As another year turns over on the calendar, we venture deeper and deeper into the world of digital -- moving closer to a time when machines and people work in tandem to solve business problems, make life easier and generally change the world.
But as transformation is set to permeate nearly every aspect of business in 2018, some leaders are struggling to navigate the digital waters. The time is now to adopt a digitally-focused mindset and explore the positive changes you can effect on marketing, HR, development and every other department within your organization.
With that in mind, what should business leaders start (and stop) focusing on to thrive in 2018?
Start: Embracing AI and machine learning
As machines continue to get smarter, their roles in business will only expand. Depending on how you view the proverbial artificial intelligence (AI) glass, we have only ourselves to thank (or blame) for this revolution. There's no denying we're a data-driven society now, and from present technology like in-home IoT devices to future possibilities like systems that can diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors, machines are downloading what we're feeding them and running with it.
Leaders are at a crossroads: turn a blind eye to AI and risk falling far behind the technology curve, or go all-in and abandon the human elements that make for successful customer experiences.
The best strategy lies somewhere in the middle, at least for now. Machine learning can help create more positive outcomes among your staff and your customers by giving insight into behavior and preferences; but to get the most accurate view, you still need to excel at the analog tactics of listening to people and incorporating feedback into your products and culture.
Stop: Siloing your various departments
It's impossible to provide the best experience for your customers if you're not fostering collaboration across your teams. Long gone are the days of one discipline, one role. Consumers want and expect a consistent brand experience from the second they first research you to the point in which they become loyalists, and the only way to achieve and maintain that is if everyone internally is on the same page.
As marketing continues to fundamentally change, emotional intelligence will need to be paired with data. That means marketing teams will need to work closely with sales and even IT if they are to make more informed, and effective, marketing decisions. Product development should be talking to sales and customer success teams to inform the product roadmap, and the list goes on.
Stop: Limiting what it means to be agile
Being nimble in today's business climate is imperative to success and continued growth, and agility is a key component of that. Most of us associate Agile with software development, but its tenets can stretch into nearly every aspect of the business.
What does an agile approach look like in business? It means tearing down silos between your departments as well as leadership layers. It's about cultivating a culture that champions feedback from all stakeholders --employees, customers, partners, etc. -- and implementing a plan to act on that feedback, so long as it supports process, operational or product improvement.
Start: Getting more involved in the customer experience strategy
Executives and leaders often talk about the importance of improving their customer experience, but how many of them take on the challenge themselves? Like it or not, all eyes are on you, and if you say you value a customer-centric approach you must back it up by taking care of your own people first.
Studies have shown that the top hindrances to implementing a better customer experience program are all internal -- culture, structure, and process. Without a firm grasp on what motivates and inspires your employees, you'll have a workplace full of people more concerned with finding their next gig than making lives better for your end users.
Set an example that says people matter and you'll build your culture on taking care of others.
Start: Thinking outside the box when it comes to digital
There are so many tools at your disposal and they can all be used in creative ways to leverage data across all areas of business. Just think of the potential of combining data software with AI in terms of influencing a department like HR or for marketing and sales to use it to recommend personalized content experiences for individual customers at each touchpoint. Machines can take the pressure off of recruiters tasked with combing through thousands of seemingly similar resumes, giving them a smaller, more qualified pool with which to work.
Digital tools can also keep employees engaged and aware of new industry trends and new pieces of technology by determining the optimal time to train staff members according to their needs. Embracing the personalization aspects of digital can help organizations be more efficient with onboarding, performance analysis, problem solving, and even determining the best time to offer raises and promotions based on machine-learned criteria.