5 tech trends that will disrupt your business this year (or next)

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Disrupt

In case you haven’t realised it (um, hello?), the days of ‘business as usual’ are over. In addition to having to deal with shifting from the physical world to the digital one, companies are having to cope with an onslaught of acronyms and buzz words from BYOD to Big Data and ORM. And it’s not over yet.

In the latest edition of its annual Tech Trends report, Deloitte has rounded up five emerging trends it says will begin to impact businesses over the next 12 to 24 months. The report highlights the technology enabled practices it has seen successfully implemented by early adopters on a significant scale, and explains how the trends will become less sci-fi and more right-now for businesses in Africa and beyond.

Venture capitalist thinking

No, it’s not just about risk avoidance — today’s IT leaders and CIOs need to start becoming risk intelligent if they want to lead their businesses in the right direction and ensure they keep growing. In a similar way to venture capitalists, they are learning that they need to spread their risk and return across multiple areas, and understand there may be some time delay between investing and seeing the rewards for that decision.

Thinking like a VC means monitoring new projects to see how they’re performing, taking calculated risks and managing a wide and diverse portfolio to maximise the chance of success. Just like a shrewd investor, they’ll need to recognise which areas (‘startups’) are most valuable, and which need to pivot, adjust and be let go.

Cognitive analytics

In the age of Siri and Google Now, it’s no longer okay for technology to just be smart — it also needs to understand what you’re saying in your own words and learn as it goes along. Using artificial intelligence, businesses can use data to drive how they react and make decisions.

It’s not about just collecting data — it’s about using it in practical ways in real time. If your technology can ‘think’ and pro-actively make associations, it can make more concrete recommendations. If it’s fed more data, it will become more accurate over time as its understanding grows.

Crowdsourcing

From Kickstarter to Ushahidi, the concept of harnessing the power and collective intelligence of the crowd isn’t new — but there are so many more ways businesses can take advantage of the connected nature of the web. Companies are beginning to realise that a large group of people with the right tools can be as effective as a small group of experts — and they’re putting them to work.

Services like TaskRabbit allow businesses to source ideas and information in an easy and convenient way, and only when they need it. Deloitte US’s Consulting CTO Mark White explains how a major retail chain used to employ inspectors to visit its various branches to ensure they were up to standard. Now, it can assign the task to local residents, who can snap shots of messy shelves and cluttered aisles on their cellphones to send back to HQ. Organisations like Xprize offer massive cash incentives for smart people to think about your business’ problems.

While crowd sourcing your research and development may not always work out the way you’ve planned (ask Netflix), it’s definitely worth experimenting and testing out a few options.

Digital engagement

No, this goes beyond just replying to your customer’s tweets — true digital engagement happens across channels. The key term here is ‘omni-channel’ — whatever platform they decide to use or consume information on (social media, your website, your YouTube videos, etc), they should talk to the same team and have the same experience. If they last communicated with you via an app and then switch to Twitter, they expect to be able to pick up where they left off.

Your customers don’t know (or care) that your customer services team doesn’t talk to your marketing team (for example) — they just want their voices to be heard. Their experience should be personalised, contextualised and compelling if you want to engage effectively. Yes, they may have to share some personal information with you, but as long as their privacy isn’t compromised, your customers will be more interested in the tailored communication than the creep factor.

Wearables

People thought Google Glass was a crazy idea (okay, some still do) until competitors started bringing out smart watches and trackers nestled inside bracelets and badges. As White explains, it’s essentially mobile technology with a completely different use case. Instead of something you hold in your hand, wearable technology aims to be invisible — it’s hands-free, sometimes see-through and changing both how much data is collected and how people interact.

Just like smartphones did for laptops and desktops, wearables are being taken to places your phone can’t go or where social etiquette deems it inappropriate. They can enable workers to track and gather data that would not have been possible before, and transfer that to another device (be it a phone, traditional computer or tablet) in real time. While this product category is still in its infancy, White reckons the next big thing will be the quest for the killer wearable app.

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