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Data-driven foresight provides a blueprint for the future: Nitor Crystal Ball 2023

Publicerad i Affärer, Teknologi, Analys, Design, Strategi, Agilt

Skriven av

Mika Majakorpi
Chief Technologist

Mika Majakorpi works as Chief Technologist at Nitor. Mika has been there and done that in various architecture and development roles for years in the Finnish IT scene. Lately he's into Event Driven Architecture and data driven solutions.


9 juni 2023 · 8 min lästid

Gazing into the crystal ball of technological advancement provides Nitoreans the opportunity to expand our collective knowledge, futureproof our skills and provide our customers a solemn promise: whatever the future may hold – we’ll be ready.

At Nitor, we put great emphasis on continuous learning. The world is changing at an increasing pace with AI-assisted knowledge work enabling us to focus on the key issues that take us and our customers to the next level in their business. We pride ourselves in having the foresight to present fresh pragmatic ideas to our customers across our service and competency areas from strategy consulting to software development.

This capability is the result of the passion of our experts and the internal process that facilitates the selection of upcoming topics to focus on. Here’s how we make sense of what we see as we gaze into the crystal ball.

Transcribing findings from a crystal ball into a radar on paper

To focus our learning efforts, we run a series of workshops every year to identify upcoming things we should focus on. These workshops crowdsource topics and place them in an appropriate location on the radar depending on how relevant we feel the topic is at that time. 

We run workshops for each service area, and people are encouraged to participate in as many as they have a passion for. The final workshop focuses on finding topics for us to collaborate on – overarching topics like AI that span all service areas are a prime example. After the round of workshops, we’ll narrow down specific topics for each competency and collaboration theme, where we engage in cross-discipline discourse and learning.

Identifying topics is the easy part. Following through can get tricky, as we have to find the time for these future-proofing activities. That’s why we have the Nitor Core principle: every Nitorean gets to spend 10% of their work time on pet projects. These could be anything, but having a radar signal from the workshops helps in providing avenues to direct this passion for learning into, as well as sharing the path of knowledge with others!

The following are sneak peeks into the radars we’ve identified this year for some areas.

The radars

Frontend radar – Joakim Gunst: focus on accessible services and improved collaboration processes

In the Frontend Crystal Ball session, we identified several themes that will be important during the following year. 

The first is rendering performance, the main selling point of new rendering patterns like streaming server-side rendering in React 18 and Next.js 13 and islands architecture in frameworks like Astro. 

Accessibility is another theme whose importance continues to grow, and we are especially interested in ways to automate accessibility testing. Atomic CSS has increased in popularity during the past year, as shown by the success of Tailwind. End-to-end type safety improves code maintainability, exemplified by new libraries like tRPC. 

Finally, improving the designer-developer collaboration process, particularly around using Figma, remains an area of focus.

Backend and Cloud radar – Juha Pääjärvi: Rust reigns as a key language with serverless monoliths ripe for future exploration

There were a number of technologies in several areas discussed in the combined Backend and Cloud Crystal Ball session. A lot has happened during recent years on the programming languages front.

This year Rust got the most votes as the premiere language to explore and learn from. In the runtime platforms area, cloud native and container based platforms are prevailing, often being used together. This year container technologies, especially Docker, garnered several votes for brushing up skills on. 

On cloud platforms, serverless, or FaaS in general, remains an important technology with serverless monoliths being an interesting alternative approach for further exploration. 

Event-driven architecture and event streaming received a good number of mentions in the software architecture area, with Kafka and cloud native messaging competing for attention. Observability was also raised as an important cross-cutting theme that should be paid more attention to in application architecture design, as well as during implementation work.

Mobile – Johan Paul: exciting new avenues emerge to facilitate cross platform development

The Mobile Crystal Ball session found several interesting themes for the near future. The first one is the rise of declarative UI frameworks for both iOS and Android, namely SwiftUI and Jetpack Compose. These allow for much faster UI development with increased confidence thanks to being strongly typed, coupled with the unidirectional data flow architecture pattern. 

Cross platform development continues to be a hot topic, and Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile makes it even more interesting in the coming months and years. However, we believe that Flutter provides a better solution for cross platform development today, thanks to the possibility of creating the UI in the same cross platform codebase. 

We continue to keep our eyes closely on Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile development and believe that it will be a dealbreaker in the future. Furthermore, thanks to the innovation in the automotive sector, we believe that application support for cars will be even more important in the future and we will invest in Android Auto and CarPlay support for applications.

Lean-Agile – Mikko Hulkkonen: the high-five of cross-functional business

The Lean-Agile Crystal Ball session focused on cross-functional (cross-competence) collaboration opportunities in 2023. The cross-functional areas together with lean-agile were strategy, design, technology and data & analytics.

 We were able to generate a good amount of different types of initiatives with each cross-functional area. The five most valuable ones based on the participants’ prioritisation were:

  1. Agile leadership in top management

  2. Agile & design: Co-creating training and actively seeking for opportunities that combine both competencies

  3. Strategy games – challenging the "traditional" way of strategy building

  4. Agile angle to technology strategy offering

  5. Service Designing the Agile offering

These are the ones we should jointly bring to the forefront.

Data & Analytics – Eero Lihavainen: Data infrastructure and data quality tooling remain important during the ongoing AI revolution

In the Data & Analytics session, we started by highlighting Large Language Models and other generative AI models. These technologies are developing rapidly and provide opportunities for both content generation and developer and data scientist tooling. Second, we identified data discoverability and data quality as important components of data-driven organisations, prompting us to draw attention to Data Catalogs and Data Quality Assurance. For both of these, finding generic solutions is challenging because modern data pipelines are built with heterogeneous technologies. 

Regarding Data Catalogs, notable rising open-source technologies are DataHub and Marquez (based on OpenLineage). For Data Quality Assurance, some frameworks to consider are Great Expectations and Deequ.

Third, we identified a trend in the field towards Lakehouse architectures, which combine the flexibility of Data Lakes with the user experience of Data Warehouses. Lakehouse architectures are powered by data Lake table formats such as Delta Lake, Apache Iceberg and Apache Hudi, combined with modern distributed query engines such as Apache Spark and Trino

Finally, we identified Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud as emerging trends as companies seek to optimise their infrastructure costs by combining the best of all worlds – on-premises and different cloud providers.

Security – Okko Ojala: easier security practices and less manual passwords

In Security’s radar, we see Zero Trust architectures being gradually phased in. It started with strong token-based user authentication and is now continuing to systems with tools like GitHub OpenID Connect on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform, instead of having to store age-old secrets like permanent access tokens.

For end-users we expect the passwordless login identity to gain traction with passkey support making its way to devices and browsers.

As intelligent assistants like GitHub Copilot and various GPT-like services are already widely used, they offer assistance in writing applications faster, but also bring in the requirement of added responsibility to think through the produced code to ensure it is secure.

At some point, the weaponizing of AI in vulnerability scanning will mature. Both for the attackers and us maintaining the systems and ensuring they are secure.

Practicalities include improvements to our laptop security practices and new internal security training.

Strategy – Satu Koivulehto: Business and technology foresight equals value

Strategy Services’ Crystal Ball highlighted many cross-functional themes in line especially with Design, Agile and Analytics tracks. Foresight, smart strategies and data-led leadership were identified as top themes to deliver more customer value.

Forerunner businesses are not built only on systematic trend scouting, successful scenario building and bold moves. They also emerge from data-drivenness, nurturing strategic agility at all levels of the organisation and leading the “how” behind the OKRs. Intelligent technology choices and architecture redesign enable businesses to rise to a new level of strategic and operational competitive advantages. 

To provide our customers with the best strategic services, we pursue to systematically grow our competencies, especially in futures thinking, technology advisory and business modelling

To be able to scale our operations in the future, Strategy Crystal Ballers call for stronger than ever cross-competence team building and building growth paths to advisory roles.

Design – Timo-Pekka Viljamaa: exploring AI, improving workflows and strengthening sustainable Data and Design

In Design’s Crystal Ball session many design and cross-disciplinary topics were identified as applicable to Nitor’s Core time, as well as sources to learn from and to work together on with our developers, data scientists and strategists.

Top-voted Design radar topics were:

  • Exploring AI, including tools such as Midjourney and ChatGPT – ways of working and designing for AI services

  • Figma for both exploring new features and plugins, and improving workflows between designers and developers

  • Nitor’s inspirational talks and meetups. The first event was arranged for Global Service Design Day on June 1st, with the theme Exploring Connections: Strategy x Service Design x Product

  • Continuing topics from the previous year’s core programs 

    • Journey Maps Ops (or Value Stream Mapping, as we call it at Nitor) 

    • Data and Design with a focus on sustainability

    • Combining brand design with digital design and design systems.

Skriven av

Mika Majakorpi
Chief Technologist

Mika Majakorpi works as Chief Technologist at Nitor. Mika has been there and done that in various architecture and development roles for years in the Finnish IT scene. Lately he's into Event Driven Architecture and data driven solutions.