Looking to Disrupt? A Digital Optimization Won’t Cut It

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Digital disruption is everywhere you look. Taxis are falling further behind Uber. Netflix went from disrupting the rental space to creating its own award-winning content. Airbnb doesn’t own any property, but it offers more listings than the top five hotel chains combined. These exciting innovations have organizations in all industries pursuing their own digital transformations. The problem: Most of them are falling short before they’ve begun.

There’s a difference between a digital transformation and digitally optimizing a business. According to Gartner, 85 percent of CIOs are merely after the latter. That’s bad news for their organizations — it places them at risk of falling behind the actual disruption occurring all around them.

It’s not all on the CIO, of course. It’s difficult to convince key stakeholders and investors that uncertain avenues of progress are worth investigating. Still, the future belongs to the companies that innovate, and there’s a whole host of new technologies enabling that very innovation. Here are just a few ways tech is powering disruption across industries, from finance to healthcare:

digital distruption

1. Blockchain is building trust.

The transparency and traceability of blockchain-based transactions are lowering the price of trust. In banking, blockchain could be a place to store value instead of a checking or savings account. For individuals, blockchain could even eliminate the need for a traditional credit score. The improved transparency of blockchain could also reduce fraud, making it harder to “cook the books.” While blockchain is inevitably associated with finance and currency, thanks to bitcoin, it could revolutionize all kinds of industries.

For instance, because of blockchain’s transparency, it can reliably ensure accuracy in the delivery of and payment for goods. “One of the fastest-growing areas for blockchain and distributed ledger technology is supply chain,” says Isaac Kunkel, senior vice president of consulting services at Chainyard, a blockchain consulting company. “There are many startups and existing technology companies looking to leverage the characteristics inherent in blockchain to improve efficiencies through dispute avoidance, faster transaction cycles, and reduced costs.”

2. Artificial intelligence is augmenting human intelligence.

AI also promises to disrupt numerous industries. But it’s important to note that AI shines best when it augments, rather than replaces, human intelligence. This is evidenced by the uses of AI in the healthcare industry. Consider medical startup MD.ai, which partnered with a radiologist to show its algorithm more than 190,000 CAT scans. Some scans contained malignant tumors; others showed tumors that were benign. Some scans were entirely tumor-free. In less than two hours, the system had processed each image and was spotting tumors that were likely to be malignant just as well as a human doctor would.

Don’t go looking for a robotic practitioner just yet. AI works best with a specific range of tasks and is meant to assist — not replace — human doctors. AI is boosting human capabilities in myriad other industries, including finance. For instance, banks are using machine learning to trim the amount of time spent on mundane tasks such as interpreting loan agreements. For banks like JP Morgan, AI’s easing of the human workload has meant bankers spend fewer hours reviewing documents and see fewer loan-servicing errors.

3. IoT is changing the customer experience.

Amazon won’t settle for domination of just the online shopping world; the e-commerce giant has a limited number of brick-and-mortar stores. The brand’s testing how IoT devices can change the in-store shopping experience as well. In these locations, customers scan their phones to log into their Amazon account; cameras and sensors then track what they pull off store shelves. When they leave, customers are automatically charged for the correct amount without having to endure a lengthy checkout process.

Target is using IoT-connected overhead lights and a map on its mobile app to help customers navigate stores to find the items they need. “Using sensors and smart beacon technologies in-store, retailers can connect with shoppers in a more personal way as they shop, tailoring their experience with coupons for items they typically use,” explains Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. For now, many recently released IoT devices, such as smart shelves and smart carts, remain too expensive for most sellers; it will take time before they’re ubiquitous in retail outlets. Still, these devices suggest the major impact IoT will have on the customer experience, from grocery and department stores to car dealerships and technology outlets.

Technology is making businesses better at this very moment, and there’s always a new crop of innovations right around the corner. From blockchain and AI to the emerging IoT, businesses are investing in technology and improving outcomes with every dollar spent. Don’t wait until it’s too late — start finding ways to take advantage of these emerging technologies right now.

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