2020 is likely to be a watershed year. Technologies and ideas that have been developed and refined in the past few years are poised to see the light of day, bringing the promise of greater sustainability and accountability.
New approaches to doing business, in ways that bring value to all stakeholders, are on the brink of becoming consensus. Digitalization, including smart mobility and the Internet of Things, is the means to bring about this change.
Here are five trends likely to see fruition in the coming year.
1.Delivering purpose through technology
The idea of business with purpose is not new, but in recent years it has come to define the way enterprises set their agenda. The theme was also prominent at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year.
This new understanding of corporate purpose means moving away from the long-held view that maximizing returns for shareholders is the sole aim of a company. Instead, firms are taking a wider role in the community and ensuring that all stakeholders benefit, discovering that this is also good for their bottom line.
Many companies are already putting this philosophy into action – CVS Health and American Express among them. CVS is using is using virtual care technology to bring affordable healthcare to people 24 hours a day at home, while American Express has made technological innovation a priority as it seeks to make payments as painless and invisible as possible.
And many firms have also committed to the movement through the influential Business Roundtable. Comprising CEOs from major companies, it put together a five-point charter that repositions the purpose of firms in the new decade away from a setup of shareholder primacy to one of stakeholder responsibility.
Technology sits at the heart of delivering this purpose, as digital technologies power business ecosystems, engaging and connecting stakeholders, driving growth, innovation and well-being.
2. Collaborating to nurture innovation and growth
As purpose-driven business takes hold, collaboration will become one of the driving forces to creating sustainable enterprises. The increasing complexity of doing business means more companies will strike partnerships with specialists in their ecosystems to help distribute their ideas. In its simplest form, the intellectual property attached to an innovation will be licensed rather than closely held, enabling other companies to benefit from the breakthrough.
Nespresso is a good example of this new era of collaboration. While Nespresso owns the brand and manufactures the coffee, the machinery customers use to make the drinks is fabricated by a variety of appliance manufacturers, such as Krups and Magimix, who bring their own different and innovative designs.
The collaborative ecosystem is also likely to be the medium for the further growth of Business 4.0 principles. The rollout of ever-faster digital communications networks will depend on partnerships between technologists and network planners. Once up and running, it’s anticipated to set off a snowball effect of innovation as super-fast networks disseminate new ways of doing business to the furthest reaches of every community.
And collaborative efforts between designers and producers will be central to 3D printing realizing its revolutionary potential. HP, for instance, has created a Multi Jet Fusion Open Platform and has forged partnerships as it seeks to create an open materials marketplace for additive manufacturing.
3. Driving inclusion and access across communities
Businesses are acutely aware of the roles they play in society as a whole and will be doing more to ensure they have an inclusive culture and diverse workforce. This is not just a box-ticking exercise for regulators. Corporate leaders understand that embracing different cultures, ideas and people of a variety of skillsets makes for a happier and more productive workforce. And that’s good for the bottom line.
Access to the internet is opening up opportunities to everyone like never before. Improvements in assistive web technologies and other accessibility designs will continue to bring benefits to ever greater numbers of people denied them in the physical world. The Livox app, for instance, uses algorithms that can interpret motor, cognitive and visual disorders, to help give a voice to those who have speaking difficulties.
The benefits of inclusion are more than moral – they are also financial. UK supermarket chain Tesco saw a rise in traffic to its website and an increase in online sales after it added adaptive technologies for people with visual impairments.
Fintech is taking financial services to places and people that conventional models have failed to reach. It means that businesses can not only explore new markets but also bring vital services, new products and wealth to the underserved and unbanked. Kenya-based mobile banking app M-PESA, for instance, has helped bring parts of Africa within the broader economy, enabling small businesses to grow and individuals to borrow and save.
An educated and skilled population is a prerequisite for a strong economy. Through web-based learning, some of the most economically backward places on earth can be brought into a virtual classroom, lifting literacy rates and boosting technological knowledge to help bring them into the global economy. The World Economic Forum argues that such programs, “if properly harnessed, can be a transformative force for the poorest and most marginalized people”.
4. Fostering environmentally responsible growth
Environment focus isn’t just a buzzword. It’s an intrinsic part of business today. Companies recognize that good ecological stewardship is as important as – and increasingly integral to – good capital management. Consequently, considerate asset deployment and efficient management of supply chains, energy and waste are bound to become greater factors of corporate success.
Already economies are being reshaped to meet the need for better environmental custodianship. From manufacturers of aluminium cans and the companies that fill them with drinks, to energy-grid managers and rocket designers, companies are forging ahead to create a circular economy that eliminates waste, promotes reuse and reduces the need for new resources.
American firm Ball is among manufacturers of metal packaging that have partnered with their customers, including Coca-Cola, to promote global efforts to recycle every beverage can. The move makes financial and environmental sense; it’s cheaper to reuse existing aluminium than source it from virgin ore and doing so reduces producers’ carbon footprints by 95%.
Such measures help, but it will be down to energy companies to provide much of the impetus to create circular economies, principally through the conversion to renewable energy.
In the technology sector, the likes of Apple, Google and Tesla have all created their own facility-dedicated renewable energy sources in the form of wind and solar farms. Their sustainability is increased by the aggregation of millions of people’s computer processing in huge data centres that host the cloud. By putting all that electricity-intensive functionality under one roof, energy use can be better managed and reduced. And by fully utilizing resources – for example by reducing processing redundancy in home computers – they can eliminate waste.
5. Creating new value for customers
Disruptive technologies are reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and driving innovation in a way that’s creating more value for consumers and stakeholders. That trend is certain to continue in the new decade as greater interconnectivity, combined with richer data analytics and powerful applications of innovations such as the Internet of Things and machine learning reshape ecosystems.
Instantaneous communication between people and objects within different ecosystems can, for instance, take the drudgery from driving as we move to automated transportation. Gaming will become even more lifelike and “digital twinning” for performance prediction a reality.
The emergence of ecosystems servicing specific demands will be another significant step. In the field of health and wellness, for instance, expect to see a shift from treatment to prevention, with the way potentially paved for innovations such as the implantation of AI-connected nanobots to enhance our neural capabilities.
Less critical functions, such as entertainment, would also be enhanced as we move through different ecosystems, carrying information that can help us make better-informed choices about where to eat or to help improve our customer experiences at the checkout.
For many years, scientists and business leaders have promised an age of greater inclusivity, smarter mobility and better corporate governance through technology.
As we move further into 2020, it feels as though we are on the brink of those promises being fulfilled, providing the springboard that will unlock the potential of innovation.
About the author(s)
Business & Technology Services
TCS’ Business and Technology Services organization combines the power of business excellence with digital innovations to help enterprises and leaders be purpose-driven and performance-oriented, making the shift from shareholder value to stakeholder value. By harnessing the abundance of data, talent, connectivity and capital, B&TS helps leading companies around the world build ecosystems that fuel growth and innovation, foster collaboration and engagement across ecosystems, improve health, safety, and well-being, enabling empowerment and inclusivity, and driving sustainability and positive environmental impact.