The Waracle Guide to the new Digital Enterprise

Which emerging technologies will your business be using before the end of the decade?

Figuring out the impact of new and emerging technologies on your business can be tough. In the next decade, emerging technologies will have a transformative impact in terms of business operations, software delivery and how you interact with your customers. For forward thinking businesses and early adopters, the commercial rewards associated with embracing the right mix of emerging technologies can be vast. That’s why we’ve created the Waracle guide to the new digital enterprise.

Once upon a time in the distant past, fax machines ruled the world and machine learning was something you did to figure out how to work the slide projector. Your biggest concern was probably whether or not to install new phone lines to accommodate a growing workforce, and all you knew about virtual reality was The (awful) Lawnmower Man.

Fast forward 20 years and thankfully, things have moved on. The trusty fax machine – now available at a museum near you – is obsolete (along with that slide projector), superseded by the humble email, and machine learning is probably securing your enterprise and powering first-class customer service. And virtual reality? Literally saving lives and opening up a veritable goldmine of new experiences that have real power to make positive, lasting impact. The Lawnmower Man, bless his soul, is now a distant nightmare.

For the future-focussed digital enterprise, the opportunities being ushered in by digital technology are as abundant as they are exciting. Yet with these opportunities comes a whole host of complex decisions that make the technological simplicities of 1999 seem almost … appealing.

Today, spending decisions are one the top pain-points of business leaders. The non-negotiable requirement to become a digital enterprise, the sheer volume of technologies available to get you there, and the uncertainty of where it’s all headed, make for a lot to consider. You have a limited budget, so your technology investments need to be spot-on if they’re to deliver on that list you’ve got – faster, better customer service; greater agility; streamlined personalisation; improved efficiencies, and let’s not forget the healthy-looking bottom line.

But where on earth do you start? Which technologies should you be giving serious consideration, and what are the real benefits (and pitfalls) of each? Crucially, will there ever be a Lawnmower Man 3 showing at a cinema near you? Read on!

Emerging technologies and the new digital enterprise –

We all know that digital transformation has to happen for the enterprise that wants to compete effectively and survive long-term. For many, that transformation is already underway. For others not already in the race, it must surely be the priority. IDC has estimated that 40% of all businesses are either underway with their digital transformation, or planning it. But it ain’t easy.
When it comes to how we’re doing business, things are changing, fast. Developments in technology are advancing rapidly, making buying decisions ever more complex. Will what we need today be superseded next year? We can’t tell you that, but what we can tell you is that it’s all about integration, integration, integration! The most impactful advances your enterprise will make are going to be driven not by one technology alone, but by the merging of several technologies. Think AI and IoT powering robust cybersecurity, or Augmented Reality and Voice delivering incredible customer service. But whatever your digital future, however you’re going to be powering it, the technologies you’ll be investing in will present great opportunities, as well as drawbacks. Here’s our take on what these are:

IoT (The Internet of Things)

The business case for IoT: IoT has broken out of it’s ‘emerging’ stage to find itself powering enterprise, cities, factories and … so much more. The foundation of most digital enterprises, one recent Cisco study has demonstrated that most successful IoT projects combine IoT technologies with data analytics, with that data providing the foundation for digital enterprise decision-making. It makes sense – just look at the success stories and how data analytics is driving progress:

UPS – utlising data to identify the quickest, most fuel-efficient routes for their fleet, enabling the company to save an estimated 1.5 million gallons of fuel across 10,000 courses. “Data minus analytics is just simply trivia,” said Juan Perez, the chief information and engineering officer at UPS.

Coca-Cola– IoT-enabled vending machines allow cashless payments, personalised communication and stock and refill notifications – as well as gathering performance and service data for suppliers. What’s more, they enable customer-focused loyalty programs, enabling Coca-Cola customers to collect bonus points then use them to grab a free drink – all via the customer’s smartphone. You may well be wondering, what’s the fuss? But without human interaction at the retail points to glean customer feedback (and let’s face it, how many retail assistants have the time to do that anyway?), gathering data from IoT-enabled vending machines is critical to help identify the most popular drinks, establish inventory levels, and gain clarity around each machine’s profitability. Sorted!

Arsenal FC – using IoT along with other emerging technologies to enhance coaching methods, as well as using data analytics to analyse match performance. The club’s IT Director, Hywel Sloman, “I’ve been driving the experimentation with IoT and virtual reality as a way to improve the quality of coaching we provide to our players … we’re now seeing evidence that the quality and quantity of data available to analysts and players is significantly improving our coaching and post-game analysis.” … just 3 examples out of tens of thousands!

The challenges: Gartner has said that business leaders need to need to look at IoT ‘through the lens of business return’, and that ‘the majority of IoT projects should target financial payback in less than one year’. In other words, establish business value from the outset, rather than focusing on the challenges the technology itself might present.
Like all big business decisions, you’re also going to need to ensure you’ve got buy-in for your IoT plans. Establishing business value before you embark down that road will pay dividends. We talk about this in our recent Digital Transformation piece – identifying the people and team you’re confident will support you and the long-term vision is crucial. Who are the individuals across your organisation that have their future-focused goggles on? Don’t forget it’s not all about your business either. You’ll need to get vendors, suppliers and partners – and customers! – onboard to give your strategy the best chance of long-term success. Then you can start looking at security, integration and data handling.

Augmented Reality

Blurring the lines between our physical and digital worlds, today AR has extended its reach into retail, health care, education, military and manufacturing, presenting a whole new world of possibilities for the forward-thinking enterprise. This one’s no longer ‘emerging’ – it’s growing up to be a serious contender for businesses that want to be at the front of the queue when it comes to the fourth industrial revolution. If you thought AR was all about kids chasing 3D characters around the local park, think again!

The business case for AR: Where do we start?! In construction? Then AR will allow your architects and engineers, to see in 3D every detail of their project so that they can make better, more informed decisions at each stage.

What about retail? Using AR, you’ll be able to provide your customers with an entirely new, personalised shopping experience that has the potential to drive greater brand loyalty, increase sales and enable you to make better buying decisions.

Oil & Gas your field? Then AR has the potential to radically transform operations both in terms of cost reductions and efficiencies. New AR-based innovations are enabling engineers to control assets in real-time from an onshore locale, either through a HUD (heads up display) or a ruggedised smartphone or tablet. What’s more, the launch of mobile AR SDK’s Apple ARKit and Google ARCore are making it easy to develop AR prototypes and full production applications for use in an offshore environment. You can find out more here.

“Immersive technology is so personal that it will significantly alter our interpretation of the world,”

Companies like Ikea, Tesco, Mitsubishi, The New York Times, Toyota and Lego, are the mere crest of the tsunami of organisations already exploring Augmented Reality to drive efficiencies and power long-term growth. If you’re looking to enhance your customer’s brand experience, optimise processes and activities on the shop floor, to visualise what has previously been hidden, then Augmented Reality may be for you.

Here’s a few examples on how AR is currently being used:

Ikea – Developed with Apple’s ARKit, the super-successful IKEA Place is one of the first big applications of AR in the retail space. Utlising the smartphone camera to visualise how various virtual IKEA products will look in any interior, potential customers can now place that sofa they’ve got their eye on in their living room environment and get a real feel for whether this is going to be money well spent. It’s not just a really valuable service for IKEA customers, it also creates an incredibly personal experience in a very user-friendly way by making big purchase decisions a whole lot easier.

Ikea AR mobile application

Ikea AR mobile application

IKEA Place with AR technology

Leading manufacturer of commercial airliners, Boeing has been using Augmented Reality for some time, and across a huge range of applications, including supporting the complex task of wiring across their 787-8 freight. Before AR, Boeing technicians were using charts and laptops to provide instructions while they worked, meaning they often had to juggle between focusing on the complex wiring systems, and looking at their laptop screens.

Boeing using AR to support complex wiring requirements

Boeing using AR to support complex wiring requirements

Boeing using AR to support complex wiring requirements

Using AR, they’re now able to obtain guidance via Voice commands, and in-vision guidance, removing the need to look away. What’s more, aircraft technicians are also able to view how-to videos if more clarity is needed during the assembly process – right there in their field of vision. The result? Technicians are able to stay focused on the job at hand, reducing errors to almost zero – and wiring production time has been reduced by 25%. Result!

An Augmented reality app – AED4EU – that can literally save lives by showing users the location of defibrillators in the nearby vicinity – invaluable in an emergency situations. Users can also add locations themselves, which are then uploaded to a central database. Just one of thousands of examples of AR in healthcare (you can discover more on this right here).

The challenges

As before, it’s crucial that if you’re considering AR technology as part of your digital strategy, it needs to deliver tangible business value – will your customers derive a positive, value-add experience? Will your business experience the impact of enhanced efficiencies or processes that AR has the potential to drive? Augmented reality delivers the opportunities for a vast range of businesses to drive new efficiencies, helping to significantly lower costs across service provision, design, assembly, logistics, and many other elements of the value chain.

Once you’ve identified how AR can drive new revenue streams, enhance business processes and support improved customer services, the challenge that many businesses will face is sourcing the talent to deliver the technology. Whether you source externally (likely) or hire for in-house, the time and costs involved in creating and deploying AR across your enterprise can be significant.

For businesses that have already established the positive impact of AR as a strategic business tool, many will need to plan and free up the resources to drive deployment and power competitive advantage long-term. But, if you see Augmented Reality as important but offering little in the way of competitive advantage, it’s likely to be more beneficial to partner with external AR specialists who can steer sporadic AR projects in the right direction – without the high costs of employing an in-house team. It is, however, worth noting that even with the best intentions, an in-house AR team will likely find it difficult to keep up with seasoned AR vendors over the long-term, as the technology enters the mainstream, and AR vendors become more visible, and increasingly more capable.

However you proceed, in the not-so-distant future, every business will need to consider where the collaboration of the virtual and physical worlds can take them to provide new ways of doing business, and drive growth. Will AR be part of your digital transformation?

Artificial Intelligence

Once the domain of science-fiction and really bad movies, today Artificial Intelligence is impacting not only how business interacts with its customers, it’s also making huge inroads across business processes themselves. Not convinced? You will be!

The business case for Artificial Intelligence: From enhanced cybersecurity, to driving better, faster decision-making, to supporting training to predicting health outcomes, AI is impacting every industry on a global scale. If AI isn’t being considered as part of your future business yet, it soon will be. Creating new offerings, helping build new business models, and bringing that ol’ competitive advantage to the table, AI may seem elusive, but it’s never been more pertinent:

Global energy behemoth, BP, has been quick to capitalise on the business advantages AI offers, deploying technology to drive enhanced processes and performance, streamline resource efficiencies and radically reshape production processes across their Oil & Gas operations. Think sensors that communicate site conditions to engineers and decision-makers. Or how about their AI-driven cloud-based geoscience platform which Engineers feed with data to create an in-depth knowledge-graph of subsurface assets.

Walmart, the global retail giant, is today utilising Artificial Intelligence to transform their retail experience and deliver great service to the 265 million customers it serves each week. These innovators have married up big data, machine learning, IoT and AI to to power a seamless brand experience across customer touch-points. Enhancements like the ‘Scan & Go’ feature on the Pick-Up Towers app. They’re also currently experimenting – along with many other retailers, the potential of facial recognition. In Walmart’s case, to identify whether a customer is happy or sad. Love that idea or loathe it, it’s likely to become mainstream over the long term.

AI and television? You bet! Will AI transform television? Netflix is already tapping into the enormous data pools of viewer preferences and building algorithms that recommend content that their viewers should enjoy (many media brands already do this – think Spotify and the Discover Weekly feature). It looks like it’s working too – Netflix on-boards nearly 70,000 new subscribers around the world every day. And that’s not all … they’re also looking at AI to address bandwidth issues that emerging markets are experiencing. How? AI algorithms review the frames in a video file, then compress them to the minimum possible without compromising image quality. The Dynamic Optimiser as it’s known not only enhances streaming quality across slow speeds, it also tailors its content for their audience in emerging markets like India, Japan and South Korea.

Challenges of Artificial Intelligence

The benefits of AI are myriad, but the technology is not without challenges. While many businesses — from the big banks to tech firms to oil & gas – are powering forward, fuelled by AI technology, many are still hanging back due to these challenges. From an implementation point of view, AI has oft been cited as throwing up the most problems for enterprise, not least because of the specific skills required, many of which are still hard to find. What’s more, having an in-depth understanding of the technology, how it might be best deployed within enterprise to drive business goals takes time and some serious planning. And getting the Board … onboard …after doing so is the hurdle many face.But all is not lost! New technologies and big changes that disrupt the status quo will always have growing pains – yet the results are priceless. But AI isn’t going away – already a strategic element of a future-proofed business strategy, creating sustained growth and driving competitive advantage, all businesses will be working with AI sooner or later. Embrace the challenges we must. How will you get started?

Conclusion

Running on the same spot as a business is never an option – and never before is this so evident as today. We all know digital transformation has to happen, and we all know that challenges are par for the course. But these new technologies are proving time and again to be critical in creating new businesses, new innovations and new opportunities. An important part of those at the helm is to identify the benefits emerging technologies can offer your business – then formulating your strategy to minimise risk and drive success. Simply waiting until these technologies are better understood, more prolific, mainstream even, isn’t an option. What are your thoughts on your digital transformation and emerging technologies? What challenges do you face? Tell us, and let’s get the conversation started!


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