It is the end of 2021 and I do not have anything better in mind than writing a last post for the year. So let’s do it.
There have been some terms that were used more than others with some of them actually being quite hyped. Some of them for the right reasons, some of them for the wrong ones.
My favorites of these terms include in no particular order:
- NFT (non-fungible token)
- RPA or robotic process automation
- Hyper personalization
- Hyper automation
- Customer Journey Orchestration
- Low code / No code
- Artificial intelligence / machine learning
I already did a short video that expresses my thoughts on hyperpersonalization. You cannot really avoid the term when browsing the web with anything related to CX in mind. Back in the day, what is now called hyper personalization was called one-to-one marketing. This was in the eighties. The problem was that we didn’t have the technology nor the computing power to technically implement a contextually relevant 1:1 approach at scale and in real time. That’s why we worked with segments.
Now we have the technology and computing power to address individuals contextually relevant in real time, nearly regardless of the size of the audience. Technologically, this is quite amazing, and if used consciously is of great benefit for customers and prospects.
But there is nothing “hyper” about it. It is still personalization, maybe individualization.
My wish for 2022: Let’s do away with the hyperbole before we start to desperately look for the next hyperlative – or should I call it ultralative?
Robotic process automation
No doubt, RPA is an important technology. It provides a fast and easy – maybe too fast and too easy – entry into digitalization of processes.
Its origins lie in automated UI based testing, applied to the automation of workflows.
Using RPA or its derivative intelligent RPA helps companies to increase the efficiency of their processes, especially if they stretch across various applications that have poor or no interfaces or that haven’t been integrated.
This works very well for processes that rely on structured data and in the case of intelligent RPA increasingly also with unstructured data.
Why too fast and easy then?
The problem is that it is hard to improve processes with RPA. Instead, existing processes get entrenched even more. This is also why it helps in digitalizing processes and not in a company’s digital transformation, which involves the creation of new, different processes. Still, it is an important technology as it helps reducing friction in existing processes, helping in reducing manual work and speeding processes up considerably. As a consequence, both employee experience and customer experience can get improved considerably.
My wish for 2022: Let’s merge RPA into workflow automation because this is what it is.
Low code / no code
We have seen low- and no code for a few years now but it really popped into people’s minds in 2021. Related terms are “citizen developer” and “democratization of development”.
Again, another important technology that improved a lot over the decades.
Yes, it is available for decades. Look at all the abilities to customize that enterprise systems offer for a long time. Admittedly, it often looked ugly and was not that easy to understand, but still, it was there.
Low code and now code have a tremendous value in workflow automation and systems configuration.
My wish for 2022: May there be sufficient governance to avoid the database hell that we experienced in the good ole Lotus Notes times (or have these been the bad ole days?).
This term is worth a rant. Gartner defines hyper automation as “a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. Hyperautomation involves the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools or platforms, including
- Artificial Intelligence (A)
- Machine Learning
- Event-driven software architecture
- Robotic process automation (RPA)
- Business process management (BPM and intelligent business process management suites (iBPMS)
- Integration platform as a service (iPaaS)
- Low-code/no-code tools
- Packaged software
- Other types of decision, process and task automation tools”
There are many more definitions like this, published by many pundits.
Automation exists like, forever. It is one of the very reasons for the existence of software. And it always included the use of multiple technologies, tools and platforms. Just adding a bunch of shiny category names that can be used to the definition, doesn’t add any hyper to automation.
My wish for 2022: Let’s cut the crap and name it as what it is: automation or process automation. Sorry for these sharp words but here we are inventing a term just for the sake of inventing a term. This doesn’t add any value besides making some pundits appear important and/or visionary (with the emphasis on appear).
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
There is no doubt that these two terms describe a set of technologies that are immensely powerful, given the availability of enough computing power. Machine learning is a subset of what artificial intelligence is. The technologies have entered a trajectory away from technology for technology’s sake towards being embedded into business process and outcome oriented. The technology itself is mutating from a kind of silver bullet to a mere helper. Of course, this is not always the case. There are still areas where AI is overrated, sometimes even dangerous. We are also seeing ethical problems and biased AI come up. Still, with the ongoing change the acceptance of AI and ML have increased a lot.
My wish for 2022: May we see a continuation on this path along with an increasing focus on explainability and ethics. May we also continue to see “human augmented by machine” instead of “human replaced by machine”.
I have kept my three favorite ones till the end, the metaverse and, related to it, web 3.0, that is currently in everybody’s mouth being one of them. The preliminary peak of the hype was Facebook changing its corporate name to meta in October 2021.
Right now, nobody can credibly say what the metaverse will be, except that it will be a significant development towards communication and collaboration. But what is obvious is that metaverse will be another evolution of the platform play. It will be seen as a significant source of new business. The players are already lining up to achieve “dominance”. With the likely consequence that the “metaverse” will be broken down into a couple of walled gardens that are intended to further the garden owners’ agenda and lack interaction/integration. This breaks at least the first four of Tony Parisi’s seven rules of the metaverse.
So far, the metaverse reminds me of the gold rush at the Klondyke river. Many people rush there, most will return disillusioned (if at all) and a few (platform) players got incredibly rich.
My wish for 2022: Call me a dreamer but may there be a strong focus on above mentioned four rules, in particular openness and that no individual entity controlling it.
A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data that is linked to a blockchain. It cannot be copied, substituted or subdivided. NFTs gained notoriety for being electronic identifiers that confirm the ownership of digital collectibles.
NFTs are closely related to the topics of blockchain, which is still trying to find a compelling use case, digital twins, and metaverse, which drives its hype.
Given that, NFTs are yet another example of a solution in search of its problem. Or the other way round, it creates a totally new market for the exchange of digital assets.
The crux seems to be that everything seems to be around virtual, as opposed to physical assets. This means that, as long as no metaverse emerges, NFTs are actually not creating value but destroy it. Looking at sites like Decentraland where companies recently bought chunks of “real estate” for millions of dollars reminds me strangely of Second Life. But then, maybe I am just not creative enough to understand.
My wish for 2022: May we find a compelling use case for NFTs that creates a solution for an unsolved problem or provides a solution for a solved problem that is better than the existing ones.
Customer Journey Orchestration
I want to end this post on a positive note, that’s why I left customer journey orchestration to the end.
Customer journey orchestration is a technology that actually exists and that has some benefits. It helps businesses to think outside-in and to come to a mindset that their success is the consequence of making their customers successful. Implemented properly, it enables the identification of customers intents in real-time and to offer them touch points of their choice on their journey towards the solution to their challenge at hand (or job-to-be-done, if you will). It helps businesses to identify unnecessary friction in customer journeys and to remove it.
My wish for 2022: May we increase our understanding that automated processes like automated marketing campaigns are not customer journeys.