Even though we haven’t quite hit the final quarter of 2017, you could say it’s been an eventful year in digital transformation. Just as I predicted last year at this time, user experience (UX), big data, smart machines — and of course, change itself—have proven big players in the business landscape this year. As we round the bend to 2018, we get a sense of what’s ahead in the digital transformation—barring any unexpected disruptions, of course.
1-4. The IoT Will Push Us To The Edge — Literally (IoT, Analytics, Edge, 5G)
One thing I noticed in putting this list together is that the IoT kept popping up, repeatedly. This is why it has found its way to the top. Gartner estimates more than 8.4 billion “Things” are on the internet today, up more than 30% from just one year ago. However, IoT alone is just the start. It isn’t so much about the things, but rather what we do with these things once they are connected and supplying us data. Three of the main trends I see — the analytics revolution, edge computing, and 5G cell processing—are all driven by the IoT at their core. In fact, IDC predicts that up to 40% of all compute will happen at the edge in just the next couple of years. This is why trends 1-4 all rest with IoT.
• Analytics (2): If you’re maxing out on data and analytics in 2017, just wait. The mass amount of information being created by the IoT has the power to revolutionize everything from manufacturing and healthcare to the layout and functioning of entire cities — allowing them to work more efficiently and profitably than ever before. One company, for instance, found that it was able to reduce the cost of managing its fleet of 180,000 trucks from 15 cents per mile to just 3 cents. That same kind of efficiency can be exercised in almost every industry, from retail to city planning. Tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM, SAS and SAP are all heavily investing in Analytics, more specifically IoT Analytics as they are seeing the power of this combination in driving new business insights across a vast array of industries and applications.
• Edge Computing (3): If you think you’ve already been pushed to the edge when it comes to digital transformation, look out: you haven’t seen anything yet. Just when many companies are finally beginning to move toward cloud computing, edge computing — driven by the sheer volume and speed of information produced by the IoT—is jumping to the forefront of the business scene. Industry leaders such as Cisco and HPE have made huge hardware, software and service bets on this movement, which I look at as strong validation of this trend. As smart drones, autonomous vehicles, and other AI-powered smart devices seek to connect and communicate instantly via the IoT, the matter of sending data “all the way” to the cloud will become highly impractical. Many of these devices will need real-time response and processing, making edge computing the only viable option. For those of you who have just jumped into the cloud generation: don’t fret. Though edge will continue to be the go-to choice for processing real-time data, it’s likely that the most important and relevant data will still head cloud-ward.
• 5G (4): Just as the amount of data produced by the IoT will force data to the edge, it will also force mobile providers to move faster than ever — toward 5G. The level of hyper-connectivity expected by users today leaves little room not to move forward on the 5G path, but don’t get too excited. The move to 5G won’t happen overnight, and it will likely be patchy at best throughout the coming year. This year we are seeing Gigabit LTE (the stepping stone between current LTE and 5G) making leaps with devices from Samsung and Sony leading the way. Today much of the Gigabit LTE movement is being powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon technology, but others will certainly seek to become involved in this rapid growth market for mobile.
5. Blockchain Finds Its Way
While its more popular cousin Bitcoin continues to blow away stock market analysts, Blockchain may finally find its place in 2018. Gartner shows that as of February this year, blockchain was the second top search term on its website, increasing 400% in just 12 months. To me, it’s no surprise. While the financial industry will be the first to begin utilizing this amazing tool, numerous others — from healthcare to entertainment to hospitality — will not be far behind. Granted, the move to blockchain will not come overnight either — just 20% of trade finance globally will use it by 2020. But once it finds its sea legs — most likely this year — there will literally be no turning back.
6. AI Goes From Newbie To Mainstream
“Yeah, yeah, I know — artificial intelligence.” That’s likely the response you’ll get when talking about AI in 2018. With everyone from toddlers to seniors using Alexa, Siri, and customer service chatbots, it’s no wonder AI may soon begin to feel like old news—at least to mainstream users. On the business side, however, so much power remains in AI — in everything from customer service and robotics to analytics and marketing. Companies will continue to use AI to surprise, connect, and communicate with their customers in ways they may not even appreciate or realize. This includes faster, cheaper, and smarter automation of everything from emails and content generation to industrial manufacturing. I believe we are still only at the beginning here, but we have seen the likes of IBM Watson, SAP Leonardo, Salesforce Einstein and other major software companies all launching embedded AI right into their platforms. This is a sign of what is to come.
7. VR Goes From Hero To Zero
Poor VR. Just yesterday, tons of us were getting excited about buying our first set of VR headsets — and out of nowhere, AR has pushed it out of the way. Why? At least for now, it’s simply cheaper and easier to use, especially in a professional context. By using 3-D visualization, companies can better train, pitch, and envision new products — without the same expense of VR. This isn’t to say VR won’t have its day. Just not in 2018.
8. Failure As A Service?
Just as we saw the as-a-Service market continue to grow with software, infrastructure, and — just about everything else — failure will soon be a service on the aaS menu. The reason: failing fast is one of the most important elements of success in today’s quick-moving digital transformation environment. Failure-as-a-Service (FaaS) will provide visualization, rapid prototyping, and other fast fail methods that will help companies strategize fast for greater success. It’s a bit speculative to say it will be called “Failure-as-a-service,” but the ability to more quickly recognize when something isn’t working and move on will be a key differentiator between the winners and losers of digital transformation.
9. Culture Remains a Hurdle
Bad news: If your company is battling culture issues in digital transformation, they will struggle even harder in 2018. As the pace of change continues to increase — and the number of new technologies continue to grow — it will become even more imperative that companies move fast while moving forward toward growth. Companies that don’t embrace agility, or fail to knock down silos, will have an even more difficult time next year. You often hear that a leopard can’t change its spots, well culture isn’t that permanent and successful transformation are nearly impossible in a resistant culture.
10. Digital Transformation Becomes a Must
Last, whereas digital transformation may once have been just a buzzword in some (lagging) boardrooms in 2017, 2018 will force many companies to realize DX is no joke. It’s an imperative in today’s business market. Disruption will continue to be an increasingly common occurrence in the next few years, and companies unable or unprepared for those changes will quickly fall to the bottom of the pack.
Indeed, if there is one thing that’s clear in digital transformation, it’s that all the technologies above are working together to push one another forward, creating a swell of change that simply cannot be resisted. The strength of the whole is already too strong to fight against. The companies that succeed — and survive — 2018 will be the ones that learn to go with the flow. This isn’t to say there aren’t other trends. No doubt security is heating back up as consumer privacy is at stake, but people continue to forgo privacy and security for experiences; this likely won’t change even though it seems that it should. So what other trends do you see out there? Let’s keep the conversation going below as we know Digital Transformation will stay hot in the year to come.