After delivering talks at several recent industry events and having a wide range of discussions with digital leaders, it’s clear that organizations are becoming increasingly pragmatic when it comes to digital. They are getting back to basics and looking to deliver small, manageable chunks of innovation.

They are also tossing aside their digital road maps — one CDO actually told me he now keeps his road map locked in a desk drawer! Others are looking for digital to boost near-term operational efficiency through “retrofit” projects, with a sense of urgency driven by a certain expectation of economic uncertainty.

Digital leaders are also asking their services partners to do the same. And many of the partners at those firms have in fact expressed that the best way to pitch bigger-bang innovation efforts is by showing how these projects can be funded through efficiency gains, even while many of these same firms look to do a better job blending digital strategy with execution as well as add in new creative services (see Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5 as the latest example of this trend — and our roundup of 2018 deals in new research from Amanda LeClair).

Revisiting Forrester’s Digital Business Predictions

A lot has happened this year already. As we approach the midpoint of 2019, it’s a great time to revisit our crystal ball. Beyond our core call that transformation will, and needs, to morph into focused tech-driven innovation efforts, two of our predictions are already looking especially on point:

  1. B2B commerce is becoming a new driver for profits. Connectivity technology such as APIs and the internet of things have created great disruption and opportunity for B2B buyers and sellers, and the rise of new intermediaries is in full swing. Many of the manufacturers I’ve spoken with in the past four months are not only seeking new efficiencies in their interactions with suppliers and distributors but are also keen to explore direct-to-consumer options and ways to reach new audiences via marketplaces. Front and center in this discussion is the role of Amazon, and new predictions claim that it is quickly on its way to capturing 10% of the B2B market in the US. New marketplace builders are seeing increased demand and attention, with some key players, including Mirakl ($70M led by Bain Capital) and Singapore-based Zilingo ($226M led by Sequoia), raising significant funding since the start of the year.
  2. The hot roles are (experience- and) product-heavy. Firms continue to actively seek more digital designers and experience managers. These “builders” are in high demand — especially those with strong data and analytics skills. For organizations looking to launch new digital services or upend traditional delivery models, these skills are a difference maker. Think of Goodyear Tires’ push into B2B commerce and electric-vehicle fleet-related services or how The Home Depot’s digital makeover and launch of the top-rated retail mobile app was sparked by the hiring of more than 1,000 in-house techies: Data-savvy digital product owners will continue to be critical to aligning customer and market demand with technology priorities, and they’ll work closely with the teams actually building out the new portal or app. Want proof? Our brand-new digital experience panel survey shows that the top two functional areas where digital executives feel most understaffed are analytics/data and customer experience.

Let Trends Shape Your Digital Strategy

Whether launching new B2B or B2C initiatives, tech and eBusiness leaders should continue to be on the lookout for quick wins when it comes to digital. Look to digitize remaining channels and explore new value-added services, such as warranties or financing or even online training if you own a commerce storefront. Double down on self-service, traditionally (and still) the shortest path to showing ROI.

But most importantly, even as you look for tactical ways to tune up your digital experience stack (see below), make sure you are fully leveraging your partners, as Ted Schadler discusses in his excellent research on software/service provider relationships, and building innovation into your processes to drive both immediate and sustainable change.

Digital Business

Remember: It’s all about the journey.

Download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide to understand why 2019 will be the year that transformation goes pragmatic.