15 min read
Jan 22, 2020
Research

Findings From a Decade in Tech [New Research]

The last 10 years have democratized powerful business software and enabled important trends such as remote work. At the same time, struggles with data security have grown along with uncertainty about an AI-impacted future.

Z.C.
Zach CapersSenior Analyst

GetApp has spent a decade evaluating the tech trends that have shaped the modern business. To that end, we recently conducted a wide-ranging survey to gain insight into technology’s impact on business. For this piece, we’ve selected some of our survey’s most interesting results.

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SaaS growth powering business and technology trends

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the last decade’s technological change better than the rise of cloud-based software—commonly known as software-as-a-service (SaaS)—which is hosted and managed remotely rather than onsite. The SaaS market has exploded during the last decade and fundamentally changed how we work and do business.

In fact, the SaaS market has matured from an estimated $10 billion in 2010 to more than $100 billion today. The growth of SaaS has democratized powerful software by allowing small businesses access to affordable and scalable solutions that were formerly the domain of large enterprises. Today’s SaaS market comprises a nearly unimaginable variety of solutions to fulfill an array of business needs, from yoga studio management to endpoint protection.

SaaS solutions have enhanced collaboration, simplified business processes, and eased remote work. However, the increasing digitization of business has also resulted in security and privacy challenges for all organizations. Looking forward, the ongoing refinement of artificial intelligence and its incorporation into software and technology will affect every company, enterprise and small alike.

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Remote work expanded by almost 400% in the last decade

The rise of remote work during the last decade has been driven by the proliferation of powerful mobile devices, ultra-fast internet connections, and the pervasiveness of cloud-based storage and SaaS solutions. These factors have converged to remove any limits on where you can connect with colleagues and get work done.

According to our survey:

  • 78% of respondents work remotely some of the time

  • 58% of respondents work remotely at least once a month

  • 36% of respondents work remotely at least once per week

While 36% working remotely at least once per week might not seem too impressive at first glance, in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau found that only 9.5% of the public worked remotely at least once per week. That means the number of people who work remotely on a weekly basis has approximately increased by a whopping 400% in the last 10 years.

Benefits of working remotely

Remote work offers numerous advantages for companies. Fewer workers in the office at any given time means a smaller office footprint and lower real estate costs. For instance, Gartner predicts that, by 2021, the increase in employees who choose to work remotely will allow organizations to support 40% more workers in the same amount of space as they use today (report available to clients).

Offering remote work also attracts talent and improves employee satisfaction. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report revealed that 37% of employees would change jobs for one that allows remote work at least part of the time. The same study found that remote work improves engagement and job satisfaction. And it doesn’t just make employees more engaged, it makes them more productive.

But remote work has more personal benefits as well. “I’m able to be more present for my kids,” says Brandy Place, a former teacher who moved from the classroom to a fully remote advisory position in education. “I’m able to work even when my kids are sick. Before, I had to get coverage for my class, make sure I had lesson plans, and inconvenience everyone.”

Challenges of working remotely

Flexibility is clearly a key benefit for remote workers, but that same perk can complicate the work-life balance, as Place makes clear, “Your work is where you live. Sometimes it’s hard to turn it off.” Another challenge for remote workers is being separated from co-workers. Place explains, “It’s isolating at times. I’m a social person and I miss the daily interaction with my colleagues.” 

And while video conferencing and messaging platforms have made huge strides in the last decade, in-person camaraderie remains difficult to reproduce. Place adds, “I can reach out to my colleagues now, but it’s through Microsoft Teams. It’s different than sitting in the room with people and talking live.”

To minimize the complications of remote work, companies must ensure that employees are supported when away from the office. That means not only equipping them with the proper hardware and software but also making sure that they are supported emotionally and in regular contact with managers and colleagues. To make the process easier for businesses, we’ve created a guide to managing remote teams and developing a remote work policy.

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40% of employees can’t confirm receiving data security training

Few topics are front and center today like data security. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen threats such as ransomware, spear phishing, and DDoS attacks grow in number and severity. Cyber threats are also becoming more consequential, impacting everything from human rights to federal elections.

At the same time, the cyber attack surface has expanded with devices from the internet of things (IoT) adding new—and often highly vulnerable—attack vectors. In fact, Gartner predicts that the number of IoT endpoints will grow from 4.8 billion in 2019 to 5.9 billion in 2020—an increase of 21% in the next year alone. 

Data security training is critical

So how do we address all of these security concerns? We start by training our employees to better understand their roles in safeguarding company data and how to go about doing so. Unfortunately, our research shows that data security training practices are lacking. A full 40% of our survey respondents either haven’t or aren’t sure if they’ve received data security training. 

Earlier this year, we took a separate survey that found 43% of employees who do report receiving data security training do not receive it on a regular basis. The evidence suggests that a considerable proportion of the workforce is not being properly trained to protect company data. And while cyber security issues should be motivation enough to create a data security training program, companies must also adhere to emerging data privacy regulations.

Privacy regulations adding to security concerns 

After a decade of massive data breaches, a worldwide data privacy movement is now underway. In 2018, the EU’s landmark GDPR took effect, regulating the collection, storage, and use of personal data on the internet. Already, the GDPR has provoked similar data privacy regulations across the world including Brazil’s LGDP and Thailand’s PDPA, each of which takes effect later this year.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), easily the most significant comprehensive consumer privacy legislation ever enacted in the U.S., went into effect on January 1. Like the GDPR, California’s law is now influencing other states to take up privacy regulation. It’s now a matter of time until the U.S. enacts a comprehensive federal privacy law.

Moving into 2020, marketing personalization is becoming more invasive, Ring doorbell cameras are recording entire neighborhoods, and facial recognition is being deployed for everything from airport check-ins to job interviews. The data privacy conversation is just beginning.

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Artificial intelligence is seen as the most disruptive technology

Looking to the future, there’s nothing staring us all in the face like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. These trends will remake business in ways we are only just now beginning to understand. AI and machine learning algorithms are already optimizing warehouses, enhancing product development, and powering self-driving vehicles. 

Our survey found that only 12% of respondents could confirm that their organization uses AI. This may be due in part to many companies that have not yet made a business case for the implementation of AI. However, another possibility is that many people don’t realize AI’s pervasiveness in the software and technology they already use every day—from business analytics tools to recommendation engines.

Our survey also found that 44% believe AI will be the most disruptive technology going forward. AI and automation will likely supplant many jobs in areas such as manufacturing (think automated assembly lines) and customer service (think chat-bots). However, some studies show that these trends might actually have a disproportionate impact on so-called knowledge workers such as engineers, financial advisors, and—gulp—research analysts.

“The potential for AI disruption is indeed immense,” says Anthony Bradley, Group Vice President in Gartner's Technology and Service Provider research practice where he leads a team of analysts focused on emerging trends and technologies. “Artificial intelligence, and machine learning, in particular, has the potential to impact all software and, therefore, all industries and all business functions. That is about as broad an impact as you can get.”

Until now, software has primarily been procedural in nature; launch a program and write a document, fill out expense reports, and so on. Now, as AI begins to permeate these tools, the game is changing.

“Imagine if data gathering, analysis, and presentation were embedded in these procedural applications so you received decision advice as you progressed through the process,” says Bradley. “For example, let’s say I was opening up a new hiring position and, as I completed the process to open the new position, the system actually presented to me potential internal company candidates that could meet my criteria.”

Artificial intelligence: perception vs reality

China has set a deadline for leading the world in AI technology by 2030. To keep up, technology firms in the U.S. and elsewhere will only redouble their efforts. Moreover, the proliferation of 5G wireless technology during the coming years will enable the massive data transmissions needed for AI to succeed at scale.

This means that—for better or worse—AI is certain to have significant repercussions on business and society by 2030. Will AI replace us and take our jobs? Are robots going to take over the world? The imagination runs wild—but are any of these fears legitimate?

“I certainly don’t fear robots taking over the world—that is pure fantasy,'' says Bradley. “But like any new and disruptive technology, existing jobs will be lost and new jobs will be created.”

While that may be somewhat comforting, some might still worry that the power of AI will cause more harm than good. Bradley disagrees, “I’m positive on artificial intelligence. Any new technology can be used as a force for bad as well as a force for good. AI is no different.”

Perhaps our expectations for AI are inflated. Maybe decades of science fiction have stoked unrealistic scenarios that will play out much differently than we expect. “We have to be realistic about what artificial intelligence can achieve today and not get too caught up in what it may achieve in the future,” Bradley explains, “Too much hype will slow progress. It will lead to disappointment, fear, and unnecessary regulation.”

After a decade of rapid technological advancement and information overload, we’re all a bit exhausted and could probably use a little help from AI to simplify mundane tasks and make our days more efficient. In fact, AI might soon change how we interact with software and computers altogether. “Natural language processing and a conversational user interface are poised to significantly disrupt the user experience and replace the typical point, click, and type navigation,” Bradley asserts—via a response he’s been transmitting through an AI voice recognition tool. 

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Moving forward

For 10 years, we’ve provided insights into technology’s most important trends. In that time, cloud-based software has eased collaboration, automated processes, and helped to level the playing field for small businesses. But numerous challenges remain. To stay competitive, companies must embrace emerging technology, overcome security challenges, and maintain a focus on the human element.

Methodology

The survey data referenced in this article was conducted by GetApp in November, 2019, among 912 respondents who reported full-time employment in the United States. Of the 912 respondents, 598 identified as having been in the job market for at least 10 years. This subset was asked questions about past and future trends.

The data security survey referenced in this article was conducted by GetApp in June, 2019, among 714 respondents who reported full-time employment in the United States.

This document, while intended to inform our clients about the impact of technology on business, is in no way intended to provide legal advice or to endorse a specific course of action.

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