Current and future trends affect businesses

In an era where increasingly affordable technology innovations are helping small businesses compete on a nearly level playing field with large enterprises, the business owners who will be most successful will be those who can accurately predict the future in their industry and develop a vision of their place in that future. However, with both technology and business evolving at an unprecedented pace, it can be challenging to clearly understand not only the trends affecting the business but how to approach them.

At a recent business growth summit held over a week in France, business owners discussed the current and emerging trends that they believe are affecting business. Seven of them have been identified affecting Australian businesses:

1. Workplace of the future is now

Greater workplace flexibility is a given in the age of smartphones and ubiquitous mobile connectivity. Businesses that haven’t yet facilitated flexible working options must do so to attract and retain the best talent.

2. Data will become a prerequisite

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and its subset, machine learning, can help organisations gain a competitive edge from their data, whether it comes from systems, people, training, or management. It’s time for business owners to recognise data as an asset and leverage it to expand revenue streams and compete more strategically.

3. Communications are evolving

While email was an exciting new business tool just 20 years ago, today businesses are seeing a shift away from email and even voice-based communications. Instead, workers expect to use apps and other software to communicate and collaborate. This could fundamentally change the way people interact and relate to each other, which can create management and culture challenges and opportunities.

4. Transportation may no longer be a barrier

In a geographically-dispersed country like Australia, travelling between capital cities alone is a lengthy and often expensive venture. However, the increasing speed and declining cost of transportation, such a potential fast rail network, could make travel easier and more cost-effective. This can help businesses reach wider markets more effectively.

5. Ageing population could provide opportunities

Aged care is one of the fastest-growing industries in Australia as the population continues to age. For some businesses, this ageing population can provide opportunities for new revenue streams. Even in businesses not currently related to aged care, it’s important to consider what these opportunities could mean.

6. Augmented reality will become commonplace

Currently, not many businesses are even contemplating the use of augmented reality, despite its many applications and use cases. Opportunities exist to apply augmented reality for training and to support engineering-type work. Having an experienced technician or engineer “accompany” a less-experienced team member to work sites via augmented reality can provide cost savings and efficiencies for organisations.

7. Managing the environment will be a key business imperative

Climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions are key concerns for younger Australians. This creates an opportunity for businesses to make a difference either through direct investment in clean water and clean air initiatives or by simply managing greater compliance requirements as part of business as usual.

Understanding that these trends exist is just the first step. Business owners then need to think carefully about how these trends affect their business and how to get ahead of the curve to make the most of the opportunities they present. It’s only by projecting into the future and thinking strategically about change that a business will be able to withstand the inevitable onslaught of competition and disruption. It is also the only way a business will be able to identify and pursue the biggest opportunities, thus positioning the business for greater success.

Andrew Laurie, CEO, entrepreneur and business coach

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