Reevaluating Digital Transformation In 2017
As we move into the new year, many companies are increasingly facing a moment in which they must adapt to a rapidly changing digital landscape and evolving consumer behaviors or risk being left behind. The expectations for how their customers expect to engage is driving the adoption of new technologies and applications within the enterprise, reshaping digital priorities and infrastructure.
Moreover, the growing availability and accessibility of new technologies (e.g. Cloud, IoT, augmented reality, virtual reality) and data has paved the way for smaller, nimbler, startups to compete with legacy enterprise. Businesses everywhere, across all sectors, look to digital transformation to adapt with high uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, which seem to be the natural state and order of things – welcome to the new normal.
# Rapid Acceleration of Digital Transformation
The pace of digital transformation will continue to accelerate and consumer behaviors will continue to evolve and change, driving a “pivot or perish” imperative for brands. Smart corporations will increasingly put digital transformation at the center of their corporate strategies.
The industries that are leading the transformation are retail and financial services, which were initially driven by the e-commerce boom. Retail and financial services are also industries that will continue to face the most disruption along with other B2B sectors including media, telecom and healthcare. While many companies in these areas are already committed to digital transformation business strategies, technology and skilled workers lag behind as the marketplace rapidly changes. So, we will see many companies renewing legacies systems and driving tech initiatives in an attempt to catch-up, as well as a premium being put on experienced digital talent.
# Technology Trends
Virtual and augmented reality will see rapid adoption given what we all learned from the recent Pokémon Go phenomenon. Applications for the technology across a wide variety of sectors are becoming central to core business strategies in an attempt to gamify even the most mundane services to deliver memorable experiences. We are also seeing a surge in artificial intelligence and machine learning adoption, which will accelerate as companies begin to understand how they can automate low-value tasks and free up employees for more high-value creative tasks.
Pokémon Go may prove to be a fad but the underlying AR technology is not. It may be in search of a relevant application but AR itself is highly viable. What Pokémon Go did is prove its value regardless of the lifespan of the game itself. It showed how experience drives engagement, loyalty and advocacy, while affording brands the ability to play along in a non-intrusive way. AI, VR and machine learning are hardly fads. They are more akin to infants learning to crawl, then walk, then run. They will only continue to evolve into highly effective and vital tools.
As always, expect more misses than hits, but even Gartner recently reported that “digital experience and engagement will draw people into nonstop virtual interactions,” and that by 2020, “100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality.” So, I believe it is not only here to stay, but here to grow and evolve.
# Enterprise-Grade vs. Consumer-Grade
The shift in spending from enterprise-grade to consumer-grade is already happening at a rate the likes of which we have never seen. As a result, most enterprise companies will continue to play catch-up to digital native businesses due to a massive legacy landscape of applications, systems and infrastructure. Driven in part by the dramatically falling relative cost of consumer-grade technology. Box, Google Drive, AWS and others now provide nearly the same capabilities (or more) offered by many traditional enterprise solutions.
# Repositioning Consumer Strategies
A recent PWC study reported that 86% of CEOs consider digital their #1 priority. It’s clear that digital transformation will, by necessity, be at the center of your company’s business strategies if it isn’t already. The ubiquity of mobile devices around the world has provided customers with unprecedented access to information, completely transforming how they perceive value as well as their expectations of companies they choose to have relationships with.
It’s easy to see why over 80% of CEOs view data-driven, customer engagement as the most important part of their mobile strategy – it is essential to providing consumers with the type of relationships that they want to have with companies.
In order to achieve this, there will also be increased pressure to rethink organizational structure, and a new imperative to un-silo our organizations. Enterprises are increasingly bringing technology and marketing practices together to create seamless, integrated investments that facilitate more accurate and specific customer insights, ultimately facilitating new ways of engaging customers. With the rapidly increasing consumer demand and the explosion of data, it has become clear that a marketer must understand a company’s technology and a CIO must understand customer communication goals. In the most progressive, customer-focused companies, digital transformation is tearing down the walls between enterprise and customer-facing technologies.
# Renew and New Platforms
A perfect storm of transformative technologies: cloud, mobility, and social is driving the adoption of Platform Thinking. According to Gartner Vice President, Dave Aron, “Businesses are looking less like fixed “systems” and more like platforms, which provide the business with a foundation where resources can come together — sometimes very quickly and temporarily, sometimes in a relatively fixed way — to create value.”
Traditional Industrial Age products add value by bringing materials to market and by transforming materials into more immediately useful forms. The relationship between producer and consumer is typically confined to a transaction, and transactions continue until the product is used up or worn out.
By creating a platform on which others can build, business value will increasingly come from creating opportunities in which others can create value thereby widening the pool of producers/creators. If we look at the sharing economy, we can see how this strategy has facilitated connection, gravity, and flow of these dual roles, where an Airbnb host can also be a guest and Uber drivers are also passengers. These users can move seamlessly between the 2 roles as needs change in a data-driven, living breathing eco-system.
# Embracing IoT
In 2017, the Internet of Things will continue to accelerate a future that exceeds consumers’ new digital expectations. With the power of personalization, automation and machine learning, consumers are increasingly expecting real-time responsiveness as well as the anticipation of their needs: from knowing when a doctor’s appointment is needed or the immediate processing of an insurance claim, to creating more efficient cities and leaner, responsive enterprises.
The IoT and integrated technologies are impacting our world in ways we hadn’t thought of. For instance, Skype Translator leverages machine learning to offer voice-to-voice translation for 8 languages with an additional 50+ available for instant message (IM) use, and Waverly Labs recently announced their Pilot smartphone application and earpieces, which promise real-time language translation. Such technologies are certain to have far-reaching implications, not just in social discourse, but in international commerce, seamlessly removing language barriers from global communications. No matter what the industry, from automotive and healthcare, to energy and financial services, there will be an IoT application for every type and line of business.
As new technologies and trends become a part of the larger conversation surrounding digital transformation, the need for strategic assessment is imperative. The digital norm for organizations is shifting, resulting in a massive chasm between the progressive and status-quo. Widespread digital transformation is inevitable. To remain competitive, businesses will need to invest in a strategy of Renew-New that revamps legacy infrastructure while simultaneously creating new technologies to keep pace with digital acceleration and consumer demand.
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