The technology expansion of the past decade fueled by the mobile computers in our pocket is slowing, signaling the end to easy growth. Mobile apps are becoming less important as channels of digital engagement are expanding from wearables to vehicles to messaging platforms. Companies are also learning to manage big data but still struggle to figure out how to act on it quickly. In this environment, organizations need to be smart, agile and dynamic to compete in 2017 and beyond. This reality is driving three important trends that will define how digital experiences are built and delivered in the New Year.
- Advancements in artificial intelligence
- Increasingly granular architectures
- Growing reliance on automation
We see the growth of these three trends feeding off each other by simultaneously making the software world more flexible yet complex and, when done right, bringing order and insight. Companies need to embrace change and complexity and innovate even faster to grow and stay competitive.
AI will support new experiences that disrupt the status quo
AI is supporting new experiences in mobile apps and big data and neural networks are coming together to make these experiences smarter and more engaging.
Chatbots are becoming all the rage as this Chinese phenomenon has migrated to the US and provided a new channel to engage users through chat applications. While these experiences are still very rudimentary we expect advancements in AI to make them much smarter and useful. Naturel language processing and deep learning are helping chatbots better understand our intents and provide more relevant responses.
Similarly, Convolutional Neural Networks are revolutionizing image recognition and enabling users to engage with their environment in new ways. Pokemon Go captured the world’s attention with AR even though it is a very basic form of what is possible. Investments in self-driving cars are creating new breakthroughs in neural networks that enable machines to better identify objects and roads. We see some of these advancements supporting next generation augmented reality experiences in 2017. Blippar has already brought to market an app that can identify people’s faces and objects enabling a new way to explore our world and discover new content on the web.
While the promise and potential of new experience powered by AI are very compelling, these types of technologies have disappointed in the past. These systems still need more data to train on and get smarter. With the continued attention and investment in this space in 2017, we look forward to seeing really smart experiences.
As with any new advancements, the status quo will be disrupted. The control mobile operating systems and search engines have on content discovery gated by the app store and search is also being eroded by the emergence of visual discovery and chatbots. How Google and Apple respond and participate will be an important dynamic to keep an eye on this year.
Software continues to get more granular and flexible
As companies and their technologies are forced to be more agile, development practices have followed suit. Apps and services have been broken down into smaller pieces that that can be easily assembled to quickly create robust and unique experiences. This is happening on both the front end and back end.
Microservices were a big hit in 2016 and we expect continued adoption of these componentized mini services. An April 2016 Container Journal survey found that 1/3 of respondents had microservices in production and 70% of respondents were investing in them.
This trend is also migrating to the front end of digital and mobile engagement. Google announced Instant Apps in May which are mini apps that can be launched from a separate app through deep linking. Only relevant code and content is loaded so the response is quick. Small interfaces or widgets are also being used inside chat apps to process payment or present content.
This trend towards smaller bits of code will lead to more dynamic experiences that can be personalized and customized much more easily. The challenge with smaller and more dynamic apps and experiences is they become very difficult to manage. With brands trying to maintain a consistent message across all channels to deliver a true omnichannel experience, managing such complexity may be too hard for the human to handle on their own. This increased complexity will drive demand for even more automation in delivering and maintain these experiences.
To support complexity software development is increasingly automated
Automation is reducing repetitive tasks to increase the speed of delivery and free up humans to focus on higher cognitive tasks and oversight.
DevOps practices such as continuous delivery and continuous integration are no longer nascent and new build automation and testing automation tools are gaining market traction. Container orchestration engines such as Kubernetes are also seeing explosive growth. These solutions automate the process of building apps with containers through orchestration, self-healing, and automatic roll outs and rollbacks that monitor apps as changes are being rolled out.
Consolidation of development silos and integration will also be enabled by new automation tools. Workflow automation tools are being used to coordinate the synchronization of data between modern software and legacy systems to make it more accessible across multiple systems.
We expect automation in software delivery to continue to get more sophisticated and integrated in 2017. Software development and delivery will resemble an assembly line as software migrates through an integrated tool chain.
As DevOps has become mainstream and automated, monitoring and quality control will be increasingly important. Ensuring that code is secure and functions well will drive demand for additional tools that integrate testing and security throughout the process. Metrics and monitoring tools that identify opportunities for greater optimization and remove bottlenecks will also see greater adoption, enabling enterprises to deliver better code quicker.
Process improvement will drive gains in 2017
With the delivery of digital experiences smarter, more componentized and automated they will evolve quickly in 2017. Experiences will continue to get more personalized and conversational making it easier for users yet more complex for development and IT.
With the rate of change accelerating the divide between the innovators and the laggards will continue to widen. Organizations that can break down processes into smaller pieces, and intelligently automate them and leverage AI to deliver the right content and data at the right time will gain a competitive advantage.
AI combined with an automation engine can assist in delivering the right widget in a chat app or more effectively orchestrating containers and fixing problems. In either case, components + automation+ artificial intelligence = better faster and more relevant engagements.
Monitoring, process control, and analytics will be an increasingly important theme in 2017. The ability for organizations to analyze their processes and make incremental improvements to delivery will pay significant dividends in better digital experiences and more loyal users and customers.