Digital transformation reshapes every aspect of a business. As digital technology continues to evolve, I believe that successful digital transformation will require careful collaboration, thoughtful planning, and the inclusion of every department.
During recent years, we’ve seen shifts in how traditional leadership roles operate, as silos break down and the scopes of various roles widen and change. Digital transformation has morphed from a trend to a central component of modern business strategy.
Here are the top 10 trends I expect to see in 2017:
1. Adaptability is more vital to success than ever: Change is going to happen whether you pursue it or not—you only need to look at how the role of cloud computing in 2016 has evolved to understand. Modern enterprises succeed when they adapt to industry and marketplace shifts and incorporate new technology into company culture and regular operations. However, digital transformation isn’t only about technology, it’s about bringing together the power of technology with a culture that embraces the change that it can lead for the organization.
2. Growing importance of the user experience: The customer experience (including employees) is the ultimate goal of any digital transformation. Customers are more cautious than ever; they’ll turn away from brands that don’t align with their values and needs. A top-notch user experience is a fantastic way to keep customers involved and engaged with your brand. This is a comprehensive process. Anywhere and everywhere customers can interact with your business, the experience must be consistent and positive. For example, entrepreneurs can use analytics to discover where customers are coming from (whether it’s a social media platform, a blog, or somewhere else) and streamline the interaction in those high-traffic areas. Every touch point matters, and those leading the transformation should constantly be asking how are we removing friction and enhancing the experience for every customer regardless of where they are in the journey.
3. Innovation must happen rapidly: Proactive innovation is one of the best ways to stay competitive in an evolving marketplace. New technology needs to be assessed, tested, analyzed, and judged more quickly than ever. Businesses can no longer afford to waste time and resources implementing new tools that offer no real value. This means a “Fail fast, to succeed faster,” mentality. Some projects will work straight away, others will have significant learning curves. The faster your organization can go from idea to implementation the more it can embrace opportunities to transform and even disrupt markets and internal business models. We’ve already talked about adaptability, but that plays a major role here as well. If a company has an adaptive culture where new tech can be easily integrated—or is at least encouraged—that enterprise is set up for long-term success.
4. Embrace the remote workforce: Young professionals prefer flexibility to compensation. Mobile technology and bandwidth proliferation allow businesses to connect with (and retain) top talent anywhere in the world. Contract and freelance employees appreciate the ability to work from home or while sitting on the beach. Companies benefit from having the ability to hire the most talented employees available in any time zone. As businesses’ digital transformations continue to support telecommute capabilities, I expect that we’ll see exciting new developments and opportunities for remote operations.
5. The advent of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): The booming success of the Pokémon GO AR app is a wakeup call to any business that hasn’t evaluated the potential of AR and VR. These technologies were once limited to the gaming realm, but they’re now easier to implement than ever before. The mainstream shift toward AR and VR provides new ways to connect with customers and offer unique, memorable interactions. The popularity of AR and VR also open up the gates for workplace gamification. I predict that by next year gamification will go from a footnote to a core business strategy. We are currently researching this and anticipate there will be a strong roadmap for incorporating gaming into the workplace along with VR and AR for improved employee engagement, retention and customer experience.
6. Application program interfaces (API): Digital transformation inherently espouses shadow IT and the need for agility. New tools and technologies need more than one avenue for viability—otherwise, their value quickly drops. APIs are a secret weapon for embracing true digital transformation. eBay and PayPal are two companies that have relied significantly on these technologies, and it’s enabled them manage an incredibly high volume of transactions. As companies seek to tie together more and more best of breed technologies, APIs will play a big part in making this possible. Instead of being forced to marry a platform, the API will open doors for multiple platforms to tie together in an ecosystem that is fast and flexible. Certain software and technology companies may resist this change as it means sharing the pie, but for companies looking to deploy the technology that creates the best user experience, it is often required to source from multiple vendors.
7. Big data and analytics: The importance of big data in the business world can’t be overstated. We know that there’s a dizzying amount of valuable data in the world, but few companies are using it to maximum effect. Analytics drive business by showing how your customers think, what they want, and how the market views your brand. In the age of Digital Transformation, almost everything can be measured. In the coming year this will be a cornerstone of how businesses operate. Every important decision can and should be supported by the application of data and analytics.
8. Digital transformation is driven by the Internet of Things (IoT). Speaking of how invaluable big data is to marketers, the IoT offers immeasurable insight into customer’s mind. It’s also changing how daily life operates by helping create more efficient cities and leaner enterprises. Businesses and customers alike will continue to benefit from the IoT. With an estimated 50 billion IoT Sensors by 2020 and more than 200 billion “Things” on the Internet by 2030, it is no question that IoT will be not only transformative, but disruptive to business models.
9. Smart machines and artificial intelligence (AI) are taking off in a big way. Our relationships to technology continue to evolve. Soon machines will be able to learn and adapt to their environments. AI has long been considered the realm of science fiction, but as technology improves, AI becomes a reality. While advanced learning machines may replace low-skill jobs, AIs will be able to work collaboratively with human professionals to solve intensely complex problems. AI stands to become one of the most disruptive forces in the IT world.
10. Destroying silos. The role of the CIO has changed dramatically over the past decade. With rise to new roles like the Chief Digital Officer and the Chief Customer Officer, we are seeing a rise in the important of digital transformation happening NOW, and the importance of it happening not just in the technology of a company, but across the entire organization. Tradition solutions are more multidimensional and technology CANNOT be used as a crutch. A focus on breaking down silos, will give innovation more room to flourish and collaboration becomes easier.
I believe that these new trends and technologies will be at the core of digital transformation efforts in 2017 and many will continue far beyond the next year. There is no question that digital transformation is no longer an option as the need to build an organization that can change both its technology and its culture rapidly will be core to not only surviving in the time of business disruption, but building a business model that is agile, adaptable and designed to thrive long into the future where change is the only constant.