This article was originally published on Intellyx.com
As has become our tradition at Intellyx, it’s time for our annual retrospective and predictions.
Jason started this tradition with the founding of Intellyx, and last year our newest analyst, Jason “JE” English, took his shot at prognosticating. That means that it’s my turn again this year — and my chance to review just how good JE’s predictions were (oh, and make a few of my own).
Before I get to that, however, I think it’s about time that we addressed the elephant in the room: predictions are a bit of a parlor trick!
As humans, we love predictions because they offer the facsimile of certainty in an uncertain and unpredictable world.
As I’ve long said during my keynotes, however, the problem is that we humans are horrible at predicting the future. There are several reasons for this, including challenges such as optimism bias, the curse of knowledge, and distinction bias.
But when it comes to making these sorts of annual technology predictions, there’s one more reason that we’re often wrong: things just don’t move as fast as we’d like.
As analysts, we’re always focused on what’s coming next. That means that we’re always looking to the future — and the future is changing very quickly!
But things develop on the ground much more slowly. And that makes the game of predictions challenging — and not always much fun. After all, who wants to predict that things will be much the same as this year, but just a little bit different!
With that elephant now gloriously on display, you may wonder why we even bother doing these sorts of prediction pieces if we’re sure that they’ll be (mostly) wrong.
The reason is that the ability to explore the future is a now-critical capability of the modern enterprise leader. You need the ability to imagine how things will develop and anticipate the impact those developments may have if you are to successfully lead your organization in a time of disruption and continuous change.
So when we write these kinds of pieces, it’s a way to give you a glimpse into how we go through this process — and it’s an invitation for you to do the same.
With that out of the way, let’s get to what JE thought would happen in 2019.
How JE Did in 2019
- Blockchain will emerge from the ashes like a kid who learned not to play with matches.
- Application delivery will seem too complex, then become dead simple later in the year.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) will accidentally morph into AHI.
So, how’d he do?
He began with a prediction that high-performance blockchain platforms would emerge, and that real, business-driven use cases would surface — hopefully, free of the crypto mumbo-jumbo.
I’d say he was overly optimistic.
While it is true that we’ve seen some evolution in blockchain platforms and that there has been a sobering up, so to speak, as blockchain companies and enterprises alike realize that a sustainable business case is necessary for any of this to make sense, that’s about where it stopped.
I would definitely not call it a phoenix-like rise from the ashes, and I remain somewhat skeptical and bearish on the space (and waiting for someone to prove me wrong!).
When it comes to JE’s predictions on application delivery, the results are more interesting.
On the one hand, he predicted that we’d reach a breaking point in which application delivery complexity became too much and opened the door for new approaches. That hasn’t seemed to happen. The proliferation of development frameworks and new approaches continues unabated with no signs of slowing down.
On the other hand, he predicted that low-code development platforms and improved shared work processes would open the door to meaningful modernization and business users taking more of the development reins. This prediction had more of a ring of truth to it.
Low-code platforms took a huge leap forward this year, both in terms of the technology itself, as well in terms of adoption. While this remains a nascent space and things didn’t develop quite as quickly as JE predicted (see my opening), this is a trend that will likely continue.
And finally, JE predicted that we would see enterprises finally start to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) in meaningful, business-critical systems — and then that there would be a corresponding major failure that would lead the industry to instead focus on what he called augmented human intelligence, or AHI.
This prediction was, again, stymied by timing. We have most certainly seen more enterprises begin to adopt AI in critical applications. While the use cases remain somewhat pedestrian (as JE predicted), we haven’t seen the kind of significant failure that he anticipated.
Major failure or not, however, his predictions about the continued fear of surveillance and mistrust of AI-based systems were dead-on. These fears did lead to a much more widespread acceptance that the most meaningful application of AI in an at-scale, production manner, will be in the form of augmentation.
What I see in 2020
So now it’s my turn.
As I look toward what 2020 will hold for us, I see three macro trends converging and beginning to settle into some semblance of reality.
Digital Transformation Loses Its Mojo
First, I think that we’re going to see the termdigital transformation lose its cachet. We’re already seeing this start to happen (makes it easy to predict, right?) as tech marketers begin to look for new terms to use in their marketing salvos.
A bit like Dr. Seuss’s star-bellied Sneetches, no one wants to be talking about digital transformation when everyone is talking about it.
Ironically, however, this is probably going to be a good thing. As leaders get over the hype of the term, they’ll start getting down to the real business of actually transforming. The fundamental drivers that have always been at the heart of digital transformation are more real now than ever before, so this is a story that is just getting started.
The Customer Experience Finds Its Place
One of those fundamental digital transformation drivers is the now-critical importance of the customer experience. The challenge is that most of the industry has taken the term to be synonymous with the sales experience.
This view is finally starting to shift (you see what I’m doing here, right?).
As digital transformation starts to get real (see prediction #1), organizations are getting their heads around the fact that the customer experience actually represents the totality of the customer journey — and that it’s at the center of real transformation.
As a result, I believe that we’ll see a fundamental shift in 2020 as organizations start to dig into what it will really take to create a differentiated customer experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle. And this reckoning will lead to my third prediction.
Technology Evolution Gives Way to Business Evolution
Up to now, talk about transformation (digital or otherwise), has really been a conversation about technology evolution. What has been fascinating and gratifying over the last several months, however, is the number of tech companies that are finally moving past the hype and hyperbole and acknowledging both the real role — and the limits — of their given software when it comes to real transformation.
I’m not quite sure if this is because enterprise leaders have finally wisened up or if tech company leaders have finally realized that they don’t need to oversell anything (we need their solutions!). But whichever it is, it’s been a nice change of pace that we’re actually talking about the need for business transformation rather than just another technology project.
I believe that in 2020 we’ll see this come to fruition as enterprise leaders start to fully embrace the need for business transformation and see technology in its rightful role as part of the rapid business evolution that they require.
The Intellyx Take: It’s About Time
While producing these kinds of prediction pieces may be an end-of-year tradition, I’m genuinely excited about what I see happening this time around.
Paraphrasing futurist Daniel Burrus, it’s easy to predict the future as long as you see what’s already happening and follow it to its natural conclusion. That’s what I’m doing here this year.
These predictions are things that are already starting to happen. The critical question, however, is what it will mean to you.
As an enterprise leader, you should first look at these predictions (and the countless others that will be published) and critically ask yourself if you see them happening as well. Then, and most importantly, play out in your head the ramifications to you and your organization if they do happen as predicted.
Going through this process will help you prepare yourself and your organization for the future — whether any of these predictions are right or not.
Here’s to a transformative 2020! See you on the other side.
Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay