Looking back: the technology lessons learned in 2018

Published Thursday, November 29, 2018 3:43 PM by Gordon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Advanced

It’s just over one week since I attended the CBI’s Annual Conference. Brexit debates aside, the event saw over 1,500 leaders from business, politics and media discuss the evolving technology challenges that businesses face both now and in the future. The CBI’s Director General Carolyn Fairbairn told the audience that we need to respond to the robotics revolution. She is absolutely right.

However, as organisations look to get on board with disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) it’s important to ensure that they take the right journey – and recognise that the path to digital transformation isn’t the same for everyone.

Are organisations clear how AI will help deliver their business goals, or how RPA will integrate into their infrastructure? What about the Cloud, which will no doubt become integral to AI and RPA? Just last month, Google announced its Cloud Robotics platform, which combines the power of AI, robotics and the Cloud, will launch in 2019. Will this make AI and RPA more accessible to businesses? And who should be driving this technology change?

While technology is a clear differentiator for businesses, and will continue to be a major focus over the next 12 months and beyond, it’s critical that organisations look back before they look forward. Here are five key lessons learned that will influence technology decision-making in 2019:

Using (the right) technology needs to be a key spending priority

There could be a danger of getting distracted, not only by external pressures like Brexit but also by cool new technology trends. What’s clear from our Annual Survey 2018/2019 is that organisations want to in invest in the technology – in fact, 52% say technology is their business spending priority for 2019 and 35% want to see AI in their working life. However, organisations need to focus on what the business really needs and not what’s nice to have.

While there are a handful of core technologies that all organisations can benefit from, they must be considered with the same level of scrutiny as any other business investment. While blockchain, for example, can be a solution to many challenges, disrupting existing businesses as well as creating new opportunities, it can also be an overly complex way of delivering solutions – indeed, in a number of uses, it risks being a solution looking for a problem and being used to fuel hype when it would be faster, cheaper and more efficient to use traditional methods.

Organisations need to look for clearer direction for technology adoption

Most businesses want to be part of the digital revolution and embrace technology to unleash productivity gains. However, there are some misconceptions about what to prioritise. Compliance and cyber security, it seems, are holding many organisations from moving ahead in the digital era. In fact, according to our report, 43% think new technologies (like AI and RPA) would put their company at greater risk of a security attack. Over the coming year, more and more businesses will look for reassurance and support from technology providers on how they can embrace innovative technology safely, securely and in line with the law. This means they can forge ahead with adoption in the right way. What many organisations sadly fail to realise is that new technologies are in fact more secure than legacy systems – they are built with security in mind from the start and to perform in the connected world. Ensuring organisations embrace modernisation plans will be key – to avoid legacy lag too, where innovation is held back by ageing legacy systems. This message will therefore need to continue to be shared over the coming year.

The role of the CIO needs to take centre stage in digital transformation

For any technology implementation to succeed, employees must see the value in using digital tools to drive productivity, otherwise it will be a waste of time and money. Successful digital transformation requires a digital pioneer in every organisation – someone who can work closely with their colleagues and listen to their pain points and agreeing which digital tools can be adopted with confidence by all. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is suitably placed to better drive adoption of technology across the organisation and will become vital over the coming year. And, with the CIO partnering with the rest of the C-Suite who will bring their respective skills and contacts to the tables, technology adoption will be far more effective.

Automation needs to be used to win back time

There will be an increase in the take-up of technology to eliminate repetitive, mundane business processes, leaving staff to focus on what they do best. In fact, our Trends Survey shows that 65% of professionals would be happy to work alongside robotic technology if it meant less manual processes. Not only will automation boost business performance but wellbeing and relationships too. Many leaders are under pressure and, while some pressure is good, too much can have a detrimental effect on their health. Winning back time will have a positive impact on business, and ultimately the wider economy and automation will play a leading role in this over-work crisis.

Greater focus on using technology is needed to improve the customer experience

Businesses that fail to embrace disruptive technologies will start to miss out as customers instead opt for a service that is personalised, value-added, flexible and demonstrates innovation. According to our research, 54% want online self-service portals or live web chats with agents while 28% want an online community. With time at a premium, we will therefore see business-driven tools like AI and automation become essential for customer engagement.

Finally, there’s a critical message about listening to the next generation as they enter the workforce, as digital natives looking for their differing expectations to be met – this is a fascinating subject that leaders need to be aware of and one which I explored in a recent blog which can be found here.