As well as the other challenges facing businesses in 2019 and beyond, a particular focus needs to be placed onto digital ethics and data privacy, according to industry analysts Gartner. The firm outlines the top ten coming industry and technology trends in a new report.
The new Gartner document is titled “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019” and it takes a look into what might be in store for corporations for the next year. Three of the key trends are discussed below: ethics, privacy and connected and automated technologies.
Business ethics are needed to ensure brand loyalty
The report focuses on the new elements for businesses strategies for the coming year, with the overall message that businesses need to place individuals and society at the forefront. These types of business behaviors are seen as necessary to ensure that businesses retain a competitive edge, especially with Millennials and Generation Z. These demographics are as a whole more in tune with what businesses do in terms of corporate governance, and they will shy away from companies that do not appear to proport certain values or ethics.
For example, the most recent Deloitte Millennial Survey found that those of the Millennials and Generation Z generation place a strong emphasis upon ethical businesses and business leaders showing they care about society.
Many consumers have lost faith in corporations in terms of data privacy. Businesses that can show they place data privacy at the heart of their digital businesses ethics are more likely to keep customers. The signal is that customer attitudes to data privacy and protection are changing fast in both the business and consumer markets.
Consequently, and supported by a recent IBM poll, trust in a company handling data correctly is now a key consumer issue. To achieve a business culture that values data privacy requires appropriate leadership, in order to steer an ethical and transparent approach to data collection, management and use.
Connected and automated technologies
The report also has strong focus on emerging and connected technologies, such as blockchain, which provides a digital ledger that it clear and transparent; and connected services like cloud computing, which are predicated to push more responsibility for driving data back to the end users.
In addition, artificial intelligence remains of interest. AI offers a range of potential uses from assisting with product development to data extraction and analysis. However, the full capabilities of AI in terms of assisting with software development are unlikely to happen in 2019, according to the report.
What is more likely to continue, according to Gartner, is automation, especially in relation to the use of robots to replace the more mundane forms of human activity. This is, however, most likely to continue on a machine-for-person basis. The robotic concept of swarming — where desired collective behavior emerges from the interactions between the robots and interactions of robots with the environment — remains some way off.
While these technologies are useful, the report notes they have yet to achieve their full potential and organizations need to be careful when adopting them. This is because such “technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations”. The adoption needs to have a firm goal placed central to any digital transformation process.
Why it’s not too late for your digital transformation journey
The conversation surrounding digital transformation has shifted well beyond questions of “should we,” to the affirmative “when we.”
Basically, the “why” has become “when.”
But a new study from Wipro Digital — a follow-up to the company’s 2017 survey about leadership within digital transformation — ultimately shows that it isn’t too late for companies that are only just beginning the journey to catch up.
Additionally, where the 2017 survey found that one in three enterprise CEOs felt digital transformation efforts were a waste of time, the updated report shows that number is now essentially at 0%.
While 87 percent of the 1,400 global enterprise C-suite leaders polled believe that companies who have started later than others still have a chance to climb to the level of their competitors, the biggest barriers identified are not the technology, but people-related issues.
Getting leadership on board
Taking a closer look, the biggest challenge comes down to sponsorship and business alignment, further emphasizing the importance of internal buy-in as a crucial first step to digital transformation:
- 54 percent cited inconsistent sponsorship from senior leadership
- 56 percent selected not being able to train their existing teams to change or use new technology, methods or processes
- 55 percent indicated needing better alignment with business stakeholders.
Ultimately, once these personnel issues are addressed, the technology becomes the greater barrier — specifically, its adaptation and subsequent training of the Lines of Business.
Our new #digitaltransformation survey of 1400 C-suite leaders found executive sponsorship & business alignment are significant barriers, particularly in the US and Canada. Time to #workdifferently Read more: https://t.co/x6fn3pduTI #infographic pic.twitter.com/7KKOUmTrUU
— Wipro Digital (@WiproDigital) September 4, 2019
“These results show that in the past two years, enterprise leaders have ensured that their organizations are capable of delivering ROI on their digital transformation efforts,” explains Rajan Kohli, president of Wipro Digital. “Leaders must align stakeholders and help their business units adapt to and leverage new technology, methods or processes.”
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
‘Ethical AI’ matters — the problem lies in defining it
News that Microsoft will invest around $1 billion to examine ethical artificial intelligence signals that the tech sector is thinking deeper about the ethics underlying transformative technologies. But what is ethical AI?
Microsoft is to invest around $1 billion into the OpenAI project, a group that has Elon Musk and Amazon as members. The partners are seeking to establish “shared principles on ethics and trust”. The project is considering two streams: cognitive science, which is linked to psychology and considers the similarities between artificial intelligence and human intelligence; and machine intelligence, which is less concerned with how similar machines are to humans, and instead is focused on how systems behave in an intelligent way.
With the growth of smart technology comes an increased reliance for humanity to place trust in algorithms, that continue to evolve. Increasingly, people are asking whether an ethical framework is needed in response. It would appear so, with some machines now carrying out specific tasks more effectively than humans can. This leads to the questions ‘what is ethical AI?’ and ‘who should develop ethics and regulate them?’
AI’s ethical dilemmas
We’re already seeing examples of what can go wrong when artificial intelligence is granted too much autonomy.Amazon had to pull an artificial intelligence operated recruiting tool after it was found to be biased against female applicants. A different form of bias was associated with a recidivism machine learning-run assessment tool that was biased against black defendants. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has recently sued Facebook due to its advertising algorithms, which allow advertisers to discriminate based on characteristics such as gender and race. For similar reasons Google opted not to renew its artificial intelligence contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for undisclosed ethical concerns.
These examples outline why, at the early stages, AI produces ethical dilemmas and perhaps why some level of control is required.
Designing AI ethics
Ethics is an important design consideration as artificial intelligence technology progresses. This philosophical inquiry extends from how humanity wants AI to make decisions and with which types of decisions. This is especially important where the is potential danger (as with many autonomous car driving scenarios); and extends to a more dystopian future where AI could replace human decision-making at work and at home. In-between, one notable experiment detailed what might happen if an artificially intelligent chatbot became virulently racist, a study intended to highlights the challenges humanity might face if machines ever become super intelligent.
While there is agreement that AI needs an ethical framework, what should this framework contain? There appears to be little consensus over the definition of ethical and trustworthy AI. A starting point is in the European Union document titled “Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI“. With this brief, the key criteria are for AI to be democratic, to contribute to an equitable society, to support human agency, to foster fundamental rights, and to ensure that human oversight remains in place.
These are important concerns for a liberal democracy. But how do these principles stack up with threats to the autonomy of humans, as with AI that interacts and seeks to influencing behavior, as with the Facebook Cambridge Analytica issue? Even with Google search results, the output, which is controlled by an algorithm, can have a significant influence on the behavior of users.
Furthermore, should AI be used as a weapon? If robots become sophisticated enough (and it can be proven they can ‘reason’), should they be given rights akin to a human? The questions of ethics runs very deep.
It is grappling with some of these issues that led to the formation of OpenAI. According to Smart2Zero, OpenAI’s primary goal is to ensure that artificial intelligence can be deployed in a way that is both safe and secure, in order that the economic benefits can be widely distributed through society. Notably this does not capture all of the European Union goals, such as how democratic principles will be protected or how human autonomy will be kept central to any AI application.
As a consequence of Microsoft joining of the consortium, OpenAI will seek to develop advanced AI models built upon Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform. There are few specific details of how the project will progress.
Commenting on Microsoft’s big investment and commitment to the project, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella does not shed much light: “AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges…our ambition is to democratize AI.”
Do we need regulation?
It is probable that the OpenAI project will place business first, and it will no doubt seek to reduce areas of bias. This in itself is key to the goals of the partners involved. For wider ethical issues it will be down to governments and academia to develop strong frameworks, and for these to gain public acceptance, and then for an appropriate regulatory structure to be put in place.
Digital transformation is causing C-suite tensions
Digital transformation is not only about technology, it’s also about changes of practices which need to diffuse through an organization’s culture. This needs to be begin at the top. A new report finds C-suite discord is a block to effective DX processes.
Rapidly undergoing effective digitally transformation puts a strain across C-suite relationships, according to a new survey of major enterprises. The report has been produced by business management software provider Apptio, and commissioned by the Financial Times. Titled “Disruption in the C-suite“, the report is draws on the findings of a survey conducted with 555 senior executives, (50 percent occupying CxO roles). The executives were based in major economic nations: Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the U.S.
The report finds that while digital transformation leads to greater collaboration across different business functions, it can also create blurred responsibilities across the C-suite. This crossover carries the risk of key issues being missed; it also serves as a source of tension between top executives, as traditional functions merge and territorial disputes are triggered. As a sign of such differences, 71 percent of finance executives found the IT unit within the C-suite should be seeking greater influencing skills to better deliver the change their business requires.
Team deficiencies found in the survey included not having key performance indicators in place with to measure digital transformation progress. Also, the CFO was found to be the least deeply aligned member of the C-suite team, especially not being aligned with the CIO.
To overcome these divisions, the report recommends that organizations invest time in ‘bridging the trust gap’ between functions and seek to ease tensions, especially between the offices of the CIO and the CFO. An important factor is with establishing which function has accountability. Another measure that can be taken is with ensuing that data is more transparent and where key metrics are issued in ‘real-time’.
The report also charts how digital transformation is being fully embraced, as leaders at global brands are embracing processes and technologies like artificial intelligence, workplace reskilling, cloud computing, agile working and de-centralized decision-making.
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