Digital transformation: 4 growing trends in 2018

CIOs are moving from customer focus to customer obsession - and using DevOps, AI, and automation to get there
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CIO as Digital Leader

As digital transformation's importance has continued to grow, CIOs have been asked to focus on one goal: Delivering exceptional digital experiences to customers.  It's a number one CIO priority in 2018. 

To embrace this, companies are migrating towards faster and more flexible development pipelines, and exploring new technologies like AI. More organizations across diverse vertical markets are adopting DevOps practices and principles to outstride their competition and meet the demand for customer obsession. And, because of this change in approach, new tools are emerging in the areas of test automation, continuous integration, and continuous deployment. 

[ See our related article, 7 leadership rules for the DevOps age. ]

As we enter the New Year, these digital transformation trends will likely stand out as business drivers. If CIOs can stay ahead of these, they will set themselves up for success in 2018.

Trend 1: Customer obsession is a high priority

Forrester reports have shown that many organizations who consider themselves as focused on their customers are only at a level known as "customer aware." These organizations are aware of their customers, their priorities, and what they value. However, these customer-aware organizations lack the fundamental understanding that their customers are the most important aspect of their roadmap.

When an organization makes nearly every business decision based on the answer to the question of "how does this benefit the customer?" they can move beyond a customer-awareness model and into a customer-obsessed one, and this has a positive impact on revenue.

If 2017 was about many organizations becoming fundamentally aware of the "customer-obsessed" model, 2018 will be a year in which companies of all sizes put the idea to work when planning and building software.

Trend 2: Artificial intelligence as a business driver

Tied directly to the concept of customer experience (and customer obsession) is the trend of using artificial intelligence and big data to impact business decisions, by understanding changing the way users interact with sites and applications. Forrester’s data from 2017 shows that more than 50 percent of organizations have implemented some form of AI project, and another 20 percent are planning to do so in the short-term future. Examples of this in action are things like artificial intelligence-fueled chatbots that can respond to customer’s questions in an intuitive and "human" way.

At the core of this movement is data: It's imperative for organizations to gather more data than in the past. But, more significant than the data itself is the means of turning data into action, and businesses will be looking to do so through the use of AI and automation. Thus, customer obsession, AI, and data analysis and how they are all intertwined will become focal points for the coming year.

Trend 3: Being fast is more important than being perfect

Historically, companies have nurtured an organizational culture that strives for bulletproof solutions. The outcome of this type of culture is ultimately strong final products, but a slow development cycle that fails to fuel rapid innovation and business growth. In 2018, more organizations will move toward the "failing fast" model – focusing more on speed, innovation, and learning quickly, instead of trying to develop the perfect product.

The result is a more a nimble business that can build products, release them, test them, and collect/analyze data at an incredible rate. This will fuel an overall better product, a better user experience, and a more engaged and collaborative team. Businesses today need to continuously reinvest in this strategic imperative to remain competitive their respective marketplaces.

Trend 4: Increased focus on testing and agility

2017 saw a massive increase in the number of organizations tapping into modern software development methodologies for their development processes. An essential concept in the Agile methodology is the power to make many incremental changes (harkening back to the idea of speed over perfection). One of the issues that can arise when doing many releases and making loads of gradual changes is creating lots of bugs and conflicts between teams. So, how will organizations solve this moving into next year? The answer is mostly DevOps.

The goal of DevOps is to build a pipeline where each step is as frictionless as possible. The coding itself should be as frictionless as it can be, and can be made even more frictionless and smooth by implementing a build system. Testing, deploying and monitoring should also be simple.

When you've created this frictionless pipeline, implementing automation and testing at every step of the way is much more approachable. Proper testing is a fundamental aspect of any successful Agile or DevOps pipeline. When testing becomes an essential part of the pipeline, organizations will deliver better products, faster. Look for more teams to make the leap from Agile to DevOps in the coming year.

CIO to-do items in 2018

To stay ahead of these trends, CIOs will need to do a few things right to get to the customer-obsessed gold standard.

  1. Find inefficiencies in your development, testing, and deployment processes. Those inefficiencies hamper your ability to respond quickly to changes. This is what DevOps is all about – creating an environment whereby a business is able to respond quickly to customer needs. Usually, the two major things missing are a frictionless CI/CD pipeline and automated testing to ensure that code that has been submitted is valid. 
  2. Now kill your releases. Remove the concept of “releases” entirely. Just deploy a feature as soon as its code is ready and fully tested, and don’t wait for a “bigger” release.
  3. Once you have the ability to respond quickly to required changes in the product, build a customer-obsessed data gathering capability: This enables you to figure out what the customer wants and swiftly comply.

Remember, artificial intelligence, test automation, CI/CD pipelines, and DevOps are only tools and not the end game. The end game is being customer-obsessed, and giving the customers what they need, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Gil Sever is a serial entrepreneur who is driven to solving technical problems with innovative solutions that didn’t previously exist. Prior to Applitools, he founded Safend (acquired by Wave Systems in 2011) and Storwize (acquired by IBM in 2010), and was the COO at Ectel, a NASDAQ company.


Informative piece on the upcoming trends and what the future has in store for the Digital Transformation space.. Good Read!