Preparing for 2017’s four biggest business trends

Phil Foster, managing director at business energy comparison site, Love Energy Savings highlights the four key trends to prepare for in the new year.

It’s been a turbulent year for businesses in the UK. Our eventual departure from the European Union, coupled with events elsewhere in the world, means that companies must be prepared to navigate uncertain and, possibly, treacherous waters as we head into 2017.

The rise of “game-changing” artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence – or, AI as it’s commonly known – is being rolled out by the likes of Google, Twitter, Facebook and Apple to streamline operations and create better data management systems.

AI systems work co-operatively to further enhance how we do business. While it’s too early to speculate how this will impact wider job security, new opportunities are being made available that would never have been possible without AI.

We spoke to Joel Baynes, CEO of data science and intelligence marketing company Profusion, for more information. According to Joel, this is just the beginning for businesses and Artificial Intelligence.

“We may once have only seen AI on TV screens, but in 2017 and beyond, AI will increasingly appear on our computer screens.

“The best AI systems work in the background, improving the way we work without us taking much notice of how they do so. In the future, AI will carry out nearly all the admin tasks that clog up our time, allowing our workforce to become more effective and efficient.”

“AI also has the ability to be taught and constantly refine its algorithms. This means that in whatever task a business assigns an AI to do, it will constantly improve and find more effective ways of carrying out that activity.

“Looking towards 2017, we’re going to start seeing more and more businesses work with AI – whether they are aware of it or not. With applications across all aspects of a business, from admin to supply chain management, AI will be a game-changer for businesses.”

For companies to stay ahead of the curve they need to be willing to try new technological innovations. Artificial Intelligence isn’t just handy for reducing admin and cutting business costs. It can be used to track performance, develop strategies and deal with huge amounts of data intelligence.

Chief digital officers will become more influential

While we’re on the subject of technology, it makes sense to address the growing presence of all things digital. Traditional modes of business have shifted in recent years to make way for numerous digital innovations, and operations have become more expedient as a result.

From allowing employees to work remotely to creating optimum user experience levels for customers, the migration to digital has gifted companies the opportunity to move into new territory. Businesses can make informed decisions that are based on solid data.

We spoke to Mike Hughes, director of customer experience consultants PeopleTECH, who assured us that there are still many companies that are stuck in the past.

“The sheer impact and importance of digital cannot be under-estimated. I think that a large number of companies confuse IT and digital, and in 2016 still aren’t focused enough on digital transformation. This must be a priority for 2017.

“Not having a chief digital officer in a senior role does not necessarily mean that organisation is not focused on digital transformation, but it can be no coincidence that organisations that are said to be ahead of the game with digital transformation generally have a senior digital executive to bring it all together.

“This will be a key trend for 2017, the rise of chief digital officers within an organisation.”

Mike provided some insight into how companies fail to develop digital platforms, and how it affects business. It’s largely down to misunderstanding.

“Part of the problem is that many companies feel they can ‘do’ digital transformation, as if it is a box to be ticked.

“It’s not so much that companies are neglecting digital – I think most people know how important it is – more that they believe or hope that it can be done easily, by passing it onto the chief information officer. The reality is that it’s an ongoing process that requires a dedicated and bespoke leader to really make it happen.”

“We live in a digital world. If an organisation is not taking digital and mobile seriously then the repercussions will be huge. We’ve seen over the past decade or so how disruptive businesses with a purely digital agenda can thrive and take massive market share from companies that were slow to react to the emerging digital market.

“So organisations will ignore digital at their peril, making it even more important to assign someone to the CDO role.”

Recent studies from the Harvard Business Review showed that a staggering amount of companies are being left behind in the digital age, and these aren’t just any Average Joes. Huge players in the business world are still getting digital wrong – don’t let this be you!

Tightening of customer data retention

If there’s one thing we can take from 2016, it’s that companies risk mammoth levels of embarrassment and possible legal proceedings if the protection of customer data is not taken seriously.

We spoke to Daniel Rowles of Target Internet about the customer data trends we can expect in 2017.

“In 2017 we can expect to see a tightening of customer data usage across the digital marketing industry in particular. According to research carried out this summer by the CIM, 41 per cent of digital marketers do not fully understand the laws and best practices surrounding customer data use.

“This is patently unacceptable, and both regulators and consumers are starting to really take notice. Whether through moral epiphany or sheer pragmatism, large numbers of marketers are going to start cleaning up their act in terms of data usage in 2017.”

Of course, this goes for any business handling sensitive data. A recent survey conducted by Centrify showed that 75 per cent of UK customers will gladly cut ties with a company in the event of a data breach. Rightly so, too.

You don’t want to repeat the mistakes made in 2016 – start the year right by locking down your data security.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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