Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has over 2 million social media followers, 1 million newsletter subscribers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.
Bernard’s latest book is ‘Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organisations’
In my last article, I set out the nine tech mega-trends that are shaping our world. But what do these tech trends mean for your business? Let’s find out.
Trend 1: The increasing datafication of our lives
The amount of data available to us is only going to increase, and businesses that don’t take advantage of Big Data will be left behind.If you’re thinking only large corporations have the budgets and infrastructure to benefit from Big Data, think again. One significant Big Data trend has been the move towards the delivery of tools and technology through ‘software-as-a-service’ platforms. This means businesses rent server space, software systems and processing power from third-party providers – eliminating the need for heavy infrastructure investments. And this is making Big Data accessible to businesses of any size.
And when it comes to the data itself, the big tech companies like Google and Facebook offer a wealth of data on potential customers, and useful tools for interrogating that data. Google Adwords is a well-known example.By tapping into data from these big platforms, and partnering with a smaller software-as-a-service provider, any organisation can leverage the explosion in data to build a smarter, more successful business.
Trend 2: The Internet of Things (IoT) and how everyday devices are becoming more ‘smart’
IoT technology – such as smart phones, other smart devices and sensors – gives companies incredible opportunities for new products and services, or ways to optimise decisions and operations.
How can you best use IoT technology in your organisation? With seemingly endless opportunities, many companies don’t know where to begin. The most important thing is to consider how the IoT can be linked to your business strategy, how it can help your business achieve its strategic goals, and where it might deliver the biggest business value. Leveraged in a strategic way, the IoT can help propel your business towards achieving its goals.
Trend 3: Exponential growth in computing power is fuelling massive tech advances
Chances are your business is already using cloud storage, but is it time you start thinking about fog computing – where more data is stored and processed by devices themselves, rather than in the cloud? If your business relies on storing its data in someone else’s cloud-based system, it would certainly be worth considering how the limits to Internet bandwidth and the exponential growth in data might affect your ability to upload and receive cloud-stored data in the future.
Quantum computing is the next big thing in computing power, and it’s too early to say how the average business would make use of these exponentially more powerful computers. But it’s certainly a trend worth keeping an eye on, particularly if you’re making use of AI-enabled analytics to solve complex problems.
Trend 4: The incredible rise of artificial intelligence (AI)
AI technology may seem beyond the reach of the average business, but platforms like IBM’s Watson are opening up AI and machine learning to a much wider audience. In fact, there are many start-ups who are applying AI technology to a wide range of industries and applications, from marketing to healthcare. So if you have decisions, processes or systems that could be automated, it’s well worth considering whether intelligent machines could help.
Trend 5: The unstoppable freight train that is automation
There have been a lot of scare stories about how the robots are coming to take all our jobs. But, as any business consultant will tell you, anything that can be streamlined or automated, should be. If a robot or machine can do a task quicker, cheaper, easier and more accurately than a human, why shouldn’t it? And that logic applies to businesses big and small.
For companies, that means automating the processes that are best suited to machines, and harnessing human brain power for the quirkier problems and more creative aspects of business.
Trend 6: 3D printing opens up amazing opportunities for manufacturing and a whole host of other industries
If your business involves manufacturing products or components of any kind, you should definitely consider whether 3D printing could enhance your operations. While it’s fair to say that 3D printing is a long way from being ubiquitous, the technology is advancing to a point where it can challenge traditional methods of mass production.
For me, what’s particularly exciting about 3D printing is the opportunities it offers for customising products and designs to suit one-off requests. In this age of online platforms anticipating our every wish, and giving us personalised recommendations on what we might like to buy, watch, read or listen to next, consumers are getting very used to highly personalised services. 3D printing provides yet more scope for personalisation and customisation, and I think that might be the key to its success.
Trend 7: We’re interacting with technology in very different ways
The shift from desktop to mobile means all businesses must deliver a good mobile experience, with a website that works seamlessly on phones and tablets.
Given the rise of voice searches and voice commands (‘Hi Alexa!’), businesses should get ready to offer their customers an AI-enabled chatbot experience, whether that means integrating Alexa etc. into products, or setting chatbots to work in your customer service, marketing and sales functions.
Looking even further ahead, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) means technology interfaces will become more and more immersive. Companies who start to develop VR and AR experiences are very likely to reap the rewards in the longer term.
Trend 8: Blockchains: An invention that could change our world
There’s no doubt that the blockchain revolution is underway, and most industry experts agree that it’s where we’re headed.
Full integration is likely to take years, if not decades, so it may seem like it’s not worth considering the practical implications for your business. I think that would be a mistake. Look at how quickly the Internet took off and how dramatically it has changed almost every facet of our everyday lives. Blockchains may be just as huge. Therefore, it pays to keep an eye on this developing trend.
Trend 9: Platforms are the way forward for businesses
From those companies that are light on traditional assets, like Google and Facebook, to more asset-heavy companies, like Ford, platforms are becoming central to business strategy. To start developing your own platform strategy, ask yourself the following three questions:
How can your business create and capture value through a platform?
How will you attract and drive users to your platform?
How will your platform encourage interactions between participants?