While many organizations understand that quantum computing is probably part of their future, their executives might ask themselves: how soon is that future and when should I start preparing for it?
The method of answering these questions is not unique to quantum computing. Executives try to assess: how mature is the technology? What is the rate of progress? What is the cost of starting? What is the cost of waiting? And if we do start, how long would it take to build a competent team that could extract business value?
At the June 2022 Quantum.Tech conference in Boston, I moderated a panel with executives from HPE, Deloitte, and Classiq to discuss these questions on stage.
Kirk Bresniker, Chief Architect at HPE Labs confirmed that the question of “when to start with quantum” is one that he is asked very often when visiting customers. While customers may have been initially alerted to quantum computing through fear of breaking their encryption (thank you, Prof. Shor!), they grow to realize that quantum computing may have a dramatic and positive impact in applications such as optimization, material science, and machine learning.
Scott Buchholtz, the national emerging tech research director and the lead quantum partner for Deloitte, remarked on his expectations of the timetable. Six months ago, Scott said, he would have estimated that quantum is 3–5 years away from delivering business value. Now, he believes the timescale has compressed and quantum value is perhaps just 1–2 years away for certain applications. What has happened to warrant this compression? The hardware vendors are making rapid progress, control software is getting better at overcoming the limitations of the hardware, and it is becoming easier to write sophisticated application software.
Nir Minerbi, co-founder and CEO of Classiq, commented on what he is seeing at organizations that start assembling quantum computing teams. Nir estimates that most organizations require 1–2 years before they have proficient quantum teams. They need to assemble the team — and often upskill classical software engineers to quantum programming. They need to master the toolchains, establish relationships with cloud providers and learn how to simulate and compare results from various quantum computers. There are, of course, some shortcuts. Using the right software development platform can allow customers to create sophisticated circuits in a shorter time, and not be ‘stuck’ at simple circuits programmed using low-level quantum code.
But if quantum value is 1–2 years away and it takes 1–2 years to build a proficient quantum team, does that mean that organizations should start now? Indeed, that was the outcome of a multi-party simulation (a “war game”) conducted by Deloitte with some of their pharmaceutical clients. Given the relatively low cost of starting a quantum effort, yet the significant cost of falling behind a competitor that mastered quantum earlier, it appeared that starting now is the right business choice.