The pace of tech innovation isn’t just rapid, it’s dizzying. Take a snapshot and it could be obsolete by the time you upload it to the cloud. We’ll slow a few of the most important developments down long enough to give everyone a chance to keep pace.
This isn’t about getting on the train before it leaves the station anymore. It’s about climbing aboard the Hyperloop before the pod whizzes by so fast it makes your head spin.
1. Real-time payments are creating new opportunities
Real-time payment networks are revolutionizing transactions for both businesses and consumers. Completing transactions faster isn’t just convenient. With speedier settlement and greater visibility, new approaches to credit, fulfillment and supply chain integration are possible.
The last major overhaul in affordable high-speed payment began in the 1970s with the introduction of automated clearinghouse (ACH) payments. These cut payment delay from weeks to just one or two business days. Now, both same-day ACH and real-time payments are available to financial institutions and their customers. Reducing the gap between sending and receiving funds improves visibility and trust for all parties – and innovators will find ways to turn that increased certainty into business efficiencies.
On the consumer side, ongoing competition and innovation among messaging platforms and payment-specific apps like Venmo and Zelle make it easier for individuals and small businesses to stay completely current on accounts, masking the complexities of real-time funds transfers. Consumers and small businesses don’t necessarily care about how their money is being transferred, they just want it done – and they may be willing to pay to get it done faster.
2. Blockchain is becoming more interesting than cryptocurrency
You’re not necessarily a laggard if you don’t accept Bitcoin payments or view it as part of your foreign currency diversification strategy. But you are in danger of missing out if you don’t keep an eye on the underlying technology: cryptographically strong blockchain that can be used for much more than financial transactions. In fact, while Bitcoin’s dramatically fluctuating value gets the lion’s share of the media attention, the most interesting blockchain applications aren’t in the headlines – and they have to do with more than storing monetary value.
Blockchain today resembles the web of the late 1990s. There are so many new and novel applications cropping up that it’s virtually impossible to keep track of them all. Many will fail or fade into irrelevance. But from that creative destruction could come new ways to store and parse healthcare data, process and maintain custody of legal evidence, and track inventory from raw materials to final, finished delivery and purchase.
3. AI is getting closer to inventing the jobs it’s best suited for
Artificial intelligence is starting to catch hold as a research tool and as a means for streamlining high-volume data processing tasks like recruiting and first-tier customer service. But there’s an important pivot on the near horizon: AI will soon be seen as more than a way to enhance or replace repetitive labor. It will be doing jobs that never before existed, in ways that are possible only because of automation.
Today, AI is usually asked to boil down lots of data to a short list of definitive answers. As AI becomes better at using natural language, it will be able to communicate more complex and nuanced discoveries. Consider the possibilities once AI can make recommendations that are based not just on a demographic template, but are formulated using natural language persuasion, with charts and graphs specifically tailored to the interests of the reader. And think about the prospect of an AI putting together a compelling case for the jobs it would be best suited to handle.
4. User experience is mattering more and more in the workplace
Name any of the biggest tech success stories of the past 25 years. They all have at least one thing in common: a triumph of design and consistency over arbitrary and outdated processes. Yet a typical workplace has overlapping user sign-ins, clusters of loosely-linked applications, and complicated, sometimes contradictory password and authentication practices.
What’s changing is the growing understanding that design and user experience (UX) are just as important in the workplace as they are in retail or at home. It turns out that the biggest enhancement we can make to the workplace experience is choosing business tools that treat user experience as a priority, not as an afterthought.
The easiest way to audit which side of the trend you’re on is to look at your enterprise application purchase and implementation strategy. If your purchasing team has no meaningful representation from the people who will live with and use the application every day, it’s not a complete team. Senior leadership looking only at feature lists and pricing won’t have the same mindset as the actual users.
The UX trend isn’t about making work easier, it’s about making it easier to work. Choosing the right tech for your workforce is key. Every day, workers need to feel that they’re empowered, and not limited, by the tools they use.
5. Customized, mobile-native workflows are in
Email was the first killer mobile enterprise app. It laid the groundwork for smartphones to make the leap from consumer electronics novelty to mainstream business essential. It’s practically impossible to imagine being productive without simple, tap-and-swipe control over multiple inboxes.
The time has come for even the most complex business transactions to provide that kind of native mobile experience. So as we move forward, key workflow items will need to be available on mobile.
Luckily, it’s getting easier to design and deploy mobile apps with complex business processes because databases and high-end business applications are more open than ever. Enterprise application programming interfaces (APIs) are significantly more powerful, and more readily available, today than they were even a few years ago – and the tools to stitch together complex workflows across multiple systems are moving downmarket as well.
That’s great news for business owners, and for small ones in particular. As coding gets cheaper and simpler, smaller companies will gain access to workflow efficiencies that were previously the exclusive domain of large enterprises.
Such mobile-native apps, like other tech innovations of the moment, are making life easier for enterprise decision-makers and smaller business owners alike. Intelligent business people would be wise to grab onto and put them to use – until the inevitable next wave of innovation rolls in and makes them obsolete.