Five trends that will dominate digital in 2018

By Louis Georgiou

Code Computerlove’s Louis Georgiou shares his views on where the digital industry is heading next and what will be the five most significant shifts in digital techniques during 2018.  
The year of the MVP 

The MVP (minimal viable product) approach has been around for a while now but we’re expecting to see its adoption accelerate in 2018, becoming ‘the accepted way digital is done’. So why will this year be the tipping point? 
The concept behind an MVP has always been the right approach for digital platform owners, but unfortunately it’s been misunderstood or misused in the wider industry and so stakeholders have been wary of developing their digital products in this way.

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The MVP approach isn’t about saving money, cutting corners, or accepting sub-standard work; it’s the recognition that digital products shouldn’t be released to customers in a ‘big bang’.
MVP is one component of lean software delivery and is better referred to as ‘continuous delivery’ i.e. release new features and functionality as soon as they are ready to realise their value immediately - either creating a better experience for end users or more revenue for the business, or both.  This iterative, continuous approach also means we only build things that work, as every iteration can be measured and the user data then determines the development path.  The rigour of continuous releases de-risks the launch process and keeps the technical platform stable and easy to rollback in case of error.
Without a doubt more businesses will continue to adopt this approach in 2018, especially as more brands and agencies alike share their unrivalled success stories using this process. It will be difficult to ignore the benefits this offers. 
Everything data 

Obviously, a 2018 trends forecast wouldn’t be complete without a mention of GDPR, but this is just the tip of the data iceberg. 
Although ‘big data’ has been a trend for a number of years, there are still a huge number (in fact the majority) of organisations that are still not efficient at using their data in a sophisticated way. 
GDPR is an opportunity for businesses to reassess their data and hopefully turn its value up a notch. It’s frequently the case that most businesses have a data tool, but they aren’t using it effectively. Not helped by the fact that there is a shortage of web analysts in the industry, so many businesses are sitting on expensive tools, with mountains of data, and no way to use that data effectively.  And to quote Avinash Kaushik’s 10/90 rule (first released eight years ago), for data to be meaningful 90 per of the process needs to be spent on the intelligence behind the data. 
With data, it’s about knowing what the information is you need to define the problem, getting that information, then knowing what to do with it when you have it.
There will be lots more investment this year as brands try to use data to greater effect, with the Holy Grail to understand their customers even better than they know themselves! Smart data insight won’t be the domain of large businesses, 2018 will see businesses of all shapes and sizes turning data insight into more meaningful experiences with customers.  

Up-skilling will change the agency / client dynamic 

What’s the point of having a sports car if you can’t drive it yourself? This is what a large number of organisations are realising as they plan their budget allocation and digital tactics for 2018. 
As companies work to complete their digital transformation, they’re increasingly looking to bring the creation and management of their digital systems in house.  These ‘products’ are business critical and so it’s too risky to give them entirely to a third party. Moreover, having invested in new technologies and systems, having the skills to use them to their full potential will ensure that they can get ahead and grow. This requires knowledge and new skill-sets. 
 As a result, agencies are already redefining their relationships with clients, developing genuine partnerships that involve close collaboration rather than taking the problem away and then coming back with the answer.  During this collaboration, successful agencies will look to augment the internal teams of their clients, offering a blend of services that complement the internal capability.
2018 will see greater investment in people-centric digital knowledge programmes, design sprints and collaboration projects that ensure individuals and departments alike have the skills to utlilise digital systems and technologies to grow.
The role of the ‘digital agency’ will evolve to augment the client skill set, empowering clients to be masters of their continuous delivery, where agencies become part of the process that focuses on continuous improvement and innovation.  
Addressing the problem of legacy systems

Many businesses won’t be able to ‘put up and make do’ with out of date legacy systems beyond 2018. Consumer expectations have been raised by digital-first businesses; customers will no longer accept bad user experience, slow websites and bad customer service. They will vote with their feet, or (more likely) their curser.
Hundreds of enterprises each year come to face facts that their legacy IT systems and databases just aren’t up to the job of creating meaningful digital experiences and interactions with customers.  In 2018, the trend for overhauling an entire CMS will be more prevalent than ever. But changing the CMS alone will not result in a better experience for customers. 
Careful consideration needs to be made when it comes to implementing a new CMS. 
The temptation is to replace what is there in its entirety in one release. This will often coincide with a completely revamped customer experience. However, this comes with considerable risk to businesses that rely on websites to acquire new customers and support old ones. 

Instead, we suggest a controlled roll-out of the CMS and new experience, driven by data and measured against positive and negative impact on customers and business performance.  By releasing in stages and using insight as part of this process the business risk is minimised and customer experience can be improved much quicker.
Being anti trend and learning to say no 

The deluge of new consumer technologies and channels to market often results in brand owners jumping in feet first and “creating an app” or, most recently, saying “we need a skill for Amazon’s Alexa” – fuelled by a fear of missing out. 
And while being ahead of the curve with new digital experiences can of course be a game changer for some, jumping on the trends band wagon can be a costly mistake for many – where the technology is simply not yet ready for a meaningful and worthwhile customer experience, or simply not a solution that adds any value.  
We still see so many businesses approaching digital work with an end product in mind - rather than seeing it as an experiment to see what works for them. It’s hard from an agency perspective too, as an answer of ‘not yet’ can feel like a failure, but the right thing to do next can be nothing at all.
Discovery projects are being widely adopted by some of the larger brands – effectively saving thousands of pounds in wasted development time, had they commissioned a full build. We do think that actually while the voice, AI and AR spaces will grow substantially in 2018, we will also see businesses saying no if they need to.


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