1 – We will take orders from robots
If 2018 was the year in which SMBs were dipping their toes into AI waters, in 2019 they are likely to jump in head first.
Vendors will launch services and apps which are powered by AI and will make those available to SMBs – often at no extra cost. SMBs will increasingly benefit from AI by using it to simplify mundane tasks like predictive inventory and invoicing, along with advanced tasks like business revenue forecasting and managing intelligent payments.
The good news: employees want to embrace AI with open arms. According to an Oracle study, 93% of people would trust orders from robots at work. However, to guarantee the successful adoption of AI, organizations need to prepare the workforce by addressing potential AI skill gaps through training.
2 – Talking to machines will be just like talking to humans
Alongside the rise of AI is the rise of chatbots, which will see a major push next year. At home, we are increasingly becoming used to talking to Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home Hub as if they were real humans living with us. We also increasingly finding ourselves locked into endless text conversations with chatbots who could help us find the right information, book a table in a restaurant or assist in returning unwanted shopping items.
From a business perspective, this makes a lot of sense.
Next year, more businesses will adopt AI-powered chatbots for front line sales or customer service. These bots will do the heavy lifting – dealing with the most prevalent service requests in the first instance, or even starting the engagement from a marketing perspective. Yet, instead of replacing human interaction entirely, bots will work in tandem with customers, human agents and other bots to ensure the effortless flow of information and that customer satisfaction remains intact.
3 – Banks as we know will cease to exist – thanks to open banking
As more SMBs shift their ERP into the cloud, they require their financials to follow suit. That’s why in 2019, we will see a strong move to banking-as-a-service. To avoid becoming an “unintentional utility,” as Forrester puts it, financial institutions will have to embrace the concept of open banking.
This would mean forging digital connections with other cloud-based systems to provide direct access to financial services such as embedded payments, reconciliation and lending delivered as an extension of their ERP. This will help increase operational efficiency and improve workflows, driving down cost and creating peace of mind for SMBs.
4 – Everybody needs to think digital – or be left behind
We are surrounded by emerging technologies that are rapidly changing the way we live and work – from cashless payments to electric cars and cloud computing. Yet, in Singapore, we have been surprisingly hesitant when it comes to embracing new technologies.
Case in point: According to the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking by the IMD business school, Singapore came in 15th for future-readiness out of 63 economies. Future-readiness measures how well an economy is prepared to digitise based on how its society responds to and incorporates new technologies daily, as well as the adaptiveness of its enterprises to integrate these technologies into their operations.
If we don’t improve, then Singapore’s leading role in Asia may be at risk, especially if other countries can adapt to new technologies better and faster. Next year, we therefore need to have the mindset to integrate new technologies into our everyday lives and in business practices and processes. For example, cloud adoption can help organisations reduce cost, mitigate risks and have greater options to scale nationally and regionally. By not adopting cloud or digitally transforming, businesses risk being disrupted, or worse, losing out altogether.
Mr Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer of MediaCorp, nicely put it: “Digital is not something you do, but what you are.”