If it's January, leaders expect to see lists of hot technology trends for the year ahead. Sadly, such lists rarely offer advice on what to do about these trends. What follows are the top five trends -- from a list of nine published by the Boston Globe -- likely to represent the biggest opportunities for your business and what you should do about them.
1. Use robots to lessen labor strains.
While CEOs can't do much to make Covid-19 go away, they are on the hook for improving how well they satisfy the demand for their products and services. Labor shortages pervade the economy and robots are increasingly able to help alleviate them.
Robots have the potential to do more jobs. As Maia Heymann of Converge Venture Partners told the Globe, they are moving from their traditional strongholds in warehouses and logistics to "next-generation automation" for other uses in manufacturing, agriculture, and construction.
Business leaders -- especially those that are labor-force constrained -- should take a fresh look at their business processes with an eye toward how robots can help boost productivity. They should examine case studies of companies in their industry that have used robots successfully and envision how robots can enhance company operations.
2. Solve operational problems with simulations.
How can business leaders envision a better way of operating? One crucial step is mapping out how the company works now to find the biggest flaws and to pinpoint the opportunities for improvement.
One way to do that is to use software to build a simulation of a company's operations. Rudina Seseri of Glasswing Ventures told the Globe that she dubs such simulations "digital twins," which have the potential to solve technical challenges such as supply chains that are too dependent on a single provider.
Based on my experience re-engineering the operations of financial services companies, I know that most organizations lack an in-house function to build such simulations. I have also found them to be very powerful tools for envisioning how to improve operations.
Business leaders should use such simulations -- and if they lack internal resources to do this well, they should consider getting outside help.
3. Create virtual customer service "deep fakes."
Plenty of jobs involve customers, employees, and business partners seeking answers to questions. If companies are struggling to hire and retain the customer service, human resources, and other staff needed to answer those questions, business leaders may increasingly have an alternative.
Specifically, such questions could be answered with "deep fakes" -- digital videos in which replicas of real people say things they never said in reality. Deep fakes could help companies provide customer service, entertainment, and gaming, and do other jobs. Business leaders should explore whether such applications could improve their operations.
4. Offer customized purchase insurance.
Business leaders who sell online -- products or services such as flights, rental houses, or books -- are increasingly offering insurance at checkout.
Lily Lyman of Underscore VC told the Globe that such online insurance will expand to new industries -- such as shipping, construction, car sales, and financial services -- and new kinds of insurance carriers will emerge to offer the best insurance coverage for each industry.
Business leaders should assess whether to partner with such carriers -- or create their own.
5. Boost productivity with predictive software.
Most of us are familiar with software that tries to complete your sentence while you are typing. This software uses data from what millions of other users have typed in the past to guess your next word or phrase.
If your company employs people who write software, a new technology is being developed that will do something analogous for software development. If it works, it could boost productivity and help business leaders deal the labor crunch.
Drew Volpe of First Star Ventures has been testing "Copilot from GitHub, which tries to predict what software code should come next, based on what you've already written," according to the Globe. Volpe is looking at similar applications for helping lawyers draft contracts and financial analysts write reports.
Business leaders should explore whether Copilot or other such assistants would help make their companies more productive.
The labor shortage shows no signs of abating, and if they want to get more out of the people they have, business leaders should tap into these five tech trends.