Businesses have faced huge challenges and have undergone an incredible amount of change over the past few years, and this won’t slow down in 2023. Businesses will have to deal with the aftereffects of the global pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, economic challenges, as well as an ever-faster development of technologies.
Here are the trends I believe will have the greatest day-to-day impact on the way we work and do business in 2023.
1. Accelerated digital transformation
In 2023, we see the continuation of innovations and developments in transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), cloud computing, blockchain, and super-fast network protocols like 5G. What’s more, these transformational digital technologies do not exist in isolation from each other, and we will see the boundaries between them blurring. New solutions for augmented working, hybrid and remote working, business decision-making, and automation of manual, routine, and creative workloads combine these technologies in ways that enable them to enhance each other. This brings us closer than ever to the point where we are able to create “intelligent enterprises” where systems and processes support each other to complete menial and mundane tasks in the most efficient way possible.
To prepare for this, businesses must ensure they embed the right technology throughout their processes and in every area of operations. At this point, there is really very little excuse for being in business and not having an understanding of how AI and the other technologies mentioned above will impact your business and industry. More effective sales and marketing, better customer service, more efficient supply chains, products and services that are more aligned with customer needs, and streamlined manufacturing processes are all on the table, and in 2023, the barriers to accessing them will be lower than ever. Many of these technologies, such as AI and blockchain, are now available in 'as-a-service' models via the cloud, and new interfaces and apps give businesses access to them via no-code environments.
2. Inflation and supply chain security
The economic outlook for most of the world doesn’t look great in 2023. We are told by experts to expect ongoing inflation and subdued economic growth. Many industries are still plagued by supply chain issues that emerged during the global shutdowns caused by Covid-19 and have only got worse due to the war in Ukraine. To combat this and stay afloat, companies need to improve their resilience in any way that they can. This means reducing exposure to volatile market pricing of commodities, as well as building protective measures into supply chains to deal with shortages and rising logistical costs.
It is important that companies map out their entire supply chains and identify any exposure to supply and inflation risks. That way, they can explore ways to mitigate that risk, such as alternative suppliers and becoming more self-reliant. I have recently worked with a number of companies that decided to in-source parts of their manufacturing after they identified a risk of relying on Chinese manufacturing that is still plagued by a zero-Covid policy and subsequent shutdowns.
The world is increasingly waking up to the fact that the climate disaster will pose a much bigger challenge than anything we have experienced in recent decades and will dwarf the challenges faced by the Covid pandemic. That means investors and consumers prefer businesses with the right environmental and social credentials, and buying trends are increasingly being driven by conscious consumers – those among us who prioritize factors such as ecological impact and sustainability when choosing who to buy from or do business with.
In 2023, companies need to make sure that their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) processes are moved to the center of their strategy. This should start with measuring the impact any business is having on society and the environment and then move to increasing transparency, reporting, and accountability. Every business needs a plan with clear goals and timeframes of how to reduce any negative impacts, and then the plan needs to be underpinned by solid action plans. The assessment and plans should also go beyond the company walls and cover the entire supply chain and the ESG credentials of suppliers. For example, it is easy to forget the environmental impact of cloud service providers and the impact of data centers on the environment.
4. Immersive customer experience
In 2023, customers crave experience above all else. That doesn't necessarily mean that price point and quality take a back seat, though. Both play a part, to some extent, in the way we experience the process of choosing, purchasing, and enjoying the goods and services we spend our money on.
The role that technology plays here, traditionally, has been to streamline processes and remove hassle from the life of the consumer. Think recommendation engines that help us choose what to buy or online customer service portals that deal with problems and after-sales support. These will still play a key role in 2023, but the game has evolved, with this year’s keywords being immersion and interactivity.
The metaverse – something of a catch-all term used by futurists to describe the “next level” of the internet, where we interact with brands and fellow consumers through immersive technology, including 3D environments and VR – is the stage where this will play out. Think of online shops where we can browse and "try on" virtual representations of clothes, jewelry, and accessories. We might use virtual dressing rooms to dress up avatars of ourselves – as pioneered already by the likes of Hugo Boss – or it could involve AR, as used by Walmart, to see how clothes will fit on our actual bodies. These trends will impact both online and offline retail.
The trend towards experience is so strong that brands like Adobe and Adweek are appointing chief experience officers (CXO) to ensure that it is made a foundational element of business strategy. As well as customer experience, businesses increasingly need to think about employee experience as competition for the most talented and skilled workers grows more intense.
5. The talent challenge
Over the past year, we have seen huge movements of talented people, referred to as the great resignation and quiet quitting, as workers reassessed the impact of work and what they want to get out of their lives. This has put pressure on employers to ensure they are providing attractive careers, the flexibility of hybrid work, and an enticing work environment and company culture. Offering people fulfilling work, ongoing opportunities to grow and learn, flexibility and diverse, value-oriented workplaces will all be essential in 2023.
On top of that, the accelerated digital transformation (trend one above) leads to more workplace automation that will augment pretty much every single job in the world. Humans will increasingly share their work with intelligent machines and smart robots, and that has huge implications for the skills and talent companies require in the future. This will mean reskilling and up-skilling huge sways of people in our businesses as well as recruiting new people that have the skills needed for the future.
On the one hand side, businesses must deal with the vast skills gap that exists in areas such as data science, AI, and other technology areas, ensuring they are creating the data and tech-savvy workforce needed to succeed in the future. And on the other side, as human jobs get augmented by technology, businesses must re-train staff with skills needed to work alongside smart machines and to grow their uniquely human skills that currently can’t be automated. In 2023, it will include skills such as creativity, critical thinking, interpersonal communication, leadership, and applying “humane” qualities like caring and compassion.