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5 key technology trends for 2018

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Embracing innovation is a key element to developing a competitive advantage and establishing a foundation for long-term success. As we begin a new year, many technology solutions are emerging that can provide several direct benefits to your organization, including enhanced business insight, stronger strategic planning and greater overall efficiency. Below, we examine five of these key strategies that you can monitor and leverage to enhance operations and ultimately increase profitability.

While technology moves quickly, the five trends that we detailed last year are still extremely relevant for middle market organizations. Generally, businesses that have leveraged these trends have gained greater productivity and visibility, but opportunities still remain to refine those key processes. 

In addition to those strategies, we recommend evaluating the following technology strategies for 2018:          

Having digital capable leaders

Many companies can envision becoming digital organizations, but the velocity of that transition sometimes does not happen as quickly as they anticipated. In many cases, delays are due to poor leadership. In those situations, it may be time for a gut check, because doing nothing is the biggest risk for many companies, and could result in competitors developing more extensive and functional digital strategies.   

Companies need people capable of driving digital strategies forward. Often, companies may have great people with skills to manage a digital initiative already within the organization, but in different roles. How your company is organized is important, and a reset may be required to leverage the right digital skills and feel confident that your people are capable of implementing an effective digital strategy.

In addition, with the rapid technology changes and options in the market, your digital leadership must not be overly dependent on any one specific platform. You should have an agile digital framework, because you will have different demands in different times, and you will need a diverse number of skill sets. In fact, a recent RSM and CFO.com survey found that chief financial officers are implementing IT outsourcing strategies, not necessarily because of lower costs, but for access to more capabilities.

Taking the reins on data and analytics

In the past, only executives required data to navigate the business, but today many employees have a thirst for information to run their departments and drive decision-making. Unfortunately, key data often comes from several sources within your business, and won’t yield the proper amount of insight without a defined data strategy. An effective data and analytics function will result in clean data, provide a single version of the truth and ensure that the right information is directed to the leaders that need it.

Just like human resources, every company needs a healthy data and analytics function. Many organizations collect data, but they do not necessarily learn from it. Your data strategy should constantly evolve so you gain new and valuable insights from your information.  

Another critical element to your data strategy involves specifically defining who drives the data and analytics function. Some companies utilize shared leadership for data and analytics, but that structure can lead to siloed, nonintegrated data sources. Clear leadership is a more effective strategy to develop a cohesive data framework for more effective decision-making.  

Growing confidence in the cloud

Not too long ago, middle market companies were generally apprehensive about moving systems and applications to the cloud. However, now those same companies are trying to figure out how many applications can transition to the cloud and how quickly it can be done.

Middle market companies have developed confidence in the cloud and how it can effectively deliver the architecture needed to operate the business. It’s time for your organization to determine whether you can transition on-premise technology to the cloud, or expand your cloud strategy to gain even greater efficiency, security and flexibility. In addition, the cloud reduces the time and costs for maintenance, enabling your organization to focus internal resources on more strategic initiatives that drive success.

Continuing the quest for automation

While automation is not a new strategy, middle market companies are rapidly implementing more extensive automation platforms. It’s easy to see why automation is a key initiative for many organizations, with direct benefits including cost savings, improved productivity and efficiency, and delivery of consistent, accurate data.

For example, robotic process automation (RPA) is a growing trend among middle market organizations, automating redundant or time-consuming tasks that do not necessarily require significant decision-making. In recent years, RPA solutions have become much more affordable, enabling companies to streamline key information, creating a single view of multiple data sources and transforming data into a more valuable resource.   

Execute on your digital strategy

A recent Harvard Business Review survey of more than 400 CEOs found that executing on strategy was the number one challenge facing them as leaders. Over two-thirds of those surveyed said they struggled to translate strategy into execution.

Over the past two to three years, companies have been experimenting with digital technologies. With a with an ever growing, wide range of options available, middle market companies are very excited about digital solutions and how they can help their company, but they hadn’t yet focused on strategy. However, now many companies now have established a digital plan and are understanding how digital can have an impact. 

Middle market companies are not thinking hypothetically anymore when it comes to digital investments. They have moved from theory to implementation, delivering on their digital road maps. Middle market organizations that embrace digital technology and have mature digital strategies are generally seeing the most success, increasing efficiency and insight, and strengthening overall business operations. 

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