They say that hindsight is 20/20. But this year foresight is 2020, as business forecasters at places like Forbes and Fortune look into the crystal ball. They’ve noted that in some respects the future will look a lot like the present−only significantly sleeker, faster, and more mobilized. Technology will drive business at warp speed. But businesses will become more reliant on mobile apps to keep pace with their customers. Data will be more useful and valuable than ever. But there will be so much it that analyzing it to reap those benefits may be a major challenge.
Tech & Software
No longer will businesses just rely on the giant global developers and platforms like Google, Oracle, and Microsoft. Going forward they will depend upon customized software designed for their unique, specific needs. Consumers will also continue to disrupt industries that only function as middleman. Think of how that happened to traditional travel agencies when consumers began using online tools to book their own travel. Businesses will also need to evolve technologically, and quickly, if they hope to compete in 2020. That’s going to be vital, as machines perform labor, 3D printers do manufacturing, software manages inventory, and bots engage in customer service.
Mountains of Data
Expect that this year one of the most controversial and pivotal questions will be “Who owns the data that corporations and governments collect?” Privacy issues will reemerge with added vigor, and consumers will be more vigilant and concerned about companies that track them, capture personal data, and profit by selling it. But another daunting challenge will be how to effectively sift through all that data. Businesses that can manage the cascade of granular information, cherry pick it, and insightfully analyze and learn from it will be in the driver’s seat.
They’ll need sophisticated tools to process, encrypt, share, and safely store critical data. That’s especially true when it comes to financial transactions and efficient payment processing. Cloud-based solutions will be in greater demand, and so will pay-now buttons, zero credit card merchant fee options, and the ability to process dozens of simultaneous transactions across multiple time zones and currencies. The financial industry will be in a fierce race in 2020 to see who can develop the most robust payment apps for mobile users. Enhanced interoperability will facilitate global banking and commerce. Payment processors will also compete to serve businesses with lightening-fast transactions.
The workforce will become even more geographically dispersed, but will need to be more technologically savvy. Contract work will likely begin to outpace traditional employment, as companies streamline with the help of new technologies to push productivity. Instead of organizing corporations under one roof at headquarters, 2020 will see a continued trend toward breaking huge offices into smaller, more dispersed and agile teams. Each team will focus on a particular area of expertise, and have the technological mobility to offer support wherever it is needed within a national or multinational enterprise.
But all of these future-forward developments will require ongoing training and education of employees, so that businesses can adapt to the use of emerging technologies. Fortunately, some of those technologies−like artificial intelligence−will help accelerate learning in digitally-powered online classrooms.