CIONET Trailblazer: Harnessing Tech Trends for Strategic Transformations

Published by Charlotte Coen
February 28, 2024 @ 9:11 AM

Deloitte's Tech Trends 2024 offers an outlook on how emerging technologies are pivotal to strategic business transformation. In this CIONET Trailblazer episode, Deloitte unveils the profound impact of innovations like generative AI and digital twins on industry paradigms, highlighting their role in driving competitive advantage and operational excellence. Featuring insights from Tom Van Boxstael, AI & Data Partner at Deloitte, the discussion provides a comprehensive roadmap for businesses aiming to navigate and capitalise on the digital revolution, ensuring readiness for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Considering Deloitte's identification of key tech trends for 2024, how do you envision these trends influencing the strategic direction of businesses and industries?

Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2024 report identifies six macro forces, including three elevating forces (interaction, information, and computation) and three grounding forces (business of technology, core modernisation, and cyber and trust). To leverage these trends and influence the strategic direction of businesses and industries, organisations can adopt a multi-faceted approach that embraces both the opportunities and challenges presented by emerging technologies, for example, generative artificial intelligence (AI). 

Firstly, it's essential to recognise that generative AI represents a significant evolution in machine intelligence, building upon decades of progress in industrial robotics and machine learning. From a business perspective, AI is empowering organisations to automate processes, personalise customer experiences, and extract insights from vast data sets. Effective use of AI can provide a competitive advantage by enhancing efficiency, reducing costs, and refining decision-making. However, organisations must avoid viewing generative AI solely as a cost-saving measure. Instead, they should perceive it as a catalyst for elevated ambitions, freeing up personnel to focus on higher-value endeavours such as product innovation and market expansion. It’s crucial to recognise that generative AI does not diminish the importance of human creativity; rather, it amplifies the significance of human imagination and ingenuity. 

Could you share an example where digital twins or AI technologies have driven substantial business transformation?

The digital twin is an interesting concept in the context of AI technology as the implementation of a digital twin is in essence an object or model that mirrors a unique process or other abstraction. It is used for simulation purposes against various scenarios and holds a lot of data and underlying models and algorithms. When we are looking at the energy transition as an example, by creating a digital twin of the infrastructure (for example of the low and medium voltage distribution networks) we can simulate scenarios about how renewable energy sources are expected to have an impact and identify where measures will have to be taken and at which moment in time investments are required. One can, for example, simulate based on demographics the uptake of electric vehicles in a certain geographical area and how that can become a bottleneck. Specifically in the domain of asset management and asset investment planning this helps to create more scenarios subject to an increasing number of parameters. Historically these investment plans were rather stable and linear. These models are a necessity for providing distribution grid operators with the right information to make decisions and stay on track in realising the energy transition.

Digital twins or AI technologies have a specific use in every industry, for example in financial services for claims handling or in media for creative services. They provide the opportunity to transform functions such as HR, tax or legal in all industries.

Given the complexities around deploying technologies such as AI, what would you advise organisations for navigating security, privacy, and ethical concerns?

Deploying technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) indeed presents organisations with a number of challenges, particularly regarding security, privacy, and ethics. To navigate these complexities successfully, I would advise organisations to adopt a proactive and comprehensive approach. We at Deloitte help our clients to become forerunners on ethical and responsible AI in their industry, driven by not only regulatory compliance but also by the desire to build trust in the AI systems and have a sustainable AI landscape. We achieve this through Deloitte’s Trustworthy AI Framework which encompasses the dimensions that AI Governance systems must embody: Fair/Impartial, Robust/Reliable, address Privacy, Safe/Secure, Responsible/Accountable, and Transparent/Explainable. The framework provides an effective first step in diagnosing the ethical health of AI while maintaining customer privacy, staying secure, and abiding by relevant regulations. 

While AI can deliver exponential benefits to companies that successfully leverage its power, if implemented without safeguards, it can also damage a company's reputation and future performance. We advise our clients to establish the organisational structures to provide strategy, governance, and management of AI environments, including building blocks such as governance, ownership, processes, training, monitoring, etc. On an important note, some of these items will be an AI Act requirement.

What approaches would you recommend organisations employ to balance the costs of new technologies with the imperative for innovation and agility?

Introducing innovation comes with an investment. It is key to evaluate the potential to impact all areas of business by generating higher revenue, reducing costs, or creating new business models. We use Deloitte’s Trustworthy AI Framework for evaluating generative AI opportunities which evaluates a broader set of dimensions. In addition to assessing expected value, this framework also evaluates the ability to execute. This aspect is crucial because there may be essential considerations, costs, and investments that are not immediately visible but are necessary to realise benefits, such as the standardisation of processes or data availability

Last but not least, I would recommend prioritising initiatives, as there is only so much capacity available within organisations in terms of people and both knowledge and expertise will mature over time. Centres of Excellence, for example for AI, should be set up with a specific capacity in mind. This capacity can be assessed by regularly reviewing the roadmap horizon and conducting interviews with the business to estimate the potential inflow of requests over a period of time. The roadmap that as such will be created can then look into the future workload but also into the capabilities that have to be built to reach the next level of maturity and to continue to cope with new evolutions in for example technology and methodology. Prioritisation can be done against the dimensions of the framework set in terms of impact and ability to execute.  

How do you foresee the identified tech trends for 2024 impacting the industry's competitive landscape and operational efficiency?

Advanced AI and ML technologies are set to revolutionise industries, allowing companies to streamline operations, optimise resource allocation, and deliver tailored products or services, delivering a competitive edge. Similarly, increased adoption of blockchain technology will enhance transparency, security, and trust across sectors such as finance, supply chain management, and healthcare, improving operational efficiency and competitiveness. The proliferation of IoT devices enables real-time data collection and analysis, driving operational efficiency and decision-making improvements. Additionally, the widespread deployment of 5G networks will revolutionise telecommunications, manufacturing, and healthcare, enhancing operational efficiency through faster connectivity and real-time collaboration. Cybersecurity remains a critical concern. Prioritising robust measures safeguards sensitive data, bolstering an organisation’s competitive position. The adoption of edge computing further enhances operational efficiency by processing data closer to the source, enabling optimisation of processes and delivery of superior customer experiences. Embracing sustainable technologies is increasingly crucial, reducing operational costs, enhancing brand reputation, and attracting environmentally conscious consumers. 

Overall, these trends will significantly impact industries' competitive landscape, and companies that strategically leverage these trends can position themselves for success in a dynamic and competitive business environment.

In summary, Deloitte's Tech Trends 2024 underscores a pivotal era of business transformation driven by advancements in AI, digital twins, and blockchain. These technologies are not merely tools for efficiency but are catalysts for reimagining how businesses thrive in a competitive environment. The journey ahead requires a harmonious blend of innovation, ethics, and security, guiding organisations towards a future where strategic foresight and technological empowerment converge. Embracing these trends with a focused strategy promises not only sustainable growth but also a leading edge in the evolving digital arena.


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