It’s that time of year again. When those of us entrenched in the world of digital transformation place our hands on the technology crystal ball and try to predict the top levers that will shape our future.
But how can we do that when digital transformation (DX) still means so many different things to different people? For some it describes the latest IT (information technology) project they’ve undertaken. For others, including myself, it means true company-wide transformation -- rethinking how an organization does business -- while creating efficiencies to minimize duplication of effort, streamlining workflows, and delivering the experiences customers are demanding.
With ongoing trade wars and economic uncertainty on the horizon, there’s no doubt in my mind that digital transformation will continue to be a hot topic. And no matter the long-term macroeconomic trends, businesses are going to continue to focus on becoming more efficient, saving money, attracting and retaining customers, and doing more with less.
As you gear up for 2020, here are some predictions I see on the horizon to consider, no matter what your DX definition might be:
Bridging the culture gap: Digital transformation requires a new level of collaboration between business leaders, employees, and IT staff. In 2020, this cultural shift and collaborative mentality will become just as important as the technology itself. Organizations will look seriously at DX culture and ramp up efforts to remake their entire staff/culture to ensure that DX is optimized for success.
Expect traditional organizational boundaries between IT and business lines to start breaking down, and new roles like ‘citizen developer’ and ‘AI ethicist’ that blend IT and business backgrounds to grow.
‘Band-aid’ transformation will lose out to deeper DX efforts: Offering consumers a slick interface or a cool app only scratches the surface of a true digital transformation. In 2020, we’ll see visible failures of organizations and projects that don’t take their transformation efforts below the surface. This year, those who combine digital process automation with consumer experiences will ensure that promises made on the front end are promises kept on the back end.
AI moves out of the lab: It seems digital transformation technology has been in a constant state of being ‘in the labs.’ But while experimentation will always be important, this year the rubber will truly meet the road. Organizations will take what they’ve learned and focus on driving quantifiable outcomes to deliver pragmatic results. For example, this means we’ll see fewer teams heading up generic ‘AI programmes’ and more pragmatic projects using specific AI technology, such as NLP (natural language processing), computer vision, and decisioning to drive specific business improvements.
‘AI labs’ will be replaced with data/AI ‘centers of ethics’ to ensure the new technology is used with transparency and customer empathy front and center.
Customers and new regulations will demand it.
Operations become cool again: In an era where one bad customer experience can kill a brand’s reputation, today’s business and economic environment feels uncomfortably unpredictable. That’s not to mention the constant threat of a broader macroeconomic slowdown. To be in a safer state of readiness, organizations will refocus on the operations side of their business to ensure they are ready to ride out future turbulence. A more streamlined process around internal processes will allow organizations to more easily adjust to changes in the economy and business climate.
RPA is dead. Long live RPA (and BPM): The RPA hype bubble will hit a few bumps this year, and even the most die-hard robotics cheerleaders will start advocating for a more complete and end-to-end approach to automation. The ingredients of these integrated automation platforms will look suspiciously familiar: workflow, business process management, low-code app development, business rules, and – yes – RPA. As befitting an industry built on screen-scraping macros, everything old will become new again!
One thing is certain in 2020 -- those who accept that constant change is the new normal and build a culture and technology to embrace it will be in much better shape than those who don’t.
Don Schuerman is CTO and vice president of product marketing at Pegasystems. He has been delivering enterprise software solutions for 20 years. The views in this article are his own.