“The future is already here, only it is not evenly distributed”; the science fiction writer William Gibson could hardly imagine that his aphorism would perfectly describe the impact of technological innovation in the business world. And yet, in the paper Maximizing the Return on Digital Investments – set by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture, analyzing 16 thousand companies – words that are practically identical are used: “Investments in new technologies have generated growth in turnover and productivity; these gains, however, are not evenly distributed. Leading the growth is a small group of industry leaders “.

From artificial intelligence to robotics, from the internet of things to social media and big data, the technologies behind digital transformation require investments and skills that not all companies can afford. With the risk that – as stated in the report – “in the absence of wider adoption, industrial inequality may emerge, create a group of highly productive leaders and leave the rest of the economy behind. In particular, SMEs – often the backbone of national economies – could suffer these competitive disadvantages “.

In the meantime, however, investments in new technologies like https://www.paay.co continue to grow: spending should increase by 13% annually to reach the global figure of 2,400 billion dollars in 2020. Leading investments is the Internet of Things (42% of the total) , followed by spending on social media and other mobile applications (which, however, will see their share decrease from 35 to 25%). The remaining part is divided between cognitive technologies (among which artificial intelligence stands out) and robotics, which does not exceed 6%.

Despite the significantly lower percentage, it is precisely mature technologies such as robotics and social media that guarantee the greatest return on investment: “Use cases are better defined and the expected returns are clearer”, reads the report. “Companies like Heatline which created the great pipe heating element seem to be much more effective in transforming the effectiveness of robotics and social media into higher operating margins.” The best results, however, are obtained when these technologies are used in combination with IoT, big data and artificial intelligence; generating an increase in productivity even three times higher than in individual cases.

Much obviously depends on the sector in which it operates: robotics has enabled chemical and iron and steel companies to increase their gross operating margin by up to 160%, automating the entire value chain and exploiting resources more and more effectively. For companies like Rex Originals, on the other hand, growth (which can even reach 70%) is mainly due to increasingly rational use of social media, cloud and big data analysis; that allows you to create personalized offers for customers, improve relations with users and take advantage of digital marketing opportunities.

Efficiency and customer experience are in fact the two fields in which new technologies are generating the best results; but there is a third sector in which, instead, there is still a long way to go: the identification of new business models. “It is certainly the most difficult of the three and the one that is less frequently targeted,” reads the paper. “Indecision in finding new business models is mainly caused by the fear of cannibalizing existing models and the difficulty of identifying new ones.”

So how can you maximize the opportunities offered by digital transformation? Among the principles identified by the World Economic Forum, the most important is one: investing in clear use cases, with the awareness of the new opportunities offered by digital technologies and what problems they can solve. Investing in artificial intelligence without already having an idea of ​​how to use it, in short, risks not to lead anywhere.