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Gartner’s 2021 Top Technology Trends and Their Implications to IT Operations

Each year at its annual IT Symposium/Xpo conference, Gartner releases its “Top Strategic Technology Trends.” This list contains those trends that are disruptive, beginning to show broader adoption, and could have tipping points over the next five years.

Technology has a broad impact on the economy, our culture, business, academia, and even our daily lives. Who would have imagined that applications typically used for webinars and small business meetings would become collaboration platforms for entire segments of industry and education? And thus, previously obscure applications such as Zoom have become ubiquitous across the world. And to illustrate just how fast a technology shift can occur, Zoom increased its daily number of meeting participants from 10 million per day in December 2019, to 300 million just 4 months later.

So let’s review Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021, and some of their impacts on IT operations teams.

1. Internet of Behaviors (IoB)

When I first saw this, I immediately thought of “Internet of Things” (IoT) where physical devices are connected and can exchange data. Think of your refrigerator that can communicate when a water filter needs to be replaced. Internet of Behaviors is related, but a bit more ominous. With all the tracking our mobile devices generate, our digital paper trail of credit card purchases, and our social media history, an awful lot of information can be generated about our behavior choices and choices we make through our daily lives.

Like many use cases of technology, IoB can be a huge benefit. It can also have enormous privacy, security, and civil rights concerns as information about our lives are tracked and stored.

As IT operations increasingly manages systems and devices across a dispersed remote workforce, the need for efficient endpoint hardening and vulnerability management is more vital than ever.

2. Total experience

This trend builds upon a 2020 trend entitled “Multiexperience.” And while it seems like more of a theatrical performance or theme park ride, it is not. According to Gartner, “Total experience combines multiexperience, customer experience, employee experience and user experience to transform the business outcome.”

Typically, IT operations is tasked with creating and maintaining the systems and processes that enhance the customer experience.

One example of this that Gartner provided was a telecom company. The company set up an appointment system using an existing app; then, when a user arrived at one of their stores, they received a guide to the check-in process on their mobile device, and an alert to how long they would need to wait before they could enter the store and still maintain social distance. The company was able to create a seamless and integrated support system that enhanced safety and improved customer satisfaction.

3. Privacy-enhancing computation

This trend is all about three data protection technologies:

  • A trusted environment in which sensitive data can be analyzed and processed
  • Performing analytics and processing in a decentralized fashion
  • Encryption of data and algorithms before analytics or processing

The purpose of this trend is to enable organizations “to collaborate on research securely across regions and with competitors without sacrificing confidentiality.” I can think of one very important contemporary use case - the ability of government health agencies and pharmaceutical companies to share data to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, while maintaining privacy and security.

The ability for organizations to confidently protect the devices and servers that store this type of data centers on managing system vulnerabilities. Effective patching and monitoring tools are necessary to ensure these systems stay up-to-date and are configured correctly for limited access. For more on the latest real-world trends, best practices, and recommendations about effective cyber hygiene, be sure to download our Avert Cyber Attacks With Proactive Endpoint Hardening eBook.

4. Distributed cloud

Distributed cloud also appeared on Gartner’s Top Trends for 2020, and it is easy to understand why. Distributed cloud is when cloud services are distributed to different physical locations to place services closer to the business end user. This enables greater efficiency as workloads can be spun up closer to the consumer. The architecture also enables greater accessibility and resilience as the service is not reliant upon one centralized data center should there be an outage. And with distributed cloud, there is no need for a business to use resources for cloud operations and governance as these remain the responsibility of the public cloud provider.

Gartner says the “Distributed cloud is the future of cloud.” As the leading cloud native endpoint management solution, we'd say that distributed cloud is not the future, but the “now.”

5. Anywhere operations

This trend has become the defacto standard for many organizations and education institutions in the world of COVID-19 restrictions. As more business and education shifts to what Gartner calls a “digital first, remote first” model, expect this to become the standard, in many cases permanently.

Automox embraced this shift to “anywhere operations” over a year ago when we announced that we would be adopting a remote workforce policy.

The ability to manage distributed endpoints is now vital. IT operations no longer has the “luxury” of managing systems within one physical location and one network. Modern endpoint management requires the adoption of technologies and solutions that can monitor, patch, and manage systems, regardless of where they are.

6. Cybersecurity mesh

A distributed and remote workforce makes effective cyber hygiene policies more vital than ever. With so many endpoints now residing outside of a typical security perimeter, cybersecurity mesh refers to the ability to define security around the identity of a person or thing. The trend towards cybersecurity mesh is all about centralizing policy orchestration and enforcement to facilitate a more responsive security approach.

To help you enhance your security posture, you can leverage the power of Automox Worklets™ that empowers security and IT operations to create, automate, and enforce any custom task to maintain cyber hygiene. Worklets can perform any scriptable action on devices, including disabling a vulnerable process, managing native OS controls, mass rollback of patches, removing unwanted applications, and many other system configurations.

7. Intelligent composable business

This trend is all about data and information, and the ability for modern organizations to quickly adapt to current situations. With the pace of change increasing, and a faster move to digital transformation, the ability to access information quickly is vital for decision support. This trend is similar to the “Democratization of Expertise” trend from last year’s Gartner list. Both trends imply that the modern enterprise will provide increasing autonomy and “democratization,” or “citizen use” of data for quicker response to market forces.

But enabling intelligent access to data does not remove the need for data security and endpoint management. The opposite is true. Without efficient and automated endpoint hardening and vulnerability management, data security can be compromised.

8. AI engineering

Many of these trends identified by Gartner will require effective use of artificial intelligence. By AI engineering, Gartner refers to an all encompassing AI engineering strategy to drive scalability, enhanced performance and reliability of AI projects.

Gartner also envisions that AI engineering be part of DevOps rather than a separate initiative to improve governance, compliance, and help improve the likelihood of AI providing real business value.

Some ways that AI engineering can help IT operations is by diagnosing issues and handling support tickets through automation. In addition, it may be possible for AI to proactively fix problems based on predicting when an issue will arise.

9. Hyperautomation

This trend was at the top of Gartner’s list of trends for 2020. Gartner defines this as the concept that if anything can be automated, it should be. It’s about streamlining business processes by getting rid of legacy models and practices to support the increased move towards digital business, efficiency, and democratization.

Automation has become a foundational requirement for IT operations. As systems become more complex and the amount of data stored and analyzed grows exponentially, they move beyond the management capabilities of IT Operations teams. While automation has traditionally been used to gain efficiencies, now it can help IT Ops keep systems up-to-date and better protected from exposed vulnerabilities. This is vital for reducing risk and staying within compliance with regulations.  


There is an academic foundation of looking at the adoption of technology trends. This was defined in the “diffusion of innovations” theory created by researchers at Iowa State University, and then further outlined in the 1962 book “Diffusion of Innovations” by Everett Rogers. If you have ever wondered where the terms “innovators,” and “early adopters” came from, you will find them in the Diffusion of Innovations theory.

How long will it take before we see more widespread adoption of these trends and the implications they will have on IT operations? As we all know, it’s hard to predict as technology changes so rapidly in a very dynamic market.

Historically, IT operations was focused on gaining efficiencies and leveraging cost savings. While that is still true, the modern IT operations organization is also incredibly strategic and leveraged to deliver a superior customer experience. Time will continue to tell if the adoption of Gartner's top trends will enable IT operations to further drive growth and enhance business value - but we think so.

About Automox IT Operations

Facing growing threats and a rapidly expanding attack surface, understaffed and alert-fatigued organizations need more efficient ways to eliminate their exposure to vulnerabilities. Automox is a modern cyber hygiene platform that closes the aperture of attack by more than 80% with just half the effort of traditional solutions.

Cloud-native and globally available, Automox enforces OS & third-party patch management, security configurations, and custom scripting across Windows, macOS, and Linux from a single intuitive console. IT and SecOps can quickly gain control and share visibility of on-prem, remote and virtual endpoints without the need to deploy costly infrastructure.

Experience modern, cloud-native patch management today with a 15-day free trial of Automox and start recapturing more than half the time you're currently spending on managing your attack surface. Automox dramatically reduces corporate risk while raising operational efficiency to deliver best-in-class security outcomes, faster and with fewer resources.

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