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With every sector taking a knock these past two years, many businesses have struggled to regain any momentum they had achieved before the pandemic took hold. The finance and banking sector in particular has faced unprecedented challenges, with a 1,318% year-on-year increase in ransomware attacks in the first half of 2021, causing many businesses to focus on survival rather than growth.

But, as we look towards a new year, there is much to feel positive about – especially when it comes to the technology that businesses can use to boost their productivity and profitability. Finance Digest spoke to eight industry experts to discuss what they predict will be the biggest trends of 2022.

The future of finance

“UK PLC is very much suffering right now from what I’ve come to call economic long COVID,” emphasises Hugh Scantlebury, Founder & CEO at Aqilla. “Lockdowns have lifted, and the vaccination programme is going well. But there’s still lots of disruption across the economy as the result of the pandemic.

“While it’s not always possible to deal with all these problems directly, businesses can take back control of some aspects. They can start using solutions that provide real-time information on resource location, supply chain logistics, and finances. They can begin 2022 with a resolution to use software to deliver cost of sale analysis, cash flow updates, and broader financial intelligence that improves efficiency. This is particularly important to keep in mind against the backdrop of rising energy prices and the knock-on effect this could have on supply chains.

“Although it’s always been the case, it’s worth reiterating at the end of a challenging year that timely access to this kind of data and knowing how to intelligently interpret it will mean the difference between success and failure. That’s why, during 2021, the accounting and finance function in most businesses has continued to shift from a purely transactional-based role to a much more analytical one.”

Eyal Sivan, Head of Open Banking at Axway adds that “Open banking focus will shift from standards to value generation: Since open banking was originally introduced in the form of regulation, the focus of these regulated regions has understandably been on compliance; as a result, open banking has often been painted as a compliance exercise. However, two things are changing: first, regulated players are looking to generate a return on their initial investments; and second, market-driven regions are beginning to adopt open banking in absence of regulation. These two factors will fundamentally shift the focus of open banking over the next year, from regulatory compliance to the generation of real value. Expect banks and other players in the financial ecosystem to demand solutions which tie open banking to their existing assets and capabilities in order to deliver on business-driven initiatives.”

Building back from the skills gap

Michael Queenan, Co-Founder and CEO of Nephos Technologies suggests that one “major trend for 2022 isn’t actually a technology one. I think we have an increasing problem with the required workforce and the skills gap. There isn’t a huge amount of people with the new required skills on the market at the moment, and that is causing a number of knock-on problems:

  1. Salary expectations are increasing by 25%+ which means that companies won’t be able to hire as many people as they probably need.
  2. The skills gap for new digital or data projects is increasing as the people just don’t exist to fill the required roles to drive these projects forward.

“This will drive what I think will be the largest trend in our sector (Data) for the next 3-5 years, not just next year, which will be a heavy drive to automation, outsourcing/managed service and out-tasking expertise around data projects. There is an expectation gap from CEO/CFO’s where they want to be driving the types of projects to provide better customer insights, new product launches and increase revenue per customer. However, to do that you need better data management (analytics / governance / security) and the resources just don’t exist in most organisations to do that well, so I think a move to outsourcing or out-tasking these projects will become the only way to go. The problem with that, is that there aren’t a large number of providers of those types of services in the market right now. That is why I think a big prediction for 2022 is the increase in ‘Managed’ data solutions.”

Prioritising the customer

“As we emerge from the pandemic, 2022 will be about how organisations can grow by adapting themselves to deliver new capabilities for an increasingly digital world,” predicts Phil Dunlop, General Manager EMEA at Progress. “Marketers looking to build personalised digital experiences will need to weigh-up what matters to their stakeholders to build real engagement and trust. Those who can cultivate trust through better customer data processes and design digital experiences will create business advantage and build revenue. Ultimately, if you can empower the customer to control their own digital experience journey, you will not just be on the journey, but heading to the destination.”

Jamie Cairns, SVP Channel & Alliances at Fluent Commerce also reinforces how quality customer experience will be a necessity next year, especially as the retail sector recovers:

“Marketplaces continue to appear and to grow in importance. As access to fit-for-purpose technology improves, the barrier to entry is increasingly being reduced, so you can expect to see more curated, niche marketplaces emerge. Many retailers have switched their ecommerce approach this year to ‘headless commerce’, which essentially separates the front end presentation layer (website, app, kiosk, social etc.), the ‘head’ from the back end services, enabling them to personalise the experience on the front end, whilst benefiting from the economies of scale on the back end. This trend towards ‘headless commerce’ will only continue into 2022, as retailers look for flexibility to adapt to future changes, making market adoption easier and benefits better understood.”

The emerging technologies of 2022

One of the most exciting aspects of a new year – for the technology industry at least – is considering the new tech we’re going to see emerge and develop. Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds expects artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to soar, especially in the public sector.

“The explosion in data available to public sector organisations has made the use of AI and ML a critical advantage, but the talent and resources required to build solutions in-house is still prohibitive. Ultimately, a machine is faster than a human—or even a group of humans—which means shifting to AI/ML services also allows for cost savings, something that is vital across the sector. Yes, purchasing or subscribing to an AI service and integrating it doesn’t come cheap, but it’s still far more efficient than a team of 20 data analysts.

“In 2022, we’ll start to see AI and ML featured more prominently in organisations’ IT environments through the adoption of off-the-shelf AI/ML services. As organisations look to strengthen their security postures in response to the evolving threat landscape, for example, they may look for security tools leveraging AI/ML to perform tasks. Meanwhile, offerings from cloud service providers, like Amazon® SageMaker® or Google® TensorFlow™, will similarly see widespread growth by reducing the barrier to adoption and implementation for tech pros.”

Similarly, Geoff Barlow, Technology Practise Lead – Strategy at Node4 also predicts that we’ll see an increase in ML models: “The Edge computing market will continue to gain traction as demand increases for more processing and real-time capability where data is being generated. This applies to all sorts of growing technology areas such as healthcare, connected cars and smart homes where latency can be a big issue. Being able to process data or implement ML models locally will not only improve performance but also data security as PII or other sensitive data can be removed locally. In 2022 we will see major players such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google continuing to expand their Edge and hybrid capabilities to accommodate this shift to IoT and the management of workloads outside of their traditional data centres.”

Finally, Gareth Tolerton, Product Innovation Director at Totalmobile anticipates the increased development of augmented reality in 2022, surpassing what we’ve seen with this tech before.

“Augmented reality (AR) has been kicking around for a decade now, but we’re yet to see the technology become truly mainstream. However, when this technology is done right, it will have major implications for all sectors, including the field service management sector. AR will empower workers and enable them to achieve more than they could on their own. For mobile workers, it will enable an increase in a mixture of physical and virtual visits to customers, as more will be able to be achieved via AR technology. It will provide a communications platform to share knowledge and experience between workers, and will hopefully help to use resources more efficiently because you get the knowledge where it needs to be and allows collaboration without multiple workers all travelling to one location.”

He concludes: “The success of the metaverse will rely on IoT, so both technologies will need to grow together. If you’re looking at an object – say a boiler – using AR, how do you know what the status of that object is? IoT is required to be present, accessible, and identifiable so that a user can receive information about the scene in front of them. It will be an especially powerful combination of technology if the worker is also able to interact back with the technology, rather than just viewing a set of information. And while we’re unlikely to see advancements to this extent in 2022, I believe that we will certainly see steps being taken in this direction during the coming year.”

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