What business problems will we have in 2020? Read our predictions here

How do I define history? It’s just one *EXPLETIVE* thing after another” ― Alan Bennett, The History Boys

This quote best portrays our thoughts after reviewing our 2019 predictions blog ‘Business problems in 2019: Will it be a case of Déjà Vu?’

It certainly was a case of déjà vu, especially when it came to the slow payment of suppliers, late or unreliable management accounts, and data and information silos. In fact, many of these problems got even worse. Clearly not enough people read that blog and took on my foolproof suggestions to avoid these issues…

So, now we need to update our predictions for the next year. Will the start of a new decade bring change? Or can we expect business as normal?

Late Payments

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As hopeful as we were that late payments would reduce during 2019, we seem to have seen the opposite. There were more mentions in the media about late payments last year (sorry Holland and Barratt, you were the poster child), but overall have late payments improved?

We keep an eye on the Duty to Report on Payment Practices and Performance (PPR) statistics to see if we can spot any improvements. Between November 2018 (6406 reports) and December 2020 (6462 reporters), invoices paid late reduced from 31.9% to 30.5%, but the average time to pay increased from 70 days to 70.4. PPR aimed to improve payment practices; instead, there has been no change.

My prediction for 2020 is that this will continue. A quick and dirty survey found that only 21% of accountants spoken to had heard of PPR. Awareness and enforcement are needed for real change to happen.

Developments in Technology

AI verses Employees
Last year, we published several blogs that discussed advances in technology, including this one on natural language processing and this one about customer portals.

Last year, we thought that fear in AI would continue due to job loss fears. This fear still shows up occasionally, however, the focus has moved towards AI regulation in the past few months. Facial recognition is one of the key examples here when The Kings Cross estate faced controversy for using the technology without informing the public.

I am sure over the next year we will see calls for more regulation on these. The European Commission is already considering banning facial recognition for five years, so we will likely see more along these lines.

Data Management and Security

Busienssman has no document management system and struggles to do his job
GDPR has been legislation for almost two years, and in that time there have been a few high profile fines, including Marriott International for their data breach, Life at Parliament View estate agents failing to keep tenants data safe during a data transfer and Doorstep Dispensaree pharmacy for not storing patient data appropriately.

Storing personal data correctly is vital. The pharmacy case, in particular, was down to storing sensitive personal data (including names, addresses and medical information) on paper in unlocked containers at the back of their premises. Had they implemented a digital solution, or stored the data securely offsite, they would not have received a £275,000 fine.

We mentioned last year ‘never has it been more important to know what data you have, who has access to it and what is done with it’. This still runs true for 2020. Had the pharmacy stored their data better, they would not have this huge fine.

I hope, in 2020, there will be no more fines, but we all know that is unrealistic. Instead, a more reasonable aspiration is for businesses to focus on how their data is stored and reduce loss and theft.

Environment


Businesses being pushed to reduce their environmental impact was something we did not predict happening at all in 2019; however, it has been on the back of many people’s minds for many years.

Reducing a business’s environmental impact is now vital, and companies need to be seen doing something to help.

In 2019 we released a blog that discussed how technology like electronic document management systems can help reduce carbon footprints. Of course, eliminating paper is not possible, but making small changes to reduce consumption will have a massive impact.

My prediction is that, following Microsoft’s aim to become carbon negative by 2030, more companies will follow their lead and make changes for the better.

Adapting for the Future

paper vs digital
There is a growing need for businesses to adopt new technologies to continue being competitive. Last year, we published a few blogs discussing how three different sectors can adapt to change: Property Management, Construction, and Housing Associations.

Those companies that moved to digital documents saw their businesses grow much quicker through improved customer service and supplier relations. Those that implemented automation tools managed to grow even more. This allows their employees to add value to the businesses rather than undertaking mundane repetitive tasks.

My hope for 2020 is for companies to continue to implement new technologies and prepare themselves for the future, becoming more competitive and improving reputations.

Conclusion

Perhaps one takeaway from this blog can be summed up with the quote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”. And repeat it they are when it comes to payment practices, data management and security. Unless business work hard to reduce these issues, they will continue cropping up.

However, on top of these repeat problems are some new ones coming into the mix. Businesses’ are going to have to reduce their carbon footprint and prepare for the digital revolution by continuing to implement new technologies.