As 2023 draws to a close, we’re taking a pause to look back over the year at the trends that have surfaced for digital and IT. This recap not only reflects on our predictions but also sets the stage for what’s to come. This is important for us because at 6R Retail, we’re committed to aligning these trends with our strategic approach in system implementation, business improvement strategy, and leading change.

From the 2024 CIO agenda from Gartner and Accenture’s Life Trend forecasts, we can see that some of these trends have evolved faster than expected. Some of them have not really lived up to their expectations.

Against a backdrop of tightening economic conditions globally and the breakneck speed of AI experimentation and adoption in business, we have seen a significant shift in 2023.

Key Trends of 2023

Data Hygiene, Security, and Compliance

Security and compliance have been at the forefront this year, underpinning the necessity for solid data management practices as an imperative. As we transition to 2024, it’s vital to maintain focus on these areas. This reflects our commitment to robust and secure data practices. Gartner findings report that in Australia and New Zealand technology leaders expect to apportion the largest budget share to this area.

The One We Missed: Gen AI

The speed at which generative AI has captured the popular imagination and embedded itself into our daily lives is extraordinary. Futurists and AI specialists have been developing the possibilities of generative AI and machine learning for decades, but the availability of AI tools to regular people has shifted the conversation to a whole new level.

We have attended multiple sessions over the year on generative AI; the issue with the patchy data that ChatGPT had been trained on was weeks later no longer a problem. Now we can all create our own AI assistants with only the data we train them on.

We may even have seen the first creative solve from Deep Mind, still to be verified.

Improved Collaboration

One of the standout joys for me reading through the Gartner predictions for 2024 has been the increase in commitment to what they call “co-delivery.” Basically, this is a partnership of delivery between CIOs and CXO’s to own transformation projects together. I would call this collaboration.

From the data, CIOs and CXOs being equal partners in the delivery of digital technology and change significantly increases initiatives that meet or exceed the target outcomes. Those working in partnerships achieve 20% more than organisations where CIOs keep the digital delivery component within the IT function.

Emphasising collaboration between CIOs and CXOs, this trend aligns with our advocacy for collaborative working models.

Personalised Customer Experiences

So, if collaboration proofs are the high for the year, then the low, for me at least, was personalised customer experiences. This may just be my own personal experience. I’m not about publicly calling out businesses for doing a poor job on the customer side, but let’s just say it’s been a lot of ‘bleh’.

A sample size of one is not a reliable metric; however, looking at the Accenture life trends for 2024, they have some similar observations. They are saying we’ve had years of customer experience, and revenue growth has kept the customer at the centre of every decision for brands. Economic forces are pushing customers down the priority list, and customers are starting to notice. They are feeling hard done by.

Accenture’s measures say 37% of people worldwide believe companies are putting higher profit over improved customer experiences. 40% of C-suite executives say they plan to raise prices and pass on increases in costs to customers.

So, there is not much disagreement there.

Data Management and Analysis

Data management and grounding business decisions in clean and reliable data are essential. It’s not a very sexy topic, but it’s important. Could we use AI to assist us in developing ‘self’-cleaning’ data reviews built into the process? We called out last year how hard it is for many businesses to ‘let go’ of data that’s lying dormant on their lists. The vanity metric of ‘x’ many customers on our database can get in the way of diligence around data cleanliness.

In the spirit of walking the talk, we have worked on cleaning up a lot of our own old data in the 6R team over 2023 and are walking into 2024 with a lighter data footprint.

2024: What’s on the horizon?

Productivity and Technological Advancements

According to the research, productivity growth has slowed in many developed countries over the last 10 years. In the 10 years to 2020, productivity growth was the lowest in 60 years in Australia at 1.1%. What this means for technology teams is that we’re looking for productivity improvements—how we can better use existing technology and extract value from the systems that are already in place.

What better moment for generative AI to be at the centre of all things! But what do we need to take advantage of this technology?

The appetite for transformation in IT and digital teams continues to build. Replacing old tech with new is hardly transformative. Teams need to be grounded in core foundational practices AND reach for innovative ways of working and serving to keep pace with the changes in technology.

Grounding in Great Data

The old trope ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is one that project leaders and technologists alike consistently trot out, usually when we cannot agree about ‘the numbers’. Mike Bechtel, author of Deloitte’s 15th annual Tech Trends report, suggests that with generative AI, this could equate to ‘garbage in, garbage squared’—a horrifying level of exponential growth garbage.

What this demands of us is greater critical and creative thinking and consciousness of our own biases that we might bake into what AI has to offer. Almost no one talks about ‘being great at data’. Elevating this as a practice in your business will put you ahead of the competition. Leading businesses will look to develop data-driven decision-making to better inform their strategies. IT teams will need to develop proficiency in these tools and analytics to deliver solutions.

Implementing data reviews can significantly contribute to enhancing security and compliance measures. By regularly reviewing and removing inactive or unnecessary data, businesses can reduce the risk of data breaches and ensure compliance with data protection regulations. This proactive approach to data cleanliness also demonstrates a commitment to protecting customer information and maintaining trust in an increasingly data-driven world.

The emphasis on data management and analysis is driven by its ability to improve resource utilisation, understand customer behaviour, and identify cost-saving patterns.

Security and Compliance

Building on the ‘pace of change’ theme, a recent report from Rubrik found that 88% of Australian IT and security leaders believe their organisation’s current data growth is outpacing their ability to secure data and manage risk, compared with a global average of 66%. Highlighting the continued need for focus in this area.

According to Gartner, 87% of CIOs in Australia and New Zealand have plans to increase their investment in cybersecurity, the most out of all spending categories for 2024, but may have their work cut out for them as our desire to solve the problem for a customer can lead Australian team members to cut corners when it comes to security.

Critical Thinking and Creativity

While we can now automate more tasks and move with greater speed, we can also be duped at great speed. In fact, according to Kelly Richmond-Pope, a forensic accounting professor at DePaul University, speed is one of the greatest weapons of the scammer. If you’re feeling under pressure and emotionally charged, you are much more likely to get scammed. An imagined future where employees are rewarded for spotting deep fakes doesn’t sound too implausable to us.

Companies will seek employees with strong analytics, critical thinking, and creative skills.

The necessity for critical thinking and creativity in the face of rapid technological advancements is more relevant than ever. This is a core aspect of our strategy in guiding our clients through transformative changes.

Governance and Ethical Considerations

The presence of generative AI companies aligned with big tech providers like Google, Apple, and Microsoft poses a potential threat as they rapidly dominate the market. Amy Webb, who I was lucky to see in person earlier this year, presented a thread of thinking that showed the smoother and more comfortable our lives get, the greater the concentration of power in a few hands and the less choice for most people.

The other theme that is there for generative AI is really the bias baked in. A lot of the technology houses are created by a particular kind of usually white privileged men, and the more we automate, the more our biases are baked into the AI decision process. I go back to something Bill Gates said: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” We could say the same for bias.

Automation applied to a baked-in bias just magnifies the bias.

We’re seeing more and more clients tackle the governance aspect of generative AI, looking for ways to leverage the technology while maintaining compliance and regulatory needs.

Simplicity—Is It Too Much To Hope For?

I think another trend that I’m hoping to see—or that, at some level, maybe we need to see—is a move towards simplification in some of our technologies. Working with project teams across business owners and development, I know firsthand how much effort goes into making a smooth and simple experience.

It takes a lot.

Of thinking,

Of iterations… and of collective effort.

Growing Collaborative Effort

Speaking of collective effort, this is where it’s at. Cross-functional teams are required as ongoing improvements require greater collaboration across departments. This collaboration will help IT teams understand each department’s unique requirements and challenges and implement solutions that take these into account.

The trend towards greater collaboration is driven by the changing nature of technology and its increasing impact on business operations. With business teams taking a more active role in product ownership and system maintenance, IT and business teams will need a higher level of technical capability. All teams’ increased collaboration and technical capability will lead to better alignment between technology and business goals, allowing organisations to achieve their objectives more effectively.

The emphasis on cross-functional collaboration is a testament to the changing nature of technology and its impact on business operations. We at 6R Retail stand ready to facilitate this collaboration, ensuring alignment with business goals.

As we move into 2024, the landscape of digital and IT is evolving rapidly. At 6R Retail, we are excited to be working in this time of change, guiding our clients through these developments with our collaborative approach.

Are you ready to navigate digital and IT with confidence and insight? Get in touch with us to discover how our tailored solutions can drive your organisation towards its strategic objectives in the evolving digital landscape.