In 2020, we’re seeing less talk of businesses’ need to adapt to the digital world. It’s a given at this point that any modern company, in virtually any industry, needs to adopt basic digital practices in order to be competitive. However, what does deserve more attention is the need for further digital transformation — methods and processes that can help modern businesses to move beyond the basics and live on the cutting edge of digital innovation. In that respect, the following are some of the technologies worth keeping an eye on this year and in the near future.
The subject of invoicing in modern business makes for a very clear illustration of the difference between digitisation and more robust digital transformation. Our post on ‘The Best Way to Lower the Processing Cost of an Invoice? E-invoicing!’ covered the distinction quite clearly. Basically, sending invoices digitally is now the norm — but it’s generally done via PDF files or something similar. By contrast, we pointed out that E-invoicing means that an invoice is “created as a data file” (like an XML-file) such that it can be sent and automatically processed. Basically, an E-invoicing file does not require manual acceptance and filing by he recipient; it’s cheaper (eliminating any lingering costs of handling and filing paper invoices), more efficient, and more likely to eliminate mistakes.
For a long time, businesses of all sizes have attempted to do their own, in-house accounting as a means of both cutting costs and maintaining a clear picture of company finances. Now, we’re seeing most of those businesses transitioning specifically to digital, cloud-based accounting services. Indeed, Business Leader indicated just last autumn that a massive percentage of British businesses had made the transition, and while we don’t have similar reports for other countries it stands to reason that the trend is not limited to the UK. The basic benefit is that digital, cloud-based accounting keeps all of a business’s financial data in one place — easy for managers, accountants, and anyone else relevant to glance at, and automatically updated when new numbers are input. It takes a complex, time-consuming effort and turns it into something significantly streamlined and far more helpful.
Blockchain technology is something we usually consider to be linked closely to bitcoin. However, it has actually evolved well beyond the first cryptocurrency. This is made clear in part by a look at bitcoin’s biggest limitations by FXCM, which pointed to privacy and transaction limitations as problems that need to be solved. These very same points — user privacy, transaction expenses, and transaction efficiency — have been the focus of many of the blockchain adaptations we’ve seen since the technology first emerged. And given that many businesses are looking to solve the same problems (providing customers with privacy, quick transactions, and low-fee transactions), it stands to reason many will look to do so through blockchain. Companies of all kinds are looking to adapt to consumers’ preferences for digital transactions already, and we expect the next step for many of those companies to be adoption of blockchain in one form or another.
Collaborative AI could refer to a lot of different things. In this case though we’re largely referring to the potential of interconnected, IoT-based AI devices and systems to transform supply chains for relevant businesses. Supply Chain Digital ran an interview with a BCG director that covered this topic, and referred to this idea as a “bionic supply chain” — an evolution of digital supply chains driven by “new collaboration mechanisms.” The description is essentially one of a system in which machines at all points of the supply chain communicate with one another, which will lead to cheaper, quicker, and more exact operations.
Many more technologies beyond these are in play helping to advance businesses further in their digital transformations. These four, however — E-invoicing, cloud accounting, blockchain, and collaborative AI — figure to have some of the broadest impact in the short term.
Written by guest author Ruth Parker.