Design & Technology August 25, 2020
Overcoming obstacles to digital development
Developments in AI, AEI, security, blockchain, Cloud, 5G and automation are moving faster than anyone previously thought possible. Major innovations and evolutions are happening daily. This February, a powerful antibiotic was discovered using machine learning for the first time in history. But, while thrilling, rapid growth (in any area of life) always throws up obstacles – issues both anticipated and completely out of the blue. The way to stay ahead is to put the best structure in place to navigate through it.
Business priorities, ecosystems and hierarchies
Investments in AI are exploding, making some positions redundant, but also creating new ones. Rushing to implement tech innovation can backfire when undertaken solely to beat competitors without a full understanding of its value.
Businesses will always want to prioritise quick turnarounds, predictable costs and low complexity, while at the same time wanting to lead the charge with new features and innovations. This mixed messaging (keep it simple but stay ahead of the pack), becomes even more of a riddle within companies holding steadfast to traditional hierarchical structures.
Evolving tools need constantly evolving skills at all levels of business. Staff need to be upskilled regularly to keep up, which is costly and, when you take into account an ageing population who’ll work for longer, difficult to enforce. Traditional work arcs are being reversed: at the moment, the longer you’ve worked the less knowledgeable on emerging technology you might be. And you may have an excellent digital-ready business ecosystem, but if your workforce is unskilled and unready, you’re not going anywhere. This is where planning, focus and predictions come in.
Having great enterprise architects onboard – people who pull together the ecosystems of your business – is an essential future-proofing starting point, but these architects must have both business and digital backgrounds and brains. They need to understand the implications of the changes on the horizon so they can best realise the structures that will support them. Their changes will need to be implemented in an environment that acknowledges how constantly upskilling workers is a necessity, not a choice.
The major technology trends that will most impact your digital strategy need to be identified. For example, will it be AI, machine learning, Edge computing, augmented or virtual reality, blockchain or cybersecurity? Research, analysis and workshops will need to be undertaken on each trend, allowing you to evaluate both the opportunities and the risks. (Scoping out the competition is also advised.) Digital strategies should be implemented and designed according to a new internal architecture that can support them.
This isn’t a case of out with the old, in with the new. It’s a case of maximising value, acknowledging the necessity of change and being ready for it.
Societal ramifications of rapid digital growth
Security, privacy and ethical concerns must be prioritised within your business. At the forefront of this is transparency – with both staff, clients and customers. Ensuring your products and clients take data protection seriously, and aren’t dismissive of ethical concerns in the name of progress, is integral for sustainable business. Make sure your API strategy backs up your data-protection promises. Ensuring you also have someone on staff with knowledge of international government regulations concerning security and privacy protections (for example, the current draft EU ePrivacy bill) should be a given.
You also need to stay across potential societal disruptions that may affect your tech, such as the growth of cyberbullying and trolling. Getting ahead of issues like these is not only important ethically, but builds consumer trust in your brand. A great example of a business-savvy response is Samsung Brazil’s collaboration with the game Fortnite to create a ‘skin’ – a graphic that changes a character’s appearance – that can be gifted to other players (by owners of a Galaxy device). The game’s other available skins can cost around $50 and users who can’t afford them can be taunted, so this initiative is a forward-thinking and inclusive reaction to a real-world obstacle.
Knowing where tech is headed
All of us in the digital world will have jumped onboard a Cloud-based storage and computing system bandwagon already. Whether that bandwagon is based upon Software-, Platform- or Infrastructure as a Service, will depend on your business model. However, digital business technology platforms can be built upon a huge range of open-source programming platforms and DevOps tools – and these tools are continuously changing and evolving. You need to recognise that this is, and will be, a continuous learning process and mistakes will be made, but that’s part and parcel of the world we now inhabit.
People working on embedding frameworks for digital platforms need to keep across developments in microservices or mini services, containers, data-streaming, serverless capabilities and progressions in event-driven architecture.
Key challenges will include:
- Negotiating conflicts between rapidly outmoded methods of working and new systems.
- Finding qualified developers.
- Adapting agile development methods.
- Constantly updating usage according to test case-study results.
Prepare for Obstacles and Design for Change
Your demands will change as your needs change. Using your enterprise architect’s recommendations, your predictions and investigations, you can implement a focused plan to grow your digital platform. You’ll need to headhunt some excellent user experience designers, IoT architects, and data and algorithm designers, upskill your existing staff, and decrease time to market by partnering with an agency to help you accelerate your digital vision.
Being aware of potential obstacles means being aware of potential opportunities. Where others stumble you can pull ahead by not underestimating the importance of having a business transformation vision. Muddling along and hoping for the best simply won’t cut it in these ever-changing times. Anticipating reactions to digital development, both positive and negative, is essential in ensuring you stay at the top of your game. We cannot overestimate the societal impact of technology and the influence that will have on how we work, who (or what) we work with, and how our very notion of work will change. The direct impact on our businesses – what we produce and how we get there – needs to be addressed now so we can reap the rewards rather than be blindsided by the repercussions.