Future gazing: 2019 and beyond — the future of technology, transformation and business strategy

It’s only a few short weeks until we say farewell to another year and welcome the next. It can mean only one thing: the annual flurry of expert predictions on the future of all things digital, transformation, strategy and technology. I’ve been trawling through a whole bunch of these forecasts and thought I’d share a round up of some of the things I’ve been reading. This is just a snapshot — there will be more to come: I’ll update this list as new reports are published — and I’m sure there are some gems out there that I’ve missed. Do let me know if you’ve got any suggestions and I’ll add them to this list!

  1. Deloitte’s 2018 global CIO Survey, Manifesting legacy: looking beyond the digital era, identifies patterns and habits in companies which are classed as digital vanguards. It highlights the need for CIOs who want to become more digitally adept to shift their focus onto becoming more pivotal change instigators and business cocreators. How? By focusing on business impact, and nurturing the soft skills required to influence the board as well as the wider organisation. “Digital transformation is less about a digital strategy and more about how to do business in a digital world. If we lead with technology, we’re achieving digital insertion. Leading with the business outcomes ensures we are transforming.” Anne Mullins, CIO and corporate vice president, Lockheed Martin.
  2. ‘Soft skills’ (or really really hard skills, as I prefer to call them) — make it onto a technology trends list. Inc.’s list of 31 tech trends for 2019 also foretells the rise of data ethics, a new dawn for the CIO and Agile spreading across the organisation. Jeremy Auger, co-founder and chief strategy officer at D2L says, “Technical skills have been the holy grail of hiring in years past, but these skills have rapidly declining shelf lives. The rise of A.I. and automation means employees are increasingly tasked with jobs that only humans can do: thinking creatively, using judgment, employing empathy, etc. Adaptability will be the most durable skill in the years to come, as the ability to learn and adjust becomes more important than any one skill. Companies, as well as education systems, will need to shift how they assess and train people accordingly.” Hat tip to Monica Viggars for this link!
  3. Forrester predicts that 2019 is the year that transformation finally goes pragmatic. At long last, I say. That means that there will be a shift from broad and wide programmes, to focussed initiatives that focus on realistic, practical steps, and tangible outcomes. They say, “It’s a good description for what we are seeing in a market that carried ambitious strategies into 2018 but ran afoul of internal headwinds.” Also check out this series of blog posts which tackle everything from an human backlash against AI and chatbots, to why employee experience is now centre stage.
  4. The brilliant Ben Evans on ‘the end of the beginning’ — what new opportunities arise as connectivity reaches its apex? “We began with models that presumed low internet penetration, low speeds, little consumer readiness and little capital. Now all of those are inverted. So, we used to do apartment listings and now Opendoor will buy your home; we used to do restaurant reviews and now you can get a hot meal delivered to your door. Tech is building different kinds of businesses, and so will take different shares of that opportunity, but more importantly change what those industries look like.”
  5. The equally brilliant a16z Podcast: Technological Trends, Financial Capital, and the Dynamics of Disruption. “There’s all sorts of interesting tech trends happening right now, including AI, VR/AR, self-driving cars and drones (as well as interesting stuff happening in verticals like healthcare and finance) — and there’s a lot also happening in seemingly more “mature” tech revolutions, such as mobile and cloud. But where are we now, really, with these shifts… and how does that inform how we think about the next couple decades?”
  6. Gartner’s top strategic predictions for 2019, and its twin, the top tech predictions for 2019 are definitely worth a read — as are the two accompanying Forbes pieces debating what these reports may have got right, as well as what they missed — you can find the strategy reader here, and the technology one here.
  7. The SoDA / Forrester Research Global Digital Outlook Study looks at spending trends, adoption of emerging technology, perspectives on the digital landscape. It is very focussed on evolving priorities for agency leaders and brand marketers but definitely worth a read, even if you aren’t directly in this sector.
  8. Harvey Nash’s latest Technology Survey says that tech leaders are not cutting the mustard – fewer than one in five of their team feel tech leaders are ‘very effective’ at creating a vision and strategy – a worrying one in three feel they are ‘ineffective’. Meanwhile, only one in 100 good innovative ideas make it to commercial success, and four in ten organisations have ‘zombie’ innovation projects. (A bonus link – check out the Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey here – published back in June it is jam packed with insights on what’s keeping CIOs awake at night)
  9. Trend forecasting company WGSN looks at the key drivers and sentiments that will shape consumer behaviours and business focus: their findings include the prediction that 2020 will see commercial growth closely aligned with the economics of caring. They say “White space opportunities abound around the new ethnic, racial and religious majorities, but brands will need to work hard to comprehend how they can be relevant to these consumers’ values and lifestyles. WGSN expects new disruptor businesses to emerge both for and from these majorities that will challenge incumbents’ market share.” This Warc interview with WGSN’s Andrea Bell, Head of Mindset, Strategic Insights, summarises some of the top trends.
  10. Trendwatching’s ‘5 Trends for 2019’ places some bets on what cutting-edge brands will be thinking about next year — and there’s also a really useful round up of case studies for each trend, as well as questions your organisation should be asking itself if it’s considering dabbling in one of these areas. From corporates using their power to call for, promote, and even impose laws that drive constructive change, to the push for AI to get ethical… lots to provoke the senses.

Written by

Strategy/change consultant & coach. Google startup mentor. Ex Times paywall-launcher & deputy head of digital. Solex owner luciaadamsconsulting.com

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