Digital business, done. What’s next?

Digital transformation was once the future. Now, as companies large and small are in the midst of transforming themselves to out-disrupt competitors, they’re searching for ways to use proven technologies to capture new markets.

At the IBM Center for Applied Insights, we study how leading organizations succeed and how they create strategic advantage. We’ve tapped into the experience of leaders around the world to highlight patterns of adoption and best practices for pursuing business priorities that drive the digital enterprise. And through our insights, we make the case for change.

From the proven to the cutting edge, here’s what we’ve learned from the wisdom of leaders to direct business priorities in 2016.

Cloud has grown up

Cloud has shaken off the doubters and emerged as a leading driver of technological change. While both public and private cloud use continues to skyrocket, our research shows that it’s actually hybrid environments that underpin the success of many digital initiatives. In fact, hybrid cloud is the de facto state of IT.

Moreover, 85 percent of leading organizations are using hybrid cloud to power digital transformation — spurring digital business goals and kick-starting next-generation initiatives like the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics and cognitive computing.

Security and resiliency continue to be critical concerns in the face of high-profile cybersecurity breaches and outages. But security and disaster recovery professionals — from CISOs to CROs — tell us they’re targeting new approaches to determine true risk and adopting customized frameworks to guide decision making.

The cognitive era is now

The data deluge has spurred new methods to understand information. From our conversations with data leaders, we found that organizations at the forefront are standardizing and optimizing analytics capabilities and skills to glean meaningful insights. From CDOs to data scientists, new roles are emerging to help companies thrive in a data-rich future.

The value of data relationships is also becoming clearer in the age of digital-savvy consumers and the prevalence of IoT. Along with devices, connections, processes and platforms, rich data and analytics are the key to widespread IoT adoption.

Up next for many organizations is the leap into the cognitive era. Early adopters are already using adaptive, self-learning systems to garner intelligent recommendations to make better decisions. They tell us that they’re shifting from simply leveraging real-time analytics to embracing sophisticated prescriptive and predictive capabilities. Along with augmenting skills, early adopters are finding that cognitive is already giving them a competitive edge.

It’s a quantum future

Technologies like virtual assistants and affective computing (systems that can interpret and simulate human emotions) may be the next leap after cognitive adoption, and the research community is actively pushing the boundaries of current technology.

One area we’re particularly excited about is quantum computing. Promising exponentially more speed and power than what is achievable with computers today, quantum computers could potentially transform entire industries, from healthcare to transportation.

Technological breakthroughs like quantum will also require a shift in mindset to nurture new skills and ecosystems that bring together academic and business communities to collaborate and innovate.

The shift to digital everything is part of an accelerating trend in technology. Innovation and disruption are happening at breakneck speeds as organizations race to stay ahead of competitors and markets. At the IBM Center for Applied Insights, we speak with technology and business leaders at the forefront of these changes to learn how they succeed. And our insights can help companies of all sizes think about change strategically.

Previously published on IBM Center for Applied Insights, February 16, 2016.
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