Belfast Telegraph

How businesses can ensure a seat at the top tech table

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With a new year comes new challenges and, in a world of global economic uncertainty, remaining at the forefront of technological transformation, innovation and societal trends is key. But what are some of the main trends and developments expected in 2024?

Generative AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is something that has developed at such speed over the last few years that if you are running a business today it should already be on your radar.

However, what is the difference between AI and Generative AI? The answer is simply that traditional AI will analyse data and tell you what it sees, but Generative AI can use that data to create something entirely new.

One example of Generative AI is the use of chatbots, the most notable of these entered the public domain in 2022 with the release of ChatGPT. Another example is Coca-Cola’s recent Christmas Card campaign where consumers could generate personalised digital greeting cards using iconic Coca-Cola images and characters.

The roll-out of Generative AI across all industries in the coming years now seems to be an inevitability. This technology will allow organisations to streamline both their internal operations and improve their customer service and experience. For any business that wants a seat at the table in the future, an effective AI strategy is now a necessity.

Cybersecurity

With this increased use of AI and as businesses become more digitised, they will - by default - become more vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Generative AI has multiple applications for offensive cybersecurity and chatbots can easily write extremely convincing emails for phishing attacks. However, AI can also be used defensively to combat cyber-attacks.

Indeed, due to the sheer volume of cyber threats, businesses are increasingly turning to AI and machine learning to hone their security infrastructure. Although improving cyber-security at a business-wide level will require initial capital outlay, the costs associated with data retrieval following an attack are likely to be much higher. Protection of data is key.

Human touch

On the flipside of these advancements in AI, there are some aspects of running a business that will still require a human touch. 

Whether that involves the interpretation of that Generative AI referred to above or having the emotional intelligence and soft skills to deal with the variety of human personalities that make up a workforce. 

Your business will also need strategic leadership and decision-making that cannot be left to AI. Let’s face it, as efficient as it might be, we cannot remove humans from the decision-making process altogether. 

Businesses will need to invest in both skills training and talent recruitment to ensure that the people behind the AI are leading effectively.

Sustainability 

Environmental sustainability is all about making responsible decisions that reduce the negative impact your business has on the environment. 

Research shows that consumer preference is increasingly leaning towards companies with a definitive commitment to reducing their environmental footprint. 

Businesses can make moves towards implementing environmental strategies by using sustainable materials in their manufacturing processes, optimising supply chains to reduce carbon emissions or relying on renewable energy sources.

For example, Amazon are investing £300 million in a plan to have as many as 700 electric HGVs on the road by 2025.

Often by implementing these environmentally-friendly changes, such as Amazon’s transition from traditional combustion fuel vehicles to an electric vehicle fleet, the results can be seen in the company’s bottom line.

Additionally, with a growing focus on environmental reporting within annual financial statements at both a UK and EU level, this information will increasingly become publicly available. 

This will also mean that we will be more adept at detecting greenwashing, which is when an organisation spends more time and money on marketing itself as environmentally-friendly than it does on actually minimising its environmental impact.

Remote working

Remote working is no longer about businesses coping with the pandemic - hybrid working in some form is here to stay with 44% of people in the UK working from home some or all of the time.

In order to compete in a buoyant employment market, businesses will have to offer flexible working arrangements and this means that ‘remote’ and ‘hybrid’ job offerings will remain prevalent.  Not only will this allow for a more favourable work-life balance, but employers now see value in the ability to source talent from anywhere in the world.

It is clear, therefore, that 2024 promises to be a year of dynamic change and innovation.  The key message for businesses is that they must be adaptable and forward-thinking in order to stay ahead of the curve and compete in an ever-changing world.

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