7 Digital Investments for 2018 every company should consider

By Rob McGillen

By Rob McGillen

A frequent question I have been ask lately "What are the leading digital trends for the year ahead?"   Through dialogs with customers, business and technology leaders, and reviewing dozens of independent surveys and reports - Below is a list of 7 digital innovations for 2018 which we feel will make a difference.  

#1 - Artificial Intelligence.  The ability to leverage A.I. is already an industry differentiator - and knowing where and how to start is key.  Three strong steps to help you get started: Understand the differences between RPA, autonomics, machine learning, and cognitive computing solutions.   Understand how your enterprise provider of ERP and CRM is either delivering - or intends to deliver for use in their platform.  And decide how your employees and customers will engage with the experience ahead.  

#2 - Augmented reality (and audio engagement) and how to successful leverage for customers.  Beyond the possibilities of virtual real estate walk thrus or ordering soap replacements from Amazon- which parts of your business and customer services become vastly different when augmented or voice enabled.   Consider how the customer experience can change (and their expectations most certainly will) - and aim for where the hockey puck is going in your industry.   

#3 - IoT and edge based computing capabilities.   IoT has become mainstream, smart cities are leading the way - and analyzing and acting on the data flowing insights is optimally done at the edge (think hybrid cloud / solutions that act on real time streams like traffic flow through an airport, but do not require a 'home run' for analysis and reporting to a corporate data center).  What is your ability to act on the possibilities of the IoT / cloud edge solutions that are now available? 

#4 - Blockchain and effective distributed trust based solutions.   As more companies and industries get their head around distributed trust - blockchain will disrupt many existing 'trust and verify' processes and businesses.  Industries (think banking, logistics, manufacturing) which rely on extreme accuracy and precision of information (and have regulatory implications) - are already moving on these innovations.  What are you doing to ensure your place in the blockchain revolution? 

#5 - Dark analytics and Insights.  Sounds like Star Wars stuff.  This is life after Big Data - focusing on the insights that make a difference found in the information previously so vast or complex it was not link-able to the bigger business picture. Now it is.   The questions and answers to be found will grow exponentially in the year ahead - and combined with an A.I. solution to help surface - you will be leading (or lagging) your pack.

#6 - Pick a better cloud platform / partner (again).  As all of the major players have put out their strategies and new solutions for the year - making choices between Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Salesforce becomes a major business / partnership choice for the year+ ahead.  Microsoft in particular has stepped up their offerings and capabilities with Azure.  Take more than a few minutes to study the options.  The pricing.  The value added services and eco-systems.  It is going to make a big difference if your business relies on integrations to maximize value in the business.  

#7 - Lastly, information security and real time risk management automation.  This needs to be on every company's 'deal with asap' list - automation and management / talent to address the continuous war on information.   As more information security providers are embracing and offering automated solutions, companies will need to have a clear (and continuously updated) picture of risk and response to ensure their stakeholders and employees / customers of optimal security operations.    The days of 'once a year' security audits and response lists are behind - real time and autonomous is where companies need to be today. 

While not exhaustive - the 7 above are a strong place to start in digital innovation for 2018.  Curious to learn more about these solutions and and how they are part of a digital business in the new year - get in touch! 

Growth, efficiency and security: three digital technologies every executive should know in 2017

As companies gear up for 2017, digital business opportunities abound for forward thinking leaders.   For Sales Growth, Efficiency, and Security (+speed) - the digital landscape holds a number of strong opportunities in the year ahead.   Understanding the possibilities, and how they add value to the broader business, is key to any digital transformation. 

For Growth - Sales Engagement Platforms  

The number one thing that drives corporate growth is sales.  And the growing number of sales engagement platforms in 2016 was not by accident. The recent Aragon Research report on Sales Engagement Platforms has pegged the market today at $780m, and expected to grow to $5b by 2021.    Often times sales engagement (or enablement depending on the marketing twist) – is focused on helping business leaders best identify the ‘hot leads’ and strong sales candidates that can help move a quarter or make a business year.   

Why should CxO’s and IT leaders care?  The need for better sales techniques and technologies has reached an all-time high as companies have realized static growth through traditional sales processes and solutions.   Many of the leading platforms in this area are ‘born on the cloud’ – and integrating with the leading CRM and contracts management platforms.   Breaking the mold and finding new ways to identify, connect and engage customers will be key in 2017 for growth minded companies.    

This year, solving what your sales engagement platform play will be key to many companies’ growth success.  

For Efficiency - Cognitive computing (and the variations of artificial intelligence)

The proverbial genie is out of the bottle with artificial intelligence, and 2016 witnessed a number of tech vendor commitments (and some deliveries) of A.I. for sake of business.   The commercial leader, IBM, has brought to market strongly the IBM Watson platform, enabling dozens of industries and thousands of companies in the quest for great efficiency.    Salesforce, always a tech leader, will also be introducing Einstein into their platform in 2017.  And Microsoft is quick to follow with Cortana and other predictive analytics capabilities.   

Key questions to answer on artificial intelligence:  In the mash up of buzz words and hype around the capabilities, does your business (and IT group) know the difference between machine learning and cognitive computing?    More important, do you know which is right for your business now, and in the future? The efficiency gains (and in some cases, workforce transition or replacement) from the use will be long running.    Building a strategy today that embraces the possibilities, with a long term view will be crucial to maximize the efficiency gains possible for your business.  

For Security (and speed) – Blockchain

From his recent TED talk, Don Tapscott, a leading digital strategist and speaker, shares his insights into how the block chain technology will impact nearly all facets of human life.

How will blockchain make the world different in 2017?  In short, Blockchain helps drive security (and speed) by improving the real time authentication of transactions and removing the ‘middle man’ in the clearing and authentication process.   By making the transactions ‘completely trustworthy’, the authentication time and processes can be changed from hours and days (think transferring funds across a banking network or between countries), to microseconds.  

Two illustrative scenarios that are impacted by blockchain (and more to come): 

First, in Financial Services.  The availability of funds, and real time acquisition time possible with the blockchain authentication process, changes the underlying business model for the financial services market itself.  The fees, processes, timing involved, and infrastructure of over 100 years is challenged with the adoption of block chain.  How does a bank or institution charge for microsecond processing in the future state?    More important, how does that impact the flow of capital between individuals and businesses worldwide.     

Second, Verification of financial reports and records in the accounting industry.  Today millions of auditors and tax processors around the world conduct regular analysis, reporting and auditing processes, mostly still in a quarterly or annual cycle with complex platforms and processes.    When the need for ‘trusting the books’ is automatically performed with blockchain capabilities, how does that impact the accounting industry?   In short, it can drastically shift the value proposition (and need) for financial review and reporting.   And it forces a digital rethink of the industry itself and the value it will provide to companies ahead.    

As companies consider security and speed opportunities in 2017 – consider how your company might adopt block chain to transform your business.   If authentication, authorization, and speed are priorities for your company, block chain will provide a competitive advantage which you can take up.

Digital capabilities and transforming your business in the implementation process is something we help companies with every day.  Are you ready to become a digital business?  

Get in touch to learn how!