Feature

10 forecasts for 2017

5 January 2017

BV asked businesses what will happen in 2017. Here are ten trends to look out for

1

Arks, sharks and whales will emerge

Control Risks chief executive Richard Fenning

Businesses with a defensive focus on core markets - ‘arks’ - those targeting new opportunities - ‘sharks’ - and those that are too big to fail - ‘whales’ – will emerge in response to what may be one of the hardest years for strategic business decision making since the end of the Cold War. The catalysts to international business – geopolitical stability, trade and investment liberalisation and democratisation – are eroding. Businesses should not be deterred. But they should prepare themselves for a rough ride.

2

Crowdfunding will get serious

Crowdcube co-founder Luke Lang

More businesses will return to crowdfunding for a second or third round of investment. Following a 2016 AltFi Data report into the status of businesses that have raised finance from crowdfunding we can expect to see more transparency around due diligence in crowdfunding, as well as how well businesses are performing post-funding. The industry needs a level of disclosure and reporting that all parties – entrepreneurs, investors and regulators – can understand to continue to mature. We expect a more unified approach, and potentially the development of a standard that sets out operating principles and a common portfolio performance methodology.

3

Chatbots will know it all

Xero UK managing director and co-founder Gary Turner

Chatbots - programmes that simulate live customer services conversations online - will enable even the smallest of businesses to provide extra information for visitors to their website. Chatbots can answer simple questions such as ‘Do you offer free estimates?’ or ‘What are your opening times?’ giving customers a personal service while improving responsiveness - and saving staff some precious time.

4

You might learn Chinese from a kettle

Babbel chief executive Markus Witte 

AI (artificial intelligence) will personalise learning and, as AI technologies continue to develop, we can foresee smart technology that will guide an individual learner's progress. In language learning, that technology could interpret inflections in real-life conversations, and could even be integrated with smart home devices to create a powerful extension of the existing app edtech environment. Your voice-operated smart devices could help you learn another language.

5

Audio content will cash in

Acast co-founders Måns Ulvestam and Karl Rosander

Ad spend on podcasts will increase by 500 per cent, Acast estimates - growing from $200m in 2016 to reach $1bn globally in 2017. More brands will turn to podcasts as a cheaper way to attract a highly-engaged audience and industry-wide podcast ad metrics are likely to develop as a result.

6

Services will go virtual

Advanced’s chief technology officer Jon Wrennall

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology will mature so that early-adopter, beta hardware will turn into useable consumer products within an increasingly viable software ecosystem. Businesses will start to use VR and AR in areas beyond the demos and pilots that exist today, such as training scenarios and remote experiences. Technology in the form of robotic process automation, as well as intelligent process optimisation, will start to make an impression - this can already be seen in operation in public services such as the East Midlands’ ambulance service.

7

Entrepreneurialism will step inside the tent

Cisco UK&I chief technology officer Alison Vincent

More organisations will be fostering a culture of intrapreneurship. It’s easy to forget that innovative ideas start with people. We predict that there will be greater emphasis on companies looking internally at ways to develop innovative ideas. Fostering a culture of intrapreneurship provides individuals with the freedom to think and behave more like an entrepreneur, but within a larger organisation. 

8

Industrialists will go digital

Siemens managing director, digital factory UK, Brian Holliday

Industrial digitalisation will be driven by the unprecedented availability of factory information in digital form. Business interest in extracting value from data – understanding and using data now that we can collect it - is growing. The emergence of a cloud-based, industrial eco-system will enable searching analytical questions that improve manufacturing business outcomes – industrialists will be able to use their data, stored in the cloud, to improve efficiency and create new revenues.

9

Remote working will save employers money

Resilient vice-president, customer experience, James Foley

Flexible working will continue to grow as the technology that enables it becomes more affordable. Global research by Vodafone found that 75 per cent of companies now offer staff the option to vary their hours and work from home. Flexible working is a key factor for attracting and retaining talent - one third of employees in 2016 claimed they’d prefer flexible working to a pay rise. Cloud-based services facilitating secure remote server connection will be even more widely use in 2017.

10

Consumers will boost brands

Accenture Interactive design and innovation service, Fjord, chief client officer, Mark Curtis 

Branded content will evolve with the ever-increasing flow of customer communication. Brand owners will step back, drop driving conversations and make room for audiences to shape their own stories. We will also see a rise of the ‘filter paradox’ – more content will be unfiltered in the traditional sense, but with filters of the kind available to users of the likes of Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram being applied by consumers, camera-style. These add text, visual effects, and sound to content.

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