Why is it so hard to make realistic New Years predictions?

As we look forward to the new year ahead of us, it’s only natural that we make predictions about what we expect to see in the next year. The way that we do business continues to change at an ever-increasing pace and strategizing effectively requires looking at where we’ve been to predict where we’re going.

This is especially important when it comes to the reorganization of business processes to harness the power of digital technology. The benefits of digital are real and powerful, and digital transformation has become imperative; businesses must either transform or die.

However, when making predictions it can be challenging to avoid getting caught up in enthusiasm for the limitless long-term potential digital technology offers. Even the most grounded of industry experts can turn into starry-eyed optimists when the new year rolls around and can tend to make predictions not entirely grounded in reality. 

Of course, this phenomenon is nothing new. As Bill Gates has observed:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”.

So how, then, are we to go about making sense of what to expect in 2019?

First, look at the gap between expectations and reality

Just a few weeks ago, Gartner released the results of their 2018 business survey, in which they asked businesses which technologies they had implemented 2018 and which technologies they expected to implement in 2019.

Because the 2018 survey was nearly identical to the 2017 survey, some interesting trends emerge when you compare the expectations for 2018 (as illustrated by the 2017 survey) and the reality of what was actually accomplished:

Interestingly, the gap between expectation and implementation persisted across all technologies identified by the survey; in every case, businesses did not use technologies to the extent that they thought they would. However, there are some areas where the expectation / implementation gap is quite small, and some areas where it is much larger.

Smallest expectation / implementation gap:

  1. DIS (data intelligence solutions): 5%
  2. IoT: 7.5%
  3. CRM: 7.5%
  4. HR (human resources software): 8.5%
  5. Cloud Computing: 10%

The narrow gap between expectation and implementation shows that these technologies are living up to the hype, because of their wide variety of immediately practical applications.

It shouldn’t come any surprise that Data Intelligence Solutions had the narrowest gap between expectation and implementation; while many companies are still struggling to make use of their mountains of customer data, using customer data to optimize business processes and improve customer experience is the low-hanging-fruit of digital transformation. Similarly, the fact that CRM is tied for for the second smallest gap shows the importance that businesses are placing on effective use of customer data.

Neither is it surprising to see cloud computing in that “bottom five”, given the continued explosion of SaaS. The global SaaS market is expected to grow to $76 billion by 2020, and nearly 73% of businesses surveyed said that they expect nearly all of their apps to be SaaS by 2020.

So if these are the technologies that are living up to the hype, which technologies are least living up to their promise?

Biggest expectation / implementation gap:

  1. Conversational UI: 22% gap
  2. Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality: 21.5% gap
  3. 3D printing: 18.5% gap
  4. App integration: 18% gap
  5. AI/ML: 17.5% gap

Some of the items on this list aren’t terribly surprising. While Virtual Reality is certainly exciting, its applications are limited almost entirely to games and entertainment. Augmented Reality has more in the way of practical use cases, as illustrated by IKEA’s Place app – which shows what their furniture will look like in your room. AR also benefits from the fact that it is more immediately accessible, given that smartphone penetration is near-universal. However, a lot of experimentation is needed to see what sorts of AR interactions consumers will find appealing.

It’s also not too surprising to see 3D printing make the list; while 3D printing will be a majorly disruptive force in manufacturing and retail in the future, currently the technology remains abstruse, with many barriers to entry to the average consumer.

But artificial intelligence? Machine learning? Conversational UI? What happened? Wasn’t 2018 supposed to be the year of AI and the chatbot? (Or maybe it was the year of machine learning? Or the Internet of Things?) What happened?

We can say that in part, it was caused by enthusiasm getting ahead of expectations. But is that the whole story? Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll dive into this in more depth. In the mean time, if you have any questions about what technologies you should be investing in to up your digital customer service game, contact us to speak with one of our digital engagement experts.

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About the Author: Anna Kreider