3 digital transformation trends for UK businesses

1. Beyond Pokemon: augmented reality will be the new enterprise reality

In 2017, organisations should be experimenting widely with augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies in order to be prepared for the future workforce.

AR, VR, and MR are rapidly moving from the gaming and consumer domain to the enterprise, as leading companies embrace the technologies to improve collaboration, enable employees, and engage better with their customers.

For example, AR allows an employee repairing or installing a new device or piece of equipment to receive highly visual step-by-step guidance virtually to complete the task, maximising productivity and limiting risks.

The AR experience made famous by Pokemon is now also poised to transform the way companies engage with customers.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, nearly 100 million customers will shop in an AR setting and 71% of shoppers expect to view in-store inventory online.

However, it is not just consumers who will benefit from AR and other industries can be just as innovative. In the UK, we are already seeing the construction and engineering industries use AR to access complicated data while on the move – with the launch of Hololens helping to drive this.

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While once rugged tablets may have been the tech to have on site, we are now seeing companies provide AR equipment to teams in order to demonstrate how a building or piece of equipment might look in front of their very eyes.

This is why, in 2017, enterprises in the UK should start experimenting with AR, VR, and MR technologies to understand how best to apply them within their organisation.

2. Design thinking: the future of innovation is technology that augments the human experience

As customers and employees become increasingly digitally savvy, design thinking will become essential for organisations seeking to maintain a competitive advantage.

Rather than starting with technology, a design thinking approach visualises the end experience first and then synthesises people, processes, and technologies together to achieve that vision.

In 2017, we will see organisations use digital to drive fundamental shifts in user experiences.

Typing and tapping will no longer be the de facto interactions. Instead, digital will enable more immersive experiences, covering gestures, haptics, voice, gaze and so on – seamless engagements between users and machines.

As organisations embrace design thinking, the role of the digital humanist will gain prominence.

Demonstrating empathy, creativity, collaboration and an agile approach, the digital humanist will advocate for ethical customer and employee expectations in digital innovation projects.

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From our conversations with UK retailers, we believe this industry will become fast adopters of digital thinking as they are traditionally a more customer-centric industry and will consider how customers interact with their brands.

This advocacy will span user experience and design, but also the ethics of new technology innovations. 2017 will be the year companies must re-learn their approach to innovation and embrace human-centred design principles – or risk losing their employees and customers to more relevant competitors.

3. Digital ethics: just because you can do something with data, doesn’t mean you should

In 2017, organisations will pivot from a focus on data acquisition to data intelligence.

Applied artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning rank #1 on Gartner’s list of top 10 strategic predictions for 2017.

At Avanade clients are increasingly adopting an automation-first approach. However, an augmented workforce comprising humans, intelligent systems, and devices presents new ethical complexities for companies.

A recent Avanade survey found that a majority of c-level executives are grappling with ethical issues stemming from the use of smart technologies in the workplace.

Companies face the same digital ethics dilemma with customer data. For example, insurers are now using telematics devices to track consumer driving habits.

While this might be a good idea for rewarding safe drivers with a premium discount, are the consumers aware who owns the data being produced by the car? And how comfortable would consumers be having the insurers use the telematics device as a trigger to automatically call emergency services in the event of an accident?

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During 2017, it will become an imperative for organisations to educate employees about the ethical implications of digital technologies.

Organisations should also mandate that ethics be part of a design thinking approach, and implement a framework to ensure that intelligent systems continue to augment and improve human actions and decisions – without risking the trust and expectations of customer and employees.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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