The pandemic turned decades of accepted business principles upside down. Leaders now know everything has to be digital because it’s the only way to future-proof the business. These are some of the most important predictions about digital transformation as we head into a post-pandemic world.
Pragmatism rules the day
Innovation for its own sake is so early aughts. While the pandemic is a force factor for sweeping digital transformation, make no mistake, this is about pragmatic innovation from edge to core. IDC predicted that by 2022, 70 percent of all organizations will have accelerated use of digital technologies, transforming existing business processes to drive customer engagement, employee productivity and business resiliency. Two years later, IDC predicted that 75 percent of organizations will have comprehensive digital transformation implementation roadmaps, compared to 27 percent today, resulting in true transformation across all facets of business and society. In just three years, Gartner predicted organizations will lower operational costs by 30 percent by combining hyper-automation technologies (see the next paragraph) with redesigned operational processes.
No tech innovation is an island
Market interest is high in AI, IoT, machine learning, digital twins, and robotic process automation (RPA). But these capabilities cannot deliver business results if they’re kept in silos. Companies getting the most value are combining the right capabilities together to solve specific problems and uncover opportunities. Gartner called this hyper automation.
In fact, Gartner researchers said that “hyperautomation is not about technology. It’s a process that never ends…a disciplined approach organizations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible…they’re not just buying one technology…they’re buying multiple technology that [they] need to architect together.”
Forrester predicted that “leading CIOs will embrace cloud-first and platform strategies for speed and adaptiveness, eschewing stovepipes for end-to-end solutions.” Further out, IDC saw 30 percent of cities using automation from the combination of IoT, AI, and digital twins, to blend the physical and digital and improve the remote management of critical infrastructure and digital services by 2025.
Humans plus machines are the norm
I’m hoping this decade will finally put an end to last century either-or debates pitting humans against machines. The highest performing organizations will understand how to seamlessly embed digital technologies to boost human productivity.
One of the assumptions behind Gartner’s latest predictions was that “everything that can and should be automated will be automated. Everything else must be augmented.” In their vision, machines will automate 80 percent of processes, serving up information to help people make decisions.
Most analysts agreed these change weren’t destined for the far off future. Forrester predicted new forms of automation will support one out of every four remote workers directly or indirectly by the end of this year. These analysts predicted many organizations will invest in conversational AI, machine learning, and hardware advances to help remote workers perform tasks that were “previously done in the office or that held higher labor costs, such as employee self-service, customer service support, and document extraction.”
By next year, IDC predicted 65 percent of CIOs will digitally empower and enable frontline workers with data, AI, and security to extend productivity, adaptability, and decision making in the face of rapid changes. Within two years after that, IDC predicted 50 percent of knowledge workers will regularly interact with their own AI-enhanced robot assistant, which will help identify and prioritize tasks, collect information, and automate repetitive work.
Industry leaders coalesce into innovation powerhouses
Some analysts predicted more M&A activity as larger software and other vendors snap up smaller startups in important areas like AI and RPA. That’s because technologies need to be on the same cloud-based platform to deliver quality, consistent data, powering valuable business insights.
For example, driven by the goal to embed intelligence in products and services, IDC predicted that one quarter of Global 2000 companies will acquire at least one AI software start-up to ensure ownership of differentiated skills and IP (intellectual property) by 2023.
According to Gartner analysts, business demands for integrated data will make it far more difficult for companies to survive as standalone tech players. They predicted that by 2024, one or more technology mega-vendors will build or acquire targeted hyperautomation technologies rendering 60 percent of the standalone RPA market offerings redundant.
Integration isn’t limited to acquisitions. Deeply collaborative business, including business networks, is on the rise, morphing into what IDC researchers called “digital innovation factories”. By next year, IDC analysts expected 40 percent of market-leading IT and OT vendors will “form strategic partnerships to deliver a holistic solution; this will reduce integration and deployment costs by 20 percent.” Further out, these analysts predicted by 2025, driven by volatile global conditions, 75 percent of business leaders will use digital platforms and ecosystem capabilities to adapt their value chains to new markets, industries, and ecosystems.
Resistance to digital transformation is futile
What struck me about so many of these and other predictions was the immediacy. Most are expected to happen within the next few years, if not sooner. Digital native companies were already there, and those that haven’t transitioned will get there, hopefully soon enough.