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Forrester: 2019 Will Be Fork-in-the-Road Moment for Digital Transformation

The coming year will be a fork-in-the-road moment for company leaders when it comes to digital transformation, according to a new report. How companies respond will go a long way to determining whether all these much-discussed — and heavily funded — digital journeys reach a worthwhile destination.

This is the how Forrester Research sees the future shaping up anyway, as described by Carrie Johnson, chief research officer, in the research firm’s recently released 2019 predictions guide, “Transformation Goes Pragmatic.”

“What,” she writes, “do we mean by pragmatism? A sense of realism, practical steps, a desire for tangible outcomes. It’s a good description for what we are seeing in a market that carried ambitious strategies into 2018 but ran afoul of internal headwinds.”

“The revolution was interrupted . . . but hopefully not stopped.”

– Carrie Johnson, chief research officer at Forrester Research

Due to these headwinds, companies have stalled out on areas like customer experience and begun to fall victim to what she calls “organizational inertia.” Other hurdles include organizational readiness, technical debt, data governance, and aging brands.

And this has created the fork in the road. She wonders whether more executives will look at these results and retrench or maintain their course while learning from any missteps that may have occurred.

“The revolution was interrupted . . . but hopefully not stopped,” writes Johnson.

The results will be mixed, according to the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research and consulting firm. A full one-fourth of firms will “decelerate digital efforts altogether and lose market share,” states the predictions report.

“Tangible efforts” will center on initiatives such as “lower-cost digital channels, launching digital products, monetizing data assets, and automating processes to improve margins.”

– Forrester Research

More broadly, the company predicts an increasingly “surgical” approach to digital in which practical goals are prioritized over the pie-in-the-sky promises that have been trumpeted in the past but have been slow to arrive.

“In 2019, digital transformation moves from super-wide enterprise efforts to a pragmatic, surgical portfolio view of digital investments with the goal of making incremental and necessary changes to operations,” states the report.

These “tangible efforts” will center on initiatives such as “lower-cost digital channels, launching digital products, monetizing data assets, and automating processes to improve margins.”

Along similar lines, another one of the report’s predictions is that 20% of companies will abandon “strategic customer experience initiatives” and instead “resort to price reduction for short-term gains,” says the study.

20% of companies will abandon “strategic customer experience initiatives” and instead “resort to price reduction for short-term gains.” 

– Forrester Research

Perhaps most importantly, Forrester also sees 2019 as a critical time for the chief information officer (CIO). They have never had more on their plate. They must balance system upgrades, new tech initiatives, and data security while being constantly forced to show their value in ROI terms. Amid all this expansion of their realm, some are not receiving the subsequent responsibility and authority that it would seem to demand.

And that will continue next year in many cases. But around 25% will see their roles grow. “CIOs will spend the time to build their leadership teams, empowering trusted operators to handle much of the day-to-day,” states the study. “Arguably the most important outcome of 2019 is that leading CIOs will build a model that translates tech-led innovation into customer value.”

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