Setting Sail Into 2022: The Year of Human-Centric Everything

December 29, 2021

Overview

Digital Transformation Focus Will Shift From Digital Tools to the People Using Them 

It’s that time of year when industry pundits and organizations begin talking about what’s in store for the new year. They discuss the emerging trends and prognosticate about the future. Yet, while trends come and go, what we need to focus on are the shifts of change that drive the emerging trends. These big shifts are like the currents of the ocean, they will push you whether you want to go in that direction or not, and no one in the ocean is spared from their forces. Yet, without navigating them properly, companies can become stagnant and fail to reach their destination. 

One major shift of change will be the rise of human-centricity. While the promise of machines and AI have dominated much of the past year, in 2022 we will realize that it’s never really been about the machines, but the people who use them. Digital tools will only be as good as the experiences they deliver, and every digital transformation imitative will be driven by the user experience, the employee experience, and the customer experience.

Recent trends, such as the pandemic and the Great Resignation are driving this shift, causing companies to invest in the technologies that amplify human capabilities in ways that help people do their jobs better. It’s about taking away the frustrations of rigid and kludge enterprise software and striving for solutions that are as fast and easy to use as UberEATS. Human centricity also will force companies to invest in workplace policies that enable more paid time off, work-life balance, and other benefits. 

Below are Wovenware’s take on the big shifts of change that will impact digital transformation in 2022 and they’re all driven by the human experience.

Trend I: The Design-first Imperative 

According to Forrester: Just two years ago, only the tech elite invested in AI design, yet in 2022, nontech companies will follow the lead of giants, such as Adobe, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and Salesforce and appoint design leadership for AI projects.

We believe that in 2022, every successful digital transformation initiative will begin with a design-centered human focus. As George Westerman, principal research scientist with the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, said, “When it comes to digital transformation, digital is not the answer, transformation is.” The emphasis on digital transformation in 2022 will move away from speed of deployment or utilizing the sexiest of digital tools, but in building the right thing to meet a human need today – in transforming the human experience for the better. 

Yet, often the challenge is that companies not only don’t know how to go about transforming, but they don’t know what the root cause of the problem is that is forcing them to transform in the first place. Companies in all industries will increasingly see design experience as the first step in digital transformation — shifting the focus away from shareholders and onto stakeholders, and giving all stakeholders a voice in the process.  

Trend II: The Proliferation of Responsible AI 

According to Forrester, the market for responsible AI, which embeds fairness, transparency, and diversity into solutions, will double in 2022. Responsible AI, however will not only inform how AI algorithms are developed to make more inclusive conclusions, but also in their motives of use.

The Facebook whistleblower controversy and other social media scrutiny are clearing a path for responsible AI and greater transparency in how it’s being used. Once again, humans will be driving the bus in 2022, in determining how and why their data is being tracked and used.

Governments also will be forced to take a greater role in enforcing policies to regulate AI and to take action against those that abuse it. Currently the White House Office of Science and Technology is working on a number of initiatives. And, U.S. government’s Defense Innovation Unit, which awards DoD contracts to companies, has released “Responsible Artificial Intelligence” guidelines that require compliance by third-party developers when they create AI solutions for the military. The developers will need to adhere to protocols for identifying who will be using the technology and how they can be harmed by it.

Trend III: The Data + Design Power Couple

If design experience will uncover the frustrations and challenges that require a digital solution and how to solve it, then data will be making it possible. Problems will be solved with a combination of data science and human problem solvers (or designers) working together as a power couple.

It can be difficult to know what came first the data or the design, but the need to decide faster and smarter in a complex world is driving people to lean into AI and all the data it requires. Working in unison, design experience can get to the heart of the problem and data-driven AI can support it with predictive analysis and informed decision making.

Trend IV: Flex Staff Redefines the Meaning of a Team

COVID-19 ushered in a paradigm shift in how work is conducted and enforced a remote or hybrid model that is forever here to stay. Companies will not be worrying about where work is conducted as much as on how well it is conducted. Likewise, thanks to increasing staff turnover and the Great Resignation, how teams are formed will take on a more flexible approach.

As companies scramble to find talent and complete their digital transformation projects, the notion of a traditional IT team will no longer exist. The lines between full-time employees, and contract-based software engineering and AI service providers will blur and the focus will be on business partnerships instead of internal or external teams. 

In 2022, at least for the short-term, attrition will still be on the rise and there will be a shortage of valuable data scientists and tech talent to enable companies to deploy their digital transformation initiatives. Companies will become increasingly interested in outsourced alternatives to meet their goals with experienced teams. 

Trend V: Synthetic Data Comes to the Rescue of Critical AI Projects 

The use of synthetic data has been growing in popularity, as a means to augment native data and fuel more effective AI models. It also serves to reduce the need for more private consumer data at a time when privacy concerns are growing and consumers are seeing their data as something they own and not easily given away.

In fact, according to Gartner, by 2025, synthetic data will reduce personal customer data collection, avoiding 70 percent of privacy violation sanctions.

We can expect to see the rise of synthetic data in 2022 as AI projects accelerate with the need for increasing amounts of data. Data scientists will focus more on the quality and extent of data as the key driver to AI success, over the data model or algorithm. Training data is becoming the key to successful AI. In fact, McKinsey revealed last year that 49 percent of the highest-performing AI companies are already using synthetic data to train their AI models.

Final Thoughts

In 2022, major shifts of change, driven by the tides of emerging trends will put the spotlight on technology that places humans at the helm. The giddiness and dazzle of AI, automation and human-machine collaboration of the past few years will give way to a more sober reality in 2022.

Public and private sectors will realize that digital transformation is not the end-all, but a means to an end – Where the human experience is valued above all else.

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