Future of Business

MYOB, one of Australasia’s largest software developers, has released its second report in its Future of Business series, which discusses automation and business intelligence. In the series, MYOB Chief Technology Officer Simon Raik-Allen provides insights into what business will look like in 25 years and shares ways in which businesses can prepare for change.

In the second report ‘Surviving the Singularity’, MYOB explores the rapidly evolving field of Artificial Intelligence and how machines that are capable of independent thought – a concept known as ‘singularity’ – may impact business, society and work in the not-so-distant future. If the predictions highlighted in the report come to fruition, the future of retail, business and particularly employment, will look very different to what it is today.

According to Raik-Allen, within the next decade, performance reviews could be with robot supervisors, coffee could be brewed by autonomous baristas, and courier companies may have already lost their contracts to drone firms.

When it comes to retail – an industry that’s been concerned about becoming irrelevant in the face of technological change, especially with the growth of online shopping – Raik-Allen believes retail stores of the future won’t sell goods. They will sell experiences.

“Bricks and mortar stores will become showrooms, which emphasise the unique attributes of the product, and allow you to select a product which will be delivered to your home within 24 hours, possibly by drone,” says Raik-Allen.

Other findings in the report include the invention of ‘business deal houses’, wherein people book times to meet other companies via hologram. These environments will make deals between humans more effective.

The job market will also be affected, with the service industry predicted to lose a significant number of jobs to AI, including telemarketers, auditors, bank tellers, travel agents, retail salespersons, technical writers, real estate agents, and word processors.

“While we are probably not all going to be reporting to a robot, the reality is that a lot of jobs that exist today will be replaced by automation, while roles we’ve not yet thought of will open up,” says Raik-Allen.

When AI pervades every industry and every corner of our lives, it’s the ‘human factor’ that will make all the difference, according to Raik-Allen.

“While technology provides us with high efficiency and accuracy, some skills are fundamentally difficult to automate. We still have an advantage over robots for the tasks that require judgment, creative thinking and human interaction,” he says.

Even if machines increasingly replace human workers, it doesn’t necessarily mean humans will become redundant and have nothing to contribute to the world. Raik-Allen says we will have more time on hands to pursue other opportunities. Not to mention, it’s unlikely that our desire for human experience, human interaction and human connection will change.

“[O]ther business opportunities are likely to flourish, in the arts, culture, sports and caring professions. Whatever the future brings (and I’m hoping for a technological utopia) it really is just around the corner, so businesspeople, entrepreneurs and students should start preparing for it now,” says Raik-Allen.

“Regardless of how advanced the technology, one thing that is unlikely to change is our desire for human experience. That’s where people are always going to have the advantage over robots. As the world evolves, in everything from your retail experience to making a business deal, the complex interactions we have with people are likely to become, if anything, more valuable.”

Three things that a small business owner can to do to prepare for the age of AI:

  1. Digitise your business: get online with a business website, and automate as many manual processes as you can.
  2. Focus on the customer experience that your product or service delivers. In the age of robotics, human contact will very likely become more valuable.
  3. Broaden your business network. Create relationships and partnerships that will enable you to connect more strongly with people.

Surviving the Singularity: An MYOB Future of Business report is available for download now.

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