The future belongs to those leaders willing to make bold, informed bets today. To take action, business leaders need the foresight to peer around the corner—and take decisive action based on what they see.

Today, we launched a new IBM Consulting report, Seven Bets, that identifies major trends we expect to shape the world in the near future, and the strategic bets leaders should make to benefit from them and redefine their business.

Trend: Tech-led disruptions are accelerating, driven by generative AI

Bet: Implement secure, AI-first intelligent workflows to run their enterprise

Generative AI has captured the world’s imagination and democratized AI in every aspect of society and business, from supply chains and IT operations to customer service and HR. Cybersecurity costs continue to grow, as do regulation and governance requirements. Quantum computing is quickly approaching the ability to break public key encryptions, but also introducing the possibility to solve complex problems that classical computers cannot.

In order to capitalize on these disruptions, organizations should bet on implementing secure, AI-first intelligent workflows to run their enterprise. Getting the most from these disruptions will require moving from AI as an “add-on” to embedding it at the strategic core of your enterprise and accelerating the transition to a zero-trust security strategy. 

Trend: Experience matters more than we think

Bet: Apply design leadership to change every aspect of the business

In today’s digital-first world, great experience is essential to cultivating passionate and loyal customers and employees. Putting the end user at the center is key to creating a positive experience. It’s important that organizations apply technology to deliver ease and value, and cultivate trust, among their customers.

To do that, they must apply design leadership to change every aspect of their business. This means understanding their customers’ motivations and behaviors, incorporating user-focused design early on, and ensuring it’s included in every stage of development. Digital products gain more value when they are combined with a high-quality experience. By integrating creative and technology teams, businesses can improve how products look and work, and, ultimately, boost performance.

Trend: Reglobalization, reskilling, and new partnerships are transforming value chains

Bet: Simplify, digitize, and partner to build resilient enterprises

Leaders are under intense pressure to drive productivity while also navigating supply chain disruption, geopolitical change, the global skills gap and more. In this time of challenge and change, leaders must simplify, digitize, and partner to build resilient enterprises. This includes applying AI and automation technologies to simplify and streamline operating models and processes, providing skills-sharing platforms that will allow talent to flow to most productive jobs, and doubling-down on ecosystem partners for resource-sharing, innovation and expertise.

Trend: Sustainability promises are showing progress

Bet: Avoid false choices between sustainability and profit—deliver both

While sustainability tops organizations’ list of priorities as their key stakeholders demand results, too many executives still see sustainability and profitability as conflicting rather than complementary. Organizations should avoid false choices between sustainability and profit—deliver both.

Environmental sustainability needs to be embedded in economic sustainability. Applying data and AI against sustainability goals can help drive productivity. For example, green IT solutions powered by cloud technology can reduce both IT carbon footprint and 30% of computing cost. And automation can transparently track sustainability metrics, helping organizations achieve long-term sustainability objectives, optimize costs and create new sources of value.

Trend: The pragmatic metaverse will enhance the physical world, not replace it

Bet: Invest now in augmented reality (AR) solutions with clear benefits

While there’s been a lot of buzz about the metaverse, the bigger value will be bringing technology to the physical world and navigating both physical and digital with tools like digital twins that deliver quantifiable results. Bridging the physical-digital divide requires organizations to invest now in augmented reality (AR) solutions with clear benefits. This includes investing in spatial design skills and applying them to product engineering, field services, manufacturing, and operations, and implementing an enterprise simulation platform to leverage secure data and create new digital twins. Metaverse skills are still scarce, so execs should be prepared to build rather than only hire them.

Trend: Every product is becoming a digital product

Bet: Invest in the software supply chain as much as the physical supply chain

Every product is becoming a digital product—your car, your bank account, even your air conditioning. Today, 67% of products are digital or have a digital component. That means what used to be the design, manufacturing and service of physical products will have to be transformed; there’s now a parallel software supply chain that leaders need to manage, too. Every company needs to act like a software company, investing in their software supply chain as much as their physical supply chain. They must have a product engineering mindset and pair product, technology, and functional skills with a hyper focus on user experience.

Trend: Skills scarcity and demographic shifts are defining the new social contract

Bet: Embrace a new work-life continuum in a tech-enabled workplace

Ninety percent of C-suite executives surveyed say their organization has been impacted by a scarcity of skills. As the demand for digital skills accelerates, business leaders must embrace a new work-life continuum in a tech-enabled workplace. This means reskilling and upskilling employees, changing hiring practices to focus on skills and diversity rather than degrees and redefining roles themselves. It also means adjusting to meet new employee expectations for company values, flexibility and work-life integration, supporting workers’ holistic well-being. 

All of these bets are worth making. It’s less about which ones you’ll choose, and more about how you can pull them together into a systematic approach to drive true transformation at scale.

Learn more about these seven bets for business transformation

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