The what’s now and what’s next for digital

A look at the trends that shaped the digital and business landscape in 2016, plus a peek at what’s ahead for 2017.

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In recent months, we’ve explored how digital transformation within businesses has sparked parallel transformations in C-suites across the globe. The rise of CDOs (chief digital officers) has created big change at the top of many organizations as they work to address the digital demands hitting all levels of business today. Pick a department — finance, customer service, IT, marketing, HR, R&D — and you are very likely to see one or more mobile, social, cloud and data initiatives at work. While business leaders at the top are looking ahead and asking “What’s next for digital?” and “How can we prepare?” many teams on the ground are working through “What’s now?” They are still adapting to the many ways digital is reshaping how they collaborate, engage and deliver.

As we begin Q4, many business leaders are taking a hard, realistic look at what digital transformation has meant in their organizations and across their industries. How are competitors succeeding and where are they falling behind? How are customers behaving? What trends shaped the digital and business landscape in 2016 and what should we expect for digital in 2017? Let’s take a look.

Right now: 2016’s digital focus

Where did most businesses focus their digital budgets, resources and efforts? On customer experience and satisfaction.

  • Customer experience is king: It’s the customers of today who are leading and shaping digital transformation. How customers engage digital technology, and whether they access information via social networks or rely on mobile tools to engage providers, is reshaping how businesses operate, deliver and serve. For example, the new goal for customer experience is not multichannel but omnichannel, in order to give clients a seamless experience between physical and digital channels. More and more, I am seeing businesses reworking customer engagement, looking for new, better and digital ways to create a smart and seamless experience.
  • Retain, retain, retain: Businesses have tapped into the data and analytics of digital technologies in order to better understand their customers and their customers’ next moves. Tools that better monitor and manage customer satisfaction, engagement and performance have also been a high priority for businesses in 2016. Consider the rise (or resurrection really) of bots and chatbots across the internet as businesses look to improve and accelerate customer engagement.
  • Analytics are the key: According to the recent 2016 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, data analytics was the most in-demand technology for the second year running. As the two previous points illustrate, useful data analytics are the goal of many digital initiatives because they give businesses the added insight needed to rapidly and effectively identify, engage, win, support and retain customers.
  • AngularJS and Java skills dominate: While .Net was the skill and knowledge area of choice for a long time, now Java and AngularJS are at the top of the list. Professionals with skills in those platforms are who businesses want in 2016 to deliver mobile and web solutions.

What's next? Digital in 2017 

From what I am seeing to date, many of the 2016 digital priorities (clients remain king) will carry over into 2017. Here’s what you will see in the year ahead:

  • More knowledge, more clients: Businesses will continue to explore how digital can provide more insight into the client base (satisfaction, demographics, purchasing habits, networks, etc.) in order to boost retention and identify new prospects and opportunities. Expect to see bot usage increase as businesses work to gather as much digital customer and prospect information as they can.
  • Improve operations: Businesses will continue to explore how digital can improve their business operations and effectiveness. Cloud solutions, for example, offer businesses ways of making their infrastructures more efficient by reducing hardware, increasing automation and increasing resource efficiency.
  • Digital brand boost: 2017 will also be a year of digital brand and marketing expansion as businesses look to establish their own names in the digital marketplace. Watch for long-established companies — think GE and Nike — to look and sound more like tech disruptors as digital transformations push them into new spaces.

Digital remains an area where businesses are both advancing and struggling to get a firm foothold. These next few years will continue to be times of digital transformation. Watch for business models and consumer habits to continue to transform with changing technologies and watch for opportunities from down in the data to up in the cloud. At this point, change can come from anywhere. And businesses have to be ready for it now (2016) and tomorrow (2017).

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