Human Connections Will Matter Amidst AI and the Future of Work

By Edward Senju

As businesses step into 2020 with new aspirations and a positive outlook, they are also keeping a close watch on the macroeconomic influences and changing market conditions.

This year is expected to bring modest recovery for Singapore, though trade tensions between the United States and China as well as other global economic uncertainties will continue to prevail.

In the latest Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) quarterly survey of professional forecasters, the median forecast was for 1.5% growth in 2020. The business sentiment for local firms in Singapore has risen slightly for the first quarter of 2020 according to Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau's (SCCB) latest Business Optimism Index study.

Whilst the year looks mildly hopeful, external factors combined with the new world of work have led to an increasingly complex environment for business leaders in Singapore as well as the region.

Unsurprisingly, hyper-competition, dynamic economies and changing consumer trends are giving rise to a new breed of agile businesses in the ASEAN region or pushing the existing establishments to change. These agile businesses are defining a new ethos of working as they seek growth. To stay nimble, they are looking for newer ways of collaboration, faster ways of working and optimisation of work performance.

As businesses adapt, how can they ensure their transformation has a positive impact on their bottom-line?

AI for Smarter Sales
First and foremost, a key trend to spotlight is the integration of business processes with Artificial Intelligence (AI), the adoption of which is booming in South East Asia. Indonesia is in the vanguard of ASEAN (Association of South East Nations) AI strategy, says IDC, with 24.6% of organisations adopting the technology, followed by Thailand (17.1%), Singapore (9.9%), and Malaysia (8.1%).

The average sales rep spends just 36.6% of their time selling. The rest is spent on admin, answering emails, and managing customer relationship management (CRM) tools, all of which are massive opportunities for AI-enabled business optimisation. Over and above, Harvard Business Review has identified how AI is changing sales by giving data-driven recommendations on upselling and cross-selling, forecasting, price optimisation, and even rep performance management.

Digital Transformation of Legacy Processes
Secondly, as more and more companies seek to enhance employee productivity, they’re embracing digital transformation – a trend that will continue to flourish. The Adroit Market Research Report forecasts that the cloud computing market revenue in Southeast Asia is estimated to reach US$40.32b by 2025 as a result of increased demand for cloud computing among SMEs. Businesses must think of how they can enable their employees and leave them more time to engage in higher-value work, leveraging the power of the cloud and overall digitisation.

Whilst the digital transformation of the workplace is a business imperative, keeping a people-oriented approach is too equally important. Businesses that champion inclusivity by balancing the demands of multiple generations of the workforce and continue to foster people collaboration, will thrive.

Human Connection and Collaboration is a Necessity
Human connections will be vital in the future of work – a key trend that will only build as we go along. As interactions mediated by technology become the norm and working remotely turns into reality for many, forging meaningful connections is still important. Face to face meetings beyond texts, email, and social media, will continue to help spark and nurture personal and business connections. Connecting with people in real creates a fabric of creativity, innovation, and trust for the business. A meeting with a prospect is undeniably a powerful part of the sales process.

Whilst business transformation driven by technology and innovation was the buzz word for the previous year, in 2020 we expect to see it play a pivotal role in the growth and progress of businesses in Singapore and the region. But what lies ahead is a curvy ride and businesses must strap on their seatbelts as they take sharp turns and face the economic headwinds. In the road ahead, mapping transformation to business impact should be a key focus. 

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