For companies trying to keep up with technology, it can be like looking into a crystal ball. There’s only one constant in business – and that’s that things change. And that change has been accelerating in recent years. Businesses have had to adjust to new ways of doing things, most of them related to the digital transformation that business, and the world, has experienced in recent years. Over the last few years, most discussions about the next year’s Digital Transformation trends had begun to feel a bit repetitive: Cloud, Edge Compute, AR.. 2020 will be a departure from old trends.
The plans you make now and the products and services you release in the future both depend greatly on how the digital landscape changes. Miss a trend in technology, such as 5G networks or chatbots, and your company might be left behind. This is one reason why it’s so important to keep track of the digital transformation trends on the horizon, as these can impact the plans you make today and help prepare you for how business is changing, evolving, and expanding.
Fortunately, the big trends in digital transformation are not too difficult to track. From artificial intelligence (AI), to blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), new digital technologies are having a major impact on business – and will continue to do so in 2020.
Here are the top seven trends that companies will need to be aware of:
1. 5G becomes viable
In 2019, companies watched as 5G debuted in major cities and became an actual, legitimate technology that shows up on the phone of end-users, as companies like Verizon flipped the “on” switch and made the faster, more reliable standard available. (At least to Android users; the Apple iPhone will be very late to the 5G launch party).
2020 will be the year of 5G. With some of the biggest names in telecommunications, like Qualcomm, AT&T, Verizon, Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei making sure that global 5G deployments stay on pace, and the world’s best Android handset makers already releasing 5G phones, 5G will hit the ground running in 2020. Apart from faster speeds, 5G is considerably more reliable especially in congested areas. The cellular technology is built for digital transformation because it can handle extreme levels of traffic without suffering from slowdowns or drop-outs.
In other words, the true value of 5G won’t be limited to phones. Just about every industry that touches our daily lives will be transformed – for the better – by the technology evolution that will define 2020.
2. A faster WiFi Expansion Continues
One trend set to continue into 2020 that has already begun is the emergence of faster, more reliable Wi-Fi. Although WiFi 6 will be bringing us much faster processing and wireless connection speeds in 2020. WiFi 6 working in concert will create the perfect end-to-end combination of ultra-fast connectivity for home and office. This is largely thanks to the approved Wi-Fi 6 standard, as after months and years of deliberation, the industry settled on a standard that improves on 802.11ac because of how well it works in congested areas such as stadiums, inside large companies and at public events..
The real value of WiFi 6 will be its ability to extend faster data speeds to far more devices than WiFi 5 was able to manage. This is important for two main reasons:
1. The number of connected devices on the average WiFi network is expected to grow from roughly 10 now to 50 over the next few years, and that increase will require a faster, more efficient, and smarter WiFi capabilities.
2. The quality and volume of data consumed through WiFi networks are both increasing as well, and WiFi 5 can’t handle the load that entire well. WiFi 6 will eliminate these drawbacks beginning in 2020.
3. Chatbots Advancement to conversion
Business leaders in Information Technology and beyond know that there is a second wave of chatbots on the horizon. Today’s level of natural language processing is good but not great, as bots like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can converse somewhat – so if you ask a question about the weather, then ask “what about next week” the bot knows you’re still talking about the weather.
That much we know. In 2020, bots will start to go several steps further in terms of intelligence level. By the end of 2020, users might ask a bot to engage in a conversation about politics. The user might start by asking questions related to political trends and news, but the chatbot will guide conversations with more statistics, helpful anecdotes, and even funny asides. In short, bots will act more like humans in how they converse and pick up on topics.
4. Data Analytics gives you a Competitive Advantage
Customer expectations have reached an all-time high and industry competition is ever increasing — putting businesses under constant pressure to increase efficiency and improve results. At the same time, the amount and type of available data have grown exponentially — companies can now collate this information from across their organization and across broader industry sources. Access to this growing pool of information creates a significant competitive advantage and provides a unique opportunity to conduct in-depth market research — offering rich insight into recent sales trends, critical business improvements and gaps in the market to exploit. Companies that still aren’t investing heavily in analytics by 2020 probably won’t be in business in 2021. There is simply far too much valuable customer data to be collected, processed and turned into insights for any company to remain competitive without making full use of modern analytics tools.
As a result, analytics has become one of the most important tools at an organization’s disposal. When data and analytics work in tandem, the benefits become obvious. Companies can leverage data to improve cost savings, redefine processes, drive market strategy, establish competitive differentiators and, perhaps most importantly, build an exceptional and truly personalized customer experience.. That’s why we are seeing a consolidation of analytics capabilities across the tech world, from Salesforce acquiring Tableau, to Microsoft creating its own Power Platform. Every major tech company has already figured out that the future is in data—most specifically, the real-time processing of it – and so, regardless of what industry you’re in, analytics will again be one of the most dominant focal points of digital transformation in 2020.
5. Artificial Intelligence improves
Artificial intelligence is one of those catch phrases that elicits strong reactions from different groups. Employees might get nervous when they hear it, fearing an
army of robots out for their jobs, while c-suite executives might be counting the future profits they believe will be theirs as AI is increasingly used.
Apart from chatbots (which tend to get the most attention), there’s no question that artificial intelligence will start to encroach into other areas of business. The trend here is that AI will expand in ways that are quite surprising, showing up in accounting apps, logistics programs, and even with kiosks we use at the front entrance of a building. But with improved technology, more AI applications will be available to help companies grow their bottom line, especially in the areas of marketing, analytics, customer service and robotics. AI can help companies strategies marketing and business plans by passing through data, aggregating information and putting it into context; it can help manufacturers make production more efficient, by analyzing activities and log files.
It’s hard to predict exactly how AI will invade in every aspects of business but it is a given that this will occur in ways we don’t expect – such as project management, or human resources, or on websites used for customer support – guiding customers through the support process in ways that seem highly automated and hard to distinguish from a human technician.
6. Blockchain bursts beyond Crypto
Blockchain was overhyped and thus always going to be a bust in 2019. With Bitcoin values at an all-time high, it’s natural that the tech that powers the crypto-currency (blockchain) would begin to attract attention. 53% of participants in a recent Deloitte study said that blockchain is being highly prioritised within their organisation, a 10-point increase on 2018.
But coming into 2020, I believe that we will finally start to see scale for some meaningful use cases for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency. We know that Amazon Web Services democratizing blockchain technology with their subscription based blockchain-as-a-service platform. Look to how blockchain will be used in food safety, intellectual property and royalties, and real estate/asset management for instance. 2020 could be the start of the true rise of Blockchain.
7. Digital Privacy
Thanks in part to scores of privacy failures from technology companies in recent years, the establishment of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and growing calls in the U.S. to impose controls on technology companies, Businesses have been concerned about privacy and data security issues, but 2020 will hopefully continue the trend of actual efforts and changes being made to address the problem.
In 2020, privacy concerns will extend far beyond politics, but the security field is not sitting idle. New forensic technologies will emerge including those for facial recognition and in other areas of biometrics to help verify the identity of individuals but also keep them secure and safe.
While older, more mature foundational technologies will continue to find themselves at the center of most digital transformation initiatives, especially in the enterprise, I believe that these seven specific trends will both dominate digital transformation discussions and inform the trajectory of successful digital transformation programs in 2020.