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These are the tech trends that actually matter for your business

Leaders are often drawn to the biggest names and trends, but it’s crucial to separate hype from value. Here are the tech trends that actually matter for your business.

AT A GLANCE

  • Machine learning is a massive concept; blockchain technology is impressive.  Both technology trends have been overhyped, but there are underhyped trends that can add long-term value. 
  • A graph database—an underhyped, but powerful, technology—allows you to see connections instantly and form more predictive, deeper interactions with consumers.   
  • Another underhyped technology is a digital twin, a digital version of a physical entity.  It is used to diagnose problems and find solutions without investing in expensive physical changes to a product. 

For many executives, evaluating tech plays second fiddle to embracing it. They’re so eager to adopt technology — often the trendiest tools available — that they fail to explore the actual value of that innovation and make rash decisions that negatively impact their businesses.

Driven by a fear of falling behind, a situation plays out like so: The chief technology officer of Company X sits down with the CTO of Company Y at a conference, and the conversation turns to the latest technology trends that can affect businesses. Suddenly, feeling left out, Company X’s CTO returns to his team and asks, “Why don’t we have tools A, B, and C in our arsenal?” The real ask behind the question is: “How can we derive value from these tools?”

How to find the true value of long-term technology trends

The first challenge when evaluating whether a tech trend has true value is to ask: “Is it better, or is it just different?” There will always be another new tool around the corner, but you’re only missing out if that tool has the potential to make your business better. 

This isn’t a question you’ll be able to answer right away, so a process of clear-headed evaluation is necessary. A winning piece of tech — one that slots into your company and improves your efficiency, creativity, or bottom line — is going to evolve over time. It’s never going to be a panacea, but rather a new experiment you can use to develop your offering to get closer to your own leading edge.

Too many executives adopt tech without fully assessing the risks. In fact, in a 2018 KPMG survey, 47% of executives who’d adopted new mobile applications and other emerging technologies admitted to not fully assessing the risks involved. Any piece of tech is going to be complex, and adoption needs to be a steady, thoughtful period of evaluation and evolution.

Let’s cut through the hype, then. In my experience within technology solutions and at Pariveda, I’ve experienced my fair share of highly useful (and not-so-useful) tech trends. In time, I’ve found it easier to predict which emerging technologies would produce lasting results.

To help you sift through the noise and single out emerging technologies that could add significant value within your organization, I’ve outlined four solutions below. Two — the “overhyped” technologies — are best avoided, as they have no concrete promise of return. On the other hand, the “underhyped” trends are worth considering to add long-term value.

Overhyped: machine learning

This term is everywhere right now, with business leaders peppering it through conversations without really knowing what it is and how it can serve them. In fact, if we look at the concept of machine learning on a “cycle,” we can predict that it’s about to drop into the “trough of disillusionment.”

Our clients often come to us wanting to adopt machine learning. So we go through some ideation together. What we tend to find is that the tech works great for one particular use case, but the company’s data is not in any shape to benefit from the machine learning function effectively. The truth is that machine learning is a massive concept, encompassing a great many ideas, devices, and opportunities — most of which will have nothing to do with your company.

Underhyped: graph databases

A graph database is a way of storing and presenting data in a way that illuminates the relationships between things and people. Unlike a regular database, in which you need to run SQL Joins to form connections, a graph database allows you to see connections instantly and form more predictive, deeper interactions with consumers. This technology has been underestimated as just another form of database, but it’s much more powerful than that.

Overhyped: blockchain technology

The underlying principles of blockchain technology are impressive and have been used conceptually to suggest monumental changes to the way we use and think about money, enhance our healthcare system, manage supply chains, and more. The potential of a digital ledger is vast, but the technology is so nascent that only big investors and technology leaders can access its value right now.

Underhyped: digital twins

Digital twin” refers to a digital version of a physical entity, such as a car or piece of furniture. The digital twin is able to carry all of the information about the real-world object, brought to life by real-time data from intelligent sensors in the object. This digital twin can then be used to diagnose problems and experiment with solutions without investing in physical changes to the product.

There are innumerable technology trends that can affect a business. However, that doesn’t mean you should leap on them in the hopes that they’ll produce something of value. Remember that there are no shortcuts here; not every technology trend is created equal, so take time to evaluate and ideate before you fully commit. 

Is your desire for the latest tech tool coming out of fear or as part of an educated strategy? With a strategic approach, separating hype from value should come naturally. You’ll be able to recognize the emerging solutions that could add value to your business and help it scale into the future.

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By Sean Beard
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