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What will keep CEOs awake at night in 2018?

By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 05:01 AM December 25, 2017

This 2018, there is tension in the air for businesses—a dichotomy between the physical and digital, human and machine, centralization and decentralization, speed and craft, automation and control, and traceability and anonymity, says a trends report by one of the world’s leading global professional services companies.

According to Accenture Interactive’s Fjord Trends 2018, “rapid technological advancements are altering the world we live in today, provoking both wonder and angst about the possibilities. Whether it’s artificial intelligence, computer vision or blockchain, emerging technologies are uprooting the digital and physical experiences of our everyday lives. These joint forces are simultaneously creating optimism and concern about the unprecedented wave of change that is unfolding.”

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Now on its 11th edition, Fjord Trends 2018 identifies seven emergent trends expected to affect business, technology and design next year.

It draws upon the collective thinking of Fjord’s over 1,000 designers and developers around the world and is based on first-hand observations, evidenced-based research and client work.

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This year, for the first time, it also drew upon the individual insights and perspectives from 85 clients across five continents, whose views inspired the report.

Fjord is the design and innovation unit of Accenture Interactive, Accenture’s agency which helps the world’s leading brands transform their customer experiences across the entire customer journey through connected offerings in design, marketing, content and commerce.

The report also includes recommendations for organizations on how they can navigate through these trends:

Physical fights back

“People are already starting to move away from intrusive digital technologies and kick against digital saturation,” the report reads. “As a result, they are receptive to a more personal approach to services and products, and as technology becomes more ambient, they are migrating to services like Airbnb that offer physical, human and sensory experiences that create lasting memories.” Fjord suggests that companies, moving forward, stop viewing digital and physical as two separate functions, and instead be inspired by technology to design experiences which fuse the two.

Computers have eyes

As cameras become smarter and smarter every day—with some using “computer vision” to capture visual data, analyze, and act on it (e.g. iPhone X’s facial recognition feature which allows one to unlock the phone)—Fjord suggests that businesses rethink their services and how they are designed.

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“Organizations must start imagining the new generation of services they could create once information is more routinely and ubiquitously captured visually,” the report states. “As computers get better at reading the emotions of people using computer vision, human behaviors and intrinsic features will need to be designed into services to fully interest and engage users.”

Slaves to the algorithm

The report cites three marketing developments which are expected in the coming year: The rapid evolution of data-driven algorithms, the evolution of voice-enabled digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, and users’ growing trust in both.

“The challenge is this: when your customer has been seduced by the immediacy and fun factor of engaging with the likes of Alexa instead of directly with your brand, how do you reach that customer? Alexa and her rivals have in-built biases, so the key lies in finding ways around them,” states the report. Fjord suggests three things: Get to know these “gatekeepers” by understanding how to be ranked by them and how to bypass them; adapt to this new marketing environment by honing additional tactics to aid brand recall; and beware of the possible backlash, especially how algorithms can be hacked or gamed, and how this might affect customer trust.

A machine’s search for meaning

Allaying fears that artificially intelligent machines such as robots could lead to the obsoletion of jobs for humans, the report states that this won’t exactly be the case—there won’t be fewer jobs, but different ones.

“In a recent global study, Accenture identified new job categories—Trainers, Explainers and Sustainers—where humans will complement the tasks performed by cognitive technology, created by the rise of AI-enabled machines,” the report reads. “Following its $775-million acquisition of robotics company Kiva, Amazon now employs more than 45,000 robots—and is still recruiting and employing people.”

What does Fjord suggest? Think collaboratively, not competitively; design for interaction; be transparent and inclusive; and plan for future staff evolution.

In transparency we trust

“Technology has given us unprecedented control and autonomy to fulfill our on-demand needs and curate customized experiences, but it has also fueled our fears and made us feel more vulnerable. With many individuals unsure or even oblivious to how their data is harvested, used, shared and protected, data security, privacy, and lack of transparency have become major concerns,” states the report.

The solution? Use blockchain technology, says Fjord.

The key is to act now and understand how such technology can work for your business. Organizations must also “design for trust” to make their systems more transparent, states the report, and be open to collaboration to fully maximize the potential of blockchain.

The ethical economy

The report shares a quote from Apple CEO Tim Cook: “People should have values. Companies are nothing more than a collection of people. So, by extension, all companies should have values. As a CEO, I think one of your responsibilities is to decide what the values of your company are, and lead accordingly.”

According to Fjord, companies in 2018 shouldn’t just be reactive—ethics isn’t just about being charitable, having CSR programs, or damage control. Businesses must be proactive when it comes to issues affecting both their employees and customers.

Design outside the lines

“The discipline of design must evolve to stay relevant and ensure a design-driven approach. Organizations must re-evaluate and refocus on three pillars: depth in design craft; design processes, tools and team structures; and breadth of design skills,” the report states. “Organizations must understand that design thinking is at its most valuable when combined with design doing and supported by a strong design culture (Fjord describes this as ‘The Design Rule of 3’).”

To do this, Fjord suggests that companies give their designers space for their craft by encouraging design thinking; and establish multidisciplinary product teams composed of designers, developers, data scientists, and business people.

For designers, the report has one important recommendation: Take responsibility for your craft by continuously upgrading your skills.

“Each of our 2018 trends is born out of a fundamental tension—be it a shift, a collision or a parting of ways. Winners in 2018 will be those who best navigate these tensions and seize the opportunity to collectively design the world we’ll be living in,” says Mark Curtis, cofounder and chief client officer at Fjord.

“Many of the thorny questions ahead of us revolve around human-machine interactions, the consequences of which will be profound for individuals, society and organizations of all kinds. As digital fades from being stand-alone to being embedded in our physical world, our relationships with everything around us will be redefined,” adds Baiju Shah, Fjord global colead and Accenture Interactive managing director.

To read the full report, visit www.trends.fjordnet.com.

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