Predictions 2020: Potential energy becomes real change

Forces ranging from consumer values to automation to security will shape the business landscape in the year ahead. Leaders will be challenged to anticipate change and adapt.
Written by Forrester Research, Contributor

At the end of 2018, Forrester predicted that 2019 would be the year that strategic vision converted to pragmatism. Too many companies were grappling with digital transformations that did not deliver the expected returns and operations that could not back up customer-centric marketing rhetoric. Saddled with technical and data debt and siloed and stagnant operational norms, customer experience performance plateaued and digital sameness took hold. 2019 had to be the year to course-correct -- to finally create the stronger, more adaptive foundation required to enable change.

Were we right? Yes. Spending on new back-office technology projects is rising as firms realize its criticality to seamless customer experiences. Cloud spending growth tops the charts at 20% as firms are now starting to use the cloud to modernize core business apps and processes -- to date, they've been using cloud primarily to build new apps and rehost infrastructure. And while organizational silos remain entrenched in most firms, 2019 brought a surge in newly created positions for chief customer officers (and equivalent titles) charged with breaking down internal barriers and driving innovation to generate customer value.

As we look forward to 2020, we do so with a healthy dose of built-up potential energy -- consumer energy as consumers become more values-based, constructing personal ecosystems and forcing firms to take sides on social issues; security energy as industrial and nation-state cyber risks surge and, in some cases, merge; technology energy as automation, AI, and robotics move deeper into the organization, closer to the customer, and more profoundly into the very makeup and operations of the company. You get the point.

Here is just a sampling of what's in store for 2020:

  • More than half of buyers will consider company values. In response, firms will attempt to give customers what they crave, with mixed results. Some will provoke ire by making surface-level commitments. Others will misjudge how to best express values. Companies that do succeed will co-create values-driven experiences with customers and employees, paying careful attention to authenticity.
  • Overall VC funding will plateau, but not every market will fall flat. Venture capitalists are feeling the pain from a tumultuous 2019 marked by high-profile scandals and disappointing IPOs. In 2020, they will increase their scrutiny of startups. Expect downward pressure on deal sizes as investors seek out the new hottest thing in Silicon Valley: profitability. The blockchain bubble will burst and AI funding will start to cool. Meanwhile, the inherently pragmatic regulatory technology category will see its funding double yet again.
  • Data budgets will double -- and privacy class action lawsuits will triple. We'll see a top-down mandate — fueled with more investment -- to break the data, AI, and machine-learning logjam and speed up results. Meanwhile, a barrage of data breaches, government surveillance, and corporate misconduct has soured consumer sentiment on current data practices. The backlash has begun. In 2020, more people will take action (even extreme) measures to protect their privacy. Lawsuits will multiply. New regulations will be handed down.
  • Automation realities will set in. Prepare your PR team. In 2020, automation will replace, on net 1.06 million jobs from cubicle, coordinator, and function-specific knowledge worker personas, replacing tasks ranging from posting account ledgers to calculating HR benefits. Folding automation into the enterprise will not be without backlash: Unsurprisingly, employees are wary of automation. Despite years of technology investment, very few firms have invested in prepping employees for the future of work -- what it means to be working with, alongside, and potentially for automation. We expect a major strike will cause a PR nightmare for at least one Fortune 500 company.

Our predictions for 2020 will move leaders' attention to adaptability: the ability to understand and anticipate market dynamics — and adapt and rapidly exploit opportunities, both big and small. Whether dynamics enable breakout growth, protection of existing markets, or eking out small gains in market share, leaders will see and capitalize on possibilities by best predicting how 2020 will unfold.

This post was written by SVP, Research Sharyn Leaver, and originally appeared here.

Editorial standards