The Digital Economy is no longer a just a concept, but
rather an operational reality for more and more firms, research firm IDC told
its attendees at its annual
Directions conference this week. In a variety of presentations, analysts
discussed how technology is impacting enterprises and the overall economy, with
the research firm predicting that within three years, more than half of global
GDP will be driven by “digitally transformed” enterprises.
Because of concerns about the coronavirus,
the conference was held online, and IDC President Crawford Del Prete said the
group now expects that IT growth in 2020 will probably end up at 2.5 to 3
percent, a couple points lower than the firm was expecting before the virus outbreak.
Del Prete said the digital economy is increasingly being
driven by more powerful platforms, with ecosystems gaining lots of developers,
as well as buy-in from major enterprises. As a result, he said innovation has
accelerated, particularly the ability to target the specific needs of customers.
We are moving to a more data driven world, but success involves transforming data
into insights. Customers today expect engagement, personalization and
simplicity, and it is incumbent among suppliers to provide these capabilities.
He described the “fast five” big trends of today’s
digital economy. AI is everywhere, with the technologies being incorporated
into more and more products. Everyone is a developer, with more people able to
create applications and more applications being created today than ever. The
cloud is no long seen as a location, but rather as a platform, which includes
edge devices and needs to be managed. Trust now includes more than just
security. Customers want to work with you to create automated solutions as
quickly as possible.
Riffing off the common comment that “data is the new
oil,” he said, “Data will no longer be viewed as ‘oil,’ but as water.
It is essential for life but needs to be accessible and clean.”
The Digital-First Enterprise
IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens elaborated on a number of these
things, saying he thought the biggest pivot was that “Enterprises are
becoming big time producers of technology, not just consumers.”
He gave several examples of companies that have become
“digitally transformed” including Walmart now becoming the third
largest purchaser of technology (behind Alphabet and Amazon) and now offering
things like its own distribution system; and Goldman Sachs providing its own
APIs that other companies can build on.
By 2023, IDC predicts that 52 percent of global GDP will be
driven by “digitally transformed” enterprises; and that by 2024, 51
percent of IT budgets will be for digital innovation and transformation.
This is paying off, Gens said, noting that an IDC survey
shows that “digital-first” enterprises across retail, manufacturing,
and banking delivered 8 times the revenue growth and twice the profit margin compared
to “digital laggards” over the past five years.
One big transformation is moving the infrastructure away
from traditional data centers into both the cloud and into edge devices.
In 2021, IDC predicts there will be 38 billion connected
“things” and said the 39,000 core data centers are both too few and
too far away to support all of these. He is predicting a big growth in a
distributed tier of “cloud systems” at the edge and near-edge—things like
bank branch offices, hotels, and retail sites. He is thus expecting a “renaissance”
in enterprise infrastructure as these cloud-like devices are installed. By
2022, IDC expects 70 percent of enterprises will deploy hybrid/multi-cloud
management across their digital infrastructure, and that by 2023 over half of
new infrastructure will be deployed at the edge (including all sites outside of
corporate data centers), compared with just 10 percent last year. Some of these
systems will be fully integrated with cloud offerings (such as AWS Outposts),
while others will be more open (such as those based on Azure Stack, Red Hat, or
Google Anthos). The methods of distributing and using this infrastructure may
change as well, as this is becoming strategic for more firms.
Indeed, he talked about how enterprises were increasingly
incorporating technology from multiple sources, including open source,
internally developed, and external solutions, into creating a larger system,
which he dubbed a “digital innovation factory.” As a result,
technology vendors are increasingly becoming part of their customer’s
“digital supply chain.” Last year, he said only 20 percent of an
enterprise’s codebase came from outside; by 2025, IDC predicts that 80 percent
of code in enterprise digital services will be externally sourced.
He said enterprises were increasingly using agile and DevOps
methods of creating and managing software, more modular software, and
democratizing development. As a result, IDC expects 60 percent of enterprises
will deploy code to production at least once a day by 2025. Last year, it was
only 3 percent.
As a result, he said IDC predicts that over 520 million new
apps and services will be developed and deployed in support of the digital
economy by 2024. To put that in context, that is about the same number of
applications produced in the next four years as have been produced in the past
Much of this will use at least some external code, Gens
said, and many will open their code to external partners in a process of
“hyperconnecting enterprises and industries.” IDC predicts that 60
percent of the Global 2000 will have third party developer ecosystems, and 30
percent of the Global 2000 will derive more than 20 percent of digital revenue
from third party developers and partners, all by 2023. Already, he said, over
half of Fortune 100 have developer APIs available.
For technology providers, he said, this presents new
challenges and opportunities. He said we will see a “new species of
enterprise” so we need a “new species of tech provider” to help customers
scale and extend their digital reach, build digital innovation factories, and
create digital distribution platforms and ecosystems. In other words, technology
providers will need to position themselves in their customers’ “digital
A New Species of Tech Supplier
In a talk mainly aimed at technology suppliers, IDC Chief
Research Officer Meredith Whalen noted that 50 percent of tech spending now
comes from outside the IT department, so it’s important for vendors to interact
with line of business operators as well as IT. She said successful technology
suppliers don’t just need to offer products or services, but also to be
innovative, be critical thinkers, provide access to a wide array of
technologies and, most importantly, become a trusted advisor to the enterprise.
She said that to date, most of the gains in digital
transformation have been about productivity and improvements. But this is
changing. In an IDC survey conducted earlier this year, CEOs said they expected
digital products and services would grow from an average 26.4 percent of their
business in 2020 to 46.5 percent in 2025.
She said that 87 percent of CXOs said that they want their
technology providers to provide knowledge and skills transfer so that their
enterprises “can innovate on our own.” These vendors are acting as
trusted advisors to enterprises, who then can incorporate components and/or
learning into the enterprise’s products and services.
The Empathetic Enterprise
IDC Program Vice President for Customer Experience Alan
Webber pushed the idea of the “empathetic enterprise.” In 2020, an
IDC survey indicated enterprises will spend $1.4 trillion on technology to
digitally transform the enterprise. Much of this, he said, is going to improve
the customer experience. He said that the single top investment will be in
customer experience, followed closely by marketing, with sales not too far
He noted that 73 percent of consumers say a good experience
is key to brand loyalty, and that customers tell 9 people (on average) about a
positive experience and 16 about a negative experience.
By 2023, he said, 65 percent of consumers will be using
voice, images, and AR for interaction with brands and their mobile device; and
that by 2025, 60 percent of leading consumer brands and retailers will enhance
customer engagements using emotion detection and management to influence
“The experience economy is about empathy at scale,”
Webber said, adding that customer experience is all about engaging the
customer, through the lens of technology, that drive business outcomes.
This can involve several different technology lenses,
dealing with awareness, engaging, learning, and measuring. But when it all
works, it creates customer trust. Eventually, of course, the goal is to tie an
improved experience to additional revenue.
In a discussion on the future of trust, IDC Program Vice
President, Security & Trust Frank Dickson pushed for the concept of
“pervasive integrity.” He showed survey results that indicated CEOs
and CXOs both strongly agree that digital trust programs need to be on the
agenda, and said trust is crucially important as we move to “the third
platform” with edge locations and distributed connected endpoints.
Dickson said trust was more than just security, but rather
incorporated other concepts as well, such as risk, compliance, privacy, and
social responsibility and ethics. Things like data breaches impact consumer
trust, but how the organizations responded was much more important. “Perception
matters,” he said.
Moving forward, enterprises should develop a “trust
roadmap” that increases security, privacy protections, and transparency,
as well as creating a “trust framework” for access, managing, and
measuring risk in the system. He went as far as suggesting that companies need
a Chief Trust Officer to drive these processes.
Insights at Scale
Companies need to rethink what it means to have enterprise
analytics, IDC Group Vice President for Analytics and Information Management Dan
Vesset said in his talk. He asked what would happen if our enterprises could double
the productivity of knowledge workers, halve the time it takes to respond to
customers, or increase the success rate of new product or service launches by 25
He then suggested several examples of companies doing
advanced analytics. He talked about how Ikea uses software from Dynamic Yield
to do price optimization, and how McDonald’s was so impressed with the concept
it bought Dynamic Yield (the company), thus McDonald’s is actually now selling
software to Ikea. McDonalds also bought a company named Apprente, which does
voice-based conversational technology, and is now deploying that in
He said organizations will increasingly be judged by their capability
to learn, their ability to synthesize information, and then to deliver insights
at scale. This is often based on using probabilistic techniques in data
collection, analysis, and implementation. He said 87 percent of enterprise CXOs
say enterprise intelligence is a priority; and that the big goal is to use the
decisions driven by this intelligence to improve future performance.
He noted that CXOs are facing new challenges, such as new
key performance indications, new external and internal data, new data types,
new architecture, and new tools.
I was interested in his “Activity Distribution Map”
that talks about the different kind of analytics. Currently, Vesset said 16
percent of data activity was in augmented analytics, basically traditional analytics
but getting smarter, and another 16 percent were in intelligent process
automation (sometimes called robotic process automation or RPA). Four percent
is in what he calls “intelligent apps” which use both techniques
combining organized information with a structured process.
That still leaves 64 percent of the activity dealing with ad
hoc processes and unorganized data. These “decision environments”
require disruptive innovation. Vesset didn’t expect that any single product or
category would cover everything here, but rather talked about using a variety
of products, some old and some new. These include optimization and simulation
(old, but could be broader), digital twins (used in product development)
decision management (mostly rules-based, now being used with AI), prediction
markets (gamification), and swarm intelligence (going back away from
Finally, IDC Group VP for APAC Sandra Ng talked about the Future
of Work, noting that with millennials increasingly dominating the global
workforce, the “multigenerational workforce is a reality.” She said
we needed a fundamental change to a variety of elements in work, including to
work force (which will require a new focus on human/machine collaboration), to
work culture (which will require new experiences, enabling workers aligned to
new digital skills), and to work space (where we need intelligent ways to work
” unbounded by physical space.”)
She cited an IDC study in which 62 percent of CIOs said the Future
of Work was a priority, and discussed a variety of specific areas where
enterprises are rethinking how work gets done.
(For comparison, here’s my
post on last year’s conference.)