2018 technology trends that you can’t ignore

By: Stan Corner

Technology change continues to be high on the agenda for everyone in business. With 2018 now upon us, it’s worth thinking about technology trends and what you should focus on for the year ahead.

I’ve written before about the impact of a customer-centric environment. Our customers today are challenging us to help them to be more efficient in the way they operate, not just to provide products and services. We need to focus on delivering value. A big part of this is being able to access business information when we need it, being able to deliver instantaneous outcomes for our customers.

Business information management

If there’s one piece of technology that will drive value for you and your customers in 2018 it’s this: Centralised document management. So many businesses still have limited control of their information. Streamlining this into one centralised silo is an absolute must from my point of view.

So many areas that challenge businesses today focus on how and where we store our business information, for example:

  • Information security: With so much of our business information stored in a variety of places, from filing cabinets to the Cloud, being able to control access to information becomes crucial. Security in a digital world is an absolute must;
  • Access anywhere: Workers are now mobile. Working remotely is a trend that is here to stay, which means we need to give our teams access to information wherever and whenever they need it;
  • Streamlining process: We want to enable our people to be customer-centric and responsive to customer needs. They need access to information in a fast and efficient manner to do this well.

Many businesses have baulked at this in the past, either thinking it was too challenging or simply too expensive to undertake. The reality is very different today with technology making it far easier and much more cost effective.

Mobility will only grow

Mobility is a topic I’ve posted about previously. All employees now want the ability to work anywhere, at any time. The fact that work can now be undertaken anywhere is in fact a challenge for some businesses, one that has stopped them from further embracing mobility.

More than just employees wanting the ability to work remotely, we’re now seeing a massive shift in the workforce as more and more Millennials enter the job market. Mobility isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ for them, it’s a necessity. This means you’ll need to have the right systems and processes in place to enable your people to work anywhere.

In the past being mobile for some meant simply having a smart phone with access to email. Moving forward this won’t be enough to ensure your team can work just as effectively outside the office environment as they would within it. It’s also one of the reasons why centralised document management of your business information is so important, as it provides improved accessibility to information.

Process automation

As we focus on delivering more for customers, the key to doing this well is to provide our people with more time to focus on delivering value rather than the mundane, manual tasks that seem to soak up so much time. 

Processes that don’t connect, have multiple manual touch points and a lack of formal structure cause many challenges that act as roadblocks to giving our people time. For many businesses, when you look in the background at the back office it’s a maze of poor processes and siloed systems. The old chestnut of “we’ve always done it this way” often rears its head at this point, short-circuiting any real effort to make change.

Starting the journey really comes down to having the conversation around the issue and realising that it needs a firm commitment to be a priority. From that point, the best way is to tackle the challenge head on: Pick a labour intensive, manual process and start with that. Picking just one area to begin with has numerous advantages, from being able to learn from any roadblocks you hit, to making it an easy ‘bite sized’ chunk for your team to take on and understand what’s in it for them. Once you’ve knocked one area of the business over, you’ll find it that much easier to move onto the next.

Being future ready

We’ve all heard about terms like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Business Intelligence (BI). While they may seem a long way off to many, in particular to small businesses, the reality is that they’re here today. Most corporate organisations already use a range of tools that take advantage of AI/BI to improve the way they manage manual and repeatable tasks.

While this may not be a technology trend you’re looking at as a must have for 2018, it’s one that I encourage you to look at in terms of understanding its impact. There’s going to be major steps forward in this technology, that will enable us to do so much more with our business information in terms of maximising its use across every area of our businesses. It’s essential that you understand the impact of this on your business to stay ahead of your competition.