quantum physics world. Smaller chips that depend on 1’s and 0’s won’t work as we hit the edge of the technology limits. This means that the micro-chips required for big data will not be available.

There is work being done on quantum computers. These computers systems will have four choices (0,1,2,3) instead of two (0 or 1). This will bring a logarithmic increase in computer power. Unfortunately, these systems will not be ready soon. Big Data systems will need to develop without the level of chip improvement we have seen over the last 50 years.

Robotics

We have already begun to see automation and its effects in manufacturing. There will be fewer production “line” workers in the future because of the declining cost of automation. Not only will American workers not find jobs in old industries, but labor in other countries will have the same problem. Today there is competition in India, China, and the Philippines for offshore work. Offshore work has become mainstream in most industries.

We predict the trends technology workers in the US are experiencing will also occur in other countries. Today local outsources provides workers at on-tenth the cost of an American worker’s salary or billable hourly rate. Imagine when automation makes costs 1/100th of a worker in America and 1/10th the cost of a worker in third world countries? Not only will American workers be losing tradition jobs, but those jobs will not be available in other countries either.

Economies are predicted to change dramatically when robot automation replaces more jobs in manufacturing, logistics/trucking and many other areas.

Nano Technologies

Another type of robotic technology. It is difficult to imagine the size and scale of these robots. Imagine one million robots in a test tube of water. In space, there are resources on the moon that a nanobot can exploit, that humans are not yet able to. Imagine sending a test-tube of water into space (A cost that would be less than one millionth of the cost of a manned space flight) to send that test tube to the moon.

These nano-robots would have the ability to:

  • Create new nano-bots
  • Create nano-bot factories to create
    • Fuels
    • Moon transportation
    • Micro space ships
    • Carbon fiber
    • People sized space elevators and space stations
    • Quantum computers and faster than light communication systems

By the time we 'move to the moon' (or Mars),  there could be an environment waiting for us. These implications apply to the uninhabited parts of earth as well. Nano-bot technologies can potentially create everything from dikes to protect us from global warming, cures for cancer and other diseases or mine the depths of the oceans molecule by molecule.

Cloud Services 

When electricity was invented, Edison predicted that every factory would have some type of system for creating its own electricity. For example, he believed each would have its own water wheel or windmill system. Instead we see that a grid was created that everyone plugs into for electricity. In much the same way, the cloud is changing the way we look at hardware and software services.

Instead of building your own company server farm, computer platforms will also be on an information grid similar to the electrical grid, where business pays for Information technology platform services the way it pays for electricity or water. For these information platforms, businesses provide the devices and information solutions in the same way we pay for electricity.

The need for armies of IT technicians paid full-time, but work when they are needed, will be over. The need for IT technicians will be significantly reduced. Those technicians will be outsourced to other countries with cheaper education systems and labor forces. American technicians will need to re-invent themselves.

The American business model will need to change again. Heavy capital investment in hardware, software and IT professionals will no longer be as necessary. Instead of paying for infrastructure, information professionals will be paid for their ideas. A strong IT expert will not be judged on their ability to troubleshoot known and unknown hardware and software issues. With their understanding of technology, they will develop business systems that integrate with technology. Bleeding and cutting edge thinking about information will produce the industry leaders of tomorrow.

These are not the only technologies we see leading the way, these are just a few possibilities. We believe the likelihood that these technologies will be in the next cutting edge technical cycle.

We believe (predict) the next big technologies and industries will be:

  • Cyber-security
  • Cloud Services
  • Human Data Analysis
  • Robotics
  • Nano-Technologies

If your company is not including one or more of these technologies in your business plan, it will be very difficult to stay competitive or healthy. As other companies (and even countries) will focus on being first to market with services that are supported by these technologies. 

Topics: Competitive Advantage Business Technology Trends