Ten years ago, companies could achieve competitive advantage by embracing technology trends that were already in the market. Today, this kind of reactive approach isn’t enough. To stay ahead of the game, companies must work methodically to sense new innovations and possibilities, define their ambitions for tomorrow, and journey beyond the digital frontier.

Deloitte is excited to share Tech Trends 2019: Beyond the digital frontier, the 10th in a series of annual research reports examining the digital forces and innovations that are poised to disrupt business and unleash tremendous opportunity.

A recurring theme in our Tech Trends research is the often mind-bending velocity of change. Given that the pace of disruptive innovation is constantly increasing, many technology and business leaders are trying to answer a daunting question: How can we sense and act upon a future that is unclear?

Taking a look at the trends

The good news is that much of the tech-driven disruption you experience today—and will likely continue to experience in the future—is understandable and knowable. In fact, the most promising technology trends are grounded in nine powerful macro forces that form the backbone of technology innovation, past and present.

The first chapter of Tech Trends 2019, “Macro technology forces at work,” examines how once-disruptive trends like cloud, analytics, and digital experiences have been embraced across industries to become foundational components of business and IT strategy. It also looks at how the work of reengineering technology’s full lifecycle, reimagining core systems, and elevating cyber to a strategic function are now critical elements of digital transformation. And finally, it identifies three more recent trends—blockchain, cognitive, and digital reality—that are on the cusp of being influential macro forces in their own right.

The next six chapters examine technology trends that, over the next 18 to 24 months, will likely create new avenues for pursuing your strategic ambitions. Three of them spotlight market-facing disruptors like AI, intelligent interfaces, and experiential marketing. Three others focus on strategic enablers: serverless computing, advanced connectivity, and DevSecOps, which are more foundational, though no less critical to innovation and growth.

In Tech Trends 2019’s final chapter, “Beyond the digital frontier: Mapping your future,” Deloitte’s Global CTO Bill Briggs, Chief Innovation Officer Nishita Henry, and I try to demystify digital transformation by examining approaches for turning something seemingly nebulous and uncertain into a process that is measurable and knowable. In today’s climate of rapid-fire technology disruption, digital transformation is the process of future-proofing one’s organization. It typically begins with leaders and strategists defining new ambitions—often in the broadest of terms and grandest of visions.

But digital transformation can and should be just as concerned with achieving modest and immediate ambitions as it is with broadly reimagining the future. For example, reengineering individual business units and processes or creating opportunities for specific products and customers can have a more immediate impact on long-term competitiveness. By adopting a strategy of putting smaller, more tightly scoped offerings into the market quickly and successfully, organizations can incrementally achieve an end-state business ambition.

Yet all too often, companies anchor their approaches to digital transformation on a specific technological advance. For example, they might go all-in on AI without fully considering its impact on information management or cyber. To fuel impactful digital transformation, they need to combine game-changing technologies with catalysts or new opportunities like the connectivity of evolving ecosystems, human-centered design, macroeconomic forces, real-time data intelligence, and more. And they need to do so with a repeatable, disciplined approach.

Starting your journey

As you draw your digital map of the future, remember that your end-goal should not to create glorified proofs of concepts or spinning up random acts of incremental digital to substitute activity for progress. Rather, you should try to embed the digital mindset into business, operating, and customer models. The key is to iterate rapidly to get offerings into the market as quickly as possible. Along the way, you will be laying the needed foundation to imagine, deliver, and run the future.

  • Imagine. The first step is getting the right focus, quickly setting ambitions, and charting a path to success with a deliverables road map. This process involves sensing, scanning, and scouting the market to uncover trends and establishing an initial hypothesis of potentially untapped or trapped value.
  • Deliver. It’s time to put your ambition in motion by moving from early ideas to rolling out fully tested, refined, and validated offerings. Two other components are essential at this stage: a digital foundry for delivering new technology and product teams focused on preparing existing core systems, data, and operations for the reimagined offerings.
  • Run. Some digital initiatives overlook one of the most important aspects of digital transformation: how to scale and then support fledgling ideas and innovative new offerings. It is important to establish common standards for product scalability and support across all dimensions of a digital transformation effort.

Mapping your digital future is no small order. But if you can be deliberate about sensing and evaluating emerging technologies, and creating well-defined but aspirational ambitions, you can make the unknown knowable. With a clear understanding of future possibilities, you and your entire organization can gain the confidence to fully embrace digital while setting the stage to go beyond the digital frontier.

To learn more about digital transformation, listen to this Dbriefs webcast where Bill Briggs and Andy Main discuss strategies for future-proofing your digital organization.

Andy Main is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and head of Deloitte Digital. In this role, he helps clients gain business value by using digital to improve their engagement with customers, employees, partners, communities, and suppliers at every touchpoint along the journey.