Five key digital trends of 2018
Taking aside the three technology-related trends that are dominating trends talk in 2018, Code Computerlove’s Louis Georgiou shares his views on where the digital industry is heading next and what will be the five most significant shifts in digital techniques during 2018.
The year of the MVP
The MVP (minimal viable product) approach has been around for a while now but we’re expecting to see its adoption accelerate in 2018, becoming ‘the accepted way digital is done’. So why will this year be the tipping point?
The concept behind an MVP has always been the right approach for digital platform owners, but unfortunately, it’s been misunderstood or misused in the wider industry and so stakeholders have been wary of developing their digital products in this way.
The MVP approach isn’t about saving money, cutting corners, or accepting sub-standard work; it’s the recognition that digital products shouldn’t be released to customers in a ‘big bang’.
MVP is one component of lean software delivery and is better referred to as ‘continuous delivery’ i.e. release new features and functionality as soon as they are ready to realise their value immediately - either creating a better experience for end users or more revenue for the business, or both. This iterative, continuous approach also means we only build things that work, as every iteration can be measured and the user data then determines the development path. The rigour of continuous releases de-risks the launch process and keeps the technical platform stable and easy to rollback in case of error.
Without a doubt, more businesses will continue to adopt this approach in 2018, especially as more brands and agencies alike share their unrivalled success stories using this process. It will be difficult to ignore the benefits this offers.
Obviously, a 2018 trends forecast wouldn’t be complete without a mention of GDPR, but this is just the tip of the data iceberg.
Although ‘big data’ has been a trend for a number of years, there are still a huge number (in fact the majority) of organisations that are still not efficient at using their data in a sophisticated way.
GDPR is an opportunity for businesses to reassess their data and hopefully turn its value up a notch. It’s frequently the case that most businesses have a data tool, but they aren’t using it effectively. Not helped by the fact that there is a shortage of web analysts in the industry, so many businesses are sitting on expensive tools, with mountains of data, and no way to use that data effectively. And to quote Avinash Kaushik’s 10/90 rule (first released eight years ago), for data to be meaningful 90 per of the process needs to be spent on the intelligence behind the data.
With data, it’s about knowing what the information is you need to define the problem, getting that information, then knowing what to do with it when you have it.
There will be lots more investment this year as brands try to use data to greater effect, with the Holy Grail to understand their customers even better than they know themselves! Smart data insight won’t be the domain of large businesses, 2018 will see businesses of all shapes and sizes turning data insight into more meaningful experiences with customers.
Up-skilling will change the agency / client dynamic
What’s the point of having a sports car if you can’t drive it yourself? This is what a large number of organisations are realising as they plan their budget allocation and digital tactics for 2018.
As companies work to complete their digital transformation, they’re increasingly looking to bring the creation and management of their digital systems in house. These ‘products’ are business critical and so it’s too risky to give them entirely to a third party. Moreover, having invested in new technologies and systems, having the skills to use them to their full potential will ensure that they can get ahead and grow. This requires knowledge and new skill-sets.
As a result, agencies are already redefining their relationships with clients, developing genuine partnerships that involve close collaboration rather than taking the problem away and then coming back with the answer. During this collaboration, successful agencies will look to augment the internal teams of their clients, offering a blend of services that complement the internal capability.
2018 will see greater investment in people-centric digital knowledge programmes, design sprints and collaboration projects that ensure individuals and departments alike have the skills to utlilise digital systems and technologies to grow.
The role of the ‘digital agency’ will evolve to augment the client skill set, empowering clients to be masters of their continuous delivery, where agencies become part of the process that focuses on continuous improvement and innovation.
Addressing the problem of legacy systems
Many businesses won’t be able to ‘put up and make do’ with out of date legacy systems beyond 2018. Consumer expectations have been raised by digital-first businesses; customers will no longer accept bad user experience, slow websites and bad customer service. They will vote with their feet, or (more likely) their curser.
Hundreds of enterprises each year come to face facts that their legacy IT systems and databases just aren’t up to the job of creating meaningful digital experiences and interactions with customers. In 2018, the trend for overhauling an entire CMS will be more prevalent than ever. But changing the CMS alone will not result in a better experience for customers.
Careful consideration needs to be made when it comes to implementing a new CMS.
The temptation is to replace what is there in its entirety in one release. This will often coincide with a completely revamped customer experience. However, this comes with considerable risk to businesses that rely on websites to acquire new customers and support old ones.
Instead, we suggest a controlled roll-out of the CMS and new experience, driven by data and measured against positive and negative impact on customers and business performance. By releasing in stages and using insight as part of this process the business risk is minimised and customer experience can be improved much quicker.
Being anti trend and learning to say no
The deluge of new consumer technologies and channels to market often results in brand owners jumping in feet first and “creating an app” or, most recently, saying “we need a skill for Amazon’s Alexa” – fuelled by a fear of missing out.
And while being ahead of the curve with new digital experiences can of course be a game changer for some, jumping on the trends band wagon can be a costly mistake for many – where the technology is simply not yet ready for a meaningful and worthwhile customer experience, or simply not a solution that adds any value.
We still see so many businesses approaching digital work with an end product in mind - rather than seeing it as an experiment to see what works for them. It’s hard from an agency perspective too, as an answer of ‘not yet’ can feel like a failure, but the right thing to do next can be nothing at all.
Discovery projects are being widely adopted by some of the larger brands – effectively saving thousands of pounds in wasted development time, had they commissioned a full build. We do think that actually while the voice, AI and AR spaces will grow substantially in 2018, we will also see businesses saying no if they need to.
Louis Georgiou, Code Computerlove
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”