(Photo credit: Simeon Berg via Flickr Creative Commons)

In my last post, I talked about the many changes we’ve seen in the last year or so, along with the challenges that executives face as digital business transformation looms large.

When I hop in my modified 1985 DeLorean and take a day trip to one year in the future, what do I see having happened in the past year?

For Brain+Trust Partners, we’re very confident. We’re going to expand. We’re going to diversify (both in terms of what we offer and who we are). We will begin to get into original research. We will drive more value in connecting the dots between technological advances, consumer expectations and behaviors, operational processes, industry developments, emerging players, and the regulatory environment; we won’t be futurists for futurism’s sake, but will carve out a new genre —  a sort of “Applied Futurics” in which we identify not just the bigger picture coming together but the ramifications for industries and specific clients.

That will mean doing less content marketing than we used to, but we’re ready to move on from that. Business models are changing —  not just how companies market, but how they go to market; not just how they communicate, but what they have to communicate.

For businesses, there are a couple of shifts that will only become more pronounced in the year to come. The first, regardless of which vertical you’re in or what technologies are available to you, is a renewed focus on customer-centricity —  not just in the content marketing “storytelling” sense, but applied to the entirety of a customer’s interaction with a brand.

In an increasingly mobile and convenient environment in which the consumer experience is increasingly defined by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, you need to make your customers’ experience — whether B2C or B2B as frictionless and consistently convenient as possible if you are to succeed. So everything you do and everything Brain+Trust Partners does from technology integration to communications strategy to operational process counsel must be begun from a customer-first mindset; you’ll need to begin by considering how to remove friction from your customers’ experience, and then working back from that point to ensure you meet that goal.

The other thing we think all businesses, regardless of which industry you’re in, will feel an impact from in the next year is artificial intelligence. Not just in the traditional way we think of AI; chatbots are only the beginning. No, the most natural interaction increasing numbers of Americans have with AI is through voice-enabled assistants like Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Google Home.

When shopping is enabled through voice commands and companies like Amazon and Google (and they won’t be the last, certainly) control that interface and interaction, how do you maintain your brand? Will companies be comfortable ceding that control to Amazon and Google? (Doubtful.)  In a voice-powered world, what is your company’s strategy for maintaining brand and keeping top of mind (and top of list) with customers? And how will B2C companies respond to the growing influence of voice-enabled shopping or information —  and trying to counter the growing influence of the giants in voice-enablement?

There will be other changes of course; I don’t mean to suggest that the future belongs only to voice or AI. But if I had to bet on what we’re all going to spend the most of our time on in the next 12 months, this would be it. If your business isn’t thinking about its voice strategy, you need to start. Now.


It’s going to be an interesting twelve months; there are lots of changes in store for companies that go well beyond adopting any single particular technology. Customer expectations and technological advances will force revisions to business models — in some industries not seen in half a century or more. It’s almost cliche to say that everything about business will be different in the next few years, except that everything really will be. Can you connect all the disparate dots out there to create a picture of how your industry and business are going to change? Can you prioritize effectively among all the changes and pivots needed for continued to success?

Whether you are looking at full on digital transformation of your entire business, or are wrestling with any individual element of digital transformation, from people to process to technology — it’s a journey that requires a trusted partner or colleague who has a perspective that you might not.

We can look at this disruptive change either as a threat or as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an opportunity for brave and fearless leaders to make their mark. We know how we view change. What about you?