The 2018 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo kicked off this morning in Cape Town, with the research firm tackling the idea of digital transformation, and how the concept of ContinuousNext can better prepare businesses for impending disruption.

This notion took on even stronger significance for South Africa and the rest of the continent, as economic uncertainty threatens to derail any of the best laid plans for digital transformation that organisations may have in place.

A stalling countermeasure

While digital transformation could potentially be stalled, Gartner EVP for research, Mike Harris believes that the adoption of a ContinuousNext mindset could be the kickstarter that organisations need.

So what precisely is ContinuousNext?

Well Harris and his colleagues boiled down the concept into five essential pillars, each of which are interdependent and vitally important if organisations are going to achieve actual transformation in the research firm’s view.

The pillars are Augmented Intelligence, privacy, culture, project to product and digital twins.

Augmented Intelligence

Starting with Augmented Intelligence, which poses both the greatest potential and the largest perceived threat to organisations, says Gartner. The latter can be dispelled says Harris, with employees more concerned with Augmented Intelligence as being an unknown entity.

Interestingly, Gartner has found that 57 percent of the companies that do employ AI report no change, with a further 26 percent noting an increase in the amount of jobs as a result of Augmented Intelligence.

As such, organisations that not only leverage the vast pools of data they’ve amassed over the past few years, and make the most of their current workforce, should look to Augmented Intelligence as a tool for differentiation and creation of a competitive edge.

Privacy

Another growing concern is privacy, and it’s Gartner’s view that the CIOs of organisations are having restless nights thinking about it.

This has become the case as privacy now outranks convenience as a priority for employees, according to the research firm.

In order to deal with this issue, Gartner says three main steps need to be taken. The first is putting an individual within the organisation in charge of handling privacy, next is to actively detect and report breaches and lastly is giving employees control of their own devices.

Another avenue for CIOs to actively investigate is new technologies, and digital ledgers in particular, with Gartner highlighting Blockchain in particular as a potential solution to the growing issue of privacy.

Culture

One of the more curious aspects of the keynote was the presentation on changing the culture of organisations, and more specifically changing it by hacking.

This may seem like a daunting undertaking, but it is one that organisations can do in about 48 hours says Gartner, with the research firm even listing 10 quick and easy hacking steps that one could implement.

These include things like celebrating failure, letting everyone lead in some capacity, rewarding decision-making and creating a motto, among other things.

While technology plays an important role in digital transformation, it is a change in culture that Gartner highlights as being able to trigger the shift.

Project to product

The next is also a shift in thinking that organisations need to take, with Gartner highlighting innovative companies like Amazon, Tesla and Apple for being more than just limited to their specific industry, and rather imbuing a technological mindset into everything they approach.

More specifically it requires a change from project management to product management as Gartner terms it.

Shifting to product management promotes a greater degree of ownership, increases the visibility of the organisation and creates the chance for continuous innovation, according to the research firm.

Digital Twins 

The final aspect to the ContinuousNext picture is the power of digital twins.

Creating one for an entire organisation, or simply a segment of the organisation can hold great value for businesses that want to test new solutions, but are concerned with mitigating risk, says Gartner.

One success story highlighted by Gartner in terms of the implementation of Digital Twins (DTOs) is Siemens, which was able to set up a new solution on its Digital Twin setup, before sharing it with the rest of the global organisation. They even reported a 24 percent increase in automation as a result of utilising DTOs.

Time to act

With Gartner closing out the keynote by adding that the vast majority of organisations in the country (and continent) are yet to fully embrace their digital transformation journey, the time is now for that voyage to begin.

By embracing and implementing the aforementioned pillars, Gartner believes that organisations that suffer from traditional constraints can leapfrog their more innovative counterparts, as it is the more dynamic business that thrives.