Navigating tech-clash a key challenge for C-suite leaders

Organizations must deliver more human-focused experiences, in line with what people have come to expect

Navigating tech-clash a key challenge for C-suite leaders - CIO&Leader

Although there’s been plenty of talk about ‘tech-lash’, or pushback against the latest technology, the reality is people are using technology more than ever. 52% of consumers say that technology plays a prominent role or is ingrained into almost all aspects of their day-to-day lives, according to Accenture’s Technology Vision Consumer Survey. In fact, 19% report that technology is so intertwined with their lives that they view it as an extension of themselves. Globally, people spend an average of 6.4 hours online daily. They are post-digital.

Actually, instead of a ‘tech-lash’, it is a ‘tech-clash’. People are not against technology; they remain excited and intrigued by it. But businesses are developing and deploying that technology using the playbooks of decades past, from the days before tech had such a major, meaningful impact in people’s lives. Closed ecosystems can make experiences disjointed. Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions are applied to decision-making without transparency, leaving people out of the loop on decisions that directly affect their lives. Concerns about security, privacy and ethical issues keep people wary of companies’ evolving digital technology innovations.

Navigating tech-clash is a key challenge for C-suite leaders in the next decade. Up until now, businesses have largely benefited from following the technology roadmap laid out by digital pioneers. Now, digital technology is evolving from an advantage to a basic expectation—and yesterday’s best practices are turning into today’s shortcomings. Therefore, organizations must deliver more human-focused experiences, in line with what people have come to expect.

Tech Trends

The new models that organizations must build to overcome ‘tech-clash’ share one thing: They are based on collaboration. Successful business leaders will invite customers, employees, partners and the public to build their new course for the future together. According to the survey, the following five tech trends exemplify this:

#1 The I in Experience

The traditional relationship between businesses and people is changing. Successful organizations are bringing a human focus to their digital interactions, designing a truly collaborative digital experience. This shift reflects a person’s evolving expectations. It’s clear that people want rich, customized digital experiences. But they have grown disillusioned by the legacy methods used by most organizations to deliver them. Models that served businesses well in the early days of the digital age have led them to inadvertently take more and more control away from individuals. Existing customization methods based on robust data gathering and analytics are failing to provide the transparency, or the agency, that consumers want. And it’s not just customers. Cooperative digital experiences are also helping organizations re-imagine their partnerships with employees and other stakeholder groups.

Organizations that take the right actions today with cooperative digital experiences are setting themselves up for future success. As 5G and Augmented Reality (AR) become widespread, their significant impact on experience delivery will make balancing customization and user agency even more critical. Together, 5G and AR will enable businesses to tailor people’s digital journeys throughout their lives, anywhere and anytime. With this omnipresence comes even greater responsibility to get it right; for the organizations that do, there will be huge opportunities.

#2 AI & Me

Leaders have successfully adopted AI tools and practices that speed up the automation of basic tasks in existing workflows. But this is now table stakes. The true potential of AI in the enterprise lies in using it as a collaboration tool with humans: To not only efficiently execute tasks but also transform what businesses actually do.

It means smart chatbots interacting with customers as they do now, but being able to better understand the nuances and underlying possibilities of a customer’s request. Meanwhile, based on the information the chatbot can gather, human agents are better prepared to offer assistance and improve the experience.

Hence, effective communication is the key. Because of advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP), machines are beginning to better understand the context of language, instead of just the content.

Understanding physical context is also game-changing for AI’s ability to work with humans in Extended Reality (XR) environments. Image recognition and machine learning allow AI to not just see its surroundings, but understand them.

It goes the other way as well, with humans being better able to understand machines. Explainable AI allows people to open up previously “black-box” AI systems to get at how the machine made a particular decision.

Ultimately, better human machine interactions will lead to businesses being able to reinvent and constantly improve the offerings and experiences their customers want. When steps are taken to improve communication between machines and humans, the result is that AI becomes much more than just another tech tool. It’s an agent of change in the business.

#3 The Dilemma of Smart Things

In the digital era, everything is connected. The Internet of Things (IoT) market is expected to grow to 75.44 billion connected devices by 2025, with a projected market value of USD 1.1 trillion by 2026.

To unlock the full value of this opportunity, businesses need to confront the “beta burden,” and the unintended consequences that occur when smart tech – smart products, and the experiences they contain – are constantly in flux. Organizations can now change the functionality of smart products or reconfigure their ecosystem over time. But they have to ensure that the customer experience remains consistent and supported throughout all these changes. Customers expect nothing less.

The upside of “forever beta” products is clear: Organizations that can respond to changing customer demands and expectations in real-time become true partners. The value of the product then grows. But in the flurry of constant updates and changes, customers can get left behind and frustrated. Organizations must update their understanding of what product ownership means in the post-digital era and change their practices as a result.

Organizations can overcome the “beta burden” by applying more flexible processes and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). To overcome the beta burden, they will have to bring this mindset into every aspect of the enterprise, from sales, to customer support, development, design and more.

Doing so will help retain customer loyalty going forward by ensuring smooth transitions from one generation of smart products to the next.

#4 Robots in the Wild

Organizations have already realized the benefits of robotics in controlled spaces, from lower production costs to higher productivity and increased capacity for analytics. Now, businesses are looking at the next frontier for robot technology: The open world.

Advances in sensors, speech recognition and computer vision are combining with lower hardware costs to make robot technology more accessible for organizations in every industry, and the rollout of 5G networks is set to unlock new opportunities outside of controlled environments. But finding the right way to introduce robots into the world includes challenges around talent, questions of human-computer interaction and a test-bed that consists of the entire world.

A massive robotic migration will demand a combined approach to development and testing. Experimentation will be the key as technology is introduced to city streets, university campuses, construction sites, and other uncontrolled environments. It will also require a commitment to continuous data collection and refinement after the devices have been deployed.

#5 Innovation DNA

An organization’s innovation DNA is made up of three building blocks: Maturing digital technology that is more commoditized and accessible; scientific advancements that push the boundaries of industries and inspire change; and emerging DARQ (Distributed Ledgers, AI, Extended Reality and Quantum Computing) technologies that are poised to scale rapidly. Where organizations differ however, is that they can cultivate their DNA to drive business transformation.

Today, leaders are weaving these technological building blocks together to set a course for their organization’s future. For businesses, the path forward begins with a renewed focus on technology transformation as they find their unique combination of building blocks and develop their innovation DNA.

It all starts by understanding the innovative business solutions that each building block provides.

Maturing digital technology is no longer just an advantage — it’s a requirement. Many companies are finding new value by putting a price tag on their capabilities while also making them more accessible to those within their ecosystem.

Meanwhile, advancements in science are helping organizations expand beyond the digital world. From material sciences to genomic editing, organizations are turning these disruptions into competitive advantages faster than ever before.

Finally, organizations are finding new ways to inject DARQ technologies into mature markets. This is helping to ground these tech explorations in reality and open up doors to innovative business solutions.

While not every business will have each of these areas fully developed, it’s important that they remain open to each of them as they build their own innovation DNA. Organizations can reap huge benefits by combining these different innovation building blocks. Moreover, leaders will align seemingly separate innovation strategies to radically differentiate themselves, leapfrog industry competitors, build a new generation of products and services, and even create new markets.

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