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PHOTO: Chris Gilbert

Pundits far and wide are celebrating the end of the year (aka predictions season) by making bold declarations about the next big thing sure to change the face of technology. These predictions are lots of fun to read of course, but rarely do the supposedly forthcoming megatrends bandied about pan out, and even when they do, the impact is rarely so transformational as to materially alter the way businesses operate. That’s just the nature of so-called megatrends — despite predictions to the contrary, the hype often fails to translate into tangible impact.

On rare occasions, however, a megatrend does live up to the hype, and has a truly transformative impact. Such is the case with digital transformation. 

Now there’s certainly nothing new about the concept of digital transformation, at least not in the “headline-grabbing prediction” sense of it. Paradigms don’t shift overnight though, and while we’ve been talking about digital transformation for years, we’re only now on the precipice of seeing its transformative impact fully come to fruition. While it may no longer be the leading megatrend discussed at industry conferences, digital transformation will make a major impact in 2019, driving the creation of profound new mandates that fundamentally and permanently change how technology is developed and business gets done.

The 6 Most Important Digital Transformation Mandates

1. Ecommerce Becomes All Commerce

The largest impact of digital transformation is arguably the creation of a world in which customers expect (and, frankly, demand) a brand and buying experience that is virtually identical across all platforms. Whether they’re in your store, on their laptops, or in the back seat of their cars on a mobile device, customers expect an experience that looks and feels the same, all the time. Redesigning the look and feel of your store today, your website next month, and your mobile app next quarter just doesn’t cut it. It has to be instantaneous. 

That’s why we’ll see businesses in 2019 focusing less on ecommerce as a siloed concept, and more on taking the steps necessary to deliver a unified customer experience across all platforms.

Related Article: Digital Transformation Is an Ongoing Process

2. Software Development Priorities Shift

The need to deliver a uniform brand and buying experience across all platforms — and do so always, and instantaneously — will have widespread impact on the way companies operate, especially as it pertains to how software is developed. (After all, most “products” today are a form of software.) Speed to market and user experience will become just as important as product quality. In the digital era, a great product delivered either two months too late, or in the midst of an inconsistent brand and buying experience, simply isn’t perceived as a great product. As such, if they’re not already, organizations will aggressively implement modern DevOps and agile development best practices to deliver on the instantaneous uniformity customers expect and demand in the digital age.

3. The Development Cycle Finally Lives up to its Name

The traditional software development release cycle is hardly a cycle at all. It’s a linear, step-by-step process in which product teams deliver requirements, development teams write code, and QA teams run tests, in that order. That worked fine in the pre-digital era. But in a world where speed to market is your largest differentiator and you have to deliver a real-time, uniform experience across your omni-channel business, you need a modern approach. 

Thus, in 2019, we’ll see the death of the dev cycle as we’ve traditionally known it, and the rise of a modernized, non-linear approach focused on continuous testing and delivery of web and mobile applications. In other words, a true, continuous cycle in which developers and QA teams work together throughout the development process.

Related Article: Today's Product Managers Know Who's the Boss: The Customer

4. Testing and Development, Side by Side

Progressive organizations are already designing tests at the same time they write their code. (An ultra-progressive handful are even designing tests before they write their code). That’s a trend and best practice we’ll see take off in 2019. 

Once again, digital transformation is the catalyst. Businesses can’t afford to keep customers waiting (because, well, they won’t). And when development teams have to wait around for tests to be run, that’s exactly what happens. Releases are delayed and customers are left waiting — or, more problematically, not waiting — for you to deliver new products and features. In the digital era, testing and development simply must go hand-in-hand.

5. Quality Assurance Becomes Quality Engineering

Like an English Soccer League team never quite able to qualify for the Premier League, quality assurance (QA) teams have long been relegated to second-class status in the software development hierarchy. That all changes in 2019, thanks, you guessed it, to digital transformation. As developers increasingly work to ensure code can be tested the instant it’s written (see above), QA teams will finally get a much-deserved seat at the table, working collaboratively with developers throughout the entire development process. Say goodbye to quality assurance, and say hello to quality engineering.

Related Article: The Whole Bit About Customers and Quality Testing

6. Testing Becomes an Organizational Priority

Customers in the digital era are relatively simple creatures. They want quality, simplicity and consistency. Give it to them, and you’ll earn their business and loyalty. But deliver them a store that doesn’t have everything in stock, a website that crashes, or a mobile app that repeatedly fails, and they’re likely to move on and never come back. To quote former NASA flight director Gene Kranz, who famously helped bring the troubled Apollo 13 spacecraft safely home, failure is not an option. And if failure is not an option, then testing cannot be an afterthought. 

In 2019, it won’t be. From the development team all the way to the C-suite, testing is poised to become a priority, one that’s as much about safeguarding your brand as it is ensuring your code quality.