Information technologies are accelerating at an exponential rate, ushering in the fourth industrial revolution. This is a digital revolution and the pace of change is unprecedented. This revolution incorporates machine learning (think parallel processing and neural networks) and the concept of self-assembly or self-programmability. As technologies continue to advance, they accelerate the progress of other technologies, and so on, and so on.
1. The automatic enterprise
Thanks to parallel processing, big data, cloud technology, and advanced algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming more powerful. As tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple invest in AI, it is becoming more mainstream. People already interact with virtual personal assistants, Facebook has successfully created technology to identify people’s faces, and recommendation engines and robo-advisors are becoming a reality in financial services. Robotic butlers are even delivering room service in hotels around the world.
The analysts are jumping on board, with Forrester predicting that investments in AI will grow 300% in 2017 and Gartner forecasting that 50% of all analytical interactions will be delivered via AI in the next three to five years. These are impressive numbers. But how will these investments pay off for the enterprise? Are computers really more intelligent than people?
Many jobs will disappear through automation and others will change significantly as the enterprise becomes more automated and intelligent. Over the next few years, some of us could be answering to robo-bosses. From a productivity perspective, we spend a third of our time in the workplace collecting and processing data but AI could all but eliminate this work.
Every job in every industry will be impacted by machine learning. The upside? The opportunity to think exponentially means that the potential applications for these technologies are limitless. For businesses, understanding cognitive systems, big data analytics, machine learning technology, and AI - and how to leverage them - will be critical for survival. In the short term, these technologies will give organisations faster access to sophisticated insights, empowering them to make better decisions and outpace their competitors.
2. The year of intelligent things
The capability of smart machines increases substantially as they are infused with standalone intelligence.
AI and machine learning will be embedded into everyday things like appliances, cars, sensors and drones. Even our thermostats will continue to become more intelligent; they will not only learn our heating and cooling preferences, but also analyse factors like on or off-peak use, weather forecasts, and previous consumption patterns to give us recommendations to reduce utilities bills.
This intelligence will be coded into apps. These apps will be driven by data and context, they will synthesise vast amounts of information, learn our behaviours, and react and adapt in real time to deliver relevant and personalised outcomes. Whether they make us more productive at work, optimise our health, or manage energy and utilities consumption in our homes, intelligent things and apps have the power to direct our actions and influence our interactions to help us make better decisions and, ultimately, improve our quality of life.
3. Adaptive security tops the CIO agenda
While digital transformation presents enormous opportunity for business growth, it also presents great risk for cybercrime. In 2016 alone, cybercrime was the second-most reported economic crime. As the number and sophistication of cyberattacks increases, an effective enterprise security becomes more critical than ever. The traditional, reactive approach that relies on antivirus software and firewalls to protect the perimeter and responds to incidents as they occur is just not good enough.
In 2017, the enterprise will go on the offensive, assuming that its network is constantly under attack. To pre-empt cyber-attacks and information leaks, organisations will need to implement an adaptive security architecture with continuous, real-time monitoring, big data, and analytics. As the next generation of security, an adaptive architecture delivers the preventative intelligence needed to uncover anomalies and potential threats and prioritise risks.
4. A hyper-connected global ecosystem creates new opportunities
Over the past few years, business networks have been driving opportunity for business. In 2017, as business networks expand into new ecosystems, they will transcend geography, industry, and language to create exponentially more opportunities for digital enterprises.
Much of the technology required for this ecosystem (like AI, robotics, sensors, and the IoT) already exists. A culture of information sharing and collaboration is required to connect the dots. When business networks are reliably and securely connected, they can be layered with intelligence. As information is added, the ecosystem and opportunities for growth will only increase.
Organisations are connecting across industries to form digital ecosystems with the customers at the hub. Auto manufacturers like Tesla and Fiat are partnering with technology companies to integrate GPS, navigation, social media, and entertainment services in ways that are transforming the driving experience. Adding intelligence for predictive maintenance and servicing integrates suppliers into the network to deliver efficiency and convenience. Taking advantage of the emerging concept of the connected car, it’s only a matter of time before standardisation enables cars to tap into a broader range of networks, like smart transportation systems that automatically locate vacant parking spots, for example. When all of these services are connected in the self-driving car, for example, we will truly be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
5. Customer-centricity drives transformation
In 2009, Uber created history by disrupting an entire market. Today, the company supports global operations and is valued at over $60 billion USD. What is the secret of its success? Many would say disruptive technologies or even intelligent data, but in fact, Uber’s customer-centric approach played an even greater role in the company’s success.
Uber stepped into a market that needed an overhaul to offer more responsive and convenient travel for consumers. By focusing on the customer, Uber was able to quickly build trust. And while it is true that technology has given consumers more choice than ever before, technology is only an enabler. The key to success lies in customer-centric approaches, technologies, and business models.
Over the coming year, digital leaders will shift from marketing digital products and services to embracing customer-centric operations. They will invest in IT to become more responsive. Customer-led self-service will be a requirement, along with AI and predictive analytics, innovation, and the agility needed to adapt to changing customer needs. In the digital world, consumers have come to expect higher levels of service. The fight for differentiation will be won by excelling at customer experience and this can only be achieved through customer-centricity.
Whether you’re ready or not, the fourth industrial revolution is here. We are witnessing incredible breakthroughs in every industry, driven by disruptive innovation. And the possibilities for application are unlimited. To quote Sun Tzu: “in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
Mark Barrenechea, CEO and CTO at OpenText
Image Credit: Montri Nipitvittaya / Shutterstock