Trying to predict the future is part of our human nature. The human brain is always thinking ahead and looking for opportunities to avoid failure, put more money in our bank accounts, and surpass our rivals. Because of this biological response, we are destined to constantly search for guidance through cognitive cues, data trends, and nuances of an evolving world.
Throughout the year, I work firsthand with a customer base that represents a variety of industries, revenue sizes, regions, and business models. Every executive team I meet has its own unique perception of what digital transformation means and how its company can benefit. Some leaders view it as an industry disruptor. Others see it as a necessary way to stay competitive. A few still wonder if it really matters. Whatever their position or theory, nearly every single company is adding its unique flair and stamp to the digital economy.
But if we step back to see where businesses are heading collectively, certain trends surface and shape the future before our very eyes. I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me what will happen in the year to come, but I can share my observations and tell you what I think business leaders should be ready for in 2017.
1. Enterprise-wide digital strategies will be part of the core business strategy
Only a few years ago, a very small number of companies were proactively working on an enterprise-wide digital strategy. Although more technical solutions were selected and implemented by non-IT functions, such investments were rarely integrated throughout the business. Over time, organizations became overly complex, compromising their ability to adapt to a dynamic market and customer base.
Fast-forward to today, we find that digital strategies and resulting technology adoption are steadily becoming a core part of the executive agenda. Companies are investing significant resources to foster a mature mindset that views digitalization as an opportunity to advance new ways of getting work done, construct new business models, and create new revenue streams.
2. Viability of existing business models will greatly influence digital strategies
While they may not articulate or be aware of their motivations, certain industries are beginning to see how their foundational business models may be disrupted. Consumer behaviors are shifting. New technologies are enabling the rise of digital startups that seem to pop up overnight and radically disrupt industries. All of these realities and more are creating an environment of ever increasing business revolution.
Take, for example, brick-and-mortar retailers. They are scrambling to stay competitive as online retailers continue to take market share. Increasingly, omnichannel access is becoming the norm, as well as the anytime, anywhere online experiences that consumers have come to expect. Unfortunately, if established organizations cannot adapt to these changes, retailers will inevitably see their revenue continue to erode.
At the same time, companies are equally concerned about the rivals that don’t yet exist, as well as the ones they already know. More and more, new businesses are emerging with nontraditional business models, often crossing traditional industry lines where companies have typically never played before. All of this is enabled through a digital platform that is fast, flexible, adaptable, and integrated. If established companies are unable to react equally as fast, they will lose.
3. Blockchain may emerge in surprising places
You don’t have to be a financial guru to know that blockchain is gaining interest in the tech world. But what you may not know is that it’s more than just the underlying platform for bitcoin currency.
Blockchain fuses together cryptography and peer-to-peer networking to create a shared database of transactions and other information that is public to all, yet controlled by no one. It is this form of decentralization of complex transactions that is paving the way for potentially disruptive applications outside of banking and currency exchange.
Take, for example, business-to-business contractual trade. In every transaction, two things are required: 1) contract validation, acquisition, and finalization; and 2) payment transfer. Traditionally, both of these phases can be quite complex, costly, and time-consuming. However, blockchain brings increased speed and reduced costs to the entire process of purchase-order assignment, contract signing, and bank account verification and connectivity.
As this technology matures, I see interesting potential applications for my customers. Perhaps we could lower conventional cybersecurity risk by removing the need for human intermediaries. Local and national elections could benefit from the ability to cast, track, and count votes in real time while using the blockchain’s audit trail to verify that no votes were changed, removed, or illegitimate. On the horizon for 2017: blockchain can drive more secure and transparent monitoring of transactions in supply chains as products move – from one place to another to final deployment and use – with less risk of delays, added costs, and human error.
Wishing your business a transformative 2017
Whatever your business aspirations, 2017 is bound to be full of surprises and opportunities. The outcomes of accelerating digital innovation will excite us. Business requirements will undoubtedly emerge. And new customer preferences will arise. But at the end of the day, success in this whirlwind of change will depend on having a digital strategy; thinking business innovation, not continuation; and enabling your digital enterprise.
For more on successfully transforming your business, get the free eBook 4 Ways to Digitally Disrupt Your Business Without Destroying It.