Think the current pace of digital business is fast and furious? According to a new Forrester report on the top technology trends, you should hold onto your virtual hat. The future is real-time, agile, elastic, engaged — and accelerating the blending of digital and physical businesses.

The report, “Top Technology Trends to Watch: 2014 to 2016,” noted “firms are forced to operate at a new pace” because of quick changes caused by consumer behavior, connected employees and an interwoven global market, among other things. It's not just about going faster, Forrester said, because businesses need to be “able to accelerate, slow down, shift right, step back, then race ahead” whether they are B2C or B2B.

The Top Ten Tech Trends

This nimbleness is driven by the aggressive pursuit of “perpetually connected consumers,” whose self-awareness of their increasing power in the market means businesses are often following consumers’ leads; by tougher competitors and smarter suppliers; and by third-party, cloud-based services which are quick to deploy and relatively inexpensive to continue.

The top technologies in terms of the biggest impact are, in order of survey respondents’ choices: mobile applications, Big Data platform for real-time analytics, cloud-based or as-a-service application platforms, customer intelligence and analytics platforms, mobile platforms, infrastructure-as-a-service, Big Data platforms for batch analytics, sensors systems and smart computing, business intelligence and collaboration/social platforms.

The report identifies ten top digital trends, which reach urgency anywhere from six to 18 months:

  1. Digital convergence erodes boundaries
  2. Digital experience delivery makes (or breaks) firms
  3. APIs become digital glue
  4. The business takes ownership of process and intelligence
  5. Firms shed yesterday’s data limitations
  6. Sensors and devices draw ecosystems together
  7. “Trust” and “identity” get a rethink
  8. Infrastructure takes on engagement
  9. Firms learn from the cloud and mobile
  10. IT becomes an agile service broker (or fades away)

Macy’s Erases Boundaries

Taken together, these trends represent a pretty fundamental change in how the business world operates.

Digital convergence, for instance, is a major source of disruption. On one level, it means that inventory management needs to be more fluid and less store-oriented. But it also means that process data management and cloud-based services, for instance, blur distinctions between what’s in the digital realm and what’s physical, because both realms feed the same data and service mechanisms.

As just one example, the report points out that Macy’s no longer differentiates between online and physical sales because it was too difficult to support different inventories.

Learning Opportunities

Similarly, digital experience now means that, for many businesses, their software identity is their brand, not an added layer. External APIs have become a new model for broadly-available network-based services, business users are demanding more control from IT over business intelligence technology, and wearable computers, broadband mobile traffic and the Internet of Everything are exploding the current concepts of a digital ecosystem.

The High View

Some of the trends seem to project a world that many of us may not want. For instance, Forrester notes firms have to recognize “it’s impossible to identify ‘trusted’ interfaces” and notes that the “extended enterprise has changed the meaning of ‘identity,’ because digital natives use their own apps and services as well as corporate apps.” In short, “firms need to abandon quaint notions of trust to stay nimble while being secure.”

This change in trust notions will be “very deep, very slow and potentially expensive,” according the report, and requires the adoption of something called a “Zero Trust” security model in which all data is tagged down to the packet level, all resources are secured and all log traffic is inspected. No word yet on what this means for the consumer.

This is a meaty report, with much to cognitively chew on. Although a few more down-to-earth examples would have helped embody the ideas, trend-watching is necessarily conducted at a high level and, as often happens when you look down from a height, the view is both exhilarating and disorienting.

Image courtesy of BlueSkyImage (Shutterstock)