The year 2017 has arrived and with it a host of predictions about what we can expect to see in the world of digital business in the year ahead. In a recently released report, the global research and advisory firm Forrester explored the following seven trends and developments that experts predict will have the greatest impact on the sphere of digital business and leadership in the year ahead.
The customer-led, digitally driven market that has emerged in recent years has placed a considerable strain on the CEOs and boards of traditional companies. In the struggle to reinvent themselves in order to meet the expectations of today’s digitized consumers, many enterprises are becoming increasingly aware that the incremental business changes that they have been experimenting with may not go far enough. As a result, Forrester expects that 2017 will see business leaders implementing more drastic restructuring moves in order to become closer to customers and deliver a better customer experience. Such moves could include shifting operational controls from the top down to individual brands and divisions in order to boost responsiveness.
Changing demands on the CMO
The competency standards for the chief marketing officer are changing. Previously, CMOs tended to fall into one of two main camps: brand-oriented CMOs who focused on the creative, right-brain side of experience design and analytics-oriented CMOs who used data insights and technology to craft context-rich experiences. But today, in both B2C and B2B companies, CEOs are increasingly requiring CMOs to master a blended skill set that draws on design and analytics alike. While many CMOs may find it challenging or uncomfortable to transition from being right- or left-brained CMOs to being “whole-brained” ones, it is hardly an optional shift. Forrester predicts that nearly one-third of CMOs will be exited by their CEOs this year for failing to achieve the necessary blend of competencies.
CIOs assuming greater leadership
Today, technology is impacting the customer experience and revenue performance in profound ways, but for the most part CIOs have not yet achieved a front-and-center role in leading the business technology agenda for their companies. However, Forrester expects 2017 to be a tipping point in this respect. As budgets shift more aggressively from traditional IT spending to the technologies that drive customer experiences, Forrester predicts that more CIOs will be motivated to take the bull by the horns and assume a leading position in shaping the digital strategy for their firms.
Changing leadership priorities
Companies fighting to stay relevant in a customer-led, digital-focused economy no longer need the same things from their leaders that they once did. Today, knowing profit and loss statistics and possessing a solid stock of political capital is not enough to be able to control a business and consistently drive efficiency. Instead, new leadership priorities have emerged: namely, an understanding of the value of personalized customer engagement; the skills to run a digital business; and the knowledge of how to win over today’s digital-centered consumers. Forrester expects that the attrition rate will double in the year ahead as CEOs exit incumbent leaders and managers in favor of new appointees who can propel the company forward.
Many of the new executive roles and titles that were created over the last decade—such as chief digital officer, chief data officer, and chief customer officer—were necessary impromptu responses to address the sudden need for new skills in companies undergoing digital transformation. However, these stopgap roles no longer make business sense now that it’s clear that solid digital skills and knowledge are essential for the entire leadership team in a customer-led, digital-centric market. In 2017, Forrester predicts that temporal roles like these will be gradually absorbed and reintegrated into traditional roles as CEOs continue to strengthen and normalize their leadership teams for today’s market.
Greater focus on digital trust
Cybersecurity is one of today’s most pressing issues, with customers placing a high premium on digital trust for businesses and public entities alike. And with security and privacy concerns expected to escalate in 2017, no business leader can afford to be unprepared for this risk. Forrester anticipates that ransomware, denial of service, targeted espionage, and privacy breaches will become far more commonplace in the year ahead, with serious potential consequences for areas such as health care information, Internet of Things devices, and national security.
Despite the picture painted by macroeconomic job and unemployment statistics, select technology- and digital-focused jobs will continue to in short supply in the year ahead. Scarce supply will lead to labor market battles among business, marketing, and technology leaders. The main roles and competencies that will be most sought after and hardest to fill will include: data scientists, software developers, statistical and predictive analytics professionals, cybersecurity experts, augmented and virtual reality designers, content development professionals skilled in narrative storytelling, and customer experience design professionals.