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Nothing is more of a Christmas tradition on the internet than the predictions for the year to come in most any given industry that is technology enabled.
When a year comes to a close, it is nothing if not natural to sit and wonder what will come next and to speculate about how that will come about. Should someone feed it to the right algorithm it would be fascinating to see what has been predicted by pundits everywhere in each industry and collectively across the board, versus what has actually come to pass.
30 years ago, before the era of democratized opinions the internet brought, heralding one’s impression of the near future was reserved for the office Christmas party, it is now everyone’s perceived duty to give their view of what’s just around the corner. Every self-respecting “influencer” will be asked to supply the world with their view of what’s to come.
Furthermore, influence notwithstanding, nowadays, everyone with access to a keyboard or a YouTube channel feels obliged to throw their hat in the predictions ring and they have to, of course, make it big and sensational to entertain their audience despite the fact that, for predictions to be any good, should anyone keep score, they would need to be accurate.
The speed of delivery in most industries has dramatically changed through technology. As soon as an industry has a software enabled digital experiential connection with the consumer, that industry will be using technology to deliver it and the speed at which it can enable it, is undoubted, breakneck.
If you’ve had access to content on the internet over the past 10 years and have an interest in technology, all of the predictions below will ring suspiciously familiar and I predict you shall be reading them in some incarnation or other for many years to come:
- “Big Data Will Change Everything”
“Big Data” – remember that? It was the object of 1 in every 3 articles a few years back. Minds expanded to the enormous amount of information that enterprise has, everyone was awaiting agog to see the transformative effect of analyzing it and Power Point decks everywhere were heralding its transformative potential. The term in itself, is one of the few hype ones that have all but disappeared in the past two years and whilst that’s justified in this instance, the reasons why would be interesting to analyze.
- “Personalized Experiences Will Be The New Norm”
Everyone, yours truly included, has been predicting nearly every year that the opposite of big data, little and very significant data carved out of it that pertains to a certain user, in particular, will transform the way every digital consumer does their finances and commerce. This would de facto mean, that companies that collect and hold data, from banks to Facebook, will put it to good use with -hopefully- the well being of the consumer in mind and use it to hyper-personalize their experience. This would have seen giants like Facebook show their hand at how they want to redefine retail through the data they notoriously hold. Needless to say, 2018’s data-linked PR disasters have put a dent in that prediction and have severely slowed down the realization of the data promise for the individual customer.
- “APIs Everywhere”
Account aggregation PSD2, API platforms, Open Banking, etc. All trendy hype terms, all essentially based on the idea of an open connected future where the consumer is allowed to see all their information in one place and to avail themselves of any service irrespective of the platform or provider they initially accessed it from. All your bank information and services in one place, all your shopping needs to be satisfied by the right provider from any device and all of your usual services connected, integrated and working to make your life easier. A magical future where the consumer is back in control of their customs through informed choice, not accidental access.
- “GAFA To Become Retail Banks”
One of the GAFA entering Finance has been a long-running theme in the industry and outside of it, as it presents both an interesting opportunity and potentially contentious implications. Over the past 10 years, since banking has become digital, bankers everywhere have -sometimes- asked themselves if they need to add GAFA to the list of potential disruptors alongside challenger banks, digital-only propositions or other industries gaining access through account aggregation. Despite how much bankers would like to dismiss the possibility, GAFA has already shown interest in becoming a player in Finance with initiatives ranging from providing various parts of the payment process to obtaining local banking licenses, but never have they declaratively and resoundingly entered a market with a “bank as of today” ribbon to be cut, so their arrival has gone under the radar giving said bankers a false sense of security.
- “Blockchain Will Change Everything”
Blockchain has occupied the minds of not one but all that work in technology over the years. A shift in mentality more than a specific piece of technology, blockchain promised the world to each and every industry with applications from the most mundane to the most disruptive captivating the imagination of every commentator in every corner of the internet. No self-respecting enterprise escaped the need for a Blockchain Lab or at the very least, a Blockchain team to task themselves with finding the most innovative use cases. With its promise of transformative application gravely delayed, or some would argue absent, this particular prediction you will -thankfully- see less of this year as it has fallen into disrepute and the general enthusiasm has justifiably waned considerably.
- “Amazon Shall Take Unprecedented Scale”
This has adjourned every prediction list since their inception but has only recently become easy to substantiate beyond an educated hunch by looking at the evolution of Prime. This year, the explosion of AmazonGo and the potential for being sanctioned for size in some economies will provide even more reason to safely stick it on any of the lists.
- “Cloud Will Become Omnipresent”
Speed, efficiency, innovation enablement. What’s not to love about Cloud as the universal foundation of technology. No one disputes the probability that in the future, all IT will happen in the sky – to think otherwise is tantamount to believing the earth is flat or that one can download the internet on a diskette. Finding an argument where any application will forever live in isolation in someone’s backend server room is increasingly difficult, but as Google, Amazon or Microsoft will tell you, the theoretical penny is slow to drop and the adoption speed doesn’t match the rational view of its potential.
- “Machines To Start Taking Our Jobs”
While no one disputes the advent of automation, this particular prediction is preposterous in the short run but a sure thing in the long run. The evident caveats are where we should concentrate the debate and refine the message, as not all jobs and all humanity are up for grabs no matter what SciFi scenario ignites our imagination, so enterprise should focus on soft skills and exclusively human abilities to redefine overall value of people as true capital and competitive advantage in a world where machines will simply be deployed to take the mundane and predictable out of the equation.
- “Voice To Replace Everything”
To be used for everything from customer service and support to inquiry and information, voice was seen as the be-all, end-all answer to any of our consumer needs and the primary method of communication with any of the companies offering us products or services. With Alexa and Google Home topping the charts as hidden in every Christmas stocking over the past couple of years, one would think the entire universe can query the internet, order groceries or check their bank balance using nothing but their words by now, but we have yet to see the mass adoption and usability addiction that was promised.
- “X will collapse/disappear”
If we replace “X” with “FinTech bubble”, “Crypto”, “IPOs” or “Uberization” you would have read this prediction 100 times this month already. No list for the year to come is complete without an example of something or another vanishing completely.
If you’re looking for predictions fodder any of the above will statistically prove to be a safe bet irrespective whether you personally truly believe in them and whether their transition from technology-wishful-thinking to real life objective happenings is realistically going to come about in the year ahead or not.
One prediction that used to be everywhere a few years back that has now become alarmingly extinct is “20XX will be the year of the consumer with every proposition being designed or re-designed from the ground up with the best experience in mind”. If we seem to have gained prediction-fatigue anywhere, this seems to be the one that has most been dropped by pundits and mainstream media alike and for our collective sake as a consumer, we can only hope it’s from an ill-understood fear of repetition, not a realization that it was never feasible.
The only honest prediction for 2019: “Any of the above may or may not finally happen but what we can count on, is that thanks to technology, simultaneously everything and nothing at all will change. Also, no flying cars this year either.”
December 17, 2018 at 03:32AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs