Social, mobile, big data, and cloud are mainstream. What is next? These technologies helped startups become multibillion-dollar enterprises and led to an AI revival. Today, however, only about one-fourth of AI efforts get past the pilot phase. Is implementing AI in production going to trigger new waves of change? Will the pattern be similar to what we saw in the 2010s?

Certainly, getting value out of AI will be important in the 2020s. I see many other emerging technology changes happening quietly, however, off the radar of many clients. For example, while we wait for quantum computers to finally do something, everyone is missing the revolution in quantum location, time keeping, and sensing. Software is quietly learning how to code itself. Blockchain, AI, and edge computing, hot technologies individually, are slowly starting to work together. Lastly, there is a revolution happening in infrastructure: Consider IBM’s two-nanometer chip announcement, ARM’s Cassini edge server architecture, or private 5G-enabled edge clouds. As if it was not complex enough already, all of these have a relationship to AI or its cousin, machine learning. So what does the future really hold?

I have concluded that emerging information technologies will create dramatic changes in this decade, but they will not follow the patterns you saw in the 2010s. Instead, new technologies will help future fit firms seize leadership positions in a decade of both uncertainty and rapid change. This makes staying ahead of trends as important as it ever was, maybe even more so.

To help clients, I have taken a new job at Forrester as our vice president of emerging technology portfolio. In this new role, it’s my job to help our clients figure out how to accelerate through new technology innovations. We have a lot of exciting research to roll out over the next year, but I’d like to spend a moment on our first: Forrester’s “recipe” for researching and experimenting with emerging technology, just published in the “Master Emerging Technology And Trends Research” report, as well as four short supplementary documents. These will form the foundation of much more analysis and guidance coming over the next six months.

In this research, we use the ReCPI acronym as our model: “Re” stands for Research, “C” for Communicate, “P” for Prove, and finally, “I” stands for Integration of research and experimentation into funded innovation efforts. Each element of our framework is further broken down into two or three subelements, as shown here:

ReCPI is not a completely new model but rather an evolution of previous frameworks such as our Agile technology introduction framework, LIFT, and technology-driven innovation. It represents 10 years of best practices, with a few differentiating features that are relevant for the 2020s. We think the following four elements differentiate our research and will help you master emerging technologies in the 2020s:

  • Emphasize trends and opportunities over lists of emerging technologies. Most firms I work with get so wrapped up in a single emerging technology that they miss opportunities when several technologies come together. ReCPI will guide you around that trap.
  • Take a more expansive view of potential risk and value. Most frameworks only look at the immediate problems solved by a new technology and evaluate only the risk due to technology maturity. ReCPI will open your aperture so that you understand all benefits and look at all risks.
  • Assess emerging technology fit in terms of culture, talent, and process. Most frameworks only answer the question, “Is the technology ready for your organization?” In ReCPI, we also ask, “Is your organization ready for the technology?”
  • Separate research from innovation. Many firms I work with identify a new technology, look to implement solutions, and fail due to lack of business traction. In ReCPI, we provide guidance to help avoid this outcome. Emerging technology research and experimentation is integrated into innovation efforts, where executives spend money to achieve change.

It’s time to examine how your firm finds, implements, and co-develops emerging technologies. Even if you think you are good, you need to get better. If you are not a client, you can still benefit by thinking of the bullets above as advice.

Next up on my agenda is research on the future of edge computing and quantum computing. These reports will be part of the future of tech series that itself is part of our broader effort to help you accelerate. Stay tuned and stand by!