Top technology predictions for 2020

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By Mankiran Chowhan

Today, IT goes far beyond technology. Leaders in the IT industry are responsible for helping drive growth, cutting costs and ensuring a healthy bottom line. Digitalization is creating demand for a more agile way of operating applications and processes to meet the needs of a constantly changing market. Therefore, we need to plan in a cost-conscious manner to drive growth.

As we move towards the fourth industrial revolution, looking back at some of the key technological developments in 2019, here’s what we can predict for 2020:

Workers looking to save time will kick demand for AI into overdrive
In 2020, workplace changes related to AI will become a noticeable trend. A recent PwC report revealed that 67% would prefer AI assistance over humans as office assistants. While societal tension around AI will continue, workers’ growing openness to automation will incrementally drive changes. For example, millennials, who now represent the majority of workers, are instinctively comfortable using AI. As consumers, they are more likely to approve of AI-provided customer support, automated product recommendations, and even want AI to enhance their experience watching sports. Millennials and others will increasingly bring their consumer preferences for AI to work and expect that routine tasks be automated. This will further lead to benefits including higher productivity and more economic activity. Employers will need to lean into this shift, supporting those employees who want to use automation to be more productive, helping others understand the benefits, and providing support to those who need help learning to use it.

Artificial Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence converge
Customers are individuals with similar needs – to feel important, heard and respected. As a result, “empathetic AI” is increasingly applied in advertising, customer service, and to measure how engaged a customer is in their journey. According to a recent report from Accenture, AI has the potential to add US$957 billion, or 15 percent of India’s current gross value in 2035. In 2020, this trend will kick into gear, with more technology companies infusing empathy into their AI. As companies use empathetic AI to bring more of the benefits of advanced technology to life, they will instill more trust, create better user experiences, and deliver higher productivity.

Machine Learning moves from a novelty to a routine function
Businesses, technology companies, and everyday people have been fascinated by the novelty and promise of machine learning (ML). But in 2020, ML will be less of a novelty, as it proliferates under the hood of technology services everywhere, especially behind everyday workflows and forms. In a way, it will fade into near invisibility, even while making a huge impact. Technology services will increasingly anticipate the needs, whether they be related to expense reports, scheduling, or other processes. Eventually, it will do all or a portion of certain tasks, with more accuracy and speed than a human being. One’s preferred travel itinerary may be suggested and filled out based on previous trips, and automatically combined with the company’s preferred vendor commitments. Solutions will come up that will ultimately predict the location of expenses based on the cities visited earlier, making the process of filling out expense reports even faster. All of this, and more, will be possible as ML fades into the background, thinking through elements of the work-life, and allowing to put more of the effort into creative and productive tasks. It’s a trend that will bring more benefits in 2020 and beyond.

Data moves from an analytical to decision-making tool
In 2020, the shift to leveraging data for real-time decision-making will accelerate for a growing number of business functions. In the coming year, many more organizations will start to realize the potential of their data to intelligently guide business decisions and leverage it to reach even greater levels of success. And looking even further into the future, they will eventually be able to determine whether potential suppliers’ policies adhere to international laws and social ethics, and be able to use data to identify, in advance, a host of potential supply chain disruptions, such as a small number of suppliers concentrated in a region vulnerable to weather or man-made disasters.

“Super Apps” will catch fire in India
In 2020, the “super app” trend that dominates mobile commerce and communications in India will reach critical mass among consumers. True to its name, a super app is the number of apps within a single seamless experience. They tend to start as messaging or payment apps that merge and grow to include ride-hailing, dining, social media, health tracking, games, common business applications, and more. Where they proliferate, super apps become the primary way people interface with the Internet on mobile. In India, it’s becoming easier to use super apps like Paytm, Amazon, PhonePe etc. This means, any vendor who wants to create a seamless experience for mobile customers, especially providers of transportation, dining, travel, etc. needs to keep a close tab on this promising trend.

Safety will go hand in hand with employee satisfaction
The issue of traveler safety overall – for all employees, and especially for those in under-represented groups – will reach critical mass in 2020. It’s becoming an issue of employee satisfaction that employers will need to address. Workers will increasingly demand more information and resources to stay safe during their work trips. According to a recent study from Wakefield, 87% percent of women report being harassed during business trips and a majority want more guidance and support from their employers. Sixty six percent of LGBTQ+ travelers have hidden their sexual orientation while on a business trip, with 73 percent saying they do that to protect their safety. Nearly all Indian business travelers (98 percent) have shared their location while travelling for business. The global average is around 91 percent. In 2020 and beyond, companies have an opportunity to step up and enrich their traveler safety resources for employees, from introducing flexibility within travel policies to offering access to tools that keep them safe and protect their rights on the road. Emerging features like Uber’s emergency button and TripIt’s neighborhood safety scores for travelers won’t be considered “added,” they’ll become an expected, and hopefully common, part of the traveler experience.

(The author is the Managing Director – Indian Subcontinent, SAP Concur)

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