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Five tech trends you don’t want to miss

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

Digital innovation advances every year, making it tough to keep up with the latest developments. Technology continues to change the business world, but change doesn't happen overnight. When the options at hand are meticulously researched, selected, and utilised to the highest capacity to meet specific operational needs, companies will stay ahead in their industry, while others ignoring the ongoing digital revolution will fall behind.

83 per cent of senior executives surveyed globally expect their company to increase technology investments in 2019. Consider which investments could take your company to a new level this year.

1. Digital transformation

As data is processed at astounding rates by robotic systems and automated processes, workers gain time for more high-skill, critical thinking tasks, and productivity soars. "Digital transformation" is the effect of digitalisation in an organisation. As new methods of solving business problems are introduced, a company's culture is reshaped. Rather than getting stuck in old ways, team members grow comfortable with trying new procedures and patiently working through failures to achieve increased efficiency and improved customer experiences.

Transforming business operations through technology takes more than just acquiring software. Only 41.1 per cent of companies surveyed by Futurum have formed a digital transformation project team. A comprehensive digital strategy including a vision, goals, and steps toward achieving goals should first be clearly defined and communicated to employees. When the strategy's purpose is widely understood, team members are more likely to catch the vision and embrace change. Tech-minded leaders within the business must be committed to seeing implementation through, despite challenges such as organisational obstacles and lack of technological expertise. Many companies focused on digitalisation will seek out digital talent to assist strategy implementation.

2. Business process automation

Once thought of as a solution for enterprises to expand legacy system capacities, business process automation has also become a trend among small and medium-sized businesses to handle core operations efficiently. When repetitive, daily tasks involving data entry and information exchange are streamlined in automated workflows, boosted productivity facilitates higher quality services, enabling a company to compete more effectively in their industry.

Business process automation overcomes multiple internal challenges such as manual errors, delays, disorganisation, and miscommunication. Thinksmart reports workflow automation reduces time and cost of process completion by 20-45 per cent or more. Instead of requests and approvals haphazardly running through email, forms are submitted and approved through a central, cloud-based system where progress can be tracked. Reports and analytics are automatically produced from workflow data, and information can readily be searched and located within the system. Reminders and notifications help keep every team member on task and on time, and business processes scale with growth.  

Robotic process automation is another type of BPA. A software "bot" sees how a repetitive task is completed based on a defined data set and repeats the reaction according to the predefined answers. As long as the process is driven by a large data set and defined rules, it can run entirely by the bot. Though an RPA's scope is limited in function, it can manipulate data more efficiently than humans with fewer errors.

3. Cloud security

Cloud computing provides a wealth of benefits for users: data can be accessed anywhere, physical space for storing servers isn’t required, system software can be updated as new technologies become available, and monthly service payments are low. Despite the incentives, many companies are hesitant to embrace cloud-based software because of security concerns. However, most cloud-based systems are protected by reliable names like Google Cloud and Amazon Web services that ensure top-grade security, whereas internally coded systems are more susceptible to data breaches.

Providers of cloud-based software guarantee their customer’s data is kept secure from insider attacks. Employees with server access usually undergo background checks and thorough vetting, and data storage centres are carefully monitored. Since multiple companies’ information can be stored on the same servers, providers use data isolation to prevent data breaches.

Responsibility for cloud security also lies in users’ hands. Gartner predicts through 2022, 95 per cent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. Managers must ensure passwords are regularly changed and permissions are set to limit data access. The Cloud Security Alliance Cloud Control Matrix helps clients shopping for cloud-based software analyse the security of prospective servers. Thirteen security domains are summarised into four categories of controls: deterrent, preventative, detective, and corrective. Companies should perform due diligence by thoroughly evaluating the best use of a system’s available security controls and internally following cloud security best practices.

4. Artificial intelligence as a decision-making software

Underlying machine learning functions in AI systems analyse data to find trends and patterns, often undetectable by humans, to enhance decision-making processes for businesses. AI thrives on extensive data, so all data must flow through a centralised system for the best outcome. However, the right kind of data is necessary for training machines. Three sources must work together to determine the data needed to drive the AI system. An employee who thoroughly understands the ins and outs of internal workflows must provide domain knowledge. A data scientist expert must select the right data and mould it in preparation for AI. A software developer applies various systems to the AI model for optimisation.

Common practical uses for AI are predicting a customer’s behaviour, lifetime value, and preferences to enhance marketing strategies. Decision-making AI is also being used to increase automation efficiency for business-specific situations. Banks offering automatic trading accounts use AI to decide which stocks should be traded based on a user’s chosen risk level and financial goals. AI software is revolutionising the mortgage approval process by analysing loan application data to approve or reject applicants. Following AI development is critical, as PwC predicts AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion in the global economy by 2030.

5. Citizen development of applications

In the past, IT professionals or programmers were necessary to code applications for company data management. However, the rise of no-code platforms has made it possible for anyone with a deep understanding of a business process to develop an application. Staff with no programming background can create forms and workflows through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface; after a template-based or self-made form is created, the workflow is mapped by assigning tasks, setting conditions, and allowing for changes where necessary. Integration with other business apps, such as Google Apps or accounting software, can also be included for seamless data transfers. When an application is published on the platform, it is instantly ready for use, without writing a single line of code.

No-code platforms provide any business with the opportunity to increase operational efficiency in a matter of minutes without IT experts. In October 2017, citizen developers from companies of all sizes reported a 93 per cent reduction of inefficient tasks. If no single staff member is proficient in all business processes, no problem—multiple users, such as a department head or an employee comprehending the complete process, can create applications. After publishing applications, if loopholes are identified through the included automated testing process or by staff, they can be easily corrected. Cheaper, faster, and mouldable no-code app solutions are becoming a popular choice for process management.

Don't get left behind! Start forming a digital strategy today. Committing the time and energy to discover the technology that can impact your business—and seeing the change through—will profoundly improve internal operations, company culture, and customer satisfaction for years to come.

Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KiSSFLOW
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa