Top 10 Business Trends in 2018 and What Role Does Technology Play?
The beginning of this year has been centered around bold and innovative moves. We've seen this from clients in a variety of industries. The economy is doing well and businesses are wanting to invest in calculated risks to move to the next level. Back in December, Forbes listed 10 business trends that would drive success in 2018, and for the most part, they have shown to be quite accurate. These trends came from observations or conversations with colleagues and subject matter experts, as well as working closely with businesses of all shapes and sizes. While these moves that businesses have been making have all been fairly intelligent and strategic, technology must go hand in hand in order to support the changing operational procedures, the revenue growth, and any other area these moves might affect.
1. Artificial Intelligence Drives Customer Experience
Leading companies are embracing AI to perform repeatable, redundant tasks and to process large amounts of data not to avoid human interaction, but to enrich it. AI is becoming the norm for many practical consumer experiences - consider the following examples that use AI to evaluate GPS data:
- Google Maps uses real-time customer data from our own phones
- GPS Insight is able to help companies shorten the scheduling window for telecommunications companies. More importantly, they can allow municipalities to better deploy emergency responders and repair crews in a crisis like a hurricane.
Expect to see more highly-customized content delivery, automated to a consumer’s specific persona and lifestyle. With Artificial Intelligence and automation comes the necessity for functional, fast, and responsive technology. Your customers' experience will be increasingly dependent on your technology working properly, and therefore things like downtime will be an absolutely unacceptable occurrence. Businesses also must store and secure the increased amount of data it takes to enable automation and customer-responsive AI. Investing in a comprehensive security solution that includes a Managed Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan is critical to implementing these types of automated and customer-centric technologies.
2. Communities Embrace Live Interactions Over Social Media
Smart companies realize that social media and technology do not replace the need for in-person interactions, and social media can actually make in-person interactions more valuable. Since consumers are already connected in the virtual world, in-person relationships can be built at a rapid pace because you already feel as though you “know” the other person. Expect to see leading companies that cut back on live events years ago, bring them back with enthusiasm. This is where security policies come in handy. You need to put a comprehensive security policy in place that covers what can and cannot be said over social media. Having a password policy can help make sure passwords are not accidentally shared via social platforms. Work with your Managed Services Provider to design security policies tailored to fit your company's needs.
3. Millennials Welcome Generation Z
According to analysts at Goldman Sachs, America’s youngest generation, “Gen-Z” (those born after 1998), are now entering their formative years and rising in influence. At nearly 70 million strong, the eldest of which are now entering college and/or the workforce, this group will soon outnumber their Millennial predecessors.
Millennials are not children anymore. In fact, the oldest of them are now 35. Millennials are increasingly taking leadership roles within organizations. In addition to managing their peers, Millennials will soon be managing Gen Z employees.
Gen Z is the first generation born with devices in hand and are radically different than Millennials. Smart companies and brands are working quickly to understand this next generation as an employee as well as consumer. This means companies need to shift focus to Mobile Device Management (MDM). Your Managed Services Provider should be monitoring and reporting on every company device as well as external devices that connect to your network. You should also be implementing a cloud collaboration strategy. Office 365 products are perfect for accessing, editing, and saving documents from outside of your network, i.e. for when your employees work from home or attend a conference. This is becoming normalized and your security and productivity needs to keep up with it.
4. Wages and more on the rise
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, Human Resource managers should expect a 3% increase in wages across all sectors. In high demand jobs such as IT, health care, elderly care, and physical therapy, expect wage increases to be higher. We've seen our clients struggle to recruit quality IT engineers and have had to rely on Managed Services Providers like us to supplement the gaps in their IT department. Due to the sporadic and demand-driven nature of the IT engineer job market, IT engineers are in the driver's seat. We recommend hiring a Managed Services Provider to decrease cost of labor and create predictability with the cost of your IT department.
5. Social learning outperforms remote learning
As more professionals work remotely, companies have found creative ways to keep employees connected and develop their talents outside of the office. One way that has gained popularity among corporate training programs is social learning.
Social learning is the process of learning through peer social interaction. The most common example of traditional social learning is the chance encounter at the workplace water cooler. Two or more people run into each other, share ideas, and walk away knowing a little more in the process; this is social learning.
Social learning speaks to the need for cloud collaboration technology we discussed previously. Office 365 products are perfect for accessing, editing, and saving documents from outside of your network, i.e. for when your employees work from home or attend a conference. This is becoming normalized and your security and productivity needs to keep up with it.
6. Live Streaming Video Content Gains Momentum
Businesses stream live video to establish real-time human connections with their audiences. Companies who plan for and dedicate resources to live stream videos will dominate their industries. The trend echoes the Communities Embrace Live Interactions Over Social Media trend. Again, there needs to be security policies in place that covers what can and cannot be said over social media. Having a password policy can help make sure passwords are not accidentally shared via social platforms. Work with your Managed Services Provider to design security policies tailored to fit your company's needs.
7. Serve Your Community Not Just Buyers
The notion of the buyer’s journey was used to describe the path that your potential customer would take when making a purchase. However, today’s customers are sophisticated, savvy consumers who do their research. They vet companies by scouring their websites, reading online reviews and putting feelers out to their social networks. By the time consumers reach a salesperson, they have consumed at least 7 pieces of content. They have done their due diligence and narrowed down their options.
As a result, the old ‘buyer’s journey’ has given way to more realistic models that takes into account this new reality. The journey buyers and prospects take is no longer linear or even neat, it’s more unpredictable and fluid which poses a big challenge to marketers. As we enter 2018, we will continue to see these models get updated.
Savvy companies realize that the best thing they can do is to serve their community, irrespective of whether or not someone is in a buying cycle. When you deliver consistent value, you engender trust. Then, when they are actually on a buyer’s journey, you are already a trusted resource for them.
8. Marketing Drives Results with a Focus on Problems
Marketers used to espouse the features and benefits of offerings. However, B2B customers have learned to ignore features/benefits. Put another way, the client might not care about your solution if they don’t realize the problem you solve for them.
Expect to see companies shift their marketing messages to the problems they solve instead of their features. Measure and be accountable for success to outpace your competition. If you are solving problems for customers, and you want to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, then you need to have solid technological solutions in place to support your offerings. Your technology needs to align with your claims that you can solve your clients' issues better than your competition. Work with your Managed Service Provider to find the right technology for your business and make sure it is a good fit - your technology needs to align with your business goals. And don't just buy technology because it is the latest and greatest out there - make sure it is the right fit.
9. Subject Matter Experts Open Doors
As technology continues to expand and disrupt industries, companies and clients rely more and more on SMEs to educate, guide and advise. Whereas your client can get information about your company’s products and services on your website, they can’t figure out how your solution might fit their needs.
SMEs provide a valuable resource to discuss industry trends, share best-practices, and delve into detailed discussions about how one solution might perform better than another. Whereas traditional sales professionals have noticed increased challenges in getting in front of customers, SMEs are welcomed into the room with open arms.
Top companies are putting SMEs in a position to open doors and entice interest. Forward thinkers will plant seeds for their sales teams to develop subject matter expertise in specific industries. If you have SMEs on your team, you should expect nothing but SMEs from your IT team. Technology can be extremely complex and it requires IT engineers that are well-vetted and have the experience to know what they are doing. Hiring the right Managed IT Service Provider will guarantee the knowledge and experience needed.
10. Blockchain Embraced by Big Players
If you had invested $1,000 dollars in Bitcoin back in 2008, you’d have more than $40,000,000 today. Bitcoin is based on the blockchain protocol.
Blockchain originated in the technology space, which explains slow adoption rooted in its techno-babble jargon. Smart companies are building skills around blockchain technology to ensure they are the ones doing the disrupting rather than the ones being disrupted. Having the right technological partners is the correct way to approach Blockchain technology.
Bottom line, you can create all of the strategic initiatives you want, but if you don't have the right IT partner assisting you, your business will not receive the full benefit of these changes.
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