Amol Kadam, Co-Founder of RBBi, looks at this year’s digital trends
The discussion of ‘Digital Transformation’ or ‘Technology Transformation’ started more than a decade ago. But many believed that transformation purely revolves around technology, but 2018 showed that this trend would end at some point. If you think about technology in isolation, the transformation will never be complete. We’re now in the second generation of transformation, and the most encouraging part of it is to see that technology is taking a back-seat. Today’s Digital Transformation is not only about the technological transition, but it’s also about an organisational transformation empowered by technology, business, and people.
Last year gave us a glimpse of 2019 and where transformations are heading. Hopefully, these trends can serve as an indicator for the organisations and businesses that are trying to push their digital roadmap forward. Based on predictions made last year alongside some new additions, it’s important to note that it’s not just the technology that makes the Digital Transformation. Customers, culture and employees and business continuity are all at the heart of Digital Transformation successes. It’s about creating a holistic experience for the end user. In simple words, the future of transformation is about experience.
Let’s look at some of the most discussed concepts going around since the last couple of years.
Blockchain – A misunderstood and often overused as a term
Forget everything magical everyone ever said about Blockchain. As most of us on this side of the table and most of the organisations continue to be in awe of this concept, we’ve come to realise that Blockchain is kind of a mess. It’s too niche, closed and complicated for lay people to use for some real, every day and experience-enhancing applications right now. Everyone is trying to use it their own way. In the process, it looks like everyone wants to create their own Blockchain framework, which in my opinion is against the fundamental idea of the Blockchain. The only logical way to get mass Blockchain adoption is to create a plug-and-play version that all of us can use and understand.
Organisations need to be open for collaborations and cross-integration for a true Blockchain implementation that is useful for users. However, to this point, it seems more of a marketing ploy than a matured technology decision. So, in 2019, as many organisations will continue to work on realising the potential of the Blockchain, I’m of the mindset that it will be two to three more years before we start to see the traction that it once promised.
Chatbots and Virtual Assistants – Good to great
This would be again one of the top trends for 2019. I am sure we all would have had extremely frustrating chatbot experiences. But all is not lost on this one. In our personal lives, we have become very comfortable with the idea of conversational interaction which is now moving to a variety of systems ranging from mobile devices, to thermostats, to automobiles. It’s supposed to be a very natural way to interact with systems, both with voice and chat. Today, it is still a work in progress. The good news is that many developments are happening in this field – natural language processing, conversational UI and sentiment analytics. One study shows that NLP will shake up the entire service industry in ways we’ve never imagined. Think about the services that can be rendered without humans— such as fast food lines, loan processors and job recruiters. Some predict that 40% of large businesses would have or would be adopting NLP in their operations by the end of 2019.
Empathy, human emotion and experience are still at the core of any service. So, although machines may be good at delivering on clear-cut requests, they still leave a lot to be desired when it comes to dealing with empathy and human emotion. Here, nothing can replace humans, at least not yet. It should assure many of you who might be thinking, how AI and Chatbots will impact the workforce and will the service industry be devoid of all human interaction?
Data to Analytics, to Machine Learning, to AI
Data and Insights have been at the core of any transformation. And it’s not a new trend at all. Data has always been a key to companies being able to make decisions about products, services, employees and strategy. The form of this data and the formats have changed over the last few years. So, we will not see a slowdown anytime soon. We have created 90% of the world’s data in the past year, but we are only using 1% of the data effectively. I am not even getting into how Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple use our data.
Old ways of looking at data are not going to help us anymore. More and more of our Digital Transformation engagements with clients are starting with major data engineering exercises. It is about breaking the so-called Big Data into small but actionable insights. A lot of data in organisations isn’t structured appropriately for analysis. They have data they don’t need and need data they don’t have. As technology innovations continue to evolve, it is impossible to ignore that data is key to making lucrative, effective business decisions regarding products, services, employees and strategies.
There is much to be done about promoting data to be built into meaningful business analytics and realising the full potential of the data being collected. Using enhanced processing power to increase machine learning, digital leaders will invest more of their data with machine learning and AI. Investment into Data, Analytics, Machine Learning, and AI could grow the amount of data being used effectively by three or four times
VR / AR / MR– Will try to get its act together
Will VR stay on or will it stagnate in 2019? I’m starting to feel bad for Virtual Reality (VR) because it appears so ‘cool,’ but it just hasn’t been feasible beyond gaming and highly specialised applications in today’s marketplace. Most of the applications you see around for VR are forced rather than being natural and seamless. Even the demand is not growing at a pace it was supposed to. MR or Mixed Reality on the other hand which combines AR and VR—continues to be the name of the game in 2019 Digital Transformation trends. It has found tons of use cases in enterprise workforce training, and it’s not just cool, it’s useful. And that’s what technology is supposed to do. There are even rumours that we will hear something about a new AR or mixed reality product and developer kit from Apple soon.
Lack of compatibility, dependence on hardware, cost and customer apathy are some of the factors that this concept is fighting with. So, we will see it maturing into a new generation of VR, which is more standard across platforms and surely at a lower cost which could then change the future success of VR and AR. As and when it is integrated seamlessly with the user’s natural behavioural pattern it will start to become invisible, and that is the tipping point for every technology towards success and growth.
Search – Taking the pain from discovery
Search is reaching a tipping point and becoming invisible to human behavioural patterns. From a small box in the corner of the web-page to visual and voice, search, and assistance search is going main-stream. Will we expect it to become a standard item in digital strategy. One study says, Visual and Voice search would amount to 50% of all the searches done by 2020. What does this mean for Digital Transformation that is B2C focused and the e-commerce industry?
Making digital, human – A trend that is changing how we look at technology
As I stated at the beginning of this article, a transformation is becoming more about the experience; this one trend is making its way slowly but surely on the scene. With the overdose of data, technology, platforms and digital; what we have forgotten, was ‘the Human.’ The human being, who was and should always be at the centre of it. Last year saw many organisations taking a step towards being more human. In 2019, more organisations will jump on this and you will see many service providers and agencies also doing the same.
Purpose, relevance, experience, empathy, ethical and responsible are some of the terms started to grow back in our minds through the clutter of digital. We have started to understand that technology and everything around it cannot be the differentiator it is just a facilitator. Which technology or platform you choose is becoming less relevant but what you do with it, how you be relevant to your users, how do you keep the human element and experience in-tact and how do you enhance the experience; is becoming the leading metric. Gone are the days of transformation being inside out now it’s about how do you make a true transformation which is outside-in.