2014 vs 2020 - The tech trends transforming the world of business

Posted by Comtrade Digital Services on Dec 2, 2020 2:27:29 PM
Comtrade Digital Services

We live in an information age where technology is constantly and rapidly progressing with every single day. Furthermore, emerging technologies are driving the rapid rate of innovation and having a transformational impact on the IT industry and further afield. As Bill Gates once said, “Innovation is moving at a scarily fast pace.”

Back in 2014, we predicted what the IT industry landscape would be like come 2020. From emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain to business trends such as digital transformation and technology partners, we are now looking back to see which of our predictions came true and also thinking about what the future might hold.

ai went from abstract to applications in the real world

AI in 2014 was still quite an abstract or academic concept, with many taking a research-based approach to it and its impact somewhat limited to the IT industry. People hadn’t even heard of the likes of Machine Learning (ML), but the last six years have seen tremendous progress in its capabilities – not just algorithms that are incredibly precise and robust but ML models that can be applied to real-world problems and hardware solutions, such as edge computing, that are delivering real benefits for businesses. The real power of AutoML tools lies in the automation of the machine learning pipeline. How does this technology benefit businesses? In a very concrete way in fact, as it enables the use of ML by non-technical people who have no background in the underlying technology. Furthermore, there are some interesting indicators in relation to where AutoML is heading next, but one thing is for sure – nobody could have anticipated the success that AI has delivered to date.

the rapid rate of digital transformation in the information age

In 2014, we knew digital transformation was coming but we have actually progressed even further to agile transformation – which is a more flexible and constantly evolving approach – and are now moving beyond agile and digital transformation. As well as AI and ML, other trends including cloud adoption have really accelerated the pace of change in this area and brought new developments, like business continuity as a technology or service (which we hadn’t predicted), to the fore. Digital transformation as a practice has also moved far beyond the IT industry, seeping into almost every sector.

the emergence of the technology partner & exponential growth of the industry

The concept of technology partners has essentially replaced the traditional service providers we were used to five or six years ago, and the IT industry as a whole has exploded in terms of the variety of services and solutions offered. Once again, this was expected but not to the extent that has occurred. What started as organisations consulting providers about how to digitalise their existing business processes has progressed to companies engaging with partners on a long-term basis in order to utilise technology in a way that drives growth and creates new business models. Having a trustworthy technology partner to walk you through the process of uncovering new technology solutions and identify ways of capitalising on the benefits offered by such emerging technologies is an important step on the path of innovation in, acceleration for and expansion of a business. For example, Novartis and Microsoft have embarked on an alliance to leverage data and AI in order to transform how medicines are developed and delivered to market. This collaboration has also led to the establishment of an AI innovation Lab to help identify ways of using AI across all facets of the business.

Digital transformation

a shift to new business models

Other disruptors have emerged in recent years and in ways that we hadn’t anticipated. Take Airbnb for instance, it is the accommodation provider without property. And even established companies and industry leaders like Microsoft changed from offering a product for life to a subscription model to adapt to the changing landscape. Some businesses implemented emerging technologies very quickly and there has been a shift within many sectors, but surprisingly there are still organisations living in the old world and finding this adjustment difficult. A shift in mindset and a willingness to embrace new, emerging technologies has really become crucial in terms of moving forward, keeping up with the market and staying competitive.

The impact of digital transformation on society

Of course, we have seen digital transformation impact more than the world of business. As well as creating new operational processes, solving problems and establishing different marketplaces, it has also had a major impact on society as a whole. However, this isn’t something that people talk about in the same way. Digital transformation has had a deep impact from a personal perspective, and it has become ingrained in our daily lives, even though we may not always be aware of it. Think about when you buy something from Tesco and put it through the till – this can say so much about you, such as whether you have kids or might be pregnant. AI potentially has the power to know something before you do and it is shaping everything, from shopping preferences to politics, during this information age.


One thing we weren’t anticipating back in 2014 was just how prevalent blockchain and distributed ledger technologies would be as a result of the emergence of cryptocurrency. It has become a major focus for companies in terms of technology and revamping their existing infrastructures. It has also led to major ransomware attacks and these are continuing to evolve, but generally blockchain has arisen as a positive game-changer for a lot of companies and industries.

Removing the middleman & responding to crisis

As a result of the pace of technology and the growing demand for tailored solutions, intermediaries are being removed to make technology services more accessible, applicable and customisable for customers. Furthermore, organisations are constantly finding new uses and applications for the technologies they have. For example, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, tools and devices have been applied in different ways to support remote working and collaboration. There is also a whole new economy being created around Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) systems because every single one of us has become a digital nomad due to the pandemic. And last but not least, the implementation of methods based on computer vision and video processing is proving very useful for data analysis in medical diagnostics.

What are some upcoming technological trends to look out for?

It is said that we will overestimate what will happen in five years but underestimate what will happen in 10. What is certain is that significant progress will be made in the world of technology over the next decade and life as we know it will be completely different.

It might sound quite visionary but one day there could be buses in Dublin driven by remote workers employed by a rental service company located somewhere else in the world, enabled by emerging technologies. Virtual workers and entirely digital workforces are likely to become more commonplace and this could happen much sooner than we think due to current circumstances.

There is also a lot of talk happening within the IT industry around DNA being used for data storage purposes and the widespread use of cognitive systems and automation in business – although, for the latter to be a reality, issues around regulation and liability need to be addressed. Today service desks are being automated; in a decade, cognitive systems could be advising C-level executives on strategy decisions.

Again, as with the last six years, the potential that the next decade represents will depend on our openness to engage with emerging technologies and willingness to invest time in their application. As before, having the right strategic technology partner to add value in the transformation journey will prove invaluable for organisations. Since 2014, digital transformation has evolved into agile transformation, but now we are moving beyond that and building upon the progress that has been made to date both in the IT industry and across all sectors.

So, what will 2026 look like? Only time (and technology) will tell…


Topics: Agile, digital transformation, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, data science, Technology, machine learning