2020 promises to be yet another significant year for British organizations, with the gap between those that successfully adapt to change – and those that don’t – getting wider. Change is only negative when it is not anticipated.
One thing is clear – the organizations that thrive in 2020 will have a fundamental focus on the core principles of business – productivity, insight and execution to take advantage of new opportunities. So where will these opportunities be?
1. Productivity will take center stage in 2020
The British government’s business productivity review in November 2019 put productivity (measured as output per worker) and investment in UK small businesses at its core. While the gap is getting smaller, UK productivity still lags behind other European countries. This is despite the UK’s strong small business culture, with over 1,000 new businesses being formed on a daily basis. A fundamental outcome of the review was the government’s £56 million ($73m) pledge to boost productivity output. One of its key recommendations was that businesses need to “harness the benefits of technology, such as online accountancy software and customer relationship management (CRM) software." This focus on ‘modern business tools’, as the review describes, will play a key role in helping UK organizations boost productivity and unlock growth in 2020.
2. ‘Business anxiety’ could reach its peak unless it is tackled
It’s almost a cliché to say that change and uncertainty have become the new normal in business, with each year bringing more unexpected developments than the last. But with continued instability, legislative change, amendments to tariffs and trade agreements and evolving tax regulations, organizations need to know where to execute. This continued uncertainty increases the likelihood of focusing in the wrong areas or reacting to change too late.
Successful organizations in 2020 will be the ones that relentlessly focus on their mission, understand their day-to-day operations to the fullest extent and execute based on where opportunities align with their strengths. While many are pushing ahead with expansion into international markets, we’re also seeing many organizations consolidating their existing operations, suggesting greater returns can be gained from what already exists.
3. Greater focus on diversity, inclusion and purpose
In 2019 we’ve seen great strides towards businesses of all sizes taking positive action to make a difference from a societal perspective. Businesses no longer simply focus on making a profit. In August 2019, the chief executives of nearly 200 major global companies said shareholder value is no longer their main objective. In its ‘Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation’, the companies called out employee investment, support and “fostering diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect”.
In 2020, expect to see far greater emphasis on the delivery of diversity and inclusion initiatives that can help bring a broad range of perspectives to the table, making businesses more reflective of the societies in which they operate. Meanwhile, we can expect to see corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies come to the fore. For example, at NetSuite, through the Social Impact programme, we support more than 1,500 nonprofits and social enterprises, helping organizations like Zero Carbon World meet their mission.
4. Increased democratization of AI
We’re increasingly seeing technologies that were once viewed as cutting-edge embedded into the core of software products, meaning that tools such as AI and machine learning are now for the many rather than the few. We’re talking about ways to automate functions and make processes quicker and more intelligent – this isn’t about expensive, standalone deployments that will only make a sub-section of an organization smarter. AI and machine learning will increasingly be woven into the fabric of the platforms that help businesses of all shapes and sizes operate. In 2020, small businesses will be able to use this functionality to identify problem areas such as late payers, or projects that are likely to run over budget.
5. Going direct to the consumer
2019 saw the rise of direct-to-consumer brands like Gymshark and eve sleep. Inevitably, this will continue in 2020, as companies look to reduce costs to the consumer and simplify the supply chain. Their success is putting a renewed emphasis on the customer experience, encouraging brands to build distinct brand messages and take greater ownership over the customer journey. In particular, companies will increasingly use technology to personalise the marketing content they deliver as well as the products they offer, as well as tweaking traditional retail/distributor operations to boost competitiveness.
6. The rise of business apps
We’ve reached a tipping point whereby business applications cannot thrive on the sole merits of their performance. Gartner has predicted that by 2023, 40% of professional workers will expect to use their business applications much like they manage their music streaming services – with a consumer mindset. Whereas in the past, employees were offered a fixed IT solution on their desktop PC, in 2020 it’s expected that staff will increasingly use mobile apps that are tailored to their job’s specific requirements.
People no longer expect one size fits all IT solutions – they want the same experience as they get in their mobile lives, and we can expect to see a big step change in the way technology providers tailor their services in 2020.