Emerging trends impacting design, innovation and technology

  • Posted on April 1, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

As the leader of our emerging technology team, many of our clients ask me to make predictions on what we are seeing in the market and with the latest technologies.  What I tell them is that while the technology is important, the latest trends we see are focused around people, not the technology.  It’s about not getting lost in the buzzwords of digital transformation or technologies like quantum or artificial intelligence.  The waves of tech change will keep on coming and what’s most important is how your organization and people are setup to deal with the on-going changes.

We recently launched a new type of research with future insights called Avanade Trendlines.  Trendlines are not predictions about individual technologies, but rather our research and thinking on their potential business impact based on early signals we see across people, culture, and technology. This is the on-going research that we will be publishing throughout the year.

During the next 12-18 months, we foresee three trendlines that will impact large organizations: taking action on digital ethics, combining intelligence and design, and preparing for experiences without boundaries.

So, what do organizations need to be thinking about?

1. Taking action on digital ethics
With advancing technology including automation and artificial intelligence, the impact of unintended consequences is greater than ever before. Avanade has been engaging in conversations around digital ethics for the past few years, but that’s where the discussions stop.  It’s fun to debate and see where that creepy vs. cool line might be crossed.  But we are quickly entering a time period where it’s time to move beyond talking and take action. We see ethics today where security was just a few years ago.  Security was important, but now it’s on every board room agenda and elevated as a primary function within a company.  We believe ethics will be there and will move more quickly than security did. We recently conducted research with Wakefield that showed 81% of C-level executives admit they are not fully prepared to address the ethical concerns that exist in this new era. 

For most companies, this is brand-new territory where talent is lacking.   We hear from clients asking us how they can ensure the algorithms they are building do not have bias.  How can they ensure when they run a new marketing campaign that captures customer sentiment without being creepy? They are asking us where to start and how to define an ethical framework. This is not a compliance issue; it encompasses things like risk management, product development, marketing, corporate citizenship and brand reputation.  There isn’t a guidebook you can turn to for these types of frameworks.  That’s why Avanade participates in several different ethics forums and will be running a few more this calendar year.  It’s about getting involved, speaking up, and coming together to share and learn best practices that you can back to your organization.

2. Intelligence meets design
Just like cloud is in the public vernacular, algorithm is quickly becoming just as well known.  We see that companies are more successful integrating data science into product development and enabling machine learning algorithms across their entire business.   To date, many companies keep their data science teams siloed and focused mostly on customer data to unearth insights.  What we are starting to see is that leading organizations are taking an algorithmic approach to product development, bringing together pods of talent and implementing machine learning across their entire organization. Taking this approach creates an organizational shift to a modern workplace where you can start to elevate the employee experience to be on par with the customer experience. This enables companies to solve business problems and create new products and services.  

We believe, in unequivocal terms, that employee experience drives customer experience and that a Modern Workplace is paramount to sustain a competitive edge.  There are two great examples that we see today of intelligence meets design.  One, a company that has been around a while, BMW, has started using generative design where their engineers, designers, and data scientists are using algorithms to determine the best design alternatives.  A relatively new company, Stitch Fix, has baked data across their entire business that uses algorithms and human stylists to pick clothes that get shipped to your house.  Algorithms run every part of their business, and the employees are empowered with new sets of tools.

3. Experiences without boundaries 
One of the most significant retail trends over the past few years has been how to balance what has been called “online to offline” or the “physical to digital.”  We are beginning to see this in emerging markets - what we call “experiences without boundaries.”  This is about new types of experiences that are not tied to devices or fixed to a single location.  Today, we build mobile experiences, but we still come from a desktop mindset; being fixed to a device.  The idea of physical to digital is antiquated.  We shouldn’t worry about the limitations that may exist based on how you create these types of experiences.  Every experience needs to be drawn without boundaries.  This is about moving to a seamless digital society.  One in which our online behaviors start to influence our offline world and vice versa.  Experiences without boundaries asks how you design new types of experiences that follow you from what you are doing at home, to your car, to a store, and back home.  

In terms of applications, how do you open these experiences, minimize them when you walk away, and then say have them show up on a wall monitor in a store or at a home because that's your preference?  To get there requires new design paradigms and an architecture of intervention because the current systems can’t support it.  No one has got this right yet, and we’re still a few years away.  

Click on over and get more in-depth perspectives on each of these Trendlines now.

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