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Gartner’s IT Automation Predictions for 2021

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IT automation is evolving into process orchestration

2020 caused a major shift in how business and IT teams operate. Gartner expects this disruption to cause a permanent shift in technology over the next four years, impacting IT automation strategies.

Each year, Gartner, Inc. releases a series of papers explaining the trends that will impact business, IT, and technology in the coming years. This year’s predictions range from the novel (like neuromorphic computing) to the more expected (such as enterprise cloud strategies). 

In general, most of Gartner’s 2021 predictions involve IT’s role becoming more prominent within the organization as digital business initiatives accelerate. So to help IT professionals plan for the coming year, we’ve gone through the latest Gartner research publications and pulled out the predictions most relevant to the IT automation market.

Overall, three major trends stick out:

  • An increase in overall data and data diversity will drive organizations toward new compute and storage technologies.
  • The pace of automation is accelerating, with more organizations creating fully automated value chains.
  • CIOs and other technology leadership positions are evolving into customer experience and operations positions.

Now, before diving into what exactly Gartner expects for IT automation in 2021, let’s get some context out of the way.

IT Automation Predictions for 2021

  • By year-end 2025, over half of the world’s population will be subject to at least one internet of behaviors (IoB) program (private, commercial or governmental).
  • By 2025, 40% of physical experience-based businesses will improve financial results and outperform competitors by extending into paid virtual experiences.
  • By 2024, organizations with IT teams that understand the needs of customers will outperform other organizations’ customer experience metrics by 20%.
  • By 2023, 40% of all enterprise workloads will be deployed in cloud infrastructure and platform services, up from 20% in 2020.
  • Through 2024, enhancements in analytics and automatic remediation capabilities will refocus 30% of IT operations efforts, from support to continuous engineering.
  • By 2023, 40% of product and platform teams will use AIOps for automated change risk analysis in DevOps pipelines, reducing unplanned downtime by 20%.
  • Gartner expects over 75% of large enterprises in mature economies will use container management by 2024 due to a growing adoption of cloud-native applications and infrastructure.
  • By 2025, 50% of enterprises will have devised artificial intelligence (AI) orchestration platforms to operationalize AI, up from fewer than 10% in 2020.

Gartner split its 2021 predictions into three themes: customer centricity, geographic independence, and operational resiliency. The overarching trend being that digital-first initiatives are accelerating — largely in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the crisis, organizations have had to re-envision traditional processes for the virtual realm. Businesses that rely on physical experiences, including amusement parks, sports venues, and museums, are moving toward virtual experiences that provide new business value and additional revenue streams.

Organizations across industries — from financial services to retail, healthcare to education — are leveraging new tools and technologies to provide new, virtual services. The race is now on to improve the customer experience by creating new digital processes that optimize those services. Data, artificial intelligence, cloud services, and the internet of things (IoT) will provide a foundation for emerging digital technologies organizations will need to maintain competitive advantage.

This year, Gartner introduced the term internet of behaviors (IoB). IoB programs rely on data collection and IoT to make intelligent decisions that impact customer behavior. A classic example of IoB would be an auto insurance company determining rates according to how a customer drives. The goal is to adjust the customer experience at the individual level, offering a level of service that benefits both the customer and the enterprise.

To make these new services possible, IT teams are moving more workloads to cloud environments, deploying new tools, and playing an increasingly critical role in day-to-day operations.

“… during the crisis and the recovery, boards are demanding an acceleration of digital business.”

Gartner, Predicts 2021: Data and Analytics Strategies

Preparing For The “Digital Wall”

  • By 2025, traditional computing technologies will hit a digital wall, forcing the shift to new computing paradigms such as neuromorphic computing.
  • By 2024, 30% of digital businesses will mandate DNA storage trials, addressing the exponential growth of data poised to overwhelm existing storage technology.
  • Through 2030, a wide range of new computing and storage technologies will continue to deliver improved digital capabilities and price points. Examples include glass storage, DNA storage, chemical computing, nanotube computing and memristors.
  • By 2024, 75% of organizations will have deployed multiple data hubs to drive mission-critical data and analytics sharing and governance.
  • By 2025, AI will be the top category driving infrastructure decisions, due to the maturation of the AI market, resulting in a tenfold growth in compute requirements.

The volume of data being created continues to rise exponentially. Data is a critical asset for organizations, providing a foundation for digital services, AI, natural language processing (NLP), deep neural networks, and much more. These technologies are also compute-intensive. Organizations are reaching a point where their data storage and computing are unable to keep up with the growth of data and technological advancements.

This is what Gartner has termed the “digital wall”. In order to keep pace with competitors and market demands, organizations will begin to test emerging storage and compute technologies, including DNA storage, glass storage, neuromorphic computing, and extreme parallelism. 

The challenge for IT teams over the next two to three years is how to integrate new technologies and reliably manage big data across disparate environments.

“Organizations have a tremendous amount of ‘collective’ debt…. The cause is an extensive and expensive set of business processes underpinned by a patchwork of technologies that are often not optimized, lean, connected, consistent or explicit.”

-Gartner, Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021

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Hyperautomation Is Here To Stay

  • By 2025, customers will be the first humans to touch more than 20% of all products and produce.
  • By 2024, organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining hyperautomation technologies with redesigned operational processes.
  • By 2024, 80% of hyperautomation offerings will have limited industry-specific depth mandating additional investment for IP, curated data, architecture, integration and development.
  • By 2024, more than 70% of the large global enterprises will have over 70 concurrent hyperautomation initiatives mandating governance or facing significant instability.

Hyperautomation was first included in Gartner’s 2020 predictions. Much of what was said then has changed now, if only because organizations are accelerating their automation strategies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Two key factors converge here: 

  1. The economic uncertainty of 2020 has led organizations to reduce spending and to focus on operational efficiency.
  2. Despite overall spending cuts, spending for digital transformation has actually increased as organizations rapidly adapt their workflows, services, and business models.

The result is that organizations are leveraging AI and machine learning to automate as much as feasibly possible. By automating, organizations can reduce human error and make processes more efficient by removing human interventions and delays. Overall, automating processes end-to-end means fewer resources are needed to successfully complete the process, a boon for organizations that need to reduce operating costs while simultaneously providing faster services.

As we mentioned, hyperautomation isn’t new — many organizations had hyperautomation initiatives in 2020. As more organizations move toward digital-first initiatives, the volumes of processes and data IT teams must manage continue to surge, making it difficult for IT teams to stay afloat. By rapidly automating, IT teams are able to achieve much more without requiring more resources. The difference between 2020 and 2021 is that for 2021 and beyond, hyperautomation is accelerating.

By 2025, more than 20% of all products will be manufactured, packed, shipped, and delivered without being touched — the person who purchases the product will be the first person to touch it. The fully automated value chain is a result of hyperautomation. As organizations automate more and more tasks, those tasks are being organized into end-to-end processes that are more efficient, more reliable, more scalable, and easier to adapt.

Technological progress is helping to drive hyperautomation as well: Gartner expects that by 2023, organizations will be able to run a full 25% more tasks autonomously. While much of this will be achieved through the use of robotic process automation (RPA) in front-end offices, critical operations, infrastructure, and data processes will need to be automated with more robust orchestration and automation tools that provide programmatic integrations and deeper functionality.

“… far more than just robotic process automation (RPA) is needed to deliver resilient operational excellence. Organizations are shifting, or have shifted, to consume more impactful integrated hyperautomation technologies….”

Gartner, Predicts 2021: Accelerate Results Beyond RPA to Hyperautomation

The Role Of The CIO Is Evolving

  • By 2025, one in 10 technology leaders will find themselves the de facto leader of customer experience for their organization.
  • By 2024, 25% of traditional large enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming “COO by proxy.”
  • By 2022, 70% of customer experience projects will make use of information technology.

The future of the business runs through the IT department. Most organizations seem to recognize this. As business models shift toward digital-first processes and services, IT is playing an increasingly critical role in day-to-day operations. This is having an impact on how the organization regards IT.

Because IT services have become central to the success of the business, business leaders are asking IT teams — and especially IT leaders — to play a larger role in devising long-term business strategies. Part of this change means that CIOs are taking on new responsibilities. This includes conferring digital knowledge to other executives in the organization, taking leadership over digital business operations, and playing a direct role in designing and implementing customer experiences.

This change can be a two-way road, however: while the CIO is becoming more closely aligned with the business, the COO is becoming more closely aligned with IT. This makes IT, and the organization’s digital infrastructure, inseparable from day-to-day operations and five-year plans. 

This will increase pressure on IT. No longer will it be enough to play a supporting role in the organization, IT teams will be responsible for business outcomes.

As IT leaders take on new roles within the organization, composable infrastructure and services will become necessary in order to quickly adapt to evolving business needs.

Gartner lists four principles for creating a composable business:

  • Modularity
  • Autonomy
  • Orchestration
  • Discovery

In order to rapidly pivot to meet new challenges, crises, and trends, IT teams will need the ability to rapidly integrate, orchestrate, and deploy new processes and services. This will require intelligent automation software and process orchestration.

“Composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you live every day. It allows us to deliver… real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.”

Gartner Keynote: The Future of Business Is Composable

Other Notable Predictions

Gartner has released over two dozen papers related to 2021 technology trends. Many of these other predictions are related to IT automation, but aren’t exactly central to Gartner’s main themes for 2021. This includes cloud computing.

Over the next few years, Gartner expects cloud to continue to evolve as more organizations move toward distributed, hyperscale, and hybrid cloud options. This will increase complexity for IT environments, requiring IT to streamline the provisioning of cloud-based resources as well as configuration management.

  • By 2025, more than 50% of organizations will use a distributed cloud option at the location of their choice, enabling transformational business models.
  • By year-end 2023, 20% of installed edge computing platforms will be delivered and managed by hyperscale cloud providers, compared to less than 1% in 2020.
  • Gartner expects over 75% of large enterprises in mature economies will use container management by 2024 due to a growing adoption of cloud-native applications and infrastructure.
  • By 2024, 75% of organizations monitoring IaaS/PaaS environments will consume metrics via cloud providers’ APIs.

While IT might be getting busier, it’s also becoming more efficient through process optimization.

  • Through 2024, enhancements in digital workplace infrastructure processes driven by analytics and automatic remediation capabilities will refocus 30% of IT operations management, from support to continuous engineering.
  • By 2024, endpoint analytics and automation will help digital workplace service staff shift 30% of time spent on endpoint support and repair to continuous engineering.
  • By 2023, 40% of product and platform teams will use AIOps for automated change risk analysis in DevOps pipelines, reducing unplanned downtime by 20%.
  • 76% of survey respondents say that demand for new digital products and services increased in 2020. Even more respondents (83%) say that it will increase in 2021.

That leads us to our final point.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption in how organizations operate. Business models are quickly changing while new services, products, and technologies are being developed. It’s been a tremendous year, and in many ways CIOs and IT teams have risen to the occasion and delivered beyond expectations.

The uncertainty of 2020 will be with us for quite a while as markets and economies settle into a new normal. That new normal will be founded on agility, transformation, and constant change.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is IT automation?

IT automation is a broad field that includes everything from job scheduling to infrastructure management. IT task automation solutions can be used to develop, monitor, and manage automated tasks that support intelligent process automation, data center automation, IT infrastructure, secure file transfers, software development, and much more. Explore our in-depth IT automation explainer.

How do I find automation statistics?

Research organizations such as Gartner, McKinsey, and Forrester provide analyst reports and white papers that document automation in a variety of industries. Other resources, including the blog IT Automation Without Boundaries, publish original articles and thought leadership that incorporate automation statistics from major research firms. Explore IT Automation Without Boundaries.

What are the top IT automation trends?

Automation is being used to reduce time-consuming manual processes needed to manage surges in data and digital tools. In order to increase efficiency, organizations are implementing hyperautomation initiatives and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to streamline, monitor, and manage automated processes. Overall, intelligent automation technologies are becoming central to process orchestration goals within IT and business departments. Learn more about automation and orchestration. Learn more about automation and orchestration.

Is there a Gartner Magic Quadrant for automation?

Gartner research publications include Market Guides and Hype Cycles for a variety of automation topics including I&O automation, infrastructure automation, service orchestration, application release, and more. There is also a Gartner Magic Quadrant for robotic process automation (RPA), software test automation, and more. Stay up to date on automation trends and thought leadership.

What are Gartner’s top automation predictions for 2021?

Gartner’s top automation predictions for 2021 include growth in hyperautomation, IT systems becoming increasingly critical as organizations rely on business process automation to deliver digital experiences, and new data storage and compute technologies as a result of organizations reaching a digital wall. Read the full breakdown of Gartner’s 2021 IT automation predictions.

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Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation Without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.

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