Business and technology are becoming more and more linked to one another. As we put it: “Every company is an IT company these days.” That is why most of recent technology trends are of the utmost importance for everyone doing business and eager to stay ahead of their competition.
Out of a dozen or so various trends and topics that will either emerge or have already made their presence felt and will see their breakthrough in 2016 I decided to briefly discuss the following 5. I expect that the adoption of these will dramatically increase in the upcoming year.
#1 Make real use of big data with machine learning
Big data has been a hot topic over the past years. Companies already have a lot of data and they are gathering more on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they don’t benefit from the fact that they have the data. It is harder and harder to find any correlations between those pieces of information. That is where machine learning as a technological enabler jumps in. With machine learning we are able to use data to derive information that we were not thinking about before. And we can learn about correlations that were unknown to us.
Since you can do that on the fly, thanks to the fact that different algorithms are running all the time, you are able to analyse a lot of data at high speed. And you can immediately use it e.g. in your communication with clients to better serve them or to prevent fraud.
Machine learning lets us learn from the past to better predict the future. Let’s have a look at this example. A company provides their clients, that is hairdressers, with a system that lets them better manage their work and schedule their appointments. Now, if add machine learning is added to the system, it may help them analyse what conditions influence their turnover and better plan their work. The system may show e.g. that a given barber is usually quite busy on Tuesdays but they are even more busy when the weather forecast is bad. If the future weather forecast is added to the system, it can inform the barber that while the upcoming weekend will be poor, on Tuesday they will be full so they should make sure there are enough hands on deck.
Machine learning is also about finding similarities in people. If a company knows much about me, it can compare me with similar or like-minded customers. If they know me, they can way better predict how people similar to myself will behave and what they like. This could e.g. result in your person shopping homepage with products you for sure will like.
#2 Provide your users with an ambient user experience
If we take a look at different generations of digital users, we will notice that the so called Generation X (people born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s) is more PC based. In contrast, Generation Y (also known as Millennials and born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) as well as Generation Z (young people born between the mid-or-late 1990s and 2010s) don’t care what channel they are using at all. Whether it’s a smartphone, television, tablet or PC, they just want to be able to do anything at any moment through any channel. And they expect the same experience across the channels. As Gartner puts it in their prediction of top 10 technology trends for 2016: “The experience seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels blending physical, virtual and electronic environment as the user moves from one place to another.”
So the challenge we are facing at the moment is to be able to provide them with such an experience while they are using a number of different devices.
Also, while generation X is very much concerned about their privacy, generation Y is not. They are willing to give in a certain part of their privacy if it is needed to receive better service. So, if they come to a traditional brick-and-mortar shop they expect they will be recognised at the cash desk just like at an online shop. And here we return to the machine learning topic for a while. Because if the person discloses who they are at a traditional shop, the shop assistant, or the mobile app that recognises you are in the store, can immediately let you try that blue shirt that you have been looking at online. If for whatever reason they didn’t dare to buy it online, they can do it now.
So, increasingly consumers want to have not only a similar experience across all channels but also a comparable service level.
#3 Think big but take small steps
A number of companies like Uber, Spotify or Dropbox came out of nothing and succeeded because they were serving a clear need in a very customer-centric way. They are there to serve you and to satisfy certain expectations. That is an attitude we support at Goyello, calling it user-centric design thinking. When you design a new feature, service or product you can only do it if you have your end user in mind.
It seems pretty obvious. However, there are many companies that develop products because they believe they will solve certain problems. But they don’t validate their ideas. I have been talking to over a dozen of start-ups recently. The majority of them never validated their ideas with their potential users. How sure can they be that they are solving a problem? Or even if they are, because they are actually facing that problem themselves – how sure can they be that someone will be willing to pay them?
What we are very much in favour of at Goyello is Lean business. Validating your ideas before you really implement anything. It’s better to conclude as early as possible that a new service won’t work than after a huge investment. It is applicable to start-ups and corporates alike. Corporate organisations can really profit from that approach by innovating through small steps. They don’t have to immediately invest €1 million. They can first start a €30,000 project, validate whether or not it is a good idea to develop it further and if it’s not they won’t lose a million.
And if we are talking about innovating, what should be strongly emphasised is that you actually don’t have a choice. Trying new things has become non-negotiable. Not changing is no longer an option. If you decide to do nothing, others may come to disrupt your business. Moreover, according to last year’s Gartner report, if you do not innovate your business, computer algorithms soon will.
#4 Invest in security to protect both your clients’ data and your image
Security is not a new topic, as it has always been an important issue. However, in the past companies were getting interest in security when something went wrong. It was always treated as a cost factor. To some extent it still is. But today more and more businesses look at security systems as an investment in their image and to gain their client’s trust. If there is a security breach you are risking a major brand damage. So whether you want it or not, you have to deal with security issues before they actually occur.
Also, the regulators are demanding more and more these days. The new EU’s data protection directive which is in the making and will be active in 2017-2018 will standardise things across Europe. In the Netherlands an important part of these new regulations have been introduced since 1st January already. That is why companies will simply have to pay more attention to the issue, start getting ready for those regulations and be able to meet them. It has a lot to do with technology but it also has to be well understood at the behavioural level. Everyone in the company must be aware of the need for data protection. So, security becomes non-negotiable, just like innovation. If you don’t care about protecting your clients, you should at least care about protecting your own image.
#5 Decide what you should do about your legacy apps
There are plenty of old applications that are harder and harder to manage. It is difficult to find developers to maintain them. Moreover, the integration with other solutions can also be quite an issue. It also has a lot to do with the above mentioned ambient user experience trend. If users nowadays expect the same kind of experience across all channels it will become harder and harder to achieve that when your business processes are running on legacy systems.
There are several ways to work around. For sure, one of them is converting legacy applications towards a new application language. That is what we are going to focus on at Goyello in 2016. To convince clients to convert legacy apps and to continue using them. We want to enable them to make use of the possibilities of technology in the modern way.
For sure we can expect many more innovations to take place, but personally for this year I am expecting most of the technologies mentioned above. The selection of the above trends has been significantly influenced by talks with our clients and business partners. If you would like to know our opinion regarding these and other trends for your business, please feel free to contact us. We are most willing to discuss them with you.
What trends do you feel are most relevant for you?