Mark Smith's Analyst Perspectives

The Digital Technology Market Agenda for 2021: Predictability in Unpredictable Times

Posted by Mark Smith on Feb 25, 2021 12:00:00 AM

I’m proud to share Ventana Research’s 2021 market agenda for digital technology. Our focus in this agenda is to deliver expertise to help organizations prioritize technology investments that increase workforce effectiveness and organizational agility, ensuring ongoing operation during any type of disruption.

Market Agenda Logo 2021 (1)

Digital technology is a business necessity as clearly found in 2020, required to enable organizational agility needed to operate efficiently during market disruptions. Many organizations were unprepared for the dramatic challenges brought about by the pandemic, proving that business continuity efforts weren’t up to par for managing continued operations during a major disruption.

The lesson learned is that, even though significant digital transformation efforts occurred over the last five plus years, it’s necessary to refine these efforts, ensuring business continuity through an effective digital strategy that can sustain any “black swan” event.

Our 2021 market agenda focuses on critical areas of digital technology, using insights and best practices to help organizations ensure optimal outcomes. For 2021, we have brought back cloud computing as a focus, since the complexities in managing applications and systems across the computing environment have introduced new challenges. In addition, the convergence of collaborative and conversational technologies support a new generation of digital technology for enterprises. We assert that through 2021, four-fifths of organizations will realize that the digital technology used for operating virtually for business continuity is ineffective in supporting organizational resilience.


Digital technology helps organizations gain intelligence and launch automation that ensures ongoing levels of effectiveness for the overall business and within specific processes. Our digital technology expertise includes nine topics of focus: Analytics and Data; Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning; Blockchain; Cloud Computing; Collaborative and Conversational Computing; the Internet of Things; Mobile Computing; Robotic Automation; and Extended Reality.

Analytics and Data

Today, every aspect of business relies on analytics and data. Organizations use analytics to apply data science and processing to all types of data, generating information and insights necessary to improve outcomes. Our agenda reflects the technology required to achieve this objective and provide data integration - the preparation and processing of data for analytic and operational use. We’ll also focus on business intelligence-based processes that generate visualization along with important insights across lines of business and IT.

For 2021, we will further explore the need to embed analytics, and ensure collaboration and availability across mobile technology. High on our list is natural language generation from data and analytics as well the process for simplifying data access and presentation through human and machine-level interactions. Our Benchmark Research and Value Index will identify best practices and assess and rate technology vendors’ potential to help ensure the right technology is being used to provide effective organizational agility.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI and ML enable the processing of data much the way humans do, providing a context to refine how organizations operate in any activity. Our agenda reflects our work to assess organizations’ use of AI and ML through market research designed to help guide technology and processes necessary for ethical operations. We also will examine the impact of ML and AI guided actions and tasks. Anyone can participate in our Dynamic Insights market research on ML that focuses on best practices in the successful deployment of AI and ML.


A shared database of assets stored in multiple locations of an inter-enterprise network can pose challenges for the processing and the ability to utilize the data for a range of digital requirements in operations and analytics. Understanding blockchain distributed ledger technology is essential to help organizations more effectively operate across systems. Our market agenda is designed to assess the value of technologies that interconnect and secure data across systems and organizations to enable both secure and efficient processing.


Our examination of blockchain processing across finance and the supply chain continues to help organizations optimize transactions. The effective application of data governance using enterprise-class integration methods and technologies is necessary to maintain data quality standards. We assert that by 2024, one-third of organizations will adopt blockchain for secure distributed computing across business processes to realize efficient and effective governance of digital business.

We will continue our market research on blockchain technology to determine the current use of the technology. In particular, we will determine how organizations are effectively using blockchain technology to address gaps and opportunities in business processes, and optimize operations across the enterprise and extended network of constituents.

Cloud Computing

The continued migration and adoption of computing technology operating outside of the traditional data center or servers managed internally has evolved to a distributed computing environment. Our focus on cloud computing is intended to assess and guide organizations on the use of applications and systems functioning across private and public technology environments.

Unlike decades past, today’s challenge is managing the operation of our applications and systems across non-corporate owned environments that may require enhanced governance of service level agreements necessary for reliability and security. With potentially dozens of providers, an organization may find it necessary to integrate and adapt applications to broader enterprise level requirements to achieve workflow and efficiency, but also to further customize for competitive differentiation. Our research will examine how the portfolio of digital technologies in this area of expertise operate across cloud computing as well as the applications that are part of the entire enterprise.

Collaborative and Conversational Computing

Our market agenda in organization-wide collaboration and conversation involves technology-mediated digital engagement using natural language, across the workforce and beyond. This focused digital computing uses unified communication to enable interactions through text, video and voice to adapt to how people work.

The use of mobile technology plays a key role in enabling real-time interactions that expedite agility and responsiveness. We assert that by 2025, one-quarter of organizations will have deployed conversational experiences from mobile and desktop environments to their work experiences with technology designed to increase productivity.


Real-time and recorded video deliver a human connection for collaboration, connecting any number of parties to explore an issue or opportunity. The advancement of intelligent virtual agents that infuse AI and ML have introduced new opportunities for extending the potential of the workforce and ensure they maximize high-value skills. Our market research will continue to evaluate and guide organizations’ needs, plans and attitudes on collaborative and conversational computing technology to ensure effective interactions between people and machines.

The Internet of Things

Innovative organizations are embracing a new, intelligent approach about the efficiency of automation as well as the broader digital business opportunity that comes from the use of data in motion. The internet of things spans computing that crosses devices and sensors to transmit data through events and messages, enabling services and unlocking new computing and monetization opportunities.

Event and messaging technologies that broadcast and stream are now making it possible to more continuously operate these technologies to support a broader agenda - from sustainability to business continuity objectives and business processes. Using machine and sensor data delivered in real time by IoT devices makes it possible to monitor and adjust both machine and workforce operations and intelligently respond to situations that require action. Our continuous Benchmark Research on IoT identifies and reports on trends and best practices in using the technology for any organizational purpose.

Mobile Computing


The simplification of mobile technology has not translated to innovation or advancement in the operational software, leading to dissatisfaction from organizations with higher levels of expectation. Our focus on mobile computing examines organizational use of smartphones, tablets and wearables to connect workers to applications and information. We also explore the disconnect between the expected levels of digital business and responsiveness from these devices.

In many cases, our research to date has found that user experiences via mobile devices have not facilitated the engagement found in consumer applications. We assert that by 2025, three-quarters of organizations will realize that mobile devices are the preferred engagement platform for managers to take action and achieve expected outcomes. Our agenda will help organizations root out and eliminate vendors lacking mobile technology functionality that offers ease of access and interaction for the worker and manager. Our continuous market research on the use of mobile computing technology - as well as organizations’ needs and attitudes - will bring best practices and guidance for making smarter decisions regarding vendor offerings.

Robotic Automation

For many organizations, the disparate operation of applications that support processes must be augmented to enable automation - and hopefully intelligence - for increased efficiency in digital business. Our focus on robotic automation will assess the technology that orchestrates the workflow of messages and transactions supporting activities and tasks but also need to balance the workload of resources across the organization.

Advancements in robotic process automation have evolved to facilitate next-level operational effectiveness in business and IT processes. Our goal is to help organizations prioritize the technology and vendors supporting people and systems that operate across cloud computing environments. Our continuous market research will examine how automation and intelligence are best instrumented to meet both front- and back-office requirements for workflow and workloads across the enterprise.

Extended Reality


Advancements in extended reality continue to exploit dedicated technology in mobile computing, including wearables, to operate in a virtualized environment. This can increase efficiency, addressing the gamut of exploration and improvements.

Our XR expertise focuses on technology that operates individually and combines augmented, mixed and virtual environments for better experiences. We assert that by 2023, one-third of organizations will adopt extended reality (XR) technologies that can augment and virtualize the customer and product experiences for effective work engagement.

As organizations study methods to service physical assets from remote locations and devices, the opportunity for digital innovation will come from suppliers and organizations working toward a common resolution. Our continuous market research will identify the rapidly evolving best practices in the use of XR across marketing, sales and service that enable operations and engagement efficiency with customers and the supply chain.

Improving the digital experience of technology used across the workforce as well as by customers, partners and the overall supply chain has become a business imperative for 2021. Enhancements to the digital workflows of processes and activities can improve organizational readiness to support the objectives and intentions of everyone in the workforce.

Optimizing your path forward in 2021 will require a heightened sense of the operation of digital technology as well as its purpose and expected outcomes for enabling business continuity and performance. Establishing a priority focus for digital technology investments will ensure appropriate rewards for the time and resources dedicated to this necessity.

Subscribe to our Ventana Research community at no cost to stay current on our 2021 research efforts. Explore our digital technology expertise and topic areas for more on the detailed agenda and continuously updated 90-day calendar as well as expanded research facts and best practices.


Mark Smith

Topics: Analytics, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things, Data, Digital Technology, Robotic Process Automation, blockchain, Conversational Computing, AI and Machine Learning, collaborative computing, mobile computing, extended reality

Mark Smith

Written by Mark Smith

Mark is responsible for the overall direction of Ventana Research and drives the global research agenda covering both business and technology areas. He defined the blueprint for Information Management and Performance Management as the linking together of people, processes, information and technology across organizations to drive effective results. Mark is an expert in technology for business from Performance Management, Business Intelligence, Analytics to Information Management across finance, operations and IT. Mark has held CMO, product development and research roles at companies such as SAP, META Group, Oracle and IRI Software. He has experience across major industries including banking, consumer products, food and beverage, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and retail and consumer services.