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Part One: Is Your Business Ready For 2020?

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2019 is well on its way, and it won’t be long before we welcome a decade of change within the world economy. This year is, therefore, a critical year for business. Consumer aspirations, attitudes and behaviours are expected to change drastically, and any company that ignores these trends will be letting the competition rise to the top.

Developments in the last decade can offer an insight into how far the world has progressed. Autonomous Vehicles, for example, are helping to decrease fatalities on the road and reduce traffic, with tests being deployed across Europe and America. The European Union commissioner for transport expects full self-driving capability by 2030. Meanwhile, in the workplace, robotics has been helping to automate processes, especially within the manufacturing and engineering sectors, boosting morale and improving efficiency. 3D Printing is yet another technology that is helping to push existing boundaries, going from novelty printing to assisting scientists to print human organshomes, and rocket engines. However, let’s not forget Artificial Intelligence. Invented in the 1950s, AI is now integrated into everyday life, both at work and at home. At the same time, significant changes have re-shaped political climates and agriculture, mainly in response to weather patterns, and the rapidly evolving demand patterns of customers, partners, regulators, and investors.

Failing to implement agile strategies is one of the leading causes of missed profit opportunities, often resulting in companies abandoning valuable research efforts and hitting the pause button on development investments. 

As a consequence, competitors in the same industry will rise to the top, utilising technological and strategic trends to transform the industry. Once this happens, it can be incredibly difficult for your business to rise above the competition and to meet consumer expectations.
In this article, we’ll look at one of two fundamental questions that every company needs to have answered this year for their business strategy to be successful in 2020. If done well, answering this question will help you to ride the wave of new industry trends, using them to your advantage.
In simple terms, as I mentioned recently to a client, this decision is an assessment of the risk of embracing VS not embracing trends.

Question One: 

Are you Investing in Enabling Technologies and How Does It Contribute to Your Business Strategy?

Harnessing emerging technologies and building digital capabilities can take a business to a new level of efficiency and control. From simple tools (such as wearables and analytics) to more sophisticated investments (such as blockchain and drones), technology will be one of the leading factors of growth for businesses looking to achieve market-leading performance. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pioneering technologies changing the way we work today.

According to a report by ABI Research, wearable technology will exceed $60 billion in 2022.
Wearable technologies, such as smart watches and wearable scanners, are pioneering the way to make on-site communication, document work management, real-time support and asset data capture more efficient and safer. Those who employ physical labour are experimenting with the benefits of exoskeletons to improve the performance of their workforce and support the body. Others are using augmented vision to enhance the performance of manufacturing factories. Take Upskill, for example, who are working to perfect all of the steps in building a jet engine that requires tightening nuts. In this article, Ted Robertson, engineering manager at GE Aviation states “This has tremendous potential to minimize errors, cut down on costs and improve product quality”.

According to Don & Alex Tapscott, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” But how do you utilize this technology for your business?
Simply put, blockchain technology is allowing partners to trust a shared record ledger. It can streamline business processes and establish transparency, trust, and accountability, allowing value to be tracked and transferred without third-party mediation. From smart contracts to supply chain communication and payroll, blockchain not only offers an exciting new alternative to traditional currency but also improves communication and security.

Drones are proving useful for various applications, such as the collection of data via aerial images and 3D models, tracking of progress during construction work and weather events, and health and safety assessments before workforce mobilisation. Infrastructure inspections, in particular, can be a drain on resources, especially when you take travel time and health and safety into consideration. Drone data can help you reduce the amount of time spent in hazard zones and dangerous working environments.

The Cloud
Using a platform as a service or the provision of a programme allows a business to gain more control, increasing capability. Combined with technology solutions as a cloud-based integrated platform, leaders can gain a digital overview of an entire organisation. And due to its scalability and collaborative efficiency, an online platform will reduce substantial technology solution investment costs, integrating existing technology, databases, and internal processes into one solution.

Carbon Footprint
Several businesses are already using technology to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint. For day to day processes, including logistics and office management, many organisations, are investing in electric fleets and are going paperless – quick solutions that will have a direct impact on both budgets and the environment. An increase in cloud-based platforms also means that more businesses can now allow employees to work remotely, cutting travel costs and time, as well as carbon emissions that would otherwise have been created during a commute. Others are trying to tackle more problematic issues, including sustainable supply chains and environmentally friendly resources. Take Central Concrete for example. The start-up is trying to tackle the industry’s massive carbon footprint by replacing concreate with low carbon mix designs. And more established infrastructure organisations such as Downer Group are trialling soft plastics and glass diverted from landfills and repurposed to create local roads.

According to McKinsey & Company, “The new wave of automation will be driven by the same things that first brought robotics and automation into the workplace: to free human workers from dirty, dull, or dangerous jobs; to improve quality by eliminating errors and reducing variability”.
With the steady evolution of robotics and automation, more and more companies are experiencing a wave of robotic-related investments.
Technology in the form of robotic process automation, paired with high intelligence algorithms, will ensure that businesses are process orientated and are fully capable of meeting the evolving demands of consumers and growing industries, no matter what sector you are in.
Health and Safety

At the same time, a leader cannot afford to neglect the safety and wellbeing of employees, whether that be the management team you work with daily or staff on the shop floor who are continually engaging with your customers. Technology is an integral player when it comes to further improving health and safety systems, along with efficiency. Digital signage is continuously used in manufacturing and engineering to improve communication in noisy work environments. 3D imaging and drones, also, allow visualizing data and access areas that may not be safe or cannot be easily reached.

Fundamentally, the goal of investing in technology is to ensure that your business processes are fully optimized and are flexible enough to deliver the requirements necessary to achieve your business strategy. Do not be scared to sense and seize opportunities that can improve the workflow of your business and increase market reach. Paired with effective risk management, you will be able to identify any potential threats and cherry pick the products and technologies that will help you reach your full potential.

Going by experience, first-time investments in technology take a substantial amount of time to get off of the ground and successfully integrate with an organization’s internal and external processes.
It is essential, therefore, that you take the time to assess which technology will suit your business and how you will implement the changes needed to integrate this technology. Consequently, it is recommended that you start sooner rather than later – this will allow you to implement the technology as quickly as possible and will give you a definite edge over the competition.

What technologies do you think will benefit your business? Do you need to make changes to your business to implement your chosen technologies or could you perhaps upgrade existing technologies that you have already invested in?

Once you have chosen technologies that will support your strategy or have identified existing solutions that are making the most impact to the overall performance of you and your business, it is time to move on to future plans and the people that will help get you there.
In my next blog, we will explore the second question that will help you to do just that.

 Written by
Shivendra Kumar
Shivendra Kumar is a highly regarded leader, known for delivering organizational transformation through innovation and process improvement. With a unique approach and inspirational leadership style that creates a culture of change in businesses, he develops organisational capability needed for both short and long term results. His blogs cover topics related to business improvement, metrics and innovation.