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by Caroline Buhagiar | 12 Feb. 2018

As digital transformations’ importance has continued to grow, CIOs have been asked to focus on one goal: Delivering exceptional digital experiences to customers. It's a number one CIO priority in 2018 and not only for CIOs but for organizations in general.

To embrace this, companies are migrating towards faster and more flexible development pipelines, and exploring new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI). More organizations across diverse vertical markets are adopting practices and principles to outstride their competition and meet the demand for customer obsession. And, because of this change in approach, new tools are emerging in the areas of test automation, continuous integration, and continuous deployment.

As we progress into 2018 these digital transformation trends will likely stand out as business drivers. If organizations can stay ahead of these, they will set themselves up for success in 2018 and beyond.

Trend 1: Customer obsession is a high priority

Many organizations who consider themselves as focused on their customers are only at a level known as "customer aware." These organizations are aware of their customers, their priorities, and what they value. However, these customer-aware organizations lack the fundamental understanding that their customers are the most important aspect of their roadmap.

When an organization makes nearly every business decision based on the answer to the question of "how does this benefit the customer?" they can move beyond a customer-awareness model and into a customer-obsessed one, and this has a positive impact on revenue.

If 2017 was about many organizations becoming fundamentally aware of the "customer-obsessed" model, 2018 will be a year in which companies of all sizes put the idea to work when planning and building software.

Trend 2: Artificial intelligence as a business driver

Tied directly to the concept of customer experience (and customer obsession) is the trend of using artificial intelligence and big data to impact business decisions, by understanding changing the way users interact with sites and applications. More than 50 percent of organizations have implemented some form of AI project, and another 20 percent are planning to do so in the short-term future. Examples of this in action are things like artificial intelligence-fueled chatbots that can respond to customer’s questions in an intuitive and "human" way (Fortune 500, Jan 2018).

At the core of this movement is data: It's imperative for organizations to gather more data than in the past. But, more significant than the data itself is the means of turning data into action, and businesses will be looking to do so through the use of AI and automation. Thus, customer obsession, AI, and data analysis and how they are all intertwined will become focal points for the coming year.

Trend 3: Being fast is more important than being perfect

Historically, companies have nurtured an organizational culture that strives for bulletproof solutions. The outcome of this type of culture is ultimately strong final products, but a slow development cycle that fails to fuel rapid innovation and business growth. In 2018, more organizations will move toward the “failing fast” model – focusing more on speed, innovation, and learning quickly, instead of trying to develop the perfect product.

The result is a more nimble business that can build products, release them, test them, and collect/analyze data at an incredible rate. This will fuel an overall better product, a better user experience, and a more engaged and collaborative team. Businesses today need to continuously reinvest in this strategic imperative to remain competitive in their respective marketplaces. However this does not mean taking short cuts for the sake of beating the time to market.

Remember, artificial intelligence and test automation are only tools and not the end game. The end game is being customer-obsessed, and giving the customers what they need, as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is also important to understand the level of maturity of the organization and where it stands. Companies cannot just become “customer obsessed” in a week. Generating more reports and data will not be the gateway; top management must set the tone and instil the culture that everything the organization does is for the benefit of the customer even if this may not generate short term profits. Only this can make organizations sustainable and for the long haul.

Caroline Buhagiar is an avid and passionate HR professional who has worked in large multinational companies in Europe, US and Asia. She is fluent in manufacturing excellence, business excellence, building HR capability and driving
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