Technology trends for business leaders

  • McKinsey study highlights the latest tech trends to help CEOs elevate their business
  • Keeping on top of tech trends will help businesses tap into the crucial artificial intelligence (AI) market
  • Tech Tools to help businesses become greener
  • Chief information officers (CIO) and Chief Financial Officers (CFO) urged to invest further in IT infrastructure

Technology has become the cornerstone of large-scale business strategies, providing a firm foundation for various industries.

With tech trends evolving so quickly, it can be challenging to know where to place your focus when forming a business strategy.

A recent study conducted by management consulting firm, McKinsey has identified a list of the latest technology trends to help business leaders stay on top of the ever-changing tech landscape.

McKinsey’s Technology Council consists of a team of over 60 scientists, engineers, investors, entrepreneurs from tech industries.

The study states that the technological disruption that will occur over the coming years will be the equivalent of the industrial revolution. As a result, business leaders must continue to educate themselves regarding tech developments to help elevate their company.

To identify the ten major tech trends, the Technology Council observed over 80 fundamental technologies and grouped them into 40 clusters. The clusters are ordered based on their impact, maturity, and a “momentum score,” which establishes how quickly the technology matures.

The momentum score consists of elements such as venture capital investment, patent filings, uses across industries and attention across science and business media. Categorising technologies in this way will help business leaders to determine the level of tech disruption and the implications this will have on businesses.

The top two technologies listed in McKinsey’s report were applied AI and next-generation computing. Closely following behind was distributed infrastructure and trust architecture. Bio revolution, future of programming, connectivity, and next-level process automation and virtualisation were next on the hierarchy. Last on the list was nanomaterials and the future of clean technologies.

McKinsey is to review tech trends on an annual basis and explain how to develop new technologies into their organisation.

Tech trends will help businesses tap into the AI market

The coronavirus pandemic sparked a rapid acceleration of the artificial intelligence (AI) industry, with firms becoming increasingly reliant on technology. During this period, many firms made quick pivots to their business model to gain a competitive advantage.

The past year has seen many businesses, both large and small incorporating AI into their business model as the International Data Corporation Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Spending Guide says the AI industry will double by 2024.

The AI industry currently stands at USD 50 billion and is believed to grow to GBP 110 billion in just three years. The majority of this growth is forecast to come from the United States, mainly the retail and banking industries. The second-largest region for AI investment is forecast to be Western Europe, followed by China. Meanwhile, Japan and Latin America are forecast to experience the most significant spending growth over this period.

Data from Stock Apps reveals that AI start-up companies generated GBP 73 billion during Q4 of 2020, a USD 15 billion rise compared to Q1 of 2020.

AI has been used for a variety of purposes over the past year, helping companies elevate to the next level:

Retail Digitalisation

2019 saw the Nike Fit app launch, which used AI to scan feet and help customers find the perfect size shoe. Ever since the brand has increasingly focused on digitalisation to create a personalised experience for its customers.

Remote working

With more employees working from home, businesses have relied on AI for meeting and scheduling software. These tools help manage the days of employees, setting times and locations for meetings as well as reminders and follow-ups.

Enhance employee experience

AI-powered Human Resources (HR) tools have become increasingly popular, incorporating analytics and engagement to help enhance employee experiences.

The fight against COVID-19

Numerous tools and apps have been created throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help detect potential COVID infections and notify individuals to self-isolate.

Remaining aware of AI developments can help businesses explore new opportunities and identify recent trends, helping you stay ahead of the competition.

Tech tools to help businesses become greener

Sustainability has been on the radar of most businesses for some time, though it has become a rising priority for many more firms this year. There are numerous emerging tech tools that can help make your business greener and more profitable.

Although 2020 saw a dip in global carbon emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the world still experienced soaring temperatures and a rise in climate-related disasters. Despite the eagerness of businesses and governments to implement eco-friendly practices, a fully sustainable future still seems like a distant target.

However, this notion has provided further fuel for businesses to step up their sustainability targets, finding additional opportunities to harness environmental change, often called ‘the green rush’.

According to the Centre for the Future of Work who surveyed 1,000 business leaders across North America and Europe during the coronavirus pandemic, the following observations were made:

  • Businesses across Europe are more likely to up their sustainability spending than businesses in the US.
  • Most businesses expect that green investments will help sales growth and improve brand reputation.
  • Most respondents said environmental sensors were crucial to meeting sustainability targets, whilst smart grids and AI and in second place.
  • Common sustainability practices such as eco-friendly lighting and renewable energy sources prove to be the most popular green business approaches.
  • AI and analytics are becoming increasingly popular as they help make energy audits more manageable.
  • Return on investment (ROI) and commitment to green initiatives from senior business members are primary concerns.
  • There will be a rise in low-cost but high-impact green initiatives, such as reducing business travel post-pandemic and purchasing refurbished electronics.

In a bid to achieve these sustainable practices, businesses are displaying further reliance on the following green technologies:

Environmental sensors/Internet of Things (IoT)

Implementation of sensors can help monitor environmental well-being, assess human effects on natural resources and speed up response times to climate-related emergencies.

Artificial Intelligence

AI learning capabilities allow businesses to understand carbon emissions and environmental damage more clearly and identify the best climate change initiative. As a result, businesses are gradually increasing their AI budgets in 2021, up to 55% more than the previous year. The budget increase follows the 2021 State of AI and Machine Learning Report released by Appen, which found a link between AI use and business success.

Smart grids

Smart grids are powered by renewable energy sources and smart devices to reveal real-time data, which can help reduce waste and reliance on fossil fuels. As a result, businesses can implement more efficient energy use and use accurate data to improve their green initiatives continuously.


Blockchain allows businesses to reduce their paper consumption and lower their carbon footprint.

CIOs and CFOs urged to invest further in IT infrastructure

According to Gartner, IT spending is forecast to grow to USD 4 trillion in 2021 to achieve a more productive and comfortable working environment. CFOs and CIOs can often hold differing views regarding budgets, with CFOs often focussed on reducing costs. However, both are concerned with maximising investment value and optimising essential costs.

The past year has seen both CIOs and CFOs develop their responsibilities by taking a more direct approach to diminish disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many are increasing budgets and investments into new technologies, such as cloud-based tools, to improve collaboration and productivity when working from home.

Cyber-security also remains one of the most significant priority areas as cyber risks, and ransomware attacks become more prominent. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast that information security analyst will be the 10th fastest growing profession across the next ten years, with a growth rate of 31% compared to the 4% average growth rate for all professions.

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