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2023 Emerging Technologies That Will Enable Your Business To Grow

Mar 31, 2023

This Solutions InSight session features the EisnerAmper Digital team sharing the different platforms, innovations and strategies business owners are adopting to enable growth and reduce process inefficiencies in response to rapid technological changes brought on by COVID-19.


JJ:So Aimann, how can businesses leverage emerging technologies to help them grow their business today?

AR:Good question. So, there's a lot of really big emerging technologies today. Some of them are still in their infancy, but that's an opportunity for companies to really experiment. For example, with AI, we've seen that no one knew the power of it until people started to create really awesome use cases.

So, AI essentially does two things really well, data extraction and then interpretation. So GPT-3 or Open AI, they have a language model that basically is trained on everything that's on the internet, essentially. There's some degree of limitations there, but when you take such a simple concept and then you give it to the hands of people and they experiment and they come up with all their different use cases, they inspire these companies to take it to the next level or integrate it within their data analytics arm or even blockchain.

And it's getting to the point where, I think you've mentioned this in the past, where AI models are training other AI models. So, the flywheel is really taking off. So I would say AI, blockchain, blockchain is very interesting in that there's still a ton of skepticism and a lot of risk involved in terms of these crypto companies. But we're seeing that a lot of banks are adopting crypto, and a lot of crypto is also merging with traditional finance. So, it's going to be really cool to see how they can use all these different innovations to essentially elevate the user experience. Because at the end of the day, I can come up with a new idea, but if it's not actually driving impact, then it's not worth investing.

But I think what companies are doing really well, especially smaller ones, is trying different things and failing. And that's something that I'd like to see more of.

Analytics, data analytics, and big data is definitely one of those big, low-hanging fruits that AI can now help a lot more with. So, I think one of the challenges in the past with big data is, okay, you have all this data and you have ledgers, and you have databases. You don't know what to do with it necessarily, and it takes a lot of creativity and a lot of experimenting and a lot of hard coding to get insight out of that data. But now with AI, you have out of the box systems that you can use and you can take these models and apply it to your databases, your internal information or things about your users in an anonymized way that protects their privacy to understand how are people using our software or our services? How are we engaging with the customer? And is there any gaps or are there any ways we can do that better?

So, I would say those are my top picks. Honorable mention would be virtual reality and augmented reality. I think that that's a really cool space, and I'm waiting for that pivotal moment where it becomes so cheap and the use cases and the software and the ecosystem is so rich that every household has a VR or an AR headset. I think that's one of the coolest things. I don't know if you've anything interesting.
JJ:Yeah, no, I actually recently spoke at the Asia Metaverse conference and it had an Oculus on, it created a AR digital twin of myself. But yeah, I think in the future, if you create the technology simple and reduce the cost as simple as putting on glasses, you get your full AR and VR experience.

I want to mention a couple of use cases on technologies that you hit. So, we've been seeing and helping organizations integrating artificial intelligence, automation into their ERP systems, into their risk management tools, to reduce a lot of those mundane tasks that their employees work on today. AI, you mentioned is a great use case for content intelligence. So, now we're seeing with the ERPs that a vendor uploads their invoice and PO the AI will pick it up, identify that it's an invoice, identify as a PO, and then validate the invoice to the PO to see where the discrepancies are.

Automation for the real estate business today, we're actually creating a process leveraging automation tools and then pouring it into data analytics, looking at those specific property management solutions, providing better real-time reports to the decision makers to make those decisions quickly. With AI, you mentioned we see AI models teaching other AI models. So, the technology has blew up in the last 10 years. Another use case, we're actually leveraging some of our data scientists today on our ESG practice. Looking at the ESG rating agencies, pulling that data and making sense of what a business should do related to their ESG practice.
AR:Yeah, that makes sense. If you think about it, humans have limitations as far as how much data they can consume and keep in their mind and then organize in their head. And it's impossible to read through gigabytes and terabytes of data to figure out what is useful to me. And that's what AI is enhancing or making super easy.

So, it's really crazy to think that in just a few years, AI is literally going to be that C-level assistant that just goes in and tells you what your blind spots are. And it's because as great as big data is, because we've been talking about big data for almost a decade now or more, but-
JG:Data's big oil, right?
AR:Yeah, they've been saying that forever. But they haven't been quick enough to really take advantage. And a lot of people are maybe apprehensive about security and things like that, but at the end of the day, the point of leveraging big data is to secure systems better, give people more peace of mind, and ultimately save money and give their employees a better work experience and then give users a better user experience. So, I'm really excited about that.
JJ:I'm envisioning in next year or two when I wake up in the morning, log into my laptop, a concierge comes up and says, "Hey, good morning, Jason. I see that in the last 30 days, you've been working on these projects. By the way, you forgot to do your T&E report. Make sure you basically validate your T&E from all the receipts that I have captured. And by the way, you have these meetings. Perhaps take a 30 minute break to have a mental relief throughout your day, right?"
AR:Yeah. And Tuesday's recycling, by the way.
JG:Yeah, there we go.
AR:So, take out the garbage.
AR:Yeah, I think there have been really not so great implementations. Microsoft's Cortana is now getting a lot better. Microsoft used to have Clippy.
JG:I remember Clippy, yeah.
AR:And the first thing people would do is turn it off. But now we're getting to a point where people find it useful and they trust these systems to give them really insightful information. So, I'm excited to see where that goes in the next couple years.
JJ:All right, good.
Thank you for joining us today. My name is Jason Juliano. I'm the practice leader and director for EisnerAmper Digital. I lead the digital transformation team. With me today is Aimann. He's one of our digital leaders within the digital transformation practice. Today we're going to be discussing how to leverage emerging technologies to help you grow your business for 2023. Thanks for joining us, Aimann. You want to give a quick intro on yourself?
AR:Sure. So, my name is Aimann. I have a decade and a half in digital transformation. Basically, I specialize in leveraging UX, automation, AI to optimize operational efficiency, product development, and ultimately drive value to users for an organization that needs help.
JJ:So Aimann, what are some of the top emerging technologies that drive a lot of impact for businesses today?
AR:Today, there's always new technologies coming up. There's blockchain, AI, automation, big data. But what I'm most excited about is Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, especially as it becomes more accessible for different organizations to leverage. So, the big thing about AI, and it's one of those things where we don't know the power of it until people actually innovate in ways that no one has ever seen. And it's such a unique technology and a lot of those three ... So, automation, big data, and AI, they overlap a lot. In fact, all the technologies that are available today overlap a ton.

And that's a good thing. That means that it's getting easier and easier to do the things we want to do. So, I'm really excited about those. Blockchain is still in its infancy, I would say. But I've noticed that banking and crypto have started to merge traditional finance with decentralized finance, and there's just a lot of really exciting stuff happening in this space, as I'm sure you know.
JJ:NFTs also basically transforming the supply chain, adding NFTs to really provide proof within the transactions. But I also see within artificial intelligence, AI is actually doing great strives on creating low code integration into like ERP systems where now you're not stuck with one size fits all from ERP, you could tweak it and cater it to your business.
AR:Yeah. What AI is really good at is one, extracting information from databases or from the worldwide web or whatever, and then helping organizations interpret it. So, there's language models, there's video and image models, and the possibilities of using that within your organization to figure out how you can optimize or how you can serve your customers better, that's improving on a regular basis.
JJ:So, let's talk about AI enabled blockchains that we're seeing today and AI and automation integrated into ERPs that as we're taking our clients, we're saying that, right? There's a lot of new technologies being embedded into the ERP systems that help them with all those old legacy mundane tasks that, quite frankly, the technologies are automating those processes now. What other examples do you see in the space today?
AR:We're seeing a lot of developers using AI to help them write better code. So, for example, finding errors in their code is really simple now, they just put the code in into an AI prompt, and then they would try to explain what the function's trying to do, and the AI will actually catch different security issues.

So, I think that robust code is going to be easier to produce, especially with junior developers and mid-level developers. It's basically a really strong toolkit for those people to help them develop faster and more innovative because then they can spend more time thinking of a better way to create something as opposed to spending time on syntax and troubleshooting and things like that.

So, I know that there's a big scare, I guess, in the industry as far as AI replacing developers or AI replacing other people and for sure it's going to have massive changes in the way the workforce is comprised. But ultimately it's for everyone's benefit, it's going to allow us to work better. And I think what humans are best at that AI takes to the next level is leveraging our creativity, strategic thinking, for example, and things like that. So, I'm really excited to see how people implement AI. I think we haven't seen even 1% of the use cases that AI can help with. So, that's something that's, I think, really exciting.
JJ:Help the businesses grow their business models and help the businesses pivot if needed, right?
AR:Yeah, that's a big thing. I think that large organizations are really encumbered with legacy systems, and especially the older the company's been around and the bigger the teams, the more slowly they move in terms of innovation, in terms of leveraging all these new technologies, in part because sometimes there's a lack of courage maybe, or they don't want to rock the boat, but these technologies force them to be more competitive, which is a good thing as long as the leaders are poised to take advantage of those things and always reexamine or reassess where they're at with the products and services that they're offering. They have to just remain agile and embrace technologies and tell themselves and their team that it's okay to experiment, but that takes work. It takes a conscious effort. But if they do that, it's extremely, extremely rewarding.
AR:Yeah. So with that said, I'm wondering what your take is on what threats do companies face today in current society that technology can maybe help with?
JJ:I would say the risks of uncertainty within our market today and everyone, all the leaders today looking at recessions, workforce reductions. I actually heard a couple days ago on business radio, Jamie Diamond from JP Morgan was saying, this is a position for businesses not to stop spending, but to be more strategic in the actual spend and continue to grow their business.

Yes, you have to monitor costs, but in the same token, you have to transform your business and make sure you pivot quickly. Part of that is really to get your entire firm into an ideation and innovation space. Changing the culture, not just from the top, but from the bottom too. Bringing on cross-functional teams, having them understand where we're at today, where does the business need to focus on, where does the business need to pivot? Spending more time planning.

We see a lot of ERP failures happen because there's not enough time spent planning for that ERP implementation. We get called in last minute after ERP implementations are done just to fix someone's problem. So ideation, create a culture of innovation, don't stop spending, spend wisely, but plan, plan, and plan. And then do agile planning also. So, if you need to pivot within the second quarter of an implementation, then pivot. It's okay.
AR:Yeah, I think historically I've read that recessions are where a lot of startups take off because the chaos, the internal turmoil with the bigger companies as they try to downsize, clean up, and organize, gives way to smaller, more agile companies to come in and reinvent the wheel in a way that really takes over, especially once money frees up and then the economy turns around. Then they're kind of positioned really well to scale up.

So, with that being said, big companies, like you said, they're, when they lose a lot of people or they have to shift the way they do business because of external factors, what can they do to minimize the impact or the amount of time it takes to reset so that they're in a better position once the economy turns around to take advantage and scale even better than before they started?
JJ:So, other situations we see that more mature companies are more complex and it's harder to make change. So, to focus on and reduce the risk for a lot of these digital transformation programs, integrating emerging technologies, is really to forget about the technology. Fix your processes. Because if you implement the technology, you're just going to create new technology overall on top of bad processes.

Understand the data that you're capturing internally and externally that you're bringing in. Because as we see time over time, bad data is coming in as bad data coming out. Garbage in, garbage out. And then the culture is huge. Change management. A lot of organizations don't spend and invest the time they need in change management. And change management is not just change management within your business leaders, but all your employees, including your partners.
AR:And then in terms of processes, do you find that when they do this downsizing exercise and they have to look at their processes from a new lens, that sometimes there's a loss of knowledge that comes with it from the downsizing? How do they appropriately address something like that without spending more than they're trying to save as a result of the recession?
JJ:Well, that that's another opportunity to how you could leverage technology. There's a lot of technologies in play on business process mining, basically creating a digital twin of your current environment and then figuring out within that digital twin, which processes work and which don't. But then really engaging your entire team to really understand what are the gaps, what are the challenges, what are your client's challenges, what are your client's client's challenges?
So, what opportunities do you see happening during this economic climate?
AR:So, in line with what we've been talking about, improving operational efficiencies, a low-hanging fruit that every company can take advantage of during a recession. In some ways things get noisier and other ways they get more quiet and that allows leaders within organization that are still there to look at the overall processes and refine.

So, a big opportunity is to look at all their systems, look at all the software that they're using, look at all the processes that's in place, talk to the leaders of each department and say, "Let's take a step back and understand what exactly was holding you back." Because at the end of the day, when things are going really well, either within a company or within the economy, everyone gets more lax in terms of keeping things buttoned up, or it's easy to gloss over a process that has a lot of friction in it with just more manpower.

But when you're in a state where you have to be lean, you don't really have that luxury. So, it forces you to take a look at what are the absolute minimum things you need to drive your organization to deliver value, to maintain your operations, to maintain the software that you have? Take a look at how everything is built and the infrastructure, and do you have all the right things in place? And that exercise definitely can be challenging. But if you take it piece by piece, each department, then you can do a really good job with workshops and things like that to uncover some gems and some things that you can improve on while the world is cleaning up and then hopefully coming back to normal. So, that's what I found in my experience.
JJ:Yeah, it's funny that you mentioned low-hanging fruit, right? Because as we talk to these business leaders, they want to basically boil the ocean and we have to bring them back and say, "Okay, what's the easy hits that we can make with quick pilots? But make sure that aligns to your entire digital transformation strategy or your digital roadmap for your business within the next three, five years. But then figure out those small little pilots that get you those quick wins and then help build that innovation culture within your firm."
AR:Yeah, that's definitely true.
JJ:So, based on some of these opportunities and quick wins, we focus on client experience and the overall client journey. But what do you see are quick pilot wins and must-haves to really get that great client experience?
AR:So, within organizations, what I've seen is doing a little session within each product line or service line to really ask ourselves the right questions and making sure that the challenge that we're trying to solve for is is the same challenge that's being addressed by the actual products and services that the organization offers.

So, when you do an exercise like a design thinking workshop, a lot of times you'll realize that, and this goes back to what you were saying, a lot of times you'll realize that they're trying to be on the latest and greatest technology without really understanding what is it exactly are we trying to solve for the user? What experience are we trying to give them? Not just what are we building? And it's easy to ask the wrong question and then go down the rabbit hole and start just adding technology that you don't need.

And I've seen also a lot of cases where a company, they want to cut costs and save money. So they'll say, "You know what? We want only out of the box solutions, nothing custom. We just want to clean up, delete whatever integrations we don't need, and then just have one thing or two things." But that's the wrong way to approach it, right? Because at the end of the day, you have to know exactly what you want first. And in order to do that, everyone has to think back from first principles and say, what am I trying to give to the end user?

And the end user, by the way, oftentimes is the employees of the company. Because sometimes we get so lost in the product that we forget that our employees are also users of a product, and that product is the systems that we've built for them or the systems that they've built to hold up their infrastructure or for their processes.

And the reason why you have to think of that as almost a pseudo product is because at the end of the day, the company is trying to make a profit. They're trying to drive revenue, they're trying to expand vertically, horizontally, in all the ways. And if you are operationally inefficient, if your internal users are having a hard time and they're frustrated, that increases labor costs, for example. It makes it harder to hire because XYZ company is known for having legacy systems.

If I go in there, it's going to be harder to get another job at a company that's more innovative. So, there are a lot of different intangible factors that companies need to keep in mind in terms of how they optimize. So, it's not just optimization from a cost perspective, which can be pretty misleading.

But all of it, essentially when things are done correctly, will yield increased revenue and/or reduced expenses, and ultimately happier employees, better retention, less churn, and then in the future, less layoffs. So, there's a lot of benefits, but it really, as far as I can tell, and I'm sure in your experience, it boils down to being able to step back, ask the right questions, address the right challenges in the right ways, and take our time with the first part of the transformation and not necessarily spend all our time in implementation.
JJ:Sometimes you have to create a vision. You actually have to give leaders a picture. What does this look like? And we could do quick mockups with our UX designers to show what does conversational AI mean? Show them a digital assistant slapped on their intranet so they could visually see it. Perhaps maybe create a storyboard from a design thinking session showing them their full client journey of what exists today and what it could be at when these companies grow up.
AR:And the other thing on that note is creativity is a little difficult if you haven't gotten used to it. So, I think one of the things that big companies struggle with is, first of all, you have to get out the mindset of we got to keep going and not make mistakes. They have to get out of that mindset. And the second thing is they have to be able to embrace the iterative process.

Agile Scrum has done a good job of moving people from the bottom up towards that, but I think on the top down, there's still a little bit of improvement that can be made. So, I would like to personally see a lot more of that experimentation and embracing failure and experimenting with technology, even if there may be a potential risk to the reputation of a company, there's a lot of unique ways that they can experiment without necessarily jeopardizing the company's image. So, I really would like to see that because technology's great, but if people don't use it then it's-
JJ:And getting business leaders to understand that it's okay for their teams and company to take on some of these initiatives, and it's okay to fail as long as you fail fast, learn from your failures, and then you just keep on making tweaks from there.
AR:So Jason, from a risk perspective, what should companies be doing or what can they be doing when they're digitally transforming to either catch up or mitigate any kind of unforeseen risks?
JJ:That's a great question. So, in my past life, I was a chief information security officer. I've managed integrated risk management programs for large enterprise firms to mid-size companies. So, risk management is huge within our practice. So, we take those lessons learned to our clients, and we see them time and time again.

Earlier on, I mentioned ERP implementations. We see a lot of businesses jumpstarting their ERP implementation without the proper planning, understanding their business processes. A lot of times their business processes are just old or broken. Sometimes they're not defined. So, we take them through that process first. Digital transformation. Also, there's a lot of risks tied into that, you have to do a lot of planning, a lot of ideation, create a culture of innovation where you're making sure that it's okay to fail. We mentioned that before. But then leverage a lot of these pilots and then test them out. But look at your costs. We're coming into 2023 now, so recession's going to be impacting a lot of businesses, so make smarter investments.
AR:What about from a regulatory or compliance perspective? I know that sometimes different states have different laws and they have to keep up with that. I guess the landscape is getting easier. More tools are now available to address all these regulatory requirements, but do you have any experience there as far as how companies can stay on top of things without it slowing them down?
JJ:Yeah, I would make sure that you do risk assessments across all your line of businesses from a strategic perspective, but also from a tactical perspective. Do a business impact assessment, understand which businesses are tied it into what type of revenue stream and cost stream within your business. That's important. Understanding all the applications, point systems that are being leveraged, legacy systems, the risk tied into legacy systems. And sometimes people tell me, "Oh, if I put in all my applications on the cloud, I'm basically going to be risk free."

I was like, "No, absolutely not. It depends on your business." If you're a manufacturing distribution center, it may not make sense to put everything in the cloud. Maybe keep your legacy manufacturing resource planning tool, and then create these point systems that talk to each other, and then maybe have some solutions like email on the cloud, or perhaps your FPNA dashboard on the cloud. But cater your business to your technology.

And do I do a hybrid approach? Do I do an on-prem approach? Do I do a cloud approach, right? So, focus your business. Don't just listen to what the industry's doing, what the market's doing, understand your business, understand the data you're capturing, understand your processes, where you're at. Make sure that you want to mature that before you layer in technology as a tool to help you. But if you layer in technology before you fix your problems, you're going to have the same problems.
AR:I feel like sometimes leaders that are non-technical will think it's a one size fits all. They'll hear a buzzword and they'll say, "We need to implement that ASAP, otherwise we're behind." Where it's really not the case. So, I'm sure it helps to go in there and help them assess.
JJ:And then from a regulatory perspective, there's a lot of regulatory issues happening today that mid-size and small businesses don't have the bandwidth to take on or reduce the overall risk because they have to adhere to a lot of these regulatory situations. So, bring in partners that understand that specific industry.

So, if it's like financial services, FINRA, for instance, understanding what FINRA is, right? Or the FFIEC or HIPAA, from a healthcare perspective. Really understanding what controls you have to have in place, whether there are risks associated to your controls, business processes, and then making sure that you have controls that reduce those risks, and technology that helps monitor those controls to make sure that you're aligned.

Looking at audit logs, if the regulators come in and do audit, you want to make sure that you basically check off the boxes where you don't get fined. But really the beginning to that is really doing a business impact assessment, understanding what are potential risks, what are your processes, what processes are lacking, and then making sure that you have the appropriate controls. And sometimes, depending on your business, you may have risk appetite that it's okay to take on certain risks to grow that business. Just making sure that your business is ethical and aligning to that regulatory environment for that specific industry.
AR:On that note, when it comes to assessments and workshops, what tools are available to businesses that they can get started? Because a lot of people, they're overwhelmed by all the different things that they need to do or that they can do. And the technology that's out there is almost infinite possibilities. So, where do they generally start? How do you take them through this process in a way that's not painful?
JJ:Well, usually the regulatory institutions will provide guidance on what you should do, but sometimes they're too overwhelming. So, that's why clients will call us and say, "Oh, can you help us with this?" And we'll start with a risk assessment depending on the organization. So, Department of Labor recently put in some type of security guidance that organizations had to follow, and it was a long list.

So, calling us to go in there to do a quick risk assessment, actual first look on their risk environment, what controls they have in place, what controls are lacking, I would say that's the first step. Really understanding their processes and the state of risk that they currently have within the organization.
AR:So, that would be the discovery portion where you're basically illuminating the existing processes, controls, lack of controls, and then from there it would be ...
JJ:Yeah. So, doing a deeper dive, we go in there, we do a discovery, understanding the business. Obviously we're subject matter experts in the industry, so we understand the industry. But really doing a deep dive in the actual business, doing walkthroughs with the business, then looking at do they have a business impact assessment within their different departments? If not, we'll help them do that. And then we'll go into risk assessments for each of those, either applications or business processes or even teams. It could be that we're doing a risk assessment on the call center, for instance.
AR:And then from there you would make recommendations and then they would go into the implementation phase?
JJ:Yeah. We have a risk and controls library, and it's dependent on industry, sector, size of the company. So, as we go through a walkthrough, we're looking at risk and controls library and we'll see what the gap is. Where they're at today, where they need to be at, and then figure out what the gap is and then provide them findings and recommendations that we reviewed when we went through that process.
AR:And as you know, digital transformation is not something that ever ends. It's not like a one time exercise.
JJ:No. It's always. You always want to innovate and transform your business. Things change, the world changes, period.
AR:And I find that every two years there's something new and a better way to do something, which isn't necessarily a cue to jump ship and rewrite everything, although I have seen that as well. I guess it's a balance, but what do you think about how fast things are moving versus how often businesses need to stay on top of it to stay competitive?
JJ:Well, a year ago, Mackenzie pushed our report on the state of digital transformation, and they found with the pandemic and COVID, there was more digital transformation within the last two years than the previous 10 years. And companies are forced to transform their business. We saw that when everyone had to work from home.

Zoom, there was hundreds of outages in Zoom because everyone's using Zoom, but there was so much digital transformation during the pandemic that businesses were forced to pivot their businesses. They were forced to transform their business. So, I'm going to say that we're going to continue seeing that because that's the real use case to leaders. They said, "Listen, we didn't think we could accomplish all of this within 12 to 18 months. We could do it now, so let's continue to do it."
AR:Yeah, I think a lot of people were surprised at how quickly big and small companies, as well as the labor market, adapted to complete shift in the environment. You are not allowed into the building, so what do you do and how fast can you basically adapt to survive? So, I think that was the silver lining in the pandemic, is being able to see companies and technology grow and rise to the occasion. So, I do hope we see more of that.
JJ:Yeah. I just want to mention, you just brought up something I was thinking about previously. You mentioned labor. So also with 2023, we're going to see labor shortages. I would say take that as an opportunity to leverage your partners and firms like ours to help you because we see it. Clients are doing more with less and they can't hire, a lot of firms have a hiring freeze. And I would say use that as opportunity to bring on your trusted advisors, your partners, and help your organization ideate how you could pivot your business, where to make more efficiencies, where to make more investments. But yeah, we're going to probably going to go through this in the next 18 months. But leverage the resources that you have in hand and it's not just internally, it's externally also.
AR:Yeah, that's a good point.
JJ:So, Aimann, thank you for participating in this interview.
AR:My pleasure.
JJ:You are a rockstar and a added value to our digital transformation team. I want to thank the audience for joining us. I hope you got some nuggets of wisdom during this session, and I appreciate your time in watching this session. Thank you so much.

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