Digital business leaders know that customer obsession is the winning mantra, however meeting the needs of today’s empowered customer requires both laser focus and responsiveness. Experimentation, minimum viable products, and labs are so 2017. In 2018, digital business transformation will be played out at scale — in organization structure, in operating models, and in talk of platforms. It is no longer possible to ignore the shackles of legacy; firms must digitize the heart of their business, driving agility and flexibility to the core, and 2018 is the year when that process starts wholesale.

Effective technologies for automation, integration, and collaboration will visibly change organization structures and shape engagement models. Digital business leaders will play a pivotal role at the heart of change in 2018: harnessing collaboration internally to drive collaboration beyond, influencing at the most senior level to secure air-cover for transformation, exploring new business models.

We released our 2018 digital transformation predictions today and foresee an exciting year of opportunity ahead, including that:

  • Digital will disrupt the boardroom: For many, the realization that it is no longer possible to deliver a great digital experience in isolation is painfully overdue. In 2018, firms will finally face up to what it means to collaborate. Boardroom discussions will focus on digital: Should we become a platform? How should we work with digital giants like Amazon? Digital business leaders will have a focal role in driving a deeper understanding of what this means beyond the natural borders of the organization.
  • Digital ecosystems will need customer centricity: The next generation of consumer experiences is evolving collaboratively, demanding not only heavy investment in the underlying technology, but also alignment of architecture, talent, process and culture to make it happen. Customer-centric org structures will become a reality in 2018, as digital business leaders move from temporary structures to establish permanent cross-functional teams. Product experience managers, responsible for entire customer journeys, will be among the most in-demand talent
  • Technology will redefine the business: Automation will make meaningful changes to the workplace, but in 2018 the changes will still be limited to simple, transactional tasks. Key technologies like AI, blockchain, or conversational interfaces will rapidly mature, unlocking new opportunity to create new customer experiences, transform jobs, and forge new partnerships. Digital business leaders must help their firms (both their executives and their frontline workforce) to shift their perspective on automation from threat to asset.

In 2018, digital business leaders who may have traditionally focused on front-end experience technology will step up to drive more holistic change. They’ll do so because technology is maturing, service providers are transforming, and they’ve built the skills, processes, and culture in their teams to continuously adapt.

Much appreciation to the members of Forrester’s Analyst community who contributed to this report, particularly to Julie Ask, Nigel Fenwick, Martin Gill, Pascal Matzke and Ted Schadler.