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From Mid-digital to Post-digital: A Brief Look at the Future of People, Process, and Technology
Rohit Mishra Senior Manager, Digital & Analytics | September 10, 2020
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Co-author: Tarun Chaturvedi

Digital isn’t just a buzzword anymore. In the ongoing race to sustain competitive advantage and stay relevant to customers, global organizations are leveraging digital transformation as the defining paradigm. Digital transformation has become a central theme for businesses seeking to venture into new market segments, transforming customer experiences, creating new products and services, designing new business models, and improving business agility with increased risk mitigation and compliance. According to a study by Harvard Business School, leading digital companies generate better gross margins, better earnings, and better net income than organizations in the bottom quarter of digital adopters. Digital transformation is no longer a choice in today’s continuously evolving market dynamics for digital companies

In 2020, we find ourselves living in the ‘mid-digital’ age where some organizations have accepted digital transformation as mainstream while others are just now coming to realize its potential and have started their journey. Some have been left behind due to their lack of speedy digital adoption by more agile digital companies. According to IDC, $1.97 trillion will be spent on digital transformation by businesses in 2022. Companies are investing in digital at an increased pace and once 60% of global businesses are digitized, the ‘post-digital era’ will unfold.

It is critical to understand the characteristics of post-digital era to ensure organizations are ready for it. The post-digital era will revolutionize the way people, process, and technology converge to run the businesses of today.

The post-digital era will revolutionize the way people, process, and technology converge to run businesses.

  • People – In the digital era, organizations have become more Agile but the traditional pyramid structure of hierarchical decision-making still exists. There has been an increased focus on collaboration and co-creation across continents. Hackathons became mainstream to foster innovation and hiring right talent. In the post-digital era, decision-making will shift toward molecular structure, increasing ground-up contribution in strategic decisions and simulation games will become mainstream to understand personality traits (Innovative thinking, risk taking ability, team work etc.) for hiring the right talent.
  • Process- The digital era has focused on individual business value chain and increasing collaboration among business units and functions to drive efficiencies. The post-digital era will belong to virtual vertical integration where a complete industry will become one organization and the focus will be on increasing collaboration across the industry value chain.
  • Technology – In the digital era, technology has taken center stage in strategic business decisions and has impacted boardroom discussions. The focus currently is on implementing digital technologies and reducing technical debt to become more agile. In the post-digital era, the focus will shift toward leveraging the power of integrated digital technologies and behavioral aspect of adoption

As the post-digital era unfolds, five digital technologies are set to become mainstream - blockchain, digital reality, AI/cognitive, edge computing, and quantum computing. Quantum computing is the holy grail of next-gen technology advancement and was earlier predicted to arrive by 2030 in full scale. But recent developments have suggested quantum computing and edge computing may become mainstream much before the anticipated timeline. Quantum computing, edge computing, and other digital technologies will bring into existence the new art of possible like ‘personification’, ‘emotion AI’, and ‘immersive workplaces’. There are organizations which have already started working on bringing quantum computing and other technologies together. Volkswagen for example is testing distributed ledgers with an eye to protecting cars from hackers, facilitating automatic payments at gas stations, and creating tamperproof odometers. They have collaborated with Nvidia to add AI capabilities to future car models and are leveraging augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) technologies to provide step-by-step AR instructions to help service employees repair vehicles, as part of digital reality.

Let’s look at some of futuristic scenarios driven by post-digital era technologies –

  • Decentralized web – World Wide Web (Web1.0) transformed from how we capture ‘information’, followed by Web2.0 which has reformed client server ‘interactions’. The next evolution is ‘decentralized web (i.e. Web3.0)’ which will change the fundamentals of how two parties agree on contracts and do value exchange in a trustworthy environment. Blockchain will be the driving force for the next generation of internet– a digital reality which will be governed by re-inventing the way data is stored, ‘managed,’ and ‘executed’. Some of the key differentiators for decentralized web would be:
    • Enhanced ownership- Users will control how their data is viewed and leveraged for marketing. Web3.0 will bring in ‘data democracy’ from ‘data monarchy’
    • Improved Security- Web3.0 will be powered by decentralization and distributed nature, making it nearly impossible for hackers to penetrate the network digital assets
    • Interoperability- Web 3.0 will allow users to access data across multiple applications without being on any specific platform
    • Permission-less Blockchain- Web 3.0 blockchain will not need a central authority. Anyone will be able to join the network and participate just by creating an address. It will also enable digital assets and wealth to be transferred across-borders in a time and cost-efficient manner.
  • Emotion AI will analyze the emotional state of a user (via computer vision, speech, sensors, and software logic) and will initiate hyper personalized responses, to fit the mood of the customer. It creates anthropomorphic qualities for personal assistant robots (PARs), making them appear more ‘human’ which is critical in the human-machine interface (HMI) concept. The market will be driven by use cases varying across industries and domains-
    • In healthcare by helping physicians to diagnose early signs of depression and dementia of patients
    • In retail stores to understand demographics and moods of customers, enhancing the experience
    • In automotive to detect whether the driver is tired or stressed based on facial expressions and provide alerts about unsafe driving
    • In education to assess how students comprehend to content, based on facial expressions during lectures and design better content and delivery
  • Immersive Workplace– Immersive workspaces are collaborative work environments, that convey a sense of real-world presence, using VR, AR, and Mixed Reality (MR). These experiences are delivered using head-mounted displays and will provide enhanced opportunities for virtual office, meetings, presentation delivery, product demos and telecommuting. Immersive workplaces will facilitate richer, more natural collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Immersive workspaces can create 3D virtual offices and desktops in an AR/VR world, with the ability of using MR to place digital objects (such as images of monitors) on walls, which are virtual representations of the physical world. Technologies companies have already started to invest in these technologies e.g. HTC (Vive), Facebook (Oculus), and Microsoft (HoloLens 2).