Good afternoon! The past two years have shown that forecasting the future is challenging, to say the least. With this week’s Braintrust question we asked a cross-section of tech executives about what kind of planning they were doing to future-proof their companies. Questions or comments? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CTO at Talend
As AI drives automation in data management, we’re proofing against its bias and black boxes. As data sources, volumes, users and destinations increase faster than data teams can scale, AI will serve an increasingly important role in helping data teams manage the volume with fewer resources. However, we must strike a careful balance between human- and AI-informed decision-making. Automation is often necessary for solving many problems. However, important decisions, especially ethical ones, require human intervention to eliminate bias.
That’s not to say humans don’t have biases; we certainly do, and machines carry that forward, so it is our responsibility to check the data powering these algorithms. As an industry, we need to risk-proof against the biases that lead to faulty data by investing in explainable AI, which validates the decision of algorithms with context, commentary and data to support it. This transparency helps users to understand what data they can trust and ensure they can use it to power the algorithms that help them in their everyday work. Black boxes are a liability that users cannot afford when data and automation are so crucial for powering business decisions.
With Chrome abandoning third-party cookies in 2023, marketers will need to ensure the Internet remains free for users. As businesses spend 2022 preparing for this change to the Internet, they will need to find new solutions that provide a more relevant ad experience, which funds the amazing free content we get to enjoy, while also being privacy-friendly for consumers. This will become even more important as user privacy regulations continue to take hold around the world.
President, Lenovo Solutions & Services Group (SSG) at Lenovo
Businesses today operate in a complex environment — a never-ending series of three-dimensional chess-boxing matches. And the future will be inevitably more complex. In that context, some argue that IT departments are a relic of the past, ill-suited to the demands of a digital-first world, and that decentralization is the way of the future.
When every company is a technology company and technology itself is a competitive differentiator, it’s essential to rethink the way that IT services are delivered and how IT resources are integrated into business units.
Companies need to be flexible enough to scale up and down different tech stacks for a hybrid, global workforce, and adapt to new challenges. What works in one geography might not for another. Enterprise device management, network management and technical skills are no less important for in-house IT, but understanding the different layers of line-of-business challenges, needs and opportunities is equally crucial to ensure business goals are met.
Ultimately there’s a huge opportunity to reframe IT from a purely reactive role into a proactive force for business-wide transformation.
Lenovo is on this journey together with our customers and our ecosystem of technology partners. We’re committed to supporting their ongoing transformation by reorganizing our business around the needs of today’s CIOs and IT leaders who are searching for innovative, agile and truly global solutions.
There is no such thing as future-proofing. There is preparing for what the future inevitably brings. We can be sure the future will throw us ample opportunity and more risk than we want.
In response, preparation is simple:
Start and end with the customer. Too often companies tout the capabilities of their platform rather than speaking to customer needs. On the back of authenticity, trust, and clarity, those that tell their story in service of their customers' needs will increasingly win.
Reinvent. Any technology company must be bold in cannibalizing its technology and reinventing its business model. A major trend that will impact the B2B fintech space will be the consumerization of B2B customer expectations, making UX only increase in importance. We can be sure if we don’t disrupt ourselves, someone else will.
Take care of financial health. The future will always be easier from a position of financial strength. Today’s easy money environment will not last forever, meaning raising another round at a favorable valuation will not either. Pricing, cost structure, and balance sheet discipline provide stable platforms from which to seize opportunity and buttress against unforeseen challenges.
Easy in concept, hard in practice. Businesses default to thinking about our products from their own point of view, they are reticent to throw away technology and refactor, and they most often default to the needs of the day at the expense of tomorrow.
While there isn’t any such thing as future proofing, being mindful of preparing for an uncertain future goes a long way.
Within the digital health industry, I’m future-proofing care delivery so that it strikes a careful balance between virtual and in-person care.
Our opportunity on the back of the global pandemic is to recognize that the forced shift to telehealth was imperfect, and to begin designing tomorrow’s care foundations thoughtfully. This starts with a major mindset shift across all stakeholders in the health industry — health plans, employers, healthcare professionals, legal/regulatory — which is needed to break through the zero-sum trade-offs of the healthcare ecosystem. Approaching health care through a virtual-first perspective enables patients to take ownership of their health everyday in between in-person doctor visits. Over time, virtual-first care helps members make lasting changes to their behavior to be healthier.
One of the most significant trends shaping businesses over the last few years is the rising importance of developers. Developers are building the products, solutions and capabilities separating cutting-edge businesses from their lagging counterparts. And I firmly believe we’re only at the beginning of this new developer economy. This has serious implications for software companies who not only want to be relevant today, but remain so as this trend picks up steam.
For software companies, if you’re not delivering capabilities in a developer-friendly manner, one that allows them to build on your platform, you’re going to get left behind. That’s why at ThoughtSpot, we’ve taken a deliberate, API-driven approach that makes it simple for developers to embed different ThoughtSpot services right into their own products. We’ve launched a new low-code development platform called ThoughtSpot Everywhere that makes building and launching data products fast, simple and efficient.
The contact-center industry must reimagine customer engagement, and businesses must rebuild the contact center around the customer.
We are in the midst of a critical inflection point for how businesses engage with their customers. This train has already left the station and those who miss it will struggle to survive in the new era of customer engagement. Today's customers have many choices to communicate with companies and the contact center needs to evolve to ensure that businesses can reach them on all their preferred channels, connect to the right data to have personalized interactions and have the right technology to adjust as customer needs change. The companies that will come out ahead through this shift must move away from the traditional siloed contact center to delivering unified customer engagement to ensure that every customer receives the red carpet treatment.
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.