Not your standard trend report 2019

♪ Alle Jahre wieder ♫ — tech and consulting companies share their views on key technology trends and predictions for 2019. Despite feeling a bit of “market pressure” to join that choir and give you an insight of what the coming year might bring, we decided to take a different path this time.

Why? Because, when your single question is, “what (new) tech is available next year?”, you might miss the point.

In collaboration with Markus Meißner

This is not a trend report. (Picture by Jil Lefebvre)

The palette with which we paint the business opportunities of the future are composed of more than just technology. One might, for example, argue in great detail about whether quantum computing is entering a phase of commercialization yet (or not). But simply discussing prophecies will neither build a firm basis for serious decision-making nor actually bring these trends into being. A trend remains an unfulfilled promise, as long as it’s not turned into practice on a larger scale.

So, if you are looking for a full-fledged trend report to share on your LinkedIn account or to send to your company’s board members, we warmly recommend you Gartner, CB Insights, Forbes and Mary Meeker’s “classic”. For now, let’s not just write another wish list for 2019 that we forget about, as soon as we get back to doing meaningful business. Of course, we too see a number of technologies that have overcome their nascent stages of development and will have their fair share of attention next year. We will briefly explicate our views on them, but for the main part, let’s focus on what is at the core of digital transformation: The mindset and working environments that turn trends and innovation into practice.

2019: Coming up…

Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality
Companies will proceed to leverage and experiment with AR, VR and MR in a B2C as well B2B context. This will lead to more advanced (spatial) design merging physical and digital worlds to allow for multi-sensory experiences beyond fragmented interfaces. The trend towards multi-modal communication also poses a serious challenge for reliable companies as it shifts common perceptions of reality and authenticity — most prominently seen in the case of deep fakes.

Blockchain
The ongoing growth and standardization of Blockchain — and distributed ledger technology (DLT) more generally — is a foreseeable development for 2019. With blockchain adoption gaining further momentum, organizations will build robust business cases, establish advanced governance models and elaborate new monetization strategies. In addition the prominence of user experience for Blockchain applications will see an uptake through the increased integration of UX and UI.

Data
Data will remain the business world’s most valuable resource. But shifting legal and cultural norms around data when it comes to ethics and privacy lead to more geographically bounded data flows, as is the case with the EU’s GDPR. Reliable data is particularly relevant for advancing AI systems, which will be incorporated even more strongly in the value chain. Along the way robotic process automation (RPA) will see a stark rise in the area of handling data in and between multiple applications, further promoting collaborative engagements between AI and Data Scientists.

Personalization
Personalization has been progressively advanced over the past decade. Today, Netflix’s recommendation system, for example, shows a viewer who watches movies featuring Uma Thurman the artwork for Pulp Fiction that contains Uma. A Travolta fan will be shown a different image. The growing fragmentation of media use and diversification of user types will see the implementation of more efficient machine learning algorithms that come in the form of virtual assistants.

Platforms in the cloud
Overarching these tech-specific developments the “platformization” of digital markets will be an ongoing trend across different industries in 2019. Closely related to this is the swift evolution of Everything-as-a-Service — from software and mobility to infrastructure and IoT. Because scaling fast and secure is key for companies’ performance the drive towards cloud-based setups will continue to accelerate into 2019 and beyond. In particular hybrid cloud solutions will serve the needs that come along with the proliferation of data-intensive applications and mobile devices.

Don’t ask “what’s new?”, ask “how should it be?“

First: Technological developments most of the time do not function as self-fulfilling prophecies. Solely talking about the next great thing in tech and waiting for others to make them happen, is neither desirable for your customers nor sustainable for your organization.

Second: Over the past years “new” and “innovative” have turned into pseudo-synonyms for “disruptive”. Instead of getting caught up in quasi universal trend reports, specify your own needs and define your own ambitious steps for the upcoming year accordingly. The aim should be to create meaningful outcomes for your business, not to do things for the sake of PR. Embracing new technology is above all an achievement based on internal transformation.

From this point of view trends are a double-edged sword. No one lives in a vacuum, meaning that we constantly adapt to and at the same co-determine our surroundings (including technological innovation as well as the economic, social and political environment). Playing “safe” by simply imitating the status quo is not really an option. Rather, ask yourself what future you and your customers are striving for and how you can be an active part in shaping it. Emerging technologies can be one key component for doing so. Ultimately, your ambition and forward-thinking endeavors can inspire others on their way towards 2020.

Picking new ideas like apples?

Companies across all industries have internalized that digital transformation is well on its way and in fact inevitable for sustained profitability. Likewise, blue chips as well as small and medium-sized enterprises recognize concepts like agility, design thinking and co-creation as valuable frameworks to advance innovation in uncertain times. Important to note here: It is vital to avoid a “pro forma” and “gated by the book” realization of new ways of working,

Yes, when we design products and services with new tech in mind, we have to make decisions about an uncertain future. And yes, observing your users, prototyping, testing and reiterating helps to future-proof your trend-related hypotheses and make more informed decisions. Nonetheless, new ideas can’t be picked like apples and failing fast in the right way is a paradigm that many still have to adopt.

Instead of going through a prescribed best practice routine we recommend to bring together a team of curious people with different skills and viewpoints. Let this team freely explore the potential of new use cases. Even if they won’t find anything in the first weeks they will make use of all the gained insights and rejected approaches. And when, at long last, they come up with an astonishing new scenario do keep in mind: Entering new (tech) territories is a good opportunity to reevaluate your business model and working culture.