4 Digital Trends Impacting Business in 2020 and Beyond

19 December 2019 |  Matt Gutierrez, Senior Managing Director, CenturyLink Asia Pacific 
What lies ahead on the continued journey for digital businesses? Find out more about the important digital trends shaping the future.   

It is no secret that technology has transformed today’s organizations: traditional offices have made way for open collaboration workspaces, workforces are increasingly remote and spurring the freelance and gig economy, site locations are geographically-dispersed for businesses wanting to expand and enter new markets. For digital organizations, there has also been increasing emphasis on customer experience, leveraging technology to deliver services and troubleshoot issues faster, deliver native language support, and incorporating virtual assistants to respond to queries immediately. We are already seeing initiatives towards better customer and user experiences from regional companies such as banking services from DBS and passenger services from AirAsia.

There are several characteristics that have become embedded within organizational change and transformation. 

Agility is not just a trendy buzzword but is now an important tenet for designing a digital enterprise.

Among the hallmarks of an agile enterprise is its ability to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace, a deep focus on customer needs, and using technology towards progress and talent retention. Further, cloud computing will continue to soar, stemming from the need to deliver enhanced customer experiences and operate in a more scalable and flexible manner.

While technologies and tools such as cloud computing, customer relationship management systems, and productivity-based applications have vastly improved workflows for people and organizations, new and transformative technologies are disrupting the status quo. According to IDC, spending in Asia Pacific (APAC) on technologies and services that enable digital transformation was estimated to be $375.8 billion in 2019 and expected to steadily expand through to 2022. Digital transformation is no longer seen to be an IT responsibility, centered around hardware or equipment. Instead, it is a holistic strategy helmed by the entire C-suite towards competitiveness and survival as a future-proof business.   

What is in store for the digital enterprise?

Organizations in Asia are now doubling down on innovation and competitiveness by pushing harder to deploy disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and edge computing. In a Gartner survey of CIOs, AI was by far the most mentioned technology and takes the spot as the top game-changer technology away from data and analytics

Further, the rise of robotics, augmented and virtual reality has evolved from science fiction to reality in the midst of Industry 4.0, where automation and technology are impacting and changing manufacturing processes.  

As digital transformation continues to ramp up, these are some of the digital trends I anticipate will gain traction in 2020:

1. Growth of 5G and the intelligent connectivity era

Network delivery and performance will be a renewed focus in preparation for transformative technologies such as 5G and IoT.

Underlying networks matter more than ever in delivering superior customer experiences and remaining competitive; they need to work smarter with AI and automation to reduce congestion and improve speed.  The Internet age has now given rise to the application age, making it ever so crucial that legacy infrastructure shifts to an adaptive network to support increased demand in an ‘always on’ digital economy. This would enable increased IT agility and flexibility to streamline data and cloud workloads.  

As competition for streaming services continue to heat up between the likes of Apple and Disney, so will consumer demand on customer networks. Embracing network solutions that support this growth and appetite for online streaming services is critical to avoid customer dissatisfaction. 

The growth of 5G will also require a modernization of fiber infrastructure. Fiber-based solutions are better able to satisfy key market trends: highly scalable capacity; the need for connecting to increasing geographically-dispersed locations; the need to protect the privacy of customers; and moving bandwidth closer to edge locations. 

Gain greater agility, insight, and speed-to-market for your digital business with SD-WAN optimization 

2. The CIO’s role continues evolving

The CIO’s role has rapidly transformed from delivering IT solutions to driving change in an organization; the digital trend is more on ‘leading innovation’ versus ‘leading information’. A Gartner survey found that 95% of CIOs expected their jobs to change due to digitalization; this will remain an unwavering trend as the analyst firm now predicts that by 2021, CIOs will be as responsible for culture change as chief HR officers.

Despite arguments that the essence of the CIO’s role is being sidelined due to digital transformation, it is in fact growing in power and widening in scope. The challenge now for the new generation of innovation leaders is to rise to the challenges of preparing their organizations to become more agile and deploy disruptive technologies such as AI to improve business responsiveness. Additionally, with IT infrastructure requiring modernization, CIOs will have to navigate a complex cloud universe, and select the right mix of technology for the organization. This is when a robust multi-cloud management strategy to simplify the journey will become a priority. 

Changing IT from a cost to a profit center will also form a fundamental element of the CIO’s evolution.
The pressures on the CIO’s office to reduce cost and increase strategic value will lean towards stronger alignment with strategic partnerships and trusted vendors to deliver their business needs. 

3. Cyber security awareness and training will increase in significance

Preparing a workforce of the future also means creating new competencies, ensuring they are armed with the right digital capabilities to work and build deep knowledge in new technologies (such as AI). However, new technologies and digital environments also bring new and more sophisticated cyber threats. APAC organizations have been at the forefront of bold new cybercrime threats such as crypto-jacking and increasing Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. As such, organizations will face a persistent challenge in recruiting skilled cybersecurity professionals capable of protecting their data. 
VIDEO: Inside the CenturyLink Security Operations Center - Securing Your Digital Business 
In APAC, there are commitments by governments to plan and defend against cyber attacks and build digital trust; however, we will also need to see a stronger push to improve cybersecurity preparedness among organizations. In this light, a key digital trend will be more organizations partnering with trusted vendors for day-to-day execution of their cybersecurity operations including analytics and threat monitoring, managed security services, DDoS and web application mitigation services.

4. Digital Transformation 2.0 will empower the edge

Edge computing — moving workloads closer to your business’s data source (such as real-time analytics and customer behavior) will become an important business priority for digital transformation success and improving customer experiences. By bringing this data closer to your network’s edge, it forms a decentralized business model that can help applications analyze and act upon data faster than if it were processed in the cloud. 

While cloud will continue to play a critical role as the data storage and processing nerve center, networking capabilities will need to evolve to account for applications which move to the edge.

Networking capabilities will need to evolve to account for applications which move to the edge.

This digital trend is expected to grow to support the massive influx of data derived from AI and machine learning.

Edge computing can propel many industries into the future, including banking and retail; consequently, organizations are increasing their IT investments and assets in edge locations such as server rooms, local data centers, and colocation facilities. Success in digital business will therefore rely on building a road map to assess, deploy, and manage information at “smart” edge locations. 

Deciding factors 

While we can anticipate most of the digital trends discussed to pick up pace, there are a number of key issues and priorities that will remain a focus for the digital enterprise of the future. Technology has set new expectations for the way we work and what our customers expect of us and so, the focus on security and impact to business will also be underpinned in IT strategies and objectives.   

Among these will be establishing trusted partnerships to simplify managed security solutions, boost threat detection and mitigation to strengthen digital trust, and effectively manage SD-WAN and multi-cloud. Choosing the right vendor and partnerships will rely on several factors including global coverage, expertise, and capabilities. Are you ready to drive your business into 2020 and beyond for the digital future? 

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