Build Your Own Time Machine

Ten forces that will shape the next decade.

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Jackie Niam

Throughout this series we have given you glimpses into how Lumen sees the future — through the lens of the 4th Industrial Revolution. But what does it all mean for your organization? Can you build a machine to help you peer around corners?

We think you can. Lumen CTO Andrew Dugan shared with us how his company views a future that will be determined by certain inexorable forces that are in place, and how understanding them can help you plan for the next decade. Here are 10 of them.

  1. Cloud-First is the future: Multi-cloud will be the most optimal deployment model for applications. Outside of special circumstances, solely deploying apps to on-premises IT infrastructure is too costly, resource-intensive, and requires increasingly specialized skills that organizations cannot constantly invest in.
  2. Applications and data will increasingly become distributed. Futurist Chetan Sharma projects the edge economy will reach $4.1 trillion by 2030. It’s only common sense that processing power should be deployed as close to the point of the decision as possible. Smart devices in mini-data centers and co-location facilities connected by 5G wireless networks, powered by global fiber networks, will make this scenario practical.
  3. All infrastructure will be software-defined. This will permit nearly limitless flexibility in how an organization deploys its compute resources, yielding benefits in scalability, agility and efficiency. Software-defined infrastructure is also programmable, which will yield enormous strides in automation and self-management.
  4. AI will automate most rote and routine work. The great hope of automation is it will free up employees to take on more meaningful work while contributing to bottom-line efficiencies for the business. Plan for the jobs that are most likely to be taken over by machines. Think of how the people doing that work today can be trained for roles requiring the human touch with AI advice and support.
  5. White-collar workforces will be distributed and increasingly virtual. One of the great lessons of the pandemic has been that many people are at least as productive working remotely as in the office. Businesses can use the insights they’ve learned this year to make better hires and locate their people closer to customers and suppliers.
  6. Orchestration will make sure it all works seamlessly — From retail stores to Smart Cities to factories, advanced orchestration services help control the thousands of widely distributed devices and digital assets organizations now have to manage. And timing is everything: orchestration assures that applications get the bandwidth they need, when they need it.
  7. Data volumes will continue to grow, with stored data volumes expanding 18% annually through 2024, according to IDC. At the same time, technology is enabling organizations to tap into that data and gain insights at an ever-increasing rate. The victors will be those who do it best.
  8. Facilities will be more sustainable and independent. Factories, processing plants and other commercial properties will have the means to disconnect from the grid entirely, enabling the companies that own them to optimize their location for proximity to resources, suppliers and customers.
  9. Cybersecurity will steadily improve. Adaptive networks will be secure by design and individual services and software containers will carry their own protections with them. Attackers may still breach the corporate perimeter, but there will be little damage they can do after that.
  10. There will always be surprises. It’s one of the forces that makes the IT industry so fascinating. Nascent technologies like blockchain, 3-D printing and quantum computing could experience a sudden breakout that rewrites the rules of entire industries.

Until the 5th Industrial Revolution …

We said from the outset that “The 4th Industrial Revolution presents an opportunity for sustainable competitive advantage.”[1] The job now is to be sure you’re ready to capitalize on that opportunity. It’s clear that data will fuel this revolution. Be ready to tap that resource. Says Andrew Dugan, CTO for Lumen Technologies, organizations must “make sure that they're creating not just an environment within their company, but that they're choosing partners and platforms that help them transition to that application-driven environment that's collecting, processing and reacting to all of that data. And focus on creating applications that take advantage of that.”

Our advice: Follow the trends that have staying power but keep an eye on the disruptors; they could be your next great opportunity.

1 Global Trends Report, Lumen technologies, 2020.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.