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2020: Disruption, the changing workplace and the future of automation

By Marcell Vollmer, Chief Innovation Officer at Celonis 

Technology has taken centre stage in the success of companies today. With the likes of Uber, Amazon, and Deliveroo changing the way we live, shop, work and consume content, innovation is happening faster than ever before. In light of economic uncertainty, it’s become even more vital for businesses to deploy cutting-edge technology to maintain competitiveness. Over the course of the next year, board-level conversations will be dominated by ways to ensure a seamless customer experience, formulating tactics to embrace disruptive technologies, as well as grappling with the implications of the future workplace.

 Apple Easy, Google Fast: the experience management culture

Consumers can now order a meal, book a taxi and do their shopping with a few clicks of a button, without even leaving their living rooms. As a result, customers are increasingly expecting services to be ‘Apple Easy’ and ‘Google Fast’ in all aspects of their lives, demanding quick and seamless experiences across the board. Customer experience management will continue to be a driver of success across all sectors in 2020. For many organisations, this means going back to the drawing board and incorporating customer-centricity at the core of their business models. As digitally native brands take a data-driven approach to provide frictionless experiences, customers will no longer tolerate dated technology with legacy systems and antiquated processes.

 In the retail sector for instance, roughly 93 percent of UK internet users are expected to do online shopping by 2021, the highest online shopping penetration rate in Europe. However, as the ecommerce market becomes increasingly saturated, and the high street continues to decline, customer experience will be the central factor to help incumbent brands cut through the noise in the market.

Experience management extends beyond the end user to include other important stakeholders such as suppliers, partners and employees. Over the next 12 months, companies will increasingly need to acknowledge the need for a close link between good employee experience and exceptional customer service. Engaging and retaining employees requires a big shift in company culture. A data scientist might choose to work in Silicon Valley not just for the financial benefits but for the culture of innovation it fosters and the opportunities to grow. This results in companies such as Facebook and Uber – already excelling at customer experience – attracting the best talent. To avoid this brain drain, companies must look to emulate this culture and provide similar opportunities on this side of the pond, creating a superior experience for their employees.

Disruptive technologies – a solution but not a strategy

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly taking hold across global business. According to PwC, AI’s potential contribution to the global economy could reach $15.7 trillion by 2030. Companies will continue to embrace disruption or risk falling behind in the tech race – adhering to the mantra of ‘Uber yourself before you get Kodaked’.

In particular, the market for Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will grow exponentially in 2020, as use cases for the technology continue to emerge across sectors. The commercialisation of IoT data will also increase, sparking the data economy for IIoT. Over the next year, IIoT platform services will continue to turn to public cloud providers. The data collected from IoT devices will also be used to connect the entire supply chain – from research and development to suppliers providing goods and through the different stages of manufacturing.

Yet overall, the business world is still just beginning to harness these technologies. Many organisations still lack the foundational practices to create value from disruptive technologies at scale, and don’t have clear strategies for sourcing the data that AI requires. Research from Celonis indicates 45% of C-suite execs don’t know where to start when developing their transformation strategy – which is no surprise given 82% of business leaders admit that they don’t look at their internal processes to establish priorities before starting a transformation initiative. Considering over a third of businesses have spent over £500,000 on these initiatives, it’s vital that they establish clear strategies before embarking on one.

Businesses that rush to deploy technologies without first digging deep to understand where they can best create value will find their strategies failing. Instead, for organisations to succeed, they will need to look at the underlying inefficiencies within processes, only automating once the root cause of the inefficiency has been addressed.

The future of work: augmented robotic collaboration

The workplace in 2020 will see ‘augmented collaboration’, with humans and robots increasingly working together side-by-side. This amalgamation of human and robots is already visible on the shop floor, as Amazon Go-style stores begin to spring up, allowing for a completely cashier-less retail experience.

This isn’t necessarily new: people have been working collaboratively with tech such as laptops and mobile phones for many years. However, what’s new is the advent of human-machine convergence. This goes hand-in-hand with advanced robotic technology, powering anything from ‘smart glasses’ to intelligent assistants. Furthermore, autonomous machines will be capable of taking on even more tasks, enabling humans to focus on the real value-add work.

On the flip side, companies will need to prepare their employees for this shift, as Gen Z start to enter the workforce. With their own unique set of demands and expectations, the new generation’s life experiences affect the types of jobs they seek and define what’s most important to them. They’re naturally tech-savvy, for example, with a recent survey finding that  technology offered by an employer would influence the job choice of 91% of respondents. The next year will see companies accelerate their preparation for attracting the right talent, aligning their ethos and career development initiatives with their expectations.

With so many changes coming so fast, it can be hard to grasp the sheer scale of technology innovation underway. Whatever happens, 2020 will be an interesting year for major organisations across all sectors as companies focus on adopting disruptive technologies and ensuring a holistic experience for their customers, as well as preparing for the workplace of the future.