Digital investments, be they in AI, cloud, security, or engineering, will be among the top technology drivers for 2022, according to Gartner\u2019s annual forecast of what it expects will be leading strategic IT trends.\n\n\u201cIt is an overarching drive for organizations to do more with and scale the digital environments they have been rapidly developing during the pandemic,\u201d said David Groombridge, research vice president at Gartner. \u201cMost of these trends define technologies that together show how \u00a0businesses will reconnect \u00a0with partners and consumers to create scalable, resilient technical foundations for the future.\u201d Gartner unwrapped its forecast at its virtual IT Symposium\/Xpo Americas this week.\nOffice-centric networks will give way to distributed enterprises\nThe first of those trends is the growth of the distributed enterprise.\u00a0 Driven by the massive growth in remote and hybrid working patterns, traditional office-centric organizations are evolving into geographically distributed enterprises.\n\u201cFor every organization, from retail to education, their delivery model has to be reconfigured to embrace distributed services,\u201d Groombridge said. Such operations will stress the network that supports users and consumers alike, and businesses will need to rearchitect and redesign to handle it.\nIn the end, Gartner expects that by 2023, 75% of organizations that exploit the benefits of distributed enterprises will realize revenue growth 25% faster than competitors.\nNetwork tweaks to unleash data\nHand-in-hand with that will be the increased use of data fabrics that integrate data across cloud and non-cloud platforms no matter where they are located.\n\u201cData is widely scattered in many organization and some of that valuable data can be trapped in siloes,\u201d Groombridge said. \u201cData fabrics can provide integration and interconnectivity between multiple silos to unlock those resources.\u201d\nGroombridge added that data-fabric deployments will also force significant network-topology readjustments and in some cases, to work effectively, could require their own edge-networking capabilities .\nThe result is that the fabric will unlock data that can be used by AI and analytics platforms to support new applications bring about business innovations more quickly, Groombridge said.\n\u201cIf data is the new oil, then a data fabric\u2019s real value is its ability to dynamically improve data usage with its inbuilt analytics, cutting data management efforts by up to 70%,\u201d \u00a0Groombridge said.\nCutting the costs of security incidents\nProtecting this distributed data fabric will be the job of Gartner\u2019s third big trend: the use of an overarching cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) that will let distributed enterprises deploy and extend security where it\u2019s most needed.\u00a0\u201cToday, assets and users can be anywhere, meaning the traditional security perimeter is gone,\u201d Groombridge said.\u00a0\nCSMA is a composable approach that will bring integrated tools with common interfaces and APIs into the security process as needed.\u00a0It will also provide centralized management, analytics, and intelligence about what is going on across the enterprise, and push out policies to users and services being accessed, Groombridge said.\nCSMA helps provide an integrated structure to secure all assets, regardless of location. By 2024, organizations adopting CSMA will reduce the financial impact of individual security incidents by an average of 90%, Groombridge said.\nAutonomic systems for adapting to changing environments\nAs enterprises spread out and adopt new security tactics, Gartner also looked at the technologies that will affect that evolution. Autonomic systems that can modify their own algorithms without an external software updates will let businesses rapidly adapt to new conditions in the field, Gartner says.\n\u201cAutonomic behavior has already made itself known through recent deployments in complex security environments but in the longer term will become common in physical systems such as robots, drones, manufacturing machines, and smart spaces,\u201d Groombridge said.\nAutonomic systems can learn new tasks and react quickly to provide solution for large-scale management, Groombridge said.\nHyperautomation\nThe concept of hyperautomation has been on Gartner\u2019s hot-trends list for a few years, but it is a technology that has grown rapidly, driven in part by pandemic requirements, Groombridge said. Hyperautomation systems can rapidly identify, vet and automate multiple processes.\nGartner says hyperautomation involves the combination of multiple machine-learning (ML), packaged-software, and automation tools. \u201cGartner research shows that the top-performing hyperautomation teams focus on three key priorities: improving the quality of work, speeding up business processes, and enhancing the agility of decision-making,\u201d said Groombridge. \u201cBusiness technologists supported an average of 4.2 automation initiatives in the past year, too.\u201d\nAI on the rise\nRelated to autonomic and hyperautomation growth will be the increased use of AI and in particular, generative AI\u2014machine learning methods that learn about content or objects from their data, and use it to generate brand-new, completely original content, Groombridge said.\nGenerative AI can be used for a range of activities such as creating software code, facilitating drug development, and targeting marketing. It could also be misused for scams, fraud, political disinformation, and forged identities. By 2025, Gartner expects generative AI to account for 10% of all data produced, up from less than 1% today, Groombridge said.\nAI engineers needed\nAs the use of AI grows so does the need for AI engineering, a discipline focused on the governance and life-cycle management of a wide range of operationalized AI and decision models, such as machine learning and knowledge graphs.\n\u201cFor fusion teams working on AI, the real differentiator for their organizations will lie in their ability to continually enhance value through rapid AI change,\u201d Groombridge said. \u201cBy 2025, the 10% of enterprises that establish AI-engineering best practices will generate at least three times more value from their AI efforts than the 90% of enterprises that do not.\u201d\nOther trends Gartner says will affect the IT environment in 2022 include:\n\nCloud-Native Platforms (CNPs): The notion of lifting and shifting legacy applications to cloud environments doesn\u2019t really play well in the real world, Groombridge said. Rather, a cloud native architecture rebuilds applications to produce highly automated cloud services that deliver digital capabilities everywhere and anywhere. CNPs use the core capabilities of cloud computing to provide scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities as a service to technology creators. For this reason, Gartner predicts that cloud-native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95% of new digital initiatives by 2025, up from less than 40% in 2021.\nComposable Applications: Composable application architectures allow for the quick change or breakout from an existing app to another to address a particular business need. Composable application architecture enables this adaptability, and those that have adopted it will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of implementing new features, Groombridge said.\nPrivacy-Enhancing Computation (PEC): PEC techniques protect personal and sensitive information at the data, software, and hardware level, making it possible to securely share, pool, and analyze data without compromising confidentiality or privacy. Gartner said it expects 60% of large organizations to use one or more PEC techniques by 2025.\nDecision Intelligence: Decision intelligence is a discipline used to improve decision making by explicitly understanding and engineering how decisions are made, and how outcomes are evaluated, managed, and improved by feedback. Gartner predicts that in the next two years, a third of large organizations will use decision intelligence to improve competitive advantage.\nTotal Experience (TX): TX is a business strategy that combines the disciplines of customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), user experience (UX) and multiexperience (MX). The goal of TX is to drive greater customer and employee confidence, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. Organizations will increase revenue and profit by achieving adaptive and resilient TX business outcomes.\n\nIT skills shortage still looms\nWhile it wasn\u2019t included in the top technology trends for 2022 list, another trend Gartner has written about recently could play a big role in 2022, and that is the IT skills shortage.\nA recent Gartner report found IT executives see the shortage as the most significant barrier to adopting emerging technologies, including compute infrastructure and platform services, network, security, digital workplace, IT automation, storage, and database.\nIT executives surveyed cited talent availability as the main adoption challenge for the majority of IT automation technologies (75%) and nearly half of digital workplace technologies (41%). A lack of available talent was cited far more often than other barriers this year, such as implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%), according to Gartner.\u00a0\n\u201cThe talent shortage will be a challenge in rolling any of these advanced technologies out,\u201d Groombridge said. \u201cThe reverse is that some of these technologies, such as AI, automation and how companies employ technology for hybrid workers will attract new workers as well.\u201d\nEven with the skills challenges, IT leaders have increased the adoption of emerging technologies to drive innovation as organizations begin to recover from the pandemic, Gartner says. Across all technology domains, 58% of respondents reported either an increase or a plan to increase emerging technology investment in 2021, compared with 29% in 2020, Gartner stated.\nAccording to the survey, building resilience and improving critical IT infrastructure are top priorities among IT leaders in 2021, hence their prioritizing cloud and security deployments.