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The Bottom Line: Annual Predictions are Fun, But …

January 15, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Year-in-review news features are a staple when New Year’s Eve rolls around and are a nice walk down memory lane. But as 2014 dawned, another trend came over the horizon: a plethora of predictions. It could be that social media inspires the urge to share more opinions, or maybe people are just feeling more optimistic about the future with the U.S. budget woes finally being addressed—at least to some degree.

While some predictions are based on gut feelings, other attempts at prognostication come from years of watching the ebb and flow of technology and business. Although forecasts are entertaining—and sometimes relieving—to read, they are not truly beneficial unless they turn out to be accurate come the next round of year-in-review news features. And therein lies the rub.

Just a few examples of the predictions for 2014 and the coming years: DCD Intelligence predicts a 15 percent growth for North America’s colocation market this year. Roll Call’s Frank Oliveri says that at least some of the uncertainly that plagued the fiscal year 2014 defense budget process likely will be removed from the fiscal year 2015 debate. Cisco believes monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 10 exabytes in 2017. Gartner Incorporated’s analysis says that by 2017, public cloud offerings will account for more than 25 percent of government business services. Even YouTube jumped on the prediction bandwagon with a list (and videos, of course) of technologies it believes will make 2014 the year of tech and finance advances.

Reviewing these predictions instills feelings of hope and anticipation, but the danger is taking them too seriously. Companies like Cisco and Gartner spend many man hours gathering and analyzing statistics for their forecasts, and they should be applauded for their efforts. But even with predictions based on metrics and experience, organizations—and individuals for that matter—planning their future activities must remember to keep in mind that markets, governments and humans are unpredictable by nature. Ask any modeling and simulation developer how difficult it is to introduce complex human behavior into their scenarios. Also keep in mind how tough it is to find these forecasters come next New Year’s Eve.

The bottom line is that predictions for 2014 and beyond are just that: predictions. They are not guarantees. And while meteorologists must explain today’s rain when yesterday they said it would be sunny—the storm system suddenly turned to the north—few predictors of government spending or technology development are willing to raise their hands for 2014’s year in review. Because humans—and governments—can be as unpredictable as the weather. Enjoy the sun … but prepare for the rain.

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