Three technology trends that all businesses should learn from
The digital revolution means that across the world, the way we work and interact with businesses is rapidly changing. But for many traditional companies, it’s the tolling of a bell that sounds a fear of being consigned to irrelevancy, as the tech giants gain momentum.
But organisations outside the tech space needn’t sit idly by.
Just as tech firms have learned from other sectors to expand their outlook, traditional organisations need to embrace ideas and concepts that have worked so well for their tech cohorts.
There are plenty of trends that the technology world has already prepared for, and in some cases it’s already overcome the challenge. Here are three of the biggest trends that businesses of any shape or size should consider over the coming years, and what take aways can be had from the tech sector.
Businesses need to avoid ending up in the ‘the squeezed middle’
The majority of businesses today tend to fall into two main groups. The first group includes companies that have extended beyond their original marketplace and have applied their values elsewhere. For example, Amazon has transferred its ‘delivery on demand’ ethos to the world of entertainment, offering users both music and video content to stream at will. At the other end of the spectrum sits group number two - the specialist brands – that have crafted their services to a specific need, such as micro-breweries and craft gin makers.
So what about the many businesses that currently sit in the middle? It’s vital that companies understand their identity in the marketplace to escape the squeezed middle; they need to uncover their purpose. Whether it’s to give consumers more time to spend with their families, or to provide new opportunities to today’s youth, businesses that have a purpose are far more likely to succeed commercially than their counterparts.
Businesses in search of a solid proposition must consider their future goals. As customers become more sophisticated, one mere product or service from an organisation will no longer suffice. Defining a purpose and coherent objectives means that a business can change over time. It also means that a brand can continually re-define its relationship with its customers, and establish a strong, long-term bond.
Artificial intelligence should foster emotional intelligence
Another major trend emerging from the tech industry is artificial intelligence (AI). Whether it’s through chatbots or machine learning, AI is becoming more contextually aware and can predict behaviours based on pre-existing habits. Naturally, the next stage of this will be AI’s transition to emotional intelligence. Services using AI capabilities will be aware of the end user’s feelings and expectations and can react in real-time.
This intelligence can act as the cornerstone of customer interaction and with the right support can better benefit a business. For example, if a machine can learn when consumers are more likely to buy certain products and predict potential influences around the purchasing decision, a business can then tailor their interactions with customers on a personal level. AI can also influence the way in which businesses interact directly with customers, and how in turn consumers perceive their brand.
The key component to AI’s success is to remain transparent. Customers want to know exactly who or what they are interacting with, and how their information and data is being used to create a better service. Businesses need to avoid casting any doubt over their authenticity or purpose. Convincing a user that parting with their personal data is worth it will turn AI into EI (emotional intelligence).
Organisation to Organism
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is the fact that the world around them is exponentially changing. Moore’s Law is a commonly-held theory that technology will become twice as fast, or half the size, or half the cost every year and a half. With such a fast pace of innovation in tech-land it can be difficult for traditional businesses to keep up – let alone sit in the driver’s seat of change.
Lending to tech firms’ success is their capacity to think like start-ups and yield that founder-led mentality. Because they’re not in a tightly squeezed middle, and have their finger on the pulse of their consumers, they can react rapidly to industry developments. For example, Google’s reputation as an information expert puts them in a great position to develop an AI assistant for the home.
In order to emulate their tech rivals, businesses need to rewire their organisations to become living organisms. Rather than remain rooted in tradition, a business should break away from its established silos to become a single and united entity. A ‘Living Business’ is essentially an extension of the start-up mentality – a place that learns to foster innovation and listen to its employees as well as its consumers. It’s about taking the plunge to try different things, to embrace the concept of getting things wrong and putting them right – this helps a business remain relevant in the constant realm of change.
The business world will always face challenges of enormous scale, but many can benefit by learning from their competitors rather than challenging them. In recent years, the tech industry has been a pioneer for change but thanks to technology itself, the time has come for traditional organisations to take back the mantle.
By Mark Curtis, Chief Client Officer at Fjord, design and innovation from Accenture Interactive
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”