Top 5 business IT predictions for 2019
The end of a calendar year provides the perfect opportunity for business leaders to evaluate any significant changes to the IT landscape that have affected the organisation over the past 12 months, while also looking ahead to the continued technology evolution that will span into the coming year.
IT professionals within a variety of industries are faced with the challenge of remaining abreast of the ever-evolving realm of business IT, and 2019 was a period of particularly pronounced upheaval for several reasons.
More companies than ever before embraced the latest advancements in cloud technology over the past 12 months, while artificial intelligence (AI) continued to establish itself as a must-have capability for many firms. It would also be impossible to overlook the wide-ranging data security implications presented by the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which continues to impact businesses.
With 2019 just around the corner, IT analysts are already predicting significant steps forward in the coming months, which should encourage savvy business leaders to familiarise themselves with the emerging trends, and ensure their enterprises are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities presented by these developments.
Security continues to dominate priorities
While seizing new opportunities and innovative tech will certainly be a key focus for businesses in 2019, many organisations will renew their underlying fundamentals relating to security.
GDPR has created many new legal obligations around data protection, and the highly-publicised WannaCry ransomware attack of May 2017 has highlighted the financial and reputational damage that such incidents can cause. For this reason, businesses of all sizes will pay close attention to their data security and privacy policies, ensuring they have a robust system in place to maintain the trust of their users and clients.
New technology is emerging to assist in this manner, including AI-equipped applications that can predict and automatically address flaws in real time, along with new authentication systems, such as biometrics, to replace weak passwords.
Companies should invest in the latest security technology if they want to protect their data and their customers in 2019.
Rising investment in machine learning to drive AI surge
AI has emerged as a major talking point in day-to-day business operations for some time, and its prominence is predicted to grow in 2019. Organisations of differing sizes are increasingly harnessing the power of AI to varying degrees, giving those that do so successfully a major advantage over their competitors.
In a recent report, Gartner indicated that the algorithm-driving data processing capabilities delivered by machine learning will allow companies to make the most of augmented analytics, which allows analysis of huge datasets with greater ease than ever before.
The rise of AI will bring benefits across a wide variety of business functions, including HR; finance; sales and marketing; along with customer service; procurement; and asset management. Businesses in these industries will be able to identify trends and develop strategies that are rooted in solid evidence.
Augmented reality to revolutionise user experience
Many businesses are constantly looking for new ways to provide their users and clients with more engaging and immersive digital experiences, and virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technology all provide different ways to deliver this.
With the mainstream adoption of VR still constrained by high costs and the inconvenience of the associated headsets and sensors, AR is likely to emerge as the most important tool for businesses to achieve this goal, allowing them to create intuitive digital interfaces that can be overlaid onto real-life items and environments.
Due to the fact that AR apps are compatible with the most modern smartphones, it represents a much more accessible solution for the consumer.
Those businesses that do embrace AR will be able to connect with their target audience in completely new ways, and across multiple devices, which is likely to drive greater engagement and improved sales.
The continued rise of blockchain
Blockchain has been hyped as one of the biggest things in business IT for a number of years, and it is likely that 2019 will see this highly promising technology take a few more steps towards mainstream adoption.
Statistics published by IDC suggest that blockchain investments are currently increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 73%, as businesses turn to these highly secure distributed ledgers as a way of automating business processes or digitising records.
The technology has been proven to help lower costs and improve cash flow, as well as expedite transactions, which means it has multiple uses in supply chain and currency settlement applications.
While its impact remains unconfirmed, the number of businesses investing in blockchain suggests it is highly likely to be a significant market disruptor in the coming years, and while 2019 may not be the year it reaches full maturity, some headway will certainly be made.
Paving the way for future advances
The world of business technology is constantly evolving, which means every organisation needs to make sure they dedicate resources within their 2019 corporate IT strategy to getting ready for the next wave of game-changing advances.
IT experts and business leaders need to research the ways that future technologies could be applied to their operations, making preparations to accommodate them in a timely manner. Doing this in 2019 could give your business a crucial edge over competitors in the years to come.
Mike Cohen is the CEO of Evaris
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.”