Digital transformation in 2019: AI, robotics, and IoT to play starring roles

New report from Forrester predicts how these and other technologies will impact business.
Written by Bob Violino, Contributor

Digital transformation has been a high priority for many organizations for some time, and likely will continue to be for some time. But what's in store for transformation in 2019? Research firm Forrester Research just released a report with a number of predictions. Here are a few highlights.

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Digital goes surgical

This year has been one in which "reality chewed up transformational ideal," the firm said, with boards, CEOs, and CFOs wondering how their company will go from where they currently are to digital nirvana without taking on disruptive operational change.

"But the world keeps spinning, and the need to address customer demands and competitive pressures continues to rise," the report said. "In 2019, digital transformation moves from super-wide enterprise efforts to a pragmatic, surgical portfolio view of digital investments with the goal of making incremental and necessary changes to operations."

Tangible efforts, such as moving customers to lower-cost digital channels, launching digital products, monetizing data assets, and automating processes, will take priority, Forrester said. If done well, it said, this portfolio management can be a well-governed model to gain traction and focus innovation on the most pressing and promising items.

AI builds a foundation

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transformative, a change agent to future operations, the firm said. But in 2018 it was held back because of insufficient information architecture, and because it was too horizontal, and confusing.

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In 2019, organizations "will put more potent building blocks in place to accelerate their ability to meet AI's extraordinary promise," the report said. The will also expand robotic process automation (RPA) and proofs of concept to broaden the process, product, or experience scope and better understand the impact of AI.

Robots reimagine talent management

Forrester predicts that 7 percent of jobs that can be automated will be lost to automation. But the larger issue is talent scarcity: The ability to harness the power of robots and the need to address skill shortages across the board that are acute in different regions.

In 2019, talent leaders will begin to execute two interrelated strategies centered on a robotics quotient (RQ) and a good-to-great hiring and development strategy. RQ will become a core learning and measurement fundamental for employees that direct or work alongside digital workers.

Savvy talent leaders will use automation to address the talent scarcity squeeze, the report said.

IoT gets down to business

A large majority of companies (85 percent) will implement or plan to implement Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, the report said.

The hurdles of consumer adoption of IoT-enabled products are considerable, it said. But while the B2C incarnations of IoT are still trying to find their footing, B2B applications of the technology are set to take off in 2019.

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The business case is too obvious and positive, Forrester said. B2B IoT will focus on driving efficiencies, connecting the enterprise, expanding the edge and, in some cases, providing personalized customer experiences.

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