Forrester’s top 10 predictions for business in 2016 — and what they mean for tech

2016 will be a year of action for companies. It will be the year that the companies that thrive will be those advancing down the customer obsession path — while those that downplay their customers’ needs will start to wither away.

The good news? You and your technology teams have a critical role in helping — and in some cases, leading — your organization in adapting and thriving in the age of the customer.

Here are the top trends Forrester sees shaping your business in 2016, and what you can do to advance them.

Personalization is the new bar.

What it means: The level and quality of contextual, personalized experiences will be a key determinant of who wins mindshare and share of wallet.

How you contribute: Get rid of the IT clutter holding back your strategic work to win, serve and retain customers. CIOs will have to aggressively rationalize and streamline the core IT landscape to make room for and rapidly grow investment in business technology.

Small thinking on customer experience (CX) will destroy financial results.

What it means: Leaders will execute multidiscipline CX strategies to change internal operations — and drive a larger wedge between themselves and those just executing CX tactics.

How you contribute: Bring in the skills you need to succeed at being customer-obsessed, namely customer experience and design thinking as well as product development and data analytics. Look at opportunities for acquiring complementary software assets that help you create systems of insight that turn customer data into action.

Who leads matters more in 2016.

What it means: We will witness extraordinary leadership disruption as companies re-optimize to a customer-led market.

How you contribute: Ultimately, customer obsession must start with the CEO. But marginalization will happen if you fail to invest in the business technology agenda that creates the differentiated customer experiences the CEO is pushing from the top — especially given the trend of firms hiring chief digital officers and chief data officers.

Culture is a critical path to business success.

What it means: Leaders will leverage culture investments to accelerate both the pace of change and their speed of business.

How you contribute: Let go of business as usual and, if you haven’t already, the IT organizational model as you know it. A customer-obsessed operating model will dictate your success moving forward. Push hard on departmental leaders to let go of their confined custom systems that deter them from creating a simpler unified portfolio.

Traditional companies stand up to disruptors.

What it means: The empire strikes back in 2016. Traditional leaders will animate their powerful points of differentiation — market footprint, capital and massive amounts of customer data.

How you contribute: Shed cumbersome annual processes for agile ones that can work at the pace of dynamic customers and disruptors. Divorce your legacy practices.

Loyalty programs focus on participation.

What it means: Leaders will evolve loyalty programs to work with their customers, fundamentally changing the meaning and strength of affinity.

How you contribute: Your relationship with your customer is based on personalization and context — your technology investments need to reflect that and create this affinity.

Analytics becomes a key competitive weapon.

What it means: Leaders are addressing the diversity of data and unlocking the value of data via algorithms tuned to anticipate and deliver customer value.

How you contribute: Win the data battle — by not drowning in it. Big data provided the potential to understand more, anticipate better and gain competitive advantage — but in reality, it drowned the operations with too much data and too few insights. IT, in part, solved the data volume issue but did not address that customer data sits in systems — big and small — underpinning customer journeys. Insights are nice, but actions are better.

Digital dabbling is a fatal strategy.

What it means: Leaders will embed digital into all parts of the business, harmonize virtual and human experiences, and be able to rapidly shift to meet the hyper-adoption/ hyper-abandonment behaviour of customers.

How you contribute: Thanks to hyper-adoption — the unprecedented uptake of new devices and services — your customers will soon own devices that enable significantly more engaging marketing experiences that transcend a single, static moment. It’s on you to determine how new technologies — including emerging ones such as HaloLens — fit into your customer-obsessed strategy.

Privacy is moving from niche to value prop.

What it means: Privacy will become a value to which customers will respond.

How you contribute: Customers are changing their behaviour because they care passionately about privacy — for example, 33% of U.S. online adults have cancelled a transaction due to privacy concerns. From a security perspective, address every layer of Forrester’s Targeted Attack Hierarchy of Needs to deal with new and ongoing threats.

Operations becomes the nucleus of value.

What it means: Leaders will operate customer-obsessed operating models; laggards will merely market that they are customer-obsessed.

How you contribute: Remember that customer-obsessed operating model I mentioned earlier in the article? You need to live it. The principles behind it will force you to work with your CMO to move from customer-aware to customer-led, from data-rich to insights-driven, from perfect to fast, and from functional silos to cross-functional.