For eight years now, Munich Re and ERGO’s Tech Trend Radar has provided regular updates on the most significant technology trends. And the Institute of Electronic Business (IEB) has been involved all along. Prof. Daniel Michelis, one of two IEB Directors, describes the collaboration.
What exactly does the Institute of Electronic Business do?
Our institute has been researching digital trends for over 20 years. We also study digital transformation, always working closely with companies that offer first-hand expertise. In addition, we have been partnering with ERGO on various projects since 2007.
IEB and ERGO have been collaborating on the Tech Trend Radar for eight years now. How did that arise?
Our alliance grew out of various projects, including idea workshops and a think tank on innovative ideas. Three people initially worked on the Tech Trend Radar; the project team now has nine members. A particularly important aspect here is the teamwork between ERGO and Munich Re, as not all tech trends are identified externally.
The radar format is, of course, the most significant aspect. Why is this particular format the right one for depicting technological trends?
This format is tailored to the Tech Trend Radar itself, because it shows more than just advances in technology. Selected case studies describe each trend on the radar, which really makes it come alive. Owing to new and different developments and trends in technology, we naturally keep updating the categories. But the radar format remains the same.
How exactly does the Tech Trend Radar take shape? Can you shed some light on its genesis?
We are refining the Tech Trend Radar all the time. In other words, we always start with the latest version of the radar. We then identify as a team the fields in which a lot has changed. In which direction are things progressing? Which topics have grown more significant? And which trends are fading away?
Our teams kick things off by discussing all of the radar’s sections, which are then evaluated with the aid of external reports and analyses. This approach ensures that internal market expertise helps to further develop the publication. The Tech Trend Radar is special because it is not outsiders who identify the various trends, but instead the specialists who work at Munich Re (Group). In short, many employees breathe life into the project by contributing their expertise.
Your institute has a large network of researchers. In what ways do you involve them?
This network is part of our DNA, so to speak. We work every single day on digital transformation projects, which allows us to directly funnel the expertise of our expansive network to our projects.
How exactly do you create radar categories?
The trends are first sorted and pooled. We then look at the four trend fields of User-Centricity, Connected World, Artificial Intelligence and Enabling Technologies. It is then necessary to determine in which phase each trend currently is. We can then assess the maturity of each trend. Should one hold off and monitor a trend? Assess it? Conduct trial initiatives? Or adopt the trend? This is a very good way of categorising the trends.
When it comes to assessing trends, benefitting from various people’s expertise is important – as is a systematic approach that enables us to assign each trend to a category. We discuss the trends at our workshops, before systematising, evaluating, and ultimately placing them in categories.
How has the Tech Trend Radar changed over time?
Our radar team keeps growing and we keep analysing trends. We can see easily that some trends continually advance. But then there are trends that become less relevant at some point. We have also added formats to the radar, which has increasingly gained in significance throughout the Group.
What have been some truly innovative trends?
The connectivity of smart homes and smart cities comes to mind. Another example is the emergence of digital payment models, which are changing the world of monetary transactions. A wide-ranging topic that remains important is our connected world, which includes AI, the IoT and digital transformation. How can people seamlessly get work done digitally – during the coronavirus crisis, for example?
Has the pandemic accelerated widespread reliance on digitalisation?
Yes, that is how I see it. It plays a crucial role that we have all gotten used to working from home, and events are likewise being held virtually. Not only is the technology available – people have also been using it intensively in 2020. This has certainly opened a lot of people’s eyes to the benefits of digitalisation, some aspects of which we will continue using after the pandemic. But being in the same room with other people naturally remains important, which means that – after COVID-19 – we will frequently work at the office and resume getting together in person.
What are the highlights of this year’s Tech Trend Radar?
The trends we have chosen really do indicate the breadth of advances. We have identified very different trends in various fields, ranging from batteries to health. Digital transformation presents considerable challenges because it entails so many sectors.
What do people have to say about the Tech Trend Radar? Internally and externally?
The Tech Trend Radar is a well-known and established tool that offers considerable benefits for users.
Interview: Benjamin Esche