Are businesses prepared for the next tech revolution?

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With the emergence of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, it looks like a brand new tech revolution is just around the corner. But how prepared are businesses for the future?

The rise of these new technologies means the nature of working practices could fundamentally change in the coming years, so surely it makes sense to be prepared, doesn't it?

Well, yes, but a survey commissioned by TalkTalk Business suggests that many firms are largely focusing on short-term IT challenges, rather than thinking strategically about the future.

Basic requirements coming first

According to the research, carried out for TalkTalk Business by YouGov, ensuring an adequate internet connection is the top tech priority for businesses over the next ten years.

Some 55 per cent of businesses put this top of the list, while just 18 per cent stated that they are focusing on investment in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The latter is even less of a priority among the smallest businesses, with just six per cent of firms with 50 employees or fewer addressing this issue.

But could this be costlier in the long run, as those firms that fail to get on board with the latest technology as soon as they can could miss out on the chance to secure a competitive advantage.

As Kristine Olson-Chapman, managing director of TalkTalk Business, noted: "Revolutions tend to come with little warning, but businesses have no excuse to be in the dark about the potentially transformative changes to the nature of work on the horizon. 

"How to prepare business for the impact of machine-learning and automation and attract and retain a workforce with rapidly shifting expectations of what ‘work’ means needs to be a top strategic priority."

Ms Olson-Chapman added that business leaders must start aligning with the right partners who will "help them innovate on their terms", so they're able to take full advantage of the next tech revolution.

Outdated tech frustrates workers

A further problem for businesses that refuse to update their technology is the impact it can have on staff.

According to the study, most British workers are frustrated when their office doesn't offer the right level of technology required to do their jobs well.

Furthermore, nearly two-thirds believe that their productivity is impacted by poor technology in the workplace.

Workers' main tech grievances

  • Slow internet connection - 40 per cent
  • Having to use a computer that isn't powerful enough - 36 per cent
  • Having to use old versions of software and systems that keep crashing - 29 per cent
  • Wasting time when trying to share and download large documents - 17 per cent

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this frustration is most deeply felt by millennials who are entering the world of work.

Almost half of 18 to 24-year-olds said slow internet speeds and slow hardware prevents them from doing their job.

This reflects the fact they have grown up in a digital world and view speedy and efficient technology as a basic utility.

But the level of frustration might also reflect that people of all ages often use more advanced digital tools and services at home than they do at work.

The increased use of technology such as video calling and instant messaging on modern computers hooked up to speedy broadband connections puts the lack of innovation at many businesses squarely in the spotlight.

Just three per cent of survey respondents described their workplace as "Leading Edge", with access to high-spec hardware and software, superfast and reliable internet connectivity and cloud-based software and collaboration tools.

By contrast, 44 per cent said their workplaces are "Traditional", with usable but basic computers and other hardware, and slow to adequate internet speeds.

The disparity between what people are using at home and at work brings the latter into sharp focus and serves to highlight a firm's failure to innovate and stay ahead of the tech curve.

But in the world of business, standing still means falling behind, so it is essential they seek to embrace the latest innovations, or else risk losing out to competitors.