Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

What Will Forrester's 'Top 15 Emerging Technologies' Mean to You?

By Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

Click or tap above image to download a .pdf version of this article.In Forrester’s Top 15 Emerging Technologies To Watch: Now to 2018, Brian Hopkins provides a peek at the results of an online survey conducted in 2012 to answer a question about what respondents feel the most “disruptive” technologies will be. Mobile applications and platforms along with “big data” and cloud-based platforms, not surprisingly, top the list.

Of course, we didn’t need a survey to tell us this. Anyone who reads what passes for the “tech press” these days would answer the same way. A more important question to ask is,

What does this mean to me and my organization?

In my own research into the implications of mobile technologies and the drive to make government data more accessible and transparent, I’ve been struck by the implication these trends will have – or rather, are having — on hiring and employment. Are existing organizations set up, structurally or skill wise, to take advantage of or — more importantly — to drive these trends?

It also makes sense to ask whether these trends are really going to be “disruptive” or whether they fall by the wayside due to an inability to take advantage of them. The Forrester survey does try to make a distinction between whether the technologies are “evolutionary” or “revolutionary.” That makes sense, especially when we consider traditional barriers to technology adoption such as organizational size, maturity, risk aversion, leadership styles, and profitability.

A more fundamental question concerns the organization’s mix of employee skills. For example, when I look at what’s involved in different sizes and types of organizations to be able to take advantage of emerging tools for “big data” analytics, I have to wonder where the people will come from who are, first, able to get the data into shape to be analyzed and, second, able to understand and analyze the data once it’s in good shape.

The former requires an understanding of data structures, formats, modeling, and the supporting infrastructure required for managing data that might have started out as being inherently disjointed or poorly organized.

The latter requires an analytical perspective as well as a grasp of traditional statistical techniques as well as an understanding of the tools and concepts associated with the complex semantics and knowledge structures underlying large sets of structured and unstructured data.

  • Do such skills exist?
  • If so, where are they located organizationally, demographically, and professionally? 
  • If not, who is doing something about the educational and training implications?

If you have the answers to these questions please let us know!

Copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in project management and technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. His experience includes government contract research, software and database product development, system integration and consolidation, and IT strategy consulting. Contact Dennis via email at or by phone at  703-402-7382.

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