How is Digital Expected to Disrupt in 2019— A Review of SoDA 2018

January 3, 2019
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Innovation Insights
Elvire Jaspers
How is Digital Expected to Disrupt in 2019— A Review of SoDA 2018

Digital is disrupting every industry and everyone”

Chris Duffey, Adobe

SoDA is a global network of digital business leaders, creative innovators and technology disruptors. SoDA members help the world’s leading brands imagine and create the future of digital experiences. Each year the organisation interviews the world’s leading business leaders, creatives and tech innovators to get a better understanding of the latest trends and paradigm shifts within the industry poised to shape the future.

In order for businesses to remain relevant, they must embrace the speed of change enabled by our prolific digital transformation. To not do so will certainly result in failure to keep up with your audience and thus failure in your business.

Here are the top ideas from the SoDA Report 2018 and the Global Digital Outlook for 2019. You can find out more detailed information from SoDA’s website.

Microplatforms: Designing for change with the future of DevOps

As Stuart Harris and Viktor Charypar of Red Badger continually mention in their article, embracing continuous change results in an opportunity to make continuous improvements. Due to more savvy audiences who insist on regular updates and iterations to the products and services they use, Harris and Charpar assert we must accept that change is inevitable and so we need to continuously adapt. In a design space this is made easier by Continuous Deployment to Production (CDP).

As a natural extension from Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD), CDP means that each change to the codebase will automatically be implemented into production following its success in passing necessary validations. But although doing continuous deployments may initially suggest heightening deployment risks, the nature of frequent deployments, in reality, means that gaps between them tend to zero over a short space of time.

But in order for CDP to be effective, according to Harris and Charpar, the process relies heavily on automation which needs to be adaptable to change. And this headfast approach to automation at every layer is what is called Microplatforms: small, independent and fully capable platforms for microservice applications. “The high level of automation and design are driven by simplicity allows a team of fewer than ten people to do a job that used to take hundreds and allows more effort to be spent higher up the value chain — on work that really matters,” say Harris and Charpar. Microservice architecture enables flexibility and better scalability which force stronger boundaries around domain concepts, resulting in better design. But because changes can be made individually it makes the running of the entire system more difficult to manage.

“Full automation of infrastructure provisioning, application build, testing and deployment ensures environments are identical, repeatable, disposable and cheap. This not only speeds up the process of setting up infrastructure and deploying onto it, but it also means problems can be discovered earlier, even on a developer’s laptop, because the environment is identical to the production one. Being written down as code, every aspect of the approach can evolve the same way that the applications themselves do. Platforms managed entirely as source code are the best enabler for Continuous Deployment into Production we have seen to date” say Harris and Charpar.

Designing for change with AI

“Human Creativity and AI will be an evergreen resource which will have a transformative effect on every aspect of businesses as we know it,” says Adobe’s, Chris Duffey. This is particularly interesting when understanding that it’s all about the experience businesses create for their users. People now expect their experiences to be personalised, connected and flawless at every touchpoint — this is at the essence of digital transformation.

Duffey’s article talks about Adobe’s recent qualitative research study on Human Creativity in the Age of AI, where creative professionals in the US, UK and Germany were interviewed about their processes, pain points and perceptions of how AI and machine learning can assist. The findings showed that the majority of subjects expressed interest in these technologies for their input into the creative process. The research further showed that creativity is a human quality which is improved in a social context. Most subjects confessed that an overwhelming majority of their time was constrained to technical and administrative issues with little time left for creativity.

In essence, most creatives see AI as a useful tool for execution, not ideation. With the rise of virtual assistants and the like, the idea will be for humans to control creativity and let AI execute the mundane, repetitive tasks. Creative problem solving is paramount in today’s technological torrent of new ideas and tools. But the immutable truth is that creativity is innately human and shouldn’t suffer under automation.

The Global Digital Outlook Study is an annual collaboration between SoDA and Forrester Research which assesses global digital spending trends, adoption of emerging technology and shifting views on the digital landscape. This year’s study had 401 executives from across the globe — 166 responses from client-side marketing, technology and product design leaders and 238 responses from agency leaders. You can download a copy of the summary findings here. If not, here’s our highly condensed version:

Riding high on 2018’s successes

Despite the many challenges facing global marketing agencies, leaders have remained optimistic about the future coming off the back of a promising 2018 showing rising profits which provide a solid and bankable outlook leading into 2019. This has been bolstered by strong spending in client-side marketing leaders with more promises to spend in 2019. However, with one of the most saturated and competitive markets out there, agency leaders are being forced to rethink their model going forward into 2019. Add to that Tom Beck says “65% of Digital Agencies anticipate increased revenue for digital product work in 2019 and 60% report that this is one of the major ways in which their engagement models are changing”

Partnering up

The incursion of IT and management consultancies by agencies has been a hot topic in recent months, with many of the industry juggernauts being divided. However, agencies are still partnering up with IT consultancies for the majority of their digital initiatives. “There is no dominant partner type for digital projects and the usage of integrated agencies, full-service digital agencies, consultancies and specialized digital agencies is evenly distributed. The bottom line: agency “type” is increasingly irrelevant when defining the competitive landscape for digital services” according to Tom Beck, Executive Director of SoDA.

Agencies leaning towards Mixed Models

61% of agency leaders say they are actively re-evaluating their core business models. Some are optimising for specialisation while others are diversifying. Traditional digital agencies, integrated agencies and consultancies are all headed in the same direction: the marketing/customer experience ecosystem. New areas of specialisation have emerged with a heavy focus in sight for voice interface technology yet 30% of companies confess they do not offer these services currently but are poised to in the coming months.

Efficiency 2.0 in 2019

Our technological advancements in recent times have created a monster — users now demand everything faster and better. In order to achieve this, client-side business leaders need to up the ante in this regard. Speed, value and agility are paramount to the success of digital in today’s climate. Agencies are now looking for partners who they can easily collaborate with to allow them to be collaborative, nimble and efficient in the overall digital ecosystem.

Creatives transition into the C-suite

Recently, design leaders have found themselves at the helm of start-ups, advisory roles in VC firms and newly formed C-levels roles at traditional brands. This has resulted in 67% of client-side business leaders saying that creative leaders are having more of an impact in the overall direction of the business. But bringing creatives out of the design dungeons and into the corporate decision-making boardroom has its challenges. Tom Beck mentions a few, namely how the impact of these creatives is quantifiable. Never before has creativity been more challenged by bottom lines.


This year’s SoDA Report has provided some exciting and informative insight into the state of the digital marketing and tech industries. The future is poised for continued growth and development as innovative technologies, automation and AI becoming the norm. Going into 2019 it has become more and more clear that for agencies and brands to succeed there is an immutable need to embrace digital and make technology work for them. We also feel that embracing digital means finding the right technology partner. People and by inference businesses are limited by not knowing what they don’t know. While we would all like to claim to be experts in digital, you’d be better served by finding the real experts and collaborating with the great, young fresh minds that are the global IT community.

Elvire Jaspers

Elvire is WeAreBrain’s CEO. She has worked in the tech industry for many years, successfully running and selling her own start-up in 2017. With a big passion for sailing, she's very keen on conquering the seas (besides the tech space).

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