Over the past couple of years, the phrase disruption has been bandied about quite a bit in the business landscape, with particular reference to Uber and how it’s changed the transport industry across the globe.

The goal then for many businesses today is to be the disruptor and not the disrupted.

With that in mind, research firm Gartner has identified disruptive technologies that CIOs should be aware of.

Experts at disruption

“The single largest challenge facing organisations and technology providers today is digital disruption,” says Daryl Plummer, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

“The virtual nature of digital disruptions makes them much more difficult to deal with than past technology-triggered disruptions. CIOs must work with their business peers to pre-empt digital disruption by becoming experts at recognising, prioritising and responding to early indicators,” he adds.

As for the disruptive technologies, Gartner has outlined seven in particular that should be on the radars for CIOs in the near future, if not being addressed within their organisations already.

Quantum Computing

With data scientists tasked with tackling complex problems around machine learning, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, the power provided by conventional computing methods will simply be insufficient.

This is a hurdle that the power and processing capabilities that quantum computing can overcome.

“Quantum computers have the potential to run massive amounts of calculations in parallel in seconds. This potential for compute acceleration, as well as the ability to address difficult and complex problems, is what is driving so much interest from CEOs and CIOs in a variety of industries,” notes Plummer.

“But we must always be conscious of the hype surrounding the quantum computing model. QC is good for a specific set of problem solutions, not all general-purpose computing,” he warns.

Real-time language translation

The next technology focuses on communication, especially in the global context.

With more devices capable of real-time language translation entering the market, it opens up platforms for employees, teams and organisations in different parts of the world to engage with one another.

To prepare for this disruption, CIOs should equip employees in international jobs with experimental real-time translators to pilot streamlined communication. This will help establish multilingual disciplines to help employees work more effectively across languages,” explains Plummer.


Nanotechnology has applications in the medical, electronics, manufacturing and security fields, as dealing with substances on a molecular level opens up avenues in creation of new materials.

As for how this could disrupt businesses, Plummer notes that 3D printing in particular could benefit.

“When we consider applications that begin to allow things like 3D printing at nanoscale, then it becomes possible to advance the cause of printed organic materials and even human tissue that is generated from individual stem cells. 3D bioprinting has shown promise and nanotech is helping deliver on it,” says the Gartner fellow.

Swarm intelligence

As organisations begin to make more decisions in real-time, and require the ability to address problems that crop up unexpectedly, and increased level of agility will be essential.

In order to handle this need, Plummer says that swarm intelligence poses a solution.

Swarm intelligence is the collective behaviour of decentralised, self-organised systems, natural or artificial, according to Gartner. This swarm consists of small computing elements (either physical entities or software agents) that follow simple rules for coordinating their activities. Such elements can be replicated quickly and inexpensively.

“CIOs should start exploring the concept to scale management, especially in digital business scenarios,” advises Plummer.

Human-machine interfaces

The next technology specifically looks at those employees within an organisation that are otherwise limited or impaired by some sort of physical disability.

With human-machine interfaces (HMI), there’s an opportunity to create multimodal experiences says Plummer.

“People living with disabilities benefit from HMIs that are being adapted to their needs, including some already in use within organisations of all types,” he continues.

Software distribution

Gartner believes software procurement is undergoing a significant shift, highlighting the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google and IBM all looking at marketplaces to distribute their services.

More specifically these cloud services providers need to make it as easy as possible for people to buy and own their offerings.

“Establishing one’s own marketplace or participating as a provider in a third-party marketplace is a route to market that is becoming increasingly popular. Distributors and other third parties also see the opportunity to create strong ecosystems (and customer bases) while driving efficiencies for partners and technology service providers,” says Plummer.

Smartphone disintermediation

The last technology outlined by Gartner is the smartphone, with its ubiquity potentially lessening with other devices like smartwatches, virtual personal assistants (VPA) and other wearables becoming more popular.

“Smartphones are, today, critical for connections and media consumption. However, over time they will become less visible as they stay in pockets and backpacks,” adds Plummer.

“Instead, consumers will use a combination of voice-input and VPA technologies and other wearable devices to navigate a store or public space such as an airport or stadium without walking down the street with their eyes glued to a smartphone screen,” he concludes.

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