Gartner’s 2021 Tech Trends: People Centricity, Location Independence, and Resilient Delivery

With a new report from on strategic priorities for 2021 forthcoming, we looked at the main three areas of concern outlined by Gartner: People Centricity, Location Independence, and, above all, Resilient Delivery. 

As 2020 continues to recede into the distance in our rearview mirror, is looking forward to what will be driving technology trends in 2021 and further down the road. The industry pundits at Gartner have spoken, and here is the round-up of their predictions on the most important advances in tech yet to come, and most importantly what it means for your business.

When anticipating the opportunities, strategies, and technologies that will drive CIOs’ plans in 2021, it is not surprising that many result from the significant impact caused by Covid-19 which continues to ripple across societies, markets, the workforce, and our growing need for flexible IT solutions.

It comes as no surprise, then, that a common thread running through all of this year’s major trends reports look at the idea of plasticity and resilience. Brian Burke, Research Vice President at Gartner even remarked that, “the unprecedented socioeconomic challenges of 2020 demand the organisational plasticity to transform and compose the future.”

As entire sectors continue to adapt their previous strategic plans while accelerating their digital transformation efforts to cope with such unforeseen challenges, Gartner outlined nine top strategic tech trends for 2021 to help businesses prepare, including:

  1. Internet of Behaviours
  2. Total experience
  3. Privacy-enhancing computation
  4. Distributed cloud
  5. Anywhere operations
  6. Cybersecurity mesh
  7. Intelligent composable business
  8. AI engineering
  9. Hyper automation

Today, we’re spotlighting the three themes that link these strategies together, discussing the effects these will have across wider business structures rather than solely within the four walls of the organisations’ CIO office. So what are these themes? People Centricity, Location Independence, and Resilient Delivery.


People Centricity: The Internet of Behaviour

In 2021 we can expect to see more Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in the field that monitor customer and employee behaviour. Gartner refers to this collection and analysis of behavioural data to influence specific human behaviours as the newly coined term, the Internet of Behaviour (IoB).

IoB as a trend will predictably facilitate Gartner’s notions of “plasticity”, Resilient Delivery and particularly People Centricity to inform businesses’ responses to future crises.

For instance, devices related to location, facial recognition and more can essentially act as guides to mapping things such as employee hygiene in the workplace. It is predicted that industrial sites will use sensors or RFID tags to ensure employees are washing hands regularly and will use computer vision to determine if employees are wearing masks.

Furthermore, IoB allows organisations an in-depth, personalized understanding of their customer’s behaviour for marketing purposes. From seeing what brands you follow on social media to tracking eye movements, businesses will be able to map the perfect user journey and guesstimate future behaviour through IoB technology. With this in mind, the value of IoB could be limitless, so to say.

But it isn’t all blue skies when it comes to IoB. Regulations have yet to catch up with technology, and privacy concerns in particular are having profound societal and ethical effects within the field of IoT. Worries regarding user security raise important questions about how companies gather, police and share personal data, particularly at scale – and that scale is, let’s say, significant.

According to Gartner, over 50% of the world’s population will be exposed to at least one IoB-influenced government or commercial program by 2025. What’s more, Gartner estimates that by 2023 individual activities of 40% of the global population will be tracked digitally in order to influence our behaviour. With so many people soon to be effected by IoB technologies, brands should look to adopt a privacy-by-design approach to developing new solutions. That way, when new regulations come into force to better manage privacy concerns surrounding IoB, brands will be in a good position to take those regulations in their stride.

Ultimately, it’s not just about finding new ways to meet the needs of customers or monitor/boost employee productivity. It’s about meeting ethical obligations to those users, thereby getting their buy-in, and helping your company to fuel recovery and growth following the pandemic era.

In other areas, organisations will be looking to expand their people-centric strategies by enhancing privacy and giving more thought to the user experiences they deliver.


Location Independence: Anywhere Operations

Another key technology trend for 2021 is ‘Anywhere Operations’, which is also the focus of an upcoming report. Gartner notes that “digital first, remote first” models should henceforth be the default for business being done anywhere. This IT operating model is designed to support customers, enable employees and manage the deployment of business services across distributed infrastructures.

Marie Puybaraud, JLL’s global head of corporate research, argued that the pandemic “sped up the timeline” of the evolution of the physical workplace into the distributed workforce by 5-10 years. Yet while Covid-19 caused the abrupt shift to remote work, coaxing professionals back to pre-pandemic levels of in-office work will certainly not be as speedy.

A survey conducted by the staffing firm Robert Half found that 60% of professionals who had transitioned to a remote setup said they have a better work/life balance, and that 74% of respondents would like to continue to telecommute after pandemic restrictions are eased.

However, Anywhere Operations is more than working from home or interacting with customers virtually. Across five areas — collaboration, productivity, secure remote access, cloud and edge infrastructure, quantification of the digital experience and automation to support remote operations — it generates new business value that is sorely needed in 2021.

As the digital workplace becomes an inevitability for ‘the next normal’, organisations such as PayPal have taken the opportunity to revaluate how they work in teams. Dan Torunian, Vice President at PayPal, said that in order to “capture the natural feeling of tapping a colleague on the shoulder and spontaneously grabbing a coffee—a feeling that’s missing from formal videoconference invitations”, PayPal created an app that randomly pairs interested employees for coffee breaks.

Technological developments, such as apps and AI-powered employee coaches, which are emerging due to empathetic leadership will open up exciting new prospects for balancing productivity and performance with employee engagement within our new ‘virtual’ workplaces.

But without the proper infrastructure to support an Anywhere Operation, backed by a distributed cloud network and with a digital workspace that promotes easy collaboration, organisations may struggle this year. It falls to CIOs to up their game in this area and review current strategy — and enhance resiliency in the process.


As CIOs and IT leaders struggle to pick up the pieces, they’re beginning to understand the importance of business capabilities that adapt to the pace of business change.

Brian Burke
Research VP, Gartner


Resilient Delivery: Intelligent Composable Business

Another interesting trend that will take shape in 2021 is Intelligent Composable Business (ICB). The ICB trend will radically reengineer decision-making through digital transformation, by accessing better information via data and responding more nimbly to it. Essentially, machines will enhance decision-making in the future, enabled by a rich fabric of data and insights.

The idea of composable business operates on four basic principles:

  • More speed through discovery
  • Greater agility through modularity
  • Better leadership through orchestration
  • Resilience through autonomy

As exponential change continues, ICBs possess the ability to adapt and rearrange themselves based on changes to the organisation. Gartner notes that in order to successfully do this, organisations must increase autonomy and democratisation across the organisation to enable the business to react quickly “instead of being bogged down by inefficient processes.”

Brian Burke, research VP at Gartner stated that, “As CIOs and IT leaders struggle to pick up the pieces, they’re beginning to understand the importance of business capabilities that adapt to the pace of business change.” ICB will thus push aside previously brittle and static business processes that collapsed under the weight of the pandemic, and instead pave the way for redesigned digital business moments, new business models, autonomous operations and new products, services and channels.

As organisations continue to transform this year, they’ll also need to reconsider cybersecurity and look to automating more of their traditional processes. Remote workers are more vulnerable to social engineering threats, which in turn makes even the most intelligent businesses vulnerable. Elsewhere, external crises like we saw last year could arise again, and businesses will need the resiliency to weather these crises. Hyper automation will ensure organisations can continue operations regardless of what happens in terms of returning to the office.


A Hopeful Future?

Taken together, these 2021 tech trends suggest that there is a more hopeful dimension to the turbulent events of this past year and demonstrate the key role that CIOs and IT leaders have taken to help businesses continue to run.

One thing we have learnt from 2020 is that CIOs are more resilient than they know. But as we enter 2021, will industry leaders be able to predict the upcoming challenges and have these technology trends in place, ready to thrive in the face of such adversity?

To help C-Suite leaders to steer their companies towards a brighter, more resilient future, will soon be releasing a comprehensive report on Anywhere Operations strategy. Following our own survey and interviews with C-Suite leaders, we’ve identified several key areas of concern that should be top priority this year. Stay tuned for the full report!

Discover More On The Defining Strategic Focus Of The Year: Anywhere Operations

Hybrid working models are going to be the future of work. Now, business leaders everywhere are reassessing their operations in order to facilitate a hybrid office/home working environment within their organisation.

At the start of 2021, we interviewed a selection of C-Suite thought leaders to learn more about what they are doing to build these kind of Anywhere Operations. Our full report is available free from our website. Kickstart your strategy for establishing a hybrid working model now with all the insights!