Hans van Grieken knows tech - as a Technology Research and Insights Leader at Deloitte, he travels across the globe speaking to audiences about the digital trends changing the world. In the first of our ‘Digital Transformation Conversations’ series, Deloitte Digital New Zealand lead, Grant Frear, sat down with Hans to discuss his work so far, and to figure out how we can identify the trends which will make an impact in the years ahead.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Hans. First things first, how did you come to work at Deloitte?
I’ve worked in researching technology and its use in business since 2000, doing a role that you could describe as explaining complex things to non-techy people! A few years ago, I decided I wanted to be part of a team that not only does really good research, but also one that actually delivers solutions with the scars to prove it.
So when I started having these thoughts, I asked myself which of the ‘Big Four’ I would like to work for. Being in research, it was easy to get my facts straight and by no accident, Deloitte came out top of the bill in just about any aspect, including tech.
What were your first impressions of Deloitte when you joined?
When you enter Deloitte from a professional services research company with a certain stature, a few things strike you. One is that some of our research is really good – for example, our recent Tech Trends. However, it was also astounding to see how we treat it. In the world where I come from, getting access to research is expensive and joining our firm, I saw that we would send PDFs to clients without explaining what it is, its value or its importance. The value is not simply in the report either - the value is in the conversation about the report. And we really needed to improve there.
You mentioned the Tech Trends publications, and I was thinking that picking out trends is really hard. After all, you can't pick winners all the time! Which of the past trends have become fundamental in business, and equally, which proved to be a flash in the pan?
That's a really good question and there are a few answers to that. First of all, I have only been here 2 and a half years so it's really difficult for me to comprehensively say where we have gotten it right. And there have obviously been big blunders in the wider tech industry - a paperless office for example!
Moreover, according to my former research colleagues at Gartner, tech suffers from a thing called hype cycle – there’s the peak of expectation and a trough of disappointment, and many get to a point where they die off. So for example, when I look at 10 years of tech trends through that lens, there are trends like ‘industrialised crime sourcing’. I remember that in a previous life that was a big thing for a time but I don't really see evidence of it now. The same is true for gamification - it was big for a while but it's not mainstream for me.
There are plenty like that but a good indicator of success is when a particular tech term becomes part of our language. So, ‘low code’ is an accepted term, along with terms like ‘sourcing’, ‘agile’, ‘cloud-native’ and so on.
With that in mind, are there things that businesses might look at now as being somewhat underwhelming, but in time will become bigger forces shaping their enterprises and industries?
Definitely, it's an interesting domain of debate and discussion. The starting point that I take is that there will constantly be waves of new technology that any organisation needs to identify, value in terms of disruption or opportunity, trial and scale or fail into business relevance. That phenomenon will not go away for the coming 20 years.
So what I see as an extremely relevant challenge for our client is the need for a future proof technology operating model. I always use the metaphor of an aircraft carrier – to keep it operating, you need to decommission old aircraft, launch the newest unmanned aircraft, land new generation aircraft that don’t fit your current platform, and update with repairs when needed. Meanwhile you are changing the rudder, replacing the propulsion system and above all, changing the team. And all of this is happening whilst you’re in operation!
So the challenge is not one single technology, or even a whole wave of technology. It is in building a business model that is future proof and can evolve over time. Technology trends do not land in a certain environment unless that environment can allow for a new technology to grow, scale or die.