Quantum reality check: Gartner expects more 10 years of hype but CIOs should start finding use cases now

Gartner analyst recommends three tactics for learning the landscape and building internal skills in these early days of the quantum era.

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Companies need a working group to understand the quantum computing landscape and select the relevant vendors and use cases, according to Gartner Analyst Chirag Dekate at the 2021 IT Symposium/Xpo.

Image: Gartner

At the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, analyst Chirag Dekate had a brutally honest assessment of the state of quantum computing: embryonic at best. What's worse, we're in for at least 10 more years of hype about the technology before it starts delivering value, according to Gartner's 2021 Hype Cycle for Compute Infrastructure.

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Gartner Analyst Chirag Dekate 

Image: Gartner

That doesn't mean that IT leaders shouldn't be paying attention to the emerging technology. During his Tuesday session, CIO's Strategy Guide to Navigating The Quantum Computing Hype,"  shared advice on how to start quantum initiatives and capture business value now. 

He identified these emerging best practices, based on work from companies currently exploring quantum computing:

  • Prioritize business impact potential in selecting use cases
  • Focus on skills development internally and with vendors 
  • Create a quantum working group now

Many Gartner clients are already taking this approach with engagement on the topic increasing significantly over the last three years, Dekate said. Gartner predicts that nearly 40% of large enterprises will have quantum computing initiatives underway by 2025.

Dekate had another helpful reality check for quantum companies and the businesses interested in those services.

"Quantum is not a general purpose technology and quantum computing cannot solve all known problems," he said.

Here is Dekate's advice on how to get started now with quantum initiatives.

Build a working group now

The first thing to do is to find people interested in this new technology and get the group meeting on a regular basis. 

"Starting early is the surest form of success," he said. "It's also important to use KPIs that encourage risk taking and reward building internal skill sets."

Dekate recommends these guidelines for building the group:

  • Keep the group small, between five and eight people
  • Make sure the team is interdisciplinary and includes line of business experts
  • Focus on use case identification
  • Use those use cases to identify the best vendors

The group also should track how the ecosystem is evolving and keep the rest of the company up to date on those changes.

SEE: Gartner: 7 characteristics CIOs need to take digital leadership to the next level

Building in-house experts will make it easier to select a transformative use case and identify the skills needed to support that initiative.

"Quantum computing is complex but do not outsource quantum innovation," he said. 

Selecting a high-impact use case

The key to success with quantum initiatives is picking the right use case. This means finding one that has the potential to deliver disruptive impact, Dekate said. 

There are five areas of early promise for quantum computing: 

  1. Biochemistry
  2. Material science
  3. Organic chemistry
  4. Optimization problems
  5. Security

Dekate said that these are common problems across most industries, but they also share the same barrier when it comes to quantum computing: scale. 

"With optimization problems, researchers are telling us that the overhead associated with quantum error correction limits the potential for value capture," he said. 

SEE: Gartner analyst: 12 technologies to accelerate growth, engineer trust and sculpt change in 2022

The pharmaceutical industry faces the same challenge with quantum computing and drug development. 

"For simulations of sufficient scale you might be able to deliver disruptive impact, such as developing new drugs in a matter of minutes instead of months," he said. "The challenge is that you need really large quantum systems if you want to simulate anything meaningful."

Prioritize quantum skills development

Companies interested in quantum computing need to prioritize learning and development alongside the search for the right use case, because quantum computing requires a whole new set of skills.

"With classical computing, algorithms are designed to fit the problem, but with quantum computing the problem is shaped to fit the algorithm," he said. 

In addition to the basic challenge of working with this new technology and learning new vocabulary such as superconducting gate systems, the vendor landscape is fragmented and new as well.

Gartner's assessment of quantum systems, software and services has five categories:

  • Quantum annealing systems
  • Superconducting gate quantum computing 
  • Trapped ion quantum computing
  • Photonic
  • Neutral atom

Each category has vendors ranging from conventional tech companies to startups that offer quantum as a service. 

SEE: Gartner: Bring shadow IT into the light and get really good at building partnerships

Several companies also offer simulated quantum computing as a service including, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft. Fujitsu Digital Annealer and Microsoft offer quantum inspired computing. 

Dekate recommends looking for these capabilities when picking a quantum computing vendor:

  • Quantum expertise and roadmap
  • Breadth of peer networks
  • Maturity of quantum ecosystem
  • Clarity of IP ownership

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...