Seven Predictions for "Digital" in 2016

2015 has been an incredible year for “Digital” as the pace of adoption and transformation has accelerated.

2016 is set to be even bigger and more impactful. Here are seven predictions from Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work team on what lies ahead.

2016 Will be the Year of the Algorithm ...

Mobile and sensor technologies are the tip of the spear for digital transformation. They extend our physical senses beyond our physical reach, provide situational awareness and and let us take instant action from afar. They allow us to share experiences and gain insights remotely in real-time, not just digitally, but also tactilely. They enable globalization where business, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and customer interactions can move beyond the walls of our offices, and into the fields of world markets. These technologies serve to compress time and distance and enable businesses to operate remotely from anywhere. They enable us to manage operations and project our influence, brands, products and services to all corners of the globe. They enable massive volumes of real-time data to flow in and out from the field, which requires more complex analytics, intelligence and automation to decipher meaning and determine action. Algorithms are increasingly the key to global business as the speed and volume of data outpaces human’s capacity for analysis, decisions and execution. 2016 is the age of the algorithm and real-time operational speeds. Competing in this age will require digital transformation and investments beyond what most companies are anticipating and planning for today. By Kevin Benedict

... In which nobody known to humankind will be able to hide from the omniscient “Watsonator”.

In 2007, Gartner published as a “maverick” proposal “Meet Goog-Azon, World Dominator Circa 2016”. We’re not that far off. But like the “Goog-Azon”, what if Watson had a love child with The Akinator? For the uninitiated, the Akinator is a deceptively simple, branch-logic online game of “20 Questions”. You think of a character, and the Akinator – in an almost creepy way – can usually sleuth it out with stunning accuracy. The key word being “usually”. What if it could answer with 100% accuracy, every single time? A sign the Singularity is near? More probably, a sign that AI – Watson included –has made a quantum leap. If you moved past characters, into everything that’s on your mind, an “Omniscient Akinator” would essentially be a mirror-view of Watson’s star-turn on Jeopardy: when Watson beat Ken Jennings, et. al., the machine raced the humans to get to a single version of the truth, but sometimes failed. The humans still knew knowable truths. But in an Omniscient “Watsonator World” of 2016, humans try – but cannot beat it. No human no longer knows an unknowable truth. The Omniscient Watsonator knows all. By Rob Brown

Big parts of society – like Healthcare - will be re-engineered.

Each one of us will have a health profile with full medical history that can be shared among doctors, hospitals and insurance companies (with an individual’s consent). The health profile will be integrated with health based wearables such as Fitbits or Jawbones, to track real time health conditions and lifestyles. The impact? By collating and analyzing all the resulting information in one place, healthcare providers will have better insights to deliver personalized patient care while creating end to end operational efficiencies, new partnerships and reduced costs. Moreover, insurance companies will use this data to create personalized insurance rates. Individuals will use their real time data to make adjustments in their lifestyles to stay healthy. 2016 will see more and more startups focused on enabling this huge potential opportunity. By Meenu Sharma

‘Trust’ will get re-defined in a “Digital-First” world...

The Internet and digital technologies are transforming the lives we lead, but the scale and speed of these changes present a challenge. The appropriate use of personal data is one of the critical factors determining consumer trust, and is increasing in importance in the minds of consumers. The nature of trust between digitally empowered consumers and variety of companies across industries will get re-defined in 2016 and beyond as consumers change their priorities that influence their trust with companies. We will witness the shift in economic value of ‘consumer trust’ for companies in the digital-first world. By Manish Bahl

And Privacy will fight back.

Although perfect privacy has never existed and never will, to argue that privacy is now dead – so get used to it – is both a misreading of human need and technological development. Three trends will accelerate in 2016, all focused on reclaiming rights that have been withering in ways observable and unobservable for quite some time.

Firstly, “going off-line” for a broader range of interactions and transactions will become more the norm. Secondly, “Snapchat” style applications (i.e. self-destructing with no digital afterlife) will emerge in business. Lastly, the “dark web” (services like Tor, Signal, and Vuvuzela) – used for non-dark purposes – will boom.

Although the forces of digitization are unstoppable the need for control and agency are inviolate. Big money will be made in 2016 (and beyond) by those who can give us the tools to maximize the upside of our age and minimize its downside. By Ben Pring

The war for talent will intensify and get more complex.

Winning your firm’s digital future means rebuilding the talent model. A new breed of worker emerges, who is knowledgeable, self-guided, tech-savvy, able to work with creativity and flair. But being digital doesn’t belong to any one demographic: Digital is a mind-set and it’s changing work norms and the people needed to succeed. The interplay between work and our personal lives, how we collaborate to get work done, how we gain value from it, get paid for, incentivised and motivated to do it, all radically change in 2016. Something more iterative, transient and networked emerges. The social contract is being rewritten. By Euan Davis

In short, 2016 will be a Digital rocket ride!

In 2015 we all had a front row seat on the digital economy roller coaster. The rules of the business game seemed to almost come unhinged from anything we’ve experienced before. Why? Nearly magical technologies, accessible cash, growing demands and expectations by consumers, and exciting -- even crazy -- new ideas collided, and the force drove a year of Schumpeterian creative destruction.

2015 was the biggest year in history for mergers and acquisitions (at a jaw loosening $4.6 trillion). Likewise, 2015 saw one of the highest venture capital investment levels in several decades. Many large companies hit the headlines as they combined (Time Warner with Charter), split apart (HP), or re-structured (Deutsche Bank). Successful start-ups became “decacorns” (a tech startup worth at least $10B, because $1B just doesn’t cut it), and the stock markets felt even more like the card tables in Biloxi or Monaco than the rational stabilizing force we desperately need.

So what does this mean for decision makers in 2016?

The short answer is: get ready to navigate through some bumpy air. At a broad level, digital will drive two general trends in 2016 that will impact virtually all of us. Firstly, organizations will re-tool for Digital. Perhaps even more than in 2015, cheap oil, wildly fluctuating valuations, and continued uncertainty about jobs and technology will drive many large firms – many of which are still sitting on huge cash reserves accrued over years -- to roll up, break up, and reorganize in an attempt to achieve life-sustaining growth. Some will succeed, but others will not, and this will impact thousands of jobs and families all over the world.

And secondly, there will be new money, new markets, and new rules. In 2016 massive enterprises will make increasingly significant advances in “becoming digital” as business models pioneered by the likes of Uber, Palantir, GE, Discovery Health, and airBnB impact many more companies. A growing number of large firms will tap into significant revenue (and cut costs) by using technology to change both internal processes and customer experiences. Similarly, the startup community will continue to bloom with cool ideas. Some will be fun but trivial, but others will shape companies and even entire sectors.

2016 will continue to present symptoms of being in the early days of a much larger digital shift. If you’re disinclined toward evolving business rules, this year (and next) might be filled with a few Maalox moments. If, on the other hand, you’re jazzed about your role in building the future, buckle up and get ready for your rocket ride! By Paul Roehrig