CTO Insights: Top 3 Technology Challenges in 2017

Rebecca Parsons, CTO at ThoughtWorks, shares her insights into the biggest challenges facing technology executives in 2017.

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Rebecca Parsons, Source: ThoughtWorks

Technology executives face an ongoing challenge to keep up with the latest technology trends if they wish to build an effective business strategy.

2016 has seen many trends on the rise, including mobile technology, IoT and cloud computing. But what challenges will 2017 pose to the tech industry?

Chief Technology Officer at global technology company ThoughtWorks, Rebecca Parsons, shared her thoughts on the challenges facing technology executives both now and in the new year.

With this in mind, Tech Exec. has put together a list of the top three challenges that the technology industry needs to look out for in 2017.

Abandoning Legacy Systems and Embracing Risk

Specialising in enterprise architecture, Parsons argues that this type of software can facilitate experimentation.

“With the way markets are changing and the ways customer expectations are changing… you can do a lot more experimentation because it takes less investment for every given change and you introduce less risk if you’re confident in your ability to deploy safely,” she said.

A company must be able to rely on their systems to support the implementation of new ideas. If they trust their technology and software, then experimentation should become easier.

“If you never have something that doesn’t come to fruition, you’re probably not taking enough risks on ideas.”

While many technology executives fear implementing unsuccessful ideas, Parsons suggests that failure provides crucial insights into what not to do in the future. In some cases, no amount of research can determine whether a project or idea will be successful to the company and the only solution to gaining this information is through experimentation.

“If it’s a mistake that had a good probability of success, and good justification for why that experiment might have worked, then if that experiment fails that’s okay because you learn something.”

However, taking risks is not always that simple. Organisations with legacy systems do not have the experimental freedom that startups possess. As a result, their actions are dictated by the red tape surrounding their business processes.

Parsons believes the key to allowing experimentation is breaking down these legacy systems and collating all of the information within a single system. Only by abandoning these data silos and embracing risk can organisations truly progress in 2017.

It is not a quick or easy process, but it is a critical one when faced with the digital advancements that the future holds.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Although augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) used to be regarded as a novelty in the gaming industry, augmented reality has recently shifted towards the mainstream. The wide-reaching impact of AR and VR can now be seen in a range of industries, from allowing remote repair support, to providing spatial awareness for architectural firms.

However, AR and VR are set to create significant challenges for businesses that lack the capability to implement their delivery.

Parsons explains that holistic data systems are crucial in the development of this technology as they provide a seamless customer experience that remains consistent across different worlds.

“One of the important enablers is the notion of a unified customer experience where the different kinds of interactions share a common profile and you can seamlessly, as a consumer, move across that.”

“That requires, from a technology perspective, that all of these systems be aware of each other.”

Larger businesses often make the common mistake of trying to merge different systems, and this is especially evident in the acquisition of other companies.

“It’s a real problem to take the separate customer information systems from those formerly different organisations and force them together.”

The challenge with implementing these upcoming technologies often lies within the business itself. Without the infrastructure and imagination to use AR and VR effectively, this innovation will fail to reach its full potential.

“At the moment, we are limited by the creativity of organisations in thinking about how they can use this new technique,” said Parsons.

Clearly, she views AR and VR as a key technology that has the potential to expand rapidly in 2017, within the right environment.

Offline Digital Experience

Despite the digital age driving businesses to create seamless online experiences, the emergence of the offline world has begun to creep into a range of industries.

With Spotify offering offline music capabilities and Netflix recently announcing offline streaming services, this could rival the online experience in 2017.

Parsons suggested that the online experience can be misunderstood, with many companies focussing on its mere implementation as opposed to what it is actually trying to achieve.

“Just because you can be connected all the time, doesn’t mean you want to be.”

Drawing on Amazon’s new bricks-and-mortar store, Amazon Go, Parsons suggests the interaction between online and offline is similar to the interaction between the physical store and online store.

It is imperative that these two extremes support and complement one another in order to profit the organisation as a whole. With many using the physical store to interact and examine a product but ultimately buying it online, businesses must make the transition between the two seamless.

In this sense, the digital world is an enabler of change and fluidity; both online and offline experiences and physical and online stores have illustrated this interchangeability. It is now up to businesses to adapt to this environment or risk being disrupted.

“You don’t need to always be 24/7 connected to be engaged in the digital world.”

Parsons’ insights reveal that businesses must embrace these challenges in order to progress in the new year. Those who take advantage of the changing environment, focus on customer experience and take risks will be the ones reaping the rewards.