For millions of people around the globe, the pandemic caused untold sorrow. In addition to the direct damage it caused, the pandemic also laid bare everything that’s wrong with the world. It exposed inequalities, weaknesses, and flaws across all industries. But then again, it also showed our capacity to adapt and reinvent new ways to get things done — both for people and for businesses.
As people turned to the Internet for almost everything (by necessity this time), businesses that are well into their digital transformation managed to survive or even thrive. Businesses that didn’t have a strong presence online often faltered. Now, as business leaders try to predict what will work in this new reality, one thing is evident: technologies and digital infrastructure will be the major players in the future of business.
This isn’t a new thing. The pressure for digital transformation has been going on for a decade or so. The pandemic, however, made it an imperative — moving online wasn’t something that needed to be done at some point in the future, it was something that needed to be done now. Technological tools that were seen by businesses as options or features became crucial tools for their operations, such as video conferencing and live streaming.
Ultimately though, the consumers’ wants and needs, including their preferences, will dictate which technologies will affect businesses. Technologies that are most suited to cater to consumers will shape the future of business. Below are just a few of them.
Increased investment in technology
Now that it has become clear that businesses’ reliance on technology will be much greater, many companies will prioritize the upgrades of their existing technological infrastructure. Thus, the trend for an increased budget for (and prioritization of) IT is inevitable. Businesses would need an upgraded IT department to handle other technological trends.
However, not many private companies will be able to deploy a proper IT department with enough resources to set up technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), which can cost a pretty penny — and are still not fully mature yet. They’d also need staff that possesses the necessary expertise to handle AI and its subsets.
For these companies to step up their efforts of advancing their technological strategies, it’d be wise to partner and potentially outsource IT services. They will need to upgrade their IT capability quickly, and they also need access to IT experts, something which an outsourced IT can provide. Various organizations across all industries, in fact, have started to follow this trend. In a 2020 report, 45% of companies worldwide have stated that they will be outsourcing their IT.
Rise of digitalization
Another obvious sign of increasing digitalization is the rise in the adoption of software that fosters collaboration as well as customer relationship management (CRM) software. On-demand service applications on users’ devices have also emerged as among the top trends that impact businesses. People realized that they can save time by using apps like these, and they only need an Internet connection and a smartphone.
Users of Software as a Service (SaaS) like MS Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, and others have also surged, as mandated lockdowns all over the world forced many employees to work remotely. Businesses like restaurants have also adopted the use of digital menus and expanded to touchless and cashless payments.
Virtual and augmented reality
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two techs that have been around for many years; they are part of immersive technology, also known as extended reality or XR. Popularized in video games via a headset, these techs are proving to be invaluable in such sectors as healthcare, education, business, and many others.
VR can immerse you into a different environment, while AR lets you see your environment with an overlay of added, or ‘augmented,’ elements. A few retail businesses use these techs by letting you have the choice of ‘seeing’ their product, for example, a piece of furniture, in your own home. Virtual shopping for clothes is easier, too. You get to try on clothes in different styles and colors virtually, without visiting the physical store.
Many businesses have also started using XR in training for various things, including customer service. The applications for these techs are endless; their potential uses guarantee that XR will be a major influence on business and other sectors in the years to come.
Rise of AI
In manufacturing, AI will be a great help in designing products. It can also assist managers in deciding how products are procured and manufactured. Processing’ Big Data’ will also be the purview of AI, helping marketers and engineers glean insights in analytics quicker. AI and its subsets, including machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), will also be a big help in customer service.
NLP enables speech recognition, which is used by digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Additionally, NLP enables devices to have a deeper understanding of users’ words—it can be used to gauge client opinions, monitor feedback, and customer satisfaction. It can also help give more contextual answers to users’ voice searches.
The bottom line
Serving the customer’s interest is a concept as old as business itself. However, the pandemic made customers’ demands go on a trajectory that gives technology a greater role — and especially the online environment. And so, businesses will have to adapt to these new realities or else go the way of the dodo. The pandemic made digital transformation a necessity and no longer just an option to be accomplished piecemeal and spread through several years.
An upgraded IT department to handle these technological trends should be at the top of every business’s priority list. In today’s business climate, only those who can innovate and adapt can survive.