The Challenges And Opportunities We Want To Tackle In 2019

Raymond Hannes
7 min readDec 31, 2018

Every year we see lists appearing at the end of the year predicting the future of technology. The most amazing technological advances are being predicted by almost every media outlet out there. And yet what we see is that most people and organisations are still catching up on the predictions of last year. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because technology is advancing faster than society can manage. Or as British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke puts it:

”Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke

At Protium we still look at the lists and we even included some of the best ones we could find in our newsletter (register here). But for 2019 we decided that we wanted to take a different approach to the lists. That is why we created a list of challenges and opportunities we want to work on in 2019.

Focus on Society While Building Amazing Products and Services For The Individual

Apple’s Lisa Jackon was one of the opening speakers at the Web Summit in 2018. Her words have stuck with me since. Especially when she said that at Apple they believe you can be successful and do well while at the same time doing good.

We still see that many organisations have difficulty with this principle. For them its either do good or do well. Doing good for society is often seen as something that costs money. We believe that by doing good for society you can actually create better products for your customers and as a result do better as a company.

At Protium we are committed to building products and services that have a positive impact on the sustainable development goals. For us every project has to show a positive impact for at least 1 of the SDG’s and can not have a negative impact in any of the other SDG’s.

We also believe that companies can be successful and do well while doing good for society. In 2019 we want to take this principle even further. We will start with making our impact fully transparent. We want to show what we are doing to make the world a better place. In our projects and in our own organisation.

Digital is Here to Stay, People and Organisations Need to Catch up!

We see an ever increasing gap between technology and society. People and organisations routinely seem to underestimate the impact of technology on their lives at this very moment, but they overestimate the impact of technology in the future. Amara’s Law describes this phenomenon;

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”
— Roy Amara

Source: Roy Charles Amara, Wikipedia

This effect can also be seen in the hype cycle, characterised by the “peak of inflated expectations” followed by the “trough of disillusionment”.

The Hype Cycle. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle

We see that organisations are often focused on the hypes (Peak of inflated expectations) but underestimate the technologies that are here today (Plateau of productivity). They have amazing visions of completely digital futures, but they still use fax machines to communicate with some suppliers.

Organisations need to speed up their digital maturation and focus on what they can achieve today and tomorrow. Not only by adopting digital projects, such as moving customers to lower-cost digital channels, launching digital products, monetising data assets, and automating processes. But also by continuously educating and training people within the organisation to make sure that everybody understands the basics.

Privacy and Security by Design

Becoming digital brings exposure to cyber threats. Owning information and data, when actionable increasingly provides value. Much of this information is sensitive, privileged or regulated, making it highly vulnerable when traveling in and out of networks. Treats together with growing awareness over confidentiality and privacy, bring more demands from the users, organisations and even governments (just think GDPR ;) Organisations most protect all the information they own.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

We expect developers, operating staff and security experts to work closely together and organisations instituting policies, focusing security efforts on highly vulnerable areas like communication channels and employee awareness. GDPR has started a tendency of holding companies accountable for their usage of personal data and treatment of privacy. As more regulations and complains of non-compliance emerge companies will spend more resources on this. Moreover, informed customers will further select companies based on how well their privacy is protected, abandoning those that don’t. Adequate cybersecurity and privacy protection measures give consumers the confidence that their data (and them) are in trusted hands.

That is why we believe that privacy and security is no longer a feature. It is a Unique selling point. Organisations need to adopt a privacy and security by design mindset rather than seeing it as an afterthought. This means that we have to stop thinking about fixing a problem once it’s there, and rather prevent it from happening in the first place. Our goal for 2019 is to make organisations mindful of their obligation to society and adopt a privacy and security by design mindset.

Digital Ethics

With billions of endpoints collecting information, many can identify who you are, where you are, what you’re doing and even what you’re thinking. Digital ethics is not only about privacy and transparency but about the ethics whether you are doing the right thing or not. We expect an increase concern for digital ethics, for acknowledging and owning our actions and their implications in the digital world, for instance becoming responsible over the information we consume and share.

Take for example the harmful ways data and algorithms can be used against us. In her book “Weapons of Math Destruction” and the Ted video above, Cathy O’Neil explores how some data and algorithms are increasingly used in ways that reinforce preexisting inequality. Take for example Amazon that created a secret algorithm that showed bias against women and then thankfully scraped it after they found out. Data and algorithms can lead to decisions that harm people.

Another example is the increasing understanding of how we can hook people on digital products. Can’t stop using Facebook, looking at your phone or even your smartwatch? There are more and more products that keep us checking, scrolling, and coming back for more. The principles of creating addictive products are well known by product designers. We need to teach them ethics to make sure that there is a limit to the power of these principles.

That is why we need digital ethics. Our goal for 2019 is to bring digital ethics into all the products that we design and make sure that they create value not an addiction.

Capital Creation Without Capital

Previously one needed capital to produce capital. However, with digitalisation there is more and more intangible capital available. Additionally, this intangible capital creates value. Examples of intangible capital are knowledge, data, training, software and business processes. In the past, production of a product costed money, initially in designing and testing, and then for every subsequent product the cost was the materials and labor. In a digital world, it’s not like this. For instance, Microsoft has a high cost to develop the first unit of a program but every unit after is virtually costless, software is an intangible asset.

Photo by Sebastian Grochowicz on Unsplash

Many organisations don’t leverage their intangible assets and hide them away in Silo’s. But the power of digital is that value can be created by breaking these Silo’s. That is why in 2019 we will publish our Book “Breaking Silo’s” where we will describe how organisations can leverage their intangible and tangible assets to create more value.

Focussing on Value Creation, not Revenue

Finally the key to digital transformation and of innovation programs is the focus on value creation and not primarily revenue. We will help organisations to understand what the true value is that they bring, in other words why do they exist? Where is the value on our actions? How can we understand and further create value? Likewise we expect individuals to have an increased concern for understanding: where is the value on my data? What is the value on what i am doing? What is the impact on the environment? How can I feel relevant? The interest of individuals will allow, perhaps even create an expectation of organisations to show where their value is to customers.

You have made it till the end of this article, we hope it’s given you some value and food for thought.

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