Which technology trends are right for your business?

Friday, July 09, 2021 - Philip White

More than ever, businesses are looking to technology to leverage their operations. According to a survey by Twilio, 1 in 3 British organisations say that their digital transformation budget has increased during the pandemic. 

For some, it’s likely that the disruption caused by COVID-19 expedited business critical developments, like the updating of outdated existing legacy systems and processes. For others, it was a case of adapting their existing digital strategies to overcome hardships and maintain success. 

With so many choosing to invest in technology, it’s important that you consider how relevant these solutions are for your business. This article not only considers what trends are sweeping the industry right now, but also how effective they are.

For each trend we ask the what, who and why:

  • What benefits does this trend offer? 
  • Who is most likely to benefit from this technology? 
  • Why should they implement this technology now? 

As always, decreasing risk remains a prominent factor. That’s why you should assess your current processes to ensure that you have the appropriate infrastructure to support any new technology. 

Extended reality

An umbrella term for all physical and virtual combined environments, extended reality (XR) technologies have the potential to drastically change our working processes. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the figureheads of this trend, with mixed reality (MR) being a synthesis of these two other reality technologies. 

AR places digital items in real-life physical spaces as if they were really there, whereas VR blocks out the physical world altogether — usually aided by a physical headset that is worn by the user. 

While gaming and entertainment franchises are widely recognised for using this type of technology, XR has uses in many other industries too, such as manufacturing, real estate and healthcare. In one example, a doctor described how his team used a 3D model of a patient's leg from an imaging scan to guide them during a leg reconstruction procedure. 

The fact that MR makes use of augmented and virtual reality technology, means that digital and physical items can coexist in real-time. Using this technology would allow businesses to elevate remote working practices and simulate traditionally in-person events like meetings — regardless of their employee’s location. 

By simulating real-life business operations, it also becomes possible to trial events and troubleshoot any issues with less cost and risk. However, for the same reasons mentioned above, mixed reality demands a substantial amount of processing power, which accrues additional costs on top of the already high development cost. 

So while XR does offer real benefits to businesses, it does come at a significant cost, which means that it might not be the most viable option for smaller businesses. According to PwC's Future Forecast research, XR will bring £62.5 billion to the UK economy alone by 2030. With such value placed upon this technology, any investment in XR should be aligned with business goals and objectives —  regardless of your budget. 

Cloud computing and migration

Cloud computing allows businesses to access data, software and applications via the internet — wherever and whenever. Both cost-effective and competent, the cloud has been an asset to organisations looking to improve visibility and accessibility across their digital resources. 

More recently, cloud infrastructure has granted businesses continuity even in the face of the drastic changes that have been happening to our work processes. Examples can be found in video conferencing apps that have allowed employees to communicate remotely, as well as in collaboration tools that enable users to manage projects and duties across teams and departments. 

And with an estimated 75% of all databases being either deployed or migrated to a cloud platform by next year, businesses are rapidly realising the importance of this technology.

Key advantages revolve around security and cost. Unlike on-premises storage, which require both physical as well as traditional IT security, cloud computing systems are managed by cloud providers. 

These providers manage and monitor the server, which grants you more storage space and saves costs in the process. Cloud providers also provide a secure alternative to the maintenance that is required with on-premises servers. 

Nevertheless, providers cannot guarantee complete safety when it comes to your server. Among the chief concerns of migrating to the cloud is data loss. If you’re serious about migrating to the cloud, then it’s vital that you have the best security measures in practice to minimise threat. 

For example, implementing multi-factor authentication and ensuring that all data is encrypted where possible are just a couple of ways to maintain security both throughout your cloud migration. 

As a cost-effective solution to data storage, cloud computing is a viable option to any organisation who are looking to securely store their data. With that being said, the fact that it allows for scalability — both up and down — makes it a particularly useful solution for SMEs, who can both reduce costs and maximise operations by migrating to the cloud. 

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) covers all technology that can display intelligence, be this an automated classification system or a chatbot. 

AI can see, read and analyse data — all of which is a major help for businesses. By delegating responsibility to machines, organisations are able to access large amounts of data analysis, whilst reducing the risk of human error. 

Another branch of AI, machine learning enables systems to learn from this data without being programmed. This is particularly useful for repetitive tasks, such as scheduling meetings or organising and analysing files. 

According to research by Forrester, 1/3 of developers will utilise machine learning to automate developer processes this year as well. By reducing the time spent completing these tedious tasks, developers will be able to focus their efforts into more innovative work. 

Despite these potential benefits, businesses frequently fail to integrate AI technology successfully, with long development and training procedures halting productivity. According to a poll conducted by KPMG among 30 Global 500 firms, while 30% of respondents said they were employing AI for some operations, just 17% were actually adopting this technology at a company-wide level. 

Businesses need to ensure that their current systems structure can support AI, too, as without the necessary infrastructure, output and data storage can be negatively affected. 

With its ability to reduce employees' workload, AI has the potential to help small and big businesses alike in streamlining their operations and improving productivity. However, the high costs surrounding the development and deployment means that this technology is often less suited for businesses on a smaller budget. 

It’s also worth consulting a development team who can best advise you on how to invest in AI. You’ll be able to and gain a better understanding of the technology, whilst learning how to deploy it fast and efficiently.

Investing in the future

As businesses look to future-proof their digital strategies, it’s likely that investment will continue on an upward trajectory. But investment is only the beginning. 

It is vital that you consider how any new technology will align with your business plan and help you achieve KPIs. Blindly investing in technology with the hope that it will resolve all of your problems is a recipe for disaster. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every issue and therefore any potential investment should be factored into your business strategy as well as your budget. 

Want to know which technology is best suited to your business needs? Talk to us on 0113 543 1300 or at [email protected] 

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