Technological change occurs several times as fast as businesses can adapt and incorporate it, but eventually they do have to catch up. Pressure to be more competitive, reach, and serve the needs of customers, and stay ahead of rivals, means that businesses that want to survive look to technology for many solutions.
Technology has reduced some of the tedium of work over the last few decades, and over the last few centuries, for that matter. However, it also introduces new complexities and challenges, and at the pace that change occurs, it can be impossible to assess what kind of knock-on effects the use of a given technological solution might create.
Here are five predictions on how businesses will operate in the future, given current and emerging technological trends.
Blockchain expands beyond payments
If you’ve heard of blockchain technology, it was probably in the context of Bitcoin or other digital currencies, but the technology is likely to start making its way into other industries besides the financial sector in a big way. It offers the benefits of a distributed database and a high degree of security. Businesses will be scrambling to find ways to use blockchain to preserve secure, valuable information and protect it from server failure or hacking.
Remote work with VR
There has been buzz on remote work for a while now, with less progress than expected. While there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that nixing the dreaded commute would be a win for employers and employees alike, and the potential savings for both parties in reducing the corporate office could be significant, remote work still hasn’t caught on. A large part of the blame for that falls on improving, but still inadequate, collaboration tools. Video conferencing and screen shares are nice, but they fail to capture the energy and nuance of in-person collaboration. As virtual and augmented reality technologies progress and gain the ability to convey a fuller representation of humanity, that barrier will dissolve, making remote work more feasible.
Mobile work with driverless cars
Remote work and the death of the office gain another dimension with the possibilities afforded by driverless vehicles. As numerous commentators have pointed out, a wholly automated, driverless car need not conform to traditional expectations and formats. Mobile spaces on wheels could populate the cities of the future, separating for solo work, and joining, or seamlessly transporting workers as they work, when it comes time for an all-hands meeting or collaborative project. With most major car manufacturers currently working on driverless vehicle solutions, this future may emerge before VR manages to make true remote work a viable possibility.
Expanded productivity automation
Productivity has been a buzzword since at least the days of Ford factory automation. Maximizing productivity is a goal for every business, and entrepreneurs such as Keith Krach serve as advocates to highlight its impact on a global scale.
Cloud services, smart processes, and machines offer progressively greater productivity gains all the time. Work in document security automation, robotics, and enterprise applications pick up on several dimensions of the growing wave of productivity-optimizing technology. Software solutions optimize processes by automating away predictable, formerly manual steps in the middle for applications such as DocuSign – and, increasingly, interface with other cloud-based solutions to expand the automation across multiple processes and business sectors. In robotics, real-world challenges receive mechanical automation to reduce repetitive tasks for humans.
AI replacing more human tasks
Currently, most productivity automation supports human work, but as AI grows in intelligence, automated technologies will be able to take on greater tasks. The ultimate productivity comes from a digital mind that can take over the work wholesale. AI is still limited, but machine learning is a field that continues to grow and reach new capabilities. This will be a good thing, because another growing trend is the always-on workday. If an artificial intelligence can keep things running and respond to requests, then it reduces or removes the pressure on human employees to be continually available.
The way that businesses operate has already changed significantly, and will continue to do so. Smart employers need to assess the technological solutions currently available, as well as the ones emerging, and plan for change accordingly. Employees also need to keep an eye on the direction and pace of change, and invest in strategic career moves or ongoing education to pivot to jobs that won’t be overtaken by AI or otherwise be automated into oblivion. All individuals should be working with their local governments to put practical plans in place for a society where there’s less demand on the daily grind, and more space to live.