By now we’ve all seen how the tendrils of technology reach into every corner of enterprise, from pharmaceuticals to finance. And with the digital world always evolving, the world of business is bound to look vastly different in just four years. So, to what extent will technology impact businesses in 2020? Here are a few things we’ve gleaned from looking into our wifi-enabled crystal ball…
1. Customers want to get personal
Increasingly, services will have to be bespoke to an individual’s needs, with marketing that matches their values without feeling personally invasive. Sound tricky? Here’s a range of companies that are already tailoring their technology: footwear giants Nike and New Balance now offer 3D-printed midsoles tailored to customers’ cushioning needs; healthcare companies like Novartis use wearable technology to help multiple sclerosis patients track their daily activity to make their treatment more effective; and Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo encourages its customers to share personal data by giving them access to more tailored bank offerings.
The only snag is that companies will have to achieve all this without making their services any more complicated. According to research for CEB’s Digital Enterprise 2020 initiative, 85% of executives say that simplifying the customer experience will be critical to success in their market by 2020.
2. From big data to useful data
We all know that collecting data is a must for business these days. The problem is the sheer volume of the stuff: market intelligence firm IDC predicts that by 2020 there will be 40 trillion gigabytes flying around our servers. The challenge for IT teams is to ensure that employees are better equipped to take advantage of it. Cisco is already pulling data from online conversations to understand its different customer groups, whether that’s CMOs or CIOs, while Sainsbury’s encourages its farmers to collect new data that it can integrate to its existing performance indicators.
3. It’s about services, not products
Buying something will increasingly become an ongoing experience, rather than a one-off. Take things like the updatable software, already offered by carmaker Tesla and stereo manufacturer Sonos. Gone are the days of selling a car or sound system and just being on the other end of a phone if something goes wrong. It’s increasingly about subscriptions and suites of products and services, maybe even including other companies’ products too. Caterpillar is already using analytics-based services to help customers monitor their usage and maintenance of machinery to spot areas for improved productivity.
4. The robots are coming
Automation is quickly adapting to more complex, less structured tasks. But this won’t put us humans out of work, it’ll just change how we do it. There’ll be a greater need for those skilled in science, tech, engineering and maths, and new growth markets with fresh business capabilities, insights, and services. Us employees will need to adapt how we work alongside the binary, by harnessing greater judgment, creativity and flexibility. Of course some roles will always be more suited to people than machines: that robot masseuse won’t be a reality just yet.
5. People will still have limits
Privacy will always be a sensitive issue, especially as everyone’s trying to navigate the parameters of this new world together. Not everyone wants a company telling them what it thinks they want, so monitoring consumption patterns and suggesting purchases can only go so far. Then there’s the issue of data and who owns it: many would argue that they own the fact that their fridge contains only a half-eaten banana and an two-month old jar of tahini, not the maker of said fridge.
To find out more about these changes and more, download CEB’s report: The Digital Enterprise in 2020.