Digital forecasting and tech predictions with Duncan Stewart

Discover new tech trends for business from Deloitte Canada’s director of research, Duncan Stewart. He shares what’s next on the digital landscape, with a sneak peek at his keynote for The ONE National Conference 2016.

Duncan is the director of Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) research for Deloitte Canada and a globally recognized expert on the forecasting of consumer and enterprise TMT trends. He offers a glimpse at how business and accounting professionals can benefit from digital trends and the future of technology.

As the director of TMT research for Deloitte Canada, what’s it like to consult on forecasting, strategy and predictions in such a quickly-evolving industry?

Working on Deloitte Predictions is a wonderful job. I get to be part of an amazing team and have interesting conversations with our clients all over the world. The job itself might not be for everyone, but I like the fact that the list of topics I need to cover is so wide-ranging and diverse.  Although some topics resurface every year or two, the changes help keep my research fresh.

I have been researching the future of technology for some time and there is a popular impression that "things are changing faster than they ever have." I don't think that’s true: when I look at the evolution of tech over the decades, people ALWAYS have the sense that change is occurring at an unprecedented rate. I think that has more to do perception than reality – things always seem to move faster when you are in the middle of it!

What do you think some of the biggest tech changes for accounting and finance will be in Canada over the next five years?

A lot of things will not change for accounting. We will still follow more or less the same rules, use a mixture of tools — sometimes smartphones and tablets, but laptops and spreadsheets and accounting software most of the time — and need to focus on the human relationships with our clients. I think we will see some increased automation of finance and accounting, but agile practitioners already know that and can adapt: automation will free us from some of the more boring and repetitive tasks and allow us to focus more energy on the complex and value-added parts of the profession instead.

How do curiosity and big data help shape your Deloitte Predictions for TMT?

Our process for developing Deloitte Predictions isn't really about either curiosity OR big data! Every year, our clients ask us questions about a variety of tech, media and telecom trends that they’ve read about or think will matter to them. We try to figure out which ones are most common, which ones we can find data on in order to do research and whether we can say something interesting: not much point in us just repeating a forecast that 100 other firms are already making.

After we have selected our topics for the next year, we then use surveys, focus groups, publicly available primary data sources and client interviews to build our predictions. Each prediction takes about 100 hours of work to research, write and document. 

How is globalization affecting “what’s next” for business and the longer term TMT outlook?

I no longer even think about globalization. Every tech, media and telecom topic is global from the ground up. There are exceptions: print newspapers are still doing well in some markets and there are obvious differences between the developed world and the developing world. But virtually every prediction looks at the world as a global market: we make products globally, buy them globally and see technologies move from North America to the rest of the world like Netflix, or move from Asia to the rest of the world like those big smartphones called phablets, and so on.

What are you most looking forward to discussing in your keynote address at The ONE National Conference this September? What sort of sneak peek can attendees expect regarding tech and media trends like ecommerce, virtual reality and digital wallets?

My favorite part will be the sneak peeks at potential 2017 topics. I love the 2016 topics I’ve been covering, but after nine months, being able to offer some glimpses into next year's focus areas will be refreshing, both for me and the audience. Virtual reality was badly overhyped this year and I hope to be able to cover some interesting real world enterprise uses of the technology, including where it makes sense and where it doesn't.

The future of the tablet will also be a good area to look at: tablets are not going away, but sales are falling and consumers don't seem to be valuing and using them as much as they used to, especially in younger demographics. I’m also planning to discuss the Internet of Things (IoT) and Cognitive Technologies (CT) but need to do more research first.

Register for The ONE National Conference 2016 from September 19 to 20 in Vancouver and hear Duncan speak live about the future of tech and how to leverage digital trends for your clients or organization.