6 Technology trends for 2018: Innovation focused on your digital journey

1. Re-platforming the enterprise

In 2018, we’ll see an aggressive move to common IT platforms so companies can respond to market changes faster, be more productive and make better-informed decisions. These common platforms are rich in analytics, follow the information flow of the business and are simple enough that users can constantly change the business without writing (much) code. Moreover, they bring an operational and evergreen scale to traditionally bespoke enterprise IT.

These common platforms — from Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others — provide very suitable if not substantially improved replacements for what used to be custom builds.

“This is about the technology you need, not the technology you make,” emphasizes Dan Hushon, CTO of DXC Technology.

Common platforms enable companies to shift their customization efforts from infrastructure to applications and the user experience, which is where the action is.

Another bonus: Moving to common platforms frees up talent and working capital for differentiated services — where differentiation comes from the information you provide in context to customers, partners and employees for new and better outcomes and experiences.

Platforms will provide not only a foundation to improve processes, but also telemetry and insights. For smart adopters, we may see twofold to fivefold business acceleration.

2. The war for digital talent is vigorous and creative

Re-platforming the enterprise portends a major shift in talent, from operating computers to using multiple skills for information integration, analytics and governance.

These digital skills are incredibly scarce and demand is high. Companies will be fighting for people with digital skills to make the transition to common platforms and to drive disruptive change. So how can we get increased scale from a finite talent pool? And how do we maximize the productivity of the talent we already have?

The quick answer? We’ll use common platforms and a concentrated partner strategy to source experienced talent.

In 2018, companies will leverage team-based, distributed workplace platforms that use machine learning, intelligent automation, natural language processing and other technologies to drive productivity.

In addition, expect to see a rise in creative ways to access talent, described in Unleashing Digital Talent for Fun and Profit, by DXC Technology’s Leading Edge Forum:

  • Crowdsourcing — tapping talent outside your company to engage just-in-time talent
  • Bring your own teams (BYOT) — hiring entire teams at once
  • Incubators — creating or sponsoring organizations or spaces that support startups
  • Strategic acquihires — buying entire companies for their talent

Talent will decide who wins and loses in the next decade.

3. Quantified enterprise: Stop guessing and start measuring

Last year we predicted the rise of intelligent machines. We got that right; today business decision makers say artificial intelligence (AI) is pivotal to their organization’s future success. In 2018, companies will harness the “data exhaust” from their digital systems to quantify the business and become even more productive. This quantification will emerge as a primary driver of digital transformation.

Forced to rethink big data, companies will use advanced machine learning to make better decisions with less data. Call it: “The rise of intelligent decision making.”

The best companies are over 40 percent more productive than their peers — leading to operating margins 30 to 50 percent higher. So the potential benefits are huge. When it comes to determining what affects productivity, companies will stop guessing and start measuring. They’ll start shifting from making decisions based mostly on stories and gut feelings, to making decisions based on experiments and measured results.

The first opportunities will be the often-dysfunctional business processes that bring so much friction to productivity and revenue realization.

4. Businesses get stronger through cyber resilience

In the past, companies tried to create perfect security, but today security is viewed not as binary but as a continuum. In 2018, enterprises will focus on getting their resilience as high as possible to withstand attacks and threats. That means planning and practicing for such threats, because they will happen. The common practice will be continuous evaluation and improvement of risk posture.

Added to resiliency is the notion of antifragility, which means getting strongerwhen attacks happen — not just surviving the attack. You get stronger from practicing and responding. You use what you’ve learned to make yourself stronger the next time around.

With the many destabilizers facing enterprises today — cyber attacks, natural disasters, vendor failures, human error, mergers and acquisitions — enterprises must work to become ever-more resilient by applying continuous improvement to productivity, differentiation and the resiliency of the business itself.

5. Companies grow through digital business extensions

The digital core will provide enterprises with an information-rich, scalable foundation. In 2018, companies will grow by leveraging that information and scale, extending their digital capabilities into every facet of the organization — as well as into new markets and new businesses — through digital business extensions.

Amazon’s journey – from online bookseller to online-everything marketplace, to cloud platform, to online- and offline-everything platform, including groceries – is not about a company being irrationally greedy and trying to put a finger in every pie. It is a story of smart digital extensions. In other words, Amazon can run some of those businesses better because of its digital capabilities.

GE’s big plans for the industrial internet of things and its Predix platform can also be seen as a digital business extension.

To make the right digital extensions, companies need a “strategic backflow” from digital capabilities to corporate strategy. This backflow must be embedded in strategic planning rather than based on heroic behaviors, water cooler conversations and special relationships.

That means ensuring that corporate strategy and, ideally, all functional strategies (e.g., marketing, manufacturing, logistics) have mechanisms to consider digital extensions. Ask: “What can I do now?” and “What should I do next?”

Let’s let the digital tail wag the corporate dog, at least a little, in 2018 and beyond.

6. Artificial intelligence gets smarter and more practical

For all of these technology trends, artificial intelligence (AI) will determine the long-term winners and losers. In the past, people were not building AI with the right goals in mind, but that will change in 2018 as companies become more information-driven and use neural networks for continuous learning and productivity.

A big bastion of AI deployment is IoT, because it generates so much information. Other rich areas for AI advances include employee information systems and processes, clinical health advisement systems and IT service management (managing millions of computers is untenable for humans).

Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), a class of artificial neural networks, will evolve and trigger an explosion of opportunities:

  • Very Deep CNNs will push computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) to achieve emotional intelligence with end-to-end conversation capabilities.
  • CNNs will open new opportunities in fields such as system-driven drug synthesis models, leading to cost-effective drug discovery.
  • Improvements in NLP will lead to automated content generation.

AI will continue to redefine what is sci-fi and what is reality. AI is here to help people do better. But rest assured, AI will not be self-aware anytime soon.

With the right roadmap and these guideposts, companies can succeed on their digital transformation journeys in 2018 and beyond.

Source: DXC-6 Technology trends for 2018: Innovation focused on your digital journey

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How to Win with Automation (Hint: It’s Not Chasing Efficiency)

In 1900, 30 million people in the United States were farmers. By 1990 that number had fallen to under 3 million even as the population more than tripled. So, in a matter of speaking, 90% of American agriculture workers lost their jobs, mostly due to automation. Yet somehow, the 20th century was still seen as an era of unprecedented prosperity.

In the decades to come, we are likely to see similar shifts. Today, just like then, many people’s jobs will be taken over by machines and many of the jobs of the future haven’t been invented yet. That inspires fear in some, excitement in others, but everybody will need to plan for a future that we can barely comprehend today.

This creates a dilemma for leaders. Clearly, any enterprise that doesn’t embrace automation won’t be able to survive any better than a farmer with a horse-drawn plow. At the same time, managers need to continue to motivate employees who fear their jobs being replaced by robots. In this new era of automation, leaders will need to identify new sources of value creation.

Identify Value At A Higher Level

It’s fun to make lists of things we thought machines could never do. It was said that that only humans could recognize faces, play chess, drive a car, and do many other things that are automated today. Yet while machines have taken over tasks, they haven’t actually replaced humans. Although the workforce has doubled since 1970, unemployment remains fairly low, especially among those that have more than a high school level of education. In fact, overall labor force participation for working age adults has risen from around 70% in 1970 to over 80% today.

Once a task becomes automated, it also becomes largely commoditized. Value is then created on a higher level than when people were busy doing more basic things. The value of bank branches, for example, is no longer to manually process deposits, but to solve more complex customer problems like providing mortgages. In much the same way, nobody calls a travel agency to book a simple flight anymore. They expect something more, like designing a dream vacation. Administrative assistants aren’t valuable because they take dictation and type it up on a typewriter, but because they serve as gatekeepers who prioritize tasks in an era of information overload.

So the first challenge for business leaders facing a new age of automation is not try to simply to cut costs, but to identify the next big area of value creation. How can we use technology to extend the skills of humans in ways that aren’t immediately clear, but will seem obvious a decade from now? Whoever identifies those areas of value first will have a leg up on the competition.

Innovate Business Models

Amazon may be the most successfully automated company in the world. Everything from its supply chain to its customer relationship management are optimized through its use of big data and artificial intelligence. Its dominance online has become so complete that during the most recent Christmas season it achieved a whopping 36.9% market share in online sales.

So a lot of people were surprised when it launched a brick and mortar book store, but as Apple has shown with its highly successful retail operation, there’s a big advantage to having stores staffed with well trained people. They can answer questions, give advice, and interact with customers in ways that a machine never could.

Notice as well that the Apple and Amazon stores are not your typical mom-and-pop shops, but are largely automated themselves, with industrial age conventions like cash registers and shopping aisles disappearing altogether. That allows the sales associates to focus on serving customers rather than wasting time and energy managing transactions.

Redesign Jobs

When Xerox executives first got a glimpse of the Alto, the early personal computer that inspired Steve Jobs to create the Macintosh, they weren’t impressed. To them, it looked more like a machine that automated secretarial work than something that would be valuable to executives. Today, of course, few professionals could function without word processing or spreadsheets.

We’re already seeing a similar process of redesign with artificially intelligent technologies. Scott Eckert, CEO of Rethink Robotics, which makes the popular Baxter and Sawyer robots told me, “We have seen in many cases that not only does throughput improve significantly, but jobs are redesigned in a way that makes them more interesting and rewarding for the employee.” Factory jobs are shifting from manual tasks to designing the work of robots.

Lynda Chin, who co-developed the Oncology Expert Advisor at MD Andersonpowered by IBM’s Watson, believes that automating cognitive tasks in medicine can help physicians focus more on patients. “Instead of spending 12 minutes searching for information and three with the patient, imagine the doctor getting prepared in three minutes and spending 12 with the patient,” she says.

“This will change how doctors will interact with patients.” she continues. “When doctors have the world’s medical knowledge at their fingertips, they can devote more of their mental energy to understanding the patient as a person, not just a medical diagnosis. This will help them take lifestyle, family situation and other factors into account when prescribing care.”

Humanity Is Becoming The Scarce Resource

Before the industrial revolution, most people earned their living through physical labor. Much like today, many tradesman saw mechanization as a threat — and indeed it was. There’s not much work for blacksmiths or loom weavers these days. What wasn’t clear at the time was that industrialization would create a knowledge economy and demand for higher paid cognitive work.

Today we’re seeing a similar shift from cognitive skills to social skills. When we all carry supercomputers in our pocket that can access the collective knowledge of the world in an instant, skills like being able to retain information or manipulate numbers are in less demand, while the ability to collaborate, with humans and machines, are rising to the fore.

There are, quite clearly, some things machines will never do. They will never strike out in Little League, get their heart broken, or worry about how their kids are doing in school. These limitations mean that they will never be able to share human experiences or show genuine empathy. We will always need humans to collaborate with other humans.

As the futurist Dr. James Canton put it to me, “It is largely a matter of coevolution. With automation driving down value in some activities and increasing the value of others, we redesign our work processes so that people are focused on the areas where they can deliver the most value by partnering with machines to become more productive.”

So the key to winning in the era of automation, where robots do jobs formerly performed by humans, is not simply more efficiency, but to explore and identify how greater efficiency creates demand for new jobs to be done.

 

Source: Harvard Business Review -How to Win with Automation (Hint: It’s Not Chasing Efficiency)

An introduction to Digital Disruption

Earlier this month I attended the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona. It is billed as the most important gathering of IT leaders and provides insight, strategic views and trends that will affect businesses over the next 12 months. This was my first time attending the event and I must say I was blown away by the sheer size, quality and quantity of the various sessions. The big focus and underlying message was Digital Disruption and how the opportunities it provides can transform businesses. Pause here for a second, the biggest gathering of IT leaders and the focus was on how digital disruption can transform businesses. IT Leaders need to be business leaders.

So, what is Digital Disruption – I was interested to hear the response from family members and colleagues. They focused on the word disruption and assumed the phrase Digital Disruption to be a bad one, perhaps an attack on the business as an example. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact the only negative side of this phrase is those who choose not to embrace it.

Digital Disruption is much more than improving efficiency within a business, it is essentially a transformation aided by emerging technologies, processes and business models to positively impact the value of an existing service or product. By connecting all the different parts of the business, greater working relationships can be formed with partners, customers, suppliers and even organisations typically seen as competitors.

The word disruption is used due to the disruptions this business transformation has on the current marketplace.

I have some good examples which demonstrate Digital Disruption far better than I can explain.

Netflix

Think of Netflix, they disrupted the movie rental market. Blockbuster was the go to place if you wanted to rent a movie, it is safe to say they dominated the market in the UK but they failed to innovate and failed to leverage the emerging technology available to them. Netflix saw an opportunity, they started with a delivery service and then moved into providing movies digitally. Blockbuster didn’t see it coming and furthermore weren’t agile enough to adjust to the demand of the market.

Uber

A somewhat controversial disruptor, they came into a market that had been stable for around 4 centuries and completely tore up the rule book. They saw an opportunity to digitalise the way we consume our travel and align it with the on demand needs of the market.

Lego

This example is slightly different as it is an insight into the future. Lego, who have a fair proportion of the market they operate in see future disruption coming from horizontal markets. The CEO explained how he anticipates the likes of Facebook and Google being the biggest rivals over the next five years and that Lego must innovate and change their own business model to compete. He sees the rise in virtual reality being the big trend and expects the physical and virtual worlds to collide. He understands the importance of adapting in a market disrupted by technology companies.

How to begin thinking about Digital Disruption

Before businesses can disrupt, they need to analyse the various markets to uncover the opportunities. The Lego example perfectly demonstrates the need to think outside of your market vertical. So where to start? I’ll try and help.

Stage one; Detect and analyse the market demand. What could you change about your own business to improve the experience or value for the customer. Is there anyone that already does this and how do they do it? What are the trends or culture shifts signalling to your business?

Stage two; How quickly can you change or adapt? What, if anything would prevent such change? What is the impact of not adapting? How can Technology support this?

Stage three; Could your products or services be used to solve the customer needs in other markets? Do you have visibility of other markets? What will you do with your existing offerings? How quickly can you shift resources and capability?

Gartner described this as the Three Elements of Digital Business Transformation.

Implement

This is where some of the more established organisations struggle, as implementing Digital requires changes to the business strategy and a focus on digital outcomes. In some cases, a digital strategy can replace the business strategy.

The basic principles should include;

  • Agile change management processes
  • Getting products or services to market quickly
  • Engaging and welcoming feedback with the customer base
  • Limiting the time & investment
  • Adopting a culture which accepts and learns from trial and error

Some organisational processes may not lend themselves to this new model or will take time to implement such change. This opens opportunities for creating a start-up incubators or partnering with a similar organisation. These should be void of such processes and lend themselves to an agile approach. As these initiatives grow and begin to take products to market funds can be reinvested in talent or speeding up the organisational change. This entrepreneurial model should help attract and retain staff with digital skills.

The business must take the journey to digital whilst supporting and maintaining the existing processes, applications and infrastructure. The IT team can help this by operating in two modes…

Digital Disruption Needs Bimodel IT

I’ll be writing a more in-depth piece on what Bimodel IT is but for the purpose of this article let’s summarise. Bimodel IT is two working speeds of the IT department. The first, referred to as Mode 1 is the traditional IT speed, focusing on governance, safety, return on investments and doing things in the right way. The second speed, Mode 2, is a new way of working for the IT department. Doing things fast, being agile, driving innovation, driving delivery and adding value to the business.

It is easy to see it is this type of model that is required to help drive Digital Disruption. Mode 2 is essential as a digital business contains much uncertainty and the need for agility and flexibility depending on what the market is demanding. The digital world is also one which requires collaboration so the need to provide innovative, flexible working practises is also essential.

Common Mistakes

There are some common mistakes when it comes to Digital Disruption, the first of which is that Digital Disruption is the responsibility solely of IT. It should sit with the business and in many cases the CEO. Where IT come into it is that most business trends have a meaningful IT component to them and thus IT needs to be woven into the planning process of the organisation. IT leaders can help drive this through Digital Disruption.

Secondly, as discussed you need to understand the market and the demand. Don’t start by launching new digital products and services without analysing the market and engaging with your customer base.

Many businesses see the likes of Netflix and Uber being successful at Digital Disruption and try to imitate start up organisations. The problems arise where traditional businesses do not have the business model and processes in place to adopt the agile, adaptive approach of a start up.

Digital Disruption is not just cloud. I’ve seen and heard lots of people trying to sell or buy Cloud based products because they wish to drive the necessary transformation. Digital Disruption is made up of multiple components such as Cloud, Social, Mobile, Virtual, Analytics, process redevelopment, IoT, business remodelling and importantly, people.

Finally, the business strategy must reflect the areas in which Digital Disruption can exploit, it takes time but enabling disruption must become business as usual. A realistic timescale depends on the business but for the analysis of the market data to be relevant I would suggest a timescale of 12 months to execute on the transformation. This will enable you to create a platform from which you can drive Digital Disruption.

Takeaways

Digital Disruption is changing industries all over the world, altering the way we as individuals and our businesses operate. It brings a whole host of opportunities across industries we may not have had access to previously.

Digital Disruption is more than providing the platforms, it should be business focused, identifying opportunities through customer engagement and collaboration, implementing solutions to improve business processes, services or products and providing agile ways of working to an ever-changing workforce.

Digital should become the DNA of any organisation, woven into the business strategy and the day to day operation of an organisation. This is not something IT can do alone and nor should it be – but don’t wait for the business, get started.

Source: An introduction to Digital Disruption

Digital technology to unlock revenue for insurance companies

Insurance companies are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities where digital is no longer just a new way to package and sell traditional concepts, but something that will redefine the industry at its core.The massive value of today’s $5 trillion global insurance market is impossible to ignore. Add to that over $1.63 trillion worth of new value to be unlocked if the industry is digitised by 2018 – and the industry becomes even more exciting.

This is demonstrated in Cognizant’s recent report on the future of work in insurance, The Work Ahead – Seven Key Trends Shaping the Future of Work in the Insurance Industry. The report is part of a larger study for which Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work interviewed 168 insurance company executives worldwide on their digital and technological priorities, how they view the opportunities presented by digital transformation and its impact on future developments in their business.

Insurance providers, traditionally focused mainly on their core business, should rethink what they do, and how they do it, in the face of change driven by data, automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Digital is key
According to the research, approximately two-thirds of insurers (61%) believe that digitally-driven transformation is the key to their organisation’s commercial future. The data-driven insurance industry has much to gain from working with automation and machine learning that enhances the ability to analyse and create value through data.

For a corporation, being more strategic and specialised may mean targeting a micro-vertical niche, for example, bio-chemical research intellectual property protection, rather than continuing to pursue large, undifferentiated marketplaces. Furthermore, being more automated and technical may mean reducing costs in back-office business processes through the deployment of robotic process automation (RPA). Almost all respondents agreed with the statement that “the required skills to succeed in my industry are going to change significantly in the next three years”.

As such, by 2018, there will be five major business dynamics that will materially impact the future of work in insurance:
• Work will become more strategic than ever
• Work will become more specialised
• Work will become more automated
• We will work more with machines that enhance what humans already do
• Work will become more technical

In order to keep up with the competition, insurance companies should adapt to these dynamics and equip their employees with the relevant skills.

Data-based insights lay the ground for analytical skills
A significant number (68%) of insurance executives said that, in 2016, analytical skills were the most important. By 2020, this figure rises to 88%. Analytical skills will only grow in importance as businesses increasingly understand the power of data and data-based insights.

In contrast, 57% said “selling” was the second most important skill in 2016. By 2020, this figure will have remained relatively consistent and will only have grown to 61%. Respondents perceive selling remains very essential but that its importance will not grow substantially over the next few years. The ability to sell products and services will always remain relevant; however, other skills previously given less recognition, such as data analytics, are a key requirement for insurance companies, in a world increasingly driven by software.

Michael Clifton, Senior Vice President, global insurance strategy and ventures, Cognizant, comments: “It is clear there is an industry consensus on the central role of data and analytics – both now and in the future – in shaping business models and commercial opportunities. In many ways, this is not a surprise, but the research confirms something profound: without a data-centric approach at the core of what an insurance company does and how it does it, some may struggle to maintain their current spot in a competitive industry – and unlock the trillions worth of new value in it.

To download the study please click on the title The Work Ahead – Seven Key Trends Shaping the Future of Work in the Insurance Industry

Source: actuarialpost.co.uk-Digital technology to unlock revenue for insurance companies