6 IT Trends That Will Shape 2023

Deloitte’s Chief Futurist Mike Bechtel sees multicloud IT shifting to a metacloud approach, but believes for the most part a clever mixing of old with new technologies will define the year.

By Calvin Hennick

By Calvin Hennick December 12, 2022

It takes a particular sort of person to wear the title of “chief futurist.”

Mike Bechtel, who holds the position at professional services powerhouse Deloitte Consulting LLP, sometimes compares technologies to Star Wars characters to make a point, and he signs off on official reports with the whimsical signature “!mb.” 

Occasionally, during the course of an interview, he’ll change up his voice and adopt the persona of a well-intentioned manager who is misreading the moment. When he recently tweeted that he was “irrationally exuberant” about the coming year, he was referring not to any specific tech trend, but rather to the upcoming tour of the ’90s pop-punk band Blink-182.

“When you throw out a word like ‘futurist,’ people are like: ‘Uh oh, snake oil,’” Bechtel said. 

“But we see it as our job to inoculate our clients against snake oil. The leading characteristic of snake oil is that it tends to show up as a shiny hammer in search of nails. When people lead with the technology like that, rather than focus on solving problems, we tend to see overbuilding and misapplication.”

Accordingly, Deloitte’s “Tech Trends 2023” report (authored by Bechtel and his team) focuses less on entirely new technologies, and more on how organizations will apply once-futuristic solutions to solve their problems in practical ways. Maturing existing technologies, as opposed to innovation, is an IT metatrend for 2023.

Bechtel and Deloitte see these six IT trends defining the year ahead.

1. VR Becomes a Valuable Enterprise Tool

In 2022, critics had their fun dunking on the as-yet sparsely populated metaverse. But Bechtel sees businesses finding valuable uses for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the coming year – as long as they approach these technologies strategically. “The advice that we’ve been giving to our clients is to consider how they use the classical internet today,” Bechtel said. 

He points out that, for many organizations (including Deloitte), the internet essentially serves as a “digital billboard” to advertise their products and services. 

“If you’re trying to simulate and optimize enterprise throughput in mechanical industrial models, by all means, do that in a 3D virtual world,” he said. “But if your best use of the classical Internet has been advertising, there’s a lot of reason to believe that the way you’ll use the immersive internet is for more advertising.” 

Internally, Bechtel noted, many organizations will use AR and VR to provide immersive education that is safer and less expensive than certain types of hands-on training.

2. AI Becomes Collaborating ‘Co-Pilot’ 

“Five years ago, predictive analytics would tell you what you should have done differently, but too late to have been useful,” Bechtel said. 

“It was like C-3PO, second-guessing you over your shoulder,” he said, using Star Wars as an analogy. “Today’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities are a little bit more like Chewbacca. They’re a copilot, getting you out of harm’s way.” 

Deloitte notes in its report that most business leaders (73 percent) say that AI is critical to their organizations’ success, but nearly half (47 percent) have concerns about transparency. The report also states: “For more trusted AI, forward-thinking enterprises are leaning on data transparency, algorithmic explainability, and AI reliability.” 

In other words, AI experts can no longer vaguely reference machine learning algorithms when advocating for AI adoption. Instead, building trust in AI requires empowering stakeholders to know how their AI works, which data it uses for which purposes, and how their platforms are maintained.

3. Mainframe Is a Mainstay

Mainframe may not be the first technology that people think of when they’re looking toward the future. “But a funny thing happened on the road to obsolescence,” Deloitte notes in its report. “People [keep] using mainframes.” 

With the mainframe remaining a piece of business-critical infrastructure for many organizations, IT leaders are getting creative in finding ways to make them communicate better with modern applications. 

The report states: “[Enterprises] should evaluate what business needs have changed, and what opportunities exist in cloud versus mainframes to meet those needs. With more and more modern applications emerging that extend the functionality of the mainframe, it may not always make sense to throw out processes that are working simply in the name of modernization.”

4. From Multicloud to Metacloud

Many organizations originally turned to cloud computing as a way to simplify their IT environments, but the emergence of multicloud models in recent years has re-introduced complexity in many cases. Deloitte sees a “taming” of this multicloud chaos coming in the form of a “metacloud” approach that will utilize a compatibility layer above cloud platforms to provide simplified access to common services. 

Enterprises are awakening to the gray lining of the cloud, according to the report’s section titled “Above the clouds: Taming multicloud chaos.” As developers’ enthusiasm for the latest cloud services and tools grew, so too did the number of platforms businesses were supporting. This has created a tangled web of cloud tools that are sometimes interconnected but just as often redundant.

The report’s section on metacloud states that IT leaders are now looking for ways to harness the operational gains that come from managing multiple cloud instances while slaying the dragon of multicloud complexity.

“It involves building a compatibility layer that provides access to common services such as storage and compute, AI, data, security, operations, governance, and application development and deployment,” according to the report.


Finding an Efficient Way to Hybrid Multicloud

“This compatibility layer logically sits above a business’ various cloud platforms and leverages their native technical standards through APIs – with the result that applications still enjoy the strong security of the cloud provider, but in a consistent manner with centralized control. Metacloud does this through a common interface, giving administrators centralized control over their multiple cloud instances.

5. Decentralized Architectures Build Trust in AI

Deloitte sees the potential of a “chain or it didn’t happen” situation, where the rise of deepfakes, the balkanization of social media, concerns about privacy, and the prevalence of outright fraud all combine to require Web3 technologies such as blockchain to create trust in online interactions. Because some AI tools can produce convincing outputs that are factually incorrect, verifying the source of the data the models are trained on is key.


More Reasons for HCI at the Edge

According to Deloitte, decentralized AI architectures could lead to long-term improvements in cybersecurity, and blockchain could help improve trust in AI tools by providing insight into the origin, integrity, and authenticity of the data used in those systems.

6. Rise of the Polymaths

When it comes to talent, Bechtel said flexibility beats specialized expertise, and organizations will increasingly look to hire “polymaths” who possess a breadth of knowledge – and the willingness to learn more. 

“The half-life of any given emerging technology is down to two and a half years,” Bechtel said.

“Even if organizations win the war for talent, they lose because they’ll need another set of engineers with another set of skills in 30 months.” 

He said there’s a trend toward serial specialization. 

“Organizations don’t want a jack of all trades and master of none, but they also don’t want a specialist who does the same thing forever. Rather, they need employees with the ability to adapt to change.”

Editor’s note: see Mike Bechtel in this 2021 Deloitte video Brief History of the Future: Information.”

Calvin Hennick is a contributing writer. His work appears in BizTech, Engineering Inc., The Boston Globe Magazine and elsewhere. He is also the author of Once More to the Rodeo: A Memoir. Follow him on Twitter @CalvinHennick.

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