While 2017 has been deemed as the gloomiest year of the decade, technologist (including me) are hopeful about the many silver linings. As I look back at 2017, these are the themes that will help digital & business leaders surge ahead in 2018 — Digitally Native, Intelligent, Social & Connected (D-I-S-C).
As the digital world has become an increasingly detailed reflection of the physical world; digital leaders should start the roadmap for digital natives who accept digital as a natural part of their physical world.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have transformed the way individuals interact with each other and with software systems creating an immersive environment. For example, VR has been used for training scenarios and remote experiences. AR, which enables a blending of the real and virtual worlds, means businesses can overlay graphics onto real-world objects, such as hidden wires on the image of a wall. Immersive experiences with AR and VR are reaching tipping points in terms of price and capability in 2017. In 2018 and through 2020, AR and VR will expand beyond visual immersion to include all human senses. Enterprises will look for targeted applications of VR and AR from 2018 through 2020.
2017 saw a lot of hype, misconception, euphoria, fear, speculation and uncertainty around Blockchain (the distributed ledger based technology at the heart of Bitcoin). 2018 will see a more concerted effort in identifying blockchain use cases with the promise of transforming industries.2018 will be a rise of blockchain based thinking/approach to build trust and reduce business friction (beyond just payments). Organisations will have to invest in thinking, approach and commit to the roadmap. This technology will mature of the next few years.
The global data (including India as well) in clear that customers will experience most brands and services via mobile/ digital channels before physical.2018 will see a growth in systematic investment in this area, as companies realize that their only source of sustained advantage is a superior digital experience. This area will be emergence from graphic design toward design thinking and customer journey mapping.
Creating intelligent systems that learn, adapt and potentially act autonomously rather than simply executing predefined instructions
AI and machine learning reached a critical tipping point in 2017 and will increasingly augment and extend virtually every technology-enabled service, thing or application in the future. AI & AML can also encompass more advanced systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously.The combination of extensive parallel processing power, advanced algorithms, and massive data sets to feed the algorithms has unleashed this new era. Through 2018 and in the future, AI will be as synonymous to the ‘software’ that powers all electronic devices. Everything electronic will be AI-powered !
Intelligent apps, which include technologies like virtual personal assistants (VPAs), have the potential to make everyday tasks easier and its users more effective. Intelligent apps are not limited to new digital assistants. Using AI, technologies have been developed in three areas — advanced analytics, AI-powered and increasingly autonomous business processes and AI-powered immersive, conversational and continuous interfaces. By 2018, it is expected that most of the Fortune 500 companies will exploit intelligent apps and utilize the full toolkit of big data and analytics tools to refine their offers and improve customer experience.
IoT devices virtually surround us 24/7. These devices have become ‘Intelligent Things’delivering the power of AI enabled systems everywhere including the home, office, factory floor, and medical facility. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana etc. have established their presence in smartwatches, cars, smart speakers etc. In fact, every electronic device is expected to be a ‘smart’ device or turn into one in the near future!
As intelligent things evolve in 2018 and thereafter, their popularity will increase and they will shift from a stand-alone to a collaborative model in which intelligent things communicate with one another and act in concert to accomplish tasks. However, nontechnical issues such as liability and privacy, along with the complexity of creating highly specialized assistants, will slow embedded intelligence in some scenarios.
You cannot focus on customers without focusing on ‘social’. Social taps into customer behavior and engagement like no other aspect of digital. Therefore, the 2018 calendar must feature healthy doses of Social.
For organisations to benefit from social media technology and collaboration, they need to enable employees with ‘time’. Without making ‘time’ available (through productivity tools, especially on mobile), employees will not be able to effectively or sustainably contribute. Investments in making ‘time’ available to employees will pay rich dividends to organisation. However, care should be taken to allow employees to invest this time at their discretion, else, the result will be seen as tyranny and not an incentive to collaborate.
For companies still on the fence about digital advocacy, 2018 should be a clarion call. With organic reach on digital and social media reducing, all organisations are being forced to adopt different tools to reach their customers. A well thought through Advocacy Plan (both internal and external) backed by the correct partners and tools will help digital leaders add exponential value to their businesses.
This is another untapped frontier for a large number of organizations. Very few companies have been able to tap and harness this aspect of digital social behavior. However, online communities will play a critical aspect, not only for advocacy (mentioned above) but for product research, segmentation and long-range planning as well. This is another area that will see interesting developments 2018.
Dynamic connection of people, processes, things and services supporting intelligent digital ecosystems
Conversational systems range from simple informal, bidirectional text or voice conversations such as an answer to “What time is it?” to more complex interactions like human conversations with multiple contexts, intents, interpretations and emotions. Conversational systems have shifted from a model where people adapt to computers to one where the computers adapt to a person’s desired outcome.
2018 will see conversational systems that no longer use text/voice as the exclusive interfaces but enable people and machines to use multiple modalities (gestures, sight, sound, tactile, etc.) to communicate across devices (sensors, appliances, IoT systems etc.).
Inter-connected intelligent devices require changes to the architecture, technology and tools used to develop solutions. This has led to the rise of cloud and server-less computing, containers and micro-services as well as APIs to deliver modular, flexible and dynamic solutions. Cloud computing is a long-term architectural shift that requires significant changes to development tooling and best practices. 2018 will see wide-spread acceptance of cloud computing across various industries.
The evolution of inter-connected intelligent devices coupled with acceptance of cloud and server-less computing means that security has become fluid and adaptive. Security in the IoT environment is particularly challenging. Security teams need to work with application, solution and enterprise architects to consider security early in the design of applications or IoT solutions.
Multilayered security and use of user and entity behavior analytics will become a requirement for virtually every enterprise in 2018.
With these trends, I hope 2018 is full of excitement for all my colleagues in digital leadership. I would be obliged if hear from you and discuss the ideas I have shared. Once again, wish you the very best for the New Year.