The pandemic was a turning point in digital evolution. Enterprises of all sizes and sectors were clamouring to offer clients digitally in 2020; however, moving forward, businesses and service providers would focus on boosting growth through digital channels to mitigate the negative effects of unexpected financial strain. They don't have an option but to create new digitally enabled operations, in which technology is used to service people, their requirements, and frequently newly acquired behaviours.

1. Data as creative material

Business leaders are increasingly recognising the advantages of leveraging data-driven approaches to improving customer experience and including this in their strategic roadmaps to increase user base, engagement or purchases.

Analytical data helps businesses assess the needs of their target customers and deliver personalised experiences providing differentiated customer journeys and more accurate forecasting and demand planning. Moreover, data from analytics promotes more effective inventory and supply chain management, thereby answering the need of the hour with the pandemic and compounding supply and fulfilment issues as we head into the latter part of the year.

2. New online business models will drive growth

As a result of the necessity to innovate, businesses worldwide are exploring additional revenue streams. This means that new online business models are emerging - mainly using digital ecosystems - that either complement existing business models or function as a completely new business. An example of this was the direct-to-consumer boom, where manufacturing giants embraced online ordering, with another being car manufacturers selling cars online.

These new models are driven by flexibility coming from changes to governmental and organisational policy and regulations because of the pandemic. Another factor is the introduction and management of digital channels by using experience management, or low code, platforms that support the creation and launch of new experiences to market fast.

While many businesses have turned to digital models for selling, one of the most disruptive use cases we have seen, is in the healthcare domain in the form of video consultation by doctors. With restrictions in place and hesitancy towards in-person interactions and diagnosis in many regions, remote consultation was widely adopted and accepted in 2020.

While this shift was embraced by patients and doctors, it also inadvertently helped improve the reach of the provision of healthcare to vulnerable people and those living in remote regions. It also sparked a change of thinking within these organisations towards more digitally enabled and efficient solutions, the impetus of which we’re now seeing taken forwards into a more decentralised form of healthcare.

3. A strong focus on building resilient supply chains

Supply chains continue to come under severe stress due to restrictions on movement and social distancing. Part of the recovery exercise for businesses is to repair the broken sections of their supply chains by establishing future proof networks that leverage local resources. This prompts interesting questions about local investments in everything from microchips to vegetables - moving us potentially to a more blended form of local vs. global supply. Here, analytics will play a central role in demand forecasting which will gain traction with the help of automation as a supporting technology.

4. AI technologies complementing diverse use cases

AI adoption has steadily increased in recent years, although, non-novel applications to the right problems often underpin those who see positive results.

AI has effectively become the backbone of advanced technologies such as automation, IoT (Internet of Things), data analytics, robotics, cloud and chatbots across a wide range of applications such as AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations), governance, compliance, customer experience, decision making and forecasting - and this trend is set to boom in the coming years.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in BCS. The original article can be found at https://www.bcs.org/articles-opinion-and-research/what-2021-tells-us-about-digital-transformation-in-2022/)