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In 2019 organizations will continue with their digital journeys. More than half of the organizations surveyed by the research organization, Forrester Research, in 2018 stated that they are “currently underway” with their digital transformation initiative. Such initiatives involve examining and implementing a broad range of new technologies, along with reviewing and revitalizing everything from a company’s culture, to creating new metrics, processes, and leadership positions. The ultimate objective is to create new forms of business and customer value, using the power of digital technologies.
Based on the focus of executives on their digital transformation, here at Belatrix, we have prepared four key predictions for 2019. At their core, each of these predictions demonstrate the power of digital technology to transform how businesses create value. The 4 predictions are:
This report will examine each of these predictions in turn, and provide advice for how best to prepare your business to stay ahead of the competition.
AI is already here. The speed at which companies are investing in it is increasing year by year. In fact, as highlighted by TechRepublic, just in 2017, the adoption of artificial intelligence grew 60%. In a nutshell, as described by HFS Research, AI is basically any kind of formulaic code or algorithm that instructs the software how to process and learn from input data. Upon the analysis of vast quantities of data, patterns are recognized. These patterns are later used by algorithms to interpret future data, which can be internal company data or external market data.
There are several branches of AI such as machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), and cognitive assistants, amongst others, and it is thanks to them that developers are now able to create better software. For instance, deep learning (which represents the most advanced extension of machine learning) consists of models –or artificial neural networks– with multiple hidden layers. These layers represent the ability of the nets to execute more computational comparisons of input data. This was useful for computer scientists at Rice University at Houston, Texas, where they created a deep-learning, software-coding application called Bayou. This application helps human programmers by writing chunks of code in response to keywords. According to ScienceDaily, “When a user asks Bayou questions, the system makes a judgment call about what program it’s being asked to write. It then creates sketches for several of the most likely candidate programs the user might want.”
Other use cases of AI on software development involve cognitive assistants (a.k.a. cognitive agents, virtual agents, or virtual assistants), which are programs that process inputs such as voice commands, using machine learning, NLP, and other AI technologies to generate an action and achieve a goal for the user. These are very similar to commercial cognitive agents such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, which we are all familiar with. For enterprises, we’ve seen the emergence of virtual scrum master agents and virtual testing advisors, which help individuals monitor and manage Agile projects. Such software helps individuals and teams increase their productivity.
AI has reached an interesting level of maturity. Over the past few years, despite its growth in adoption, few companies understood what AI meant. According to Forrester’s Predictions 2019: expect a pragmatic vision of AI report, “firms are starting to recognize what it is and isn’t, what it can do and what it cannot. And they are seeing the real challenges of AI versus what they assumed the challenges would be.” Bearing this in mind, focus on data collection should be on the roadmap since 60% of decision makers at companies adopting AI cite data quality as either challenging or very challenging—it’s their top challenge when trying to deliver AI capabilities.
As for the role of the developer, the future of programming demands a slight shift since the developer has to become a teacher, a curator of training data, and an analyst of results. In this order of ideas, software development will not disappear, instead developers will have to start thinking of themselves and their role in much different terms.
In mid-2017 Google launched the release preview of Flutter, a free open-source mobile UI framework that allows developers to build native apps on both iOS and Android from a single codebase. Flutter’s key feature, hot reload, enables developers to change code “on the spot”, and see it live right away, without losing the state of the app. This has the result of dramatically improving developer productivity. It also offers the possibility to integrate with code editors or IDEs such as Android Studio, IntelliJ IDEA, and VS Code at anytime of the workflow process.
Despite being released quite recently, its showcase already has big names such as Alibaba —the world’s biggest online commerce company— with more than 50M+ downloads. According to Rodney Aiglstorfer, CEO of Aeyrium, an airline software startup, there are three key reasons why companies and startups should consider Flutter: it increases the speed and productivity of development teams; it is truly multiplatform; and it helps create beautiful, crisp, user interfaces easily.
Click here to find out how one startup boosted productivity by a factor of 10 using Google Flutter.
We recognize that there are several cross-platform alternatives, such as React Native, Xamarin and AngularJS, however, as Belatrix’s President and Co-Founder, Alex Robbio, highlights in the article Google Flutter: Why CTOs Should Pay Attention To It, “the challenge, however, is that cross-platform development is difficult. In many cases, despite best efforts, the user experience simply lags behind that of truly native apps.”
Flutter provides new business opportunities because it addresses the major pain points present in mobile development. For instance, companies can save time and resources when developing an app since it only has to be coded once; added to this, timelines are shortened due to Flutter’s hot reload feature, which enables developers to work faster and more effectively, thus leading to faster development times.
Just a few days ago, Google announced the release of Flutter 1.0, the first stable release of Google’s UI toolkit for mobile software development from a single codebase. Bearing this in mind, it is a good time to “get your hands dirty”, download it, test it, get familiar with its look and feel, and compare it with other frameworks available. Along with this, it is important to remember that Flutter is open source, which means it is supported not only by Google but the community around it, therefore constant feedback is a valuable resource that will improve Flutter as versions are released.
Before adventuring into Flutter, it is recommendable to get to know what it really does and what it works for. Flutter is optimized for 2D mobile apps that want to run on both Android and iOS; apps that need to deliver brand-first designs are particularly well suited for Flutter, however, apps that need to look like stock platform apps can also be built on it. In this order of ideas, it is possible to build full-feature apps that include camera, geolocation, network, storage and 3rd-party SDKs, amongst others.
Click here for a glimpse of Flutter’s app for Alibaba.
Augmented Reality (AR) has gone from being a science-fiction concept to part of our daily lives. AR tools such as Apple’s ARKit 2 are already at our fingertips and research shows that in 2022, the augmented and virtual reality market will reach a market size of $209.2 billion. What does this mean for the world of UX design?
Augmented Reality is changing the conventions of UX design
Augmented reality combines digital information with the user’s view of reality, superimposing images, videos or sounds. What makes AR so disruptive for UX design, is the fact that it’s a non command user interface. This means that it adapts to contextual information and, unlike traditional interfaces, the user has little control over the interface by means of commands. Also, when designing user experiences with AR, designers are not limited anymore by a flat screen: they have a scope of 360º degrees. But as exciting as it sounds, it poses a number of challenges:
Users can be everywhere. According to the User Experience Magazine, AR experiences in public places involve intended and unintended users. Intended users are the people directly participating in the experience, while unintended users are the individuals unintentionally involved in it. For instance, when playing the famous Pokemon Go, players might affect the activities of other people while trying to “catch ‘em all”. As a result, designers need to keep in mind that their target audience is bigger than they think, and potential users can be everywhere.
Users’ safety can be compromised. AR is about enhancing our experience of the real world instead of replacing it. When AR adds too many layers of information, it might obstruct the user’s view of the environment, putting them in danger. Designers need consider all the scenarios and understand the user’s natural interaction with reality, to ensure safety.
AR impacts UX methods and research. Designers use a variety of UX methods such as surveys, interviews and card sorting. However, these methods will no longer be as useful as contextual inquiry and field studies as designers need to observe the user’s environment and natural behaviour to create the best possible AR experience.
Benefits of building user experiences with AR
As challenging as it is, user experiences created with AR might be the holy grail for designers. This is why:
AR decreases the interaction cost, which is the number of steps required to complete a task. The lack of commands in AR experiences, makes it easier for users to navigate. It means, less reading, scrolling and clicking. By reducing the interaction cost, AR also minimizes the cognitive load, which is the effort required to learn, understand and complete a task. There is a limited amount of information that the brain can process. AR done right avoids overwhelming users, engaging them with the interface. You can find out more about the role of psychology and visual interaction in UX design here.
As a result of minimizing the interaction cost and cognitive load, AR experiences are able to catch the attention of users, providing meaningful information when necessary and in real time.
What you should do
Designers who have successfully incorporated AR in their user experiences, are rethinking their UX processes to adapt their practices and harness the possibilities that this technology provides. Going from a flat screen to a 360º public space, involves understanding the human body and its natural interaction with their surroundings. It involves considering that both, the environment and people, change constantly and unexpectedly. Designers will even have to consider how AR changes what is socially acceptable: “Mobile phones and other pervasive technologies have shifted our social norms around what is acceptable in public places. But the augmented reality movement will exacerbate these issues even further.”
Finally, it’s tempting to focus on what people can do with technology, instead of how this technology is going to affect people. Keep in mind that technology is a means to solve a problem. Successful AR user experiences don’t use AR just for the sake of AR, but rather use the technology to actually meet the user’s needs.
Technology adoption cycles are accelerating. This poses immense challenges and opportunities for enterprises. The concept of “leapfrogging” has traditionally involved consumers and businesses in the developing world rapidly moving beyond infrastructure and technological adoption constraints, to using the latest technologies. The classic example of leapfrogging is that of mobile technology. Here, thanks to the low cost of cellphones and rapidly expanding wireless access in cities in rural areas, countries have been able to skip fixed-line technology that was crucial for the Internet revolution in other parts of the world.
With digital technology, leapfrogging takes on an additional meaning. By using the power of digital, organizations can rapidly jump ahead of incumbent competition. It makes it possible for enterprises to rapidly gain competitive edge, as they directly adopt advanced digital technologies. In an article for the World Economic Forum, AT Kearney partners, Mauricio Zuazua and Otto Schulz, highlight the potential for startups and emerging companies to overtake established competition. In finance for instance, fintech startups are leapfrogging established financial service providers, to provide new types of banking services, which in many cases are not only generating a positive business impact, but also help improve the quality of life of individuals.
For example, in Latin America there are still many traditional banks that have not yet been able to take advantage of the potential of new digital technologies and meet the needs of the population. Thus, the region is heavily “unbanked” (individuals who do not use any bank service) and “under-banked” (people may have a bank account for instance, but do not use credit services). As a result, we have seen numerous fintechs spreading into these markets to provide mobile banking services that enable consumers to easily manage their finances from their phones. Meanwhile, some banks have recognized the potential of digital (plus the rising competition from fintechs), and have used technology to create new services. For instance, the largest bank in Peru worked with Belatrix to use biometrics and selected publicly available data, to enable people to open a bank account in an instant. Such financial services help promote financial inclusion and reduce extreme poverty.
Leading organizations in 2019 will look to explore opportunities of leapfrogging. The speed of technology adoption lifecycles shows no sign of slowing down. Forward-thinking executives will look to see how these technologies are driving changes to business models, whilst understanding the broader shifts in society which are taking place. It will require a shift in mindset, from looking at incremental changes, to examining what your business will look like in five years time. Opportunities for leapfrogging exist in areas as diverse as mobile commerce to digital identity.
When identifying a leapfrogging strategy for new products, bear in mind the importance of early adopters. Early adopters are often found in less than expected places. For example, several countries in Latin America, including Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, have the highest percentage of early adopters of new products. To take advantage of the power of leapfrogging means developing a bold strategy, which is developed in conjunction with a vision of where society is heading in the next five years.
In this report we have highlighted four key areas where digital is poised to have a dramatic impact in 2019. But they are not the only ones. What is clear, is that digital technology will continue to significantly impact the business landscape. Those organizations that fail to understand the seismic shifts that technology is having on their industry, will miss the opportunities that digital represents, whilst also threatening their long-term survival.