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How Technology Is Driving Change in Almost Every Major Industry

Technology isn’t just for Silicon Valley—it’s leading the way in many business sectors.Shutterstock

I’m sure I won’t surprise you if I write that smart use of technology is an integral part of success in business today. We live in the digital era—using mobile devices to create, cloud computing to collaborate, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence to improve operations, and data analysis to extract key insights. And that’s just scratching the surface.

I’m not sure, however, that most people recognize how technology can help make a good company great, and great business owners—and hopefully, their teams—wealthy.

Last month, my team at Fundera released a report called “10 Businesses to Start Now to Be Rich in a Decade.” The report aggregated and analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, market research firms, and investment firms—and determined 10 industries expected to generate high levels of job growth, revenue, and output in the next decade.

Basically, if you’re looking to start a lucrative business that will stand the test of time, something in these 10 areas would be a good bet.

The industries of the future are all powered by tech

The number one industry? Technology, of course. Tech companies capture nearly half of all venture capital dollars, and forecast output growth is at 135%. Cloud computing, machine learning and AI, and big data were cited as the sub-sectors that will make the biggest impact.

But as you continue down the list, the same common denominator jumps out at you: Regardless of industry, a major reason for that industry’s expected success is how technology has changed, and will continue to change, its trajectory.

Take the number two industry: Health. While many hospitals and primary care facilities are in crisis, facing downturns in profitability (particularly in rural areas), the health industry’s overall future output looks strong thanks to the subsectors of biotech, health data management, and personalized health solutions—which is based on the idea that your health data will drive your immediate and long-term treatment options. Personalizing health care as we have personalized entertainment and hospitality is guaranteed to be a gold mine.

Every industry on the list is in some way powered by the gains that technology, in particular, will bring. For energy, it’s the increasing use and efficiency of sustainable energy sources, and the concept of “energy trading” via tech devices. For finance, it’s financial tech or cryptocurrency. For real estate, it’s flat-fee online brokerages and other disruptors that will alter the course of this late-blooming industry (at least as far as tech innovation is concerned).

Even so-called legacy industries (retail, construction, and hospitality), which have been around for generations, vaulted up the list due to the incredible upside that tech innovations afford them.

How new businesses can use tech to their advantage

So what does this mean for budding entrepreneurs, and anyone else looking to enter any of the industries we highlighted as potential next-decade winners?

The goal should not be to pivot into one of these top 10 industries if you have a completely different kind of business, or to invest needlessly in tech products and platforms just to feel tech-savvy (companies can suffer heavy losses or even go bankrupt by investing in the wrong technology at the wrong time).

If you’re a business owner in 2018, you’re probably already using tech in some way. It’s either an integral part of your business—you run an e-commerce site, or a digital marketing agency—or you use digital platforms that have become tools of the trade for any modern business, such as G Suite for collaborating on documents or Slack to communicate.

Instead, we should be thinking critically about how technology can continue to improve our existing operations. What do we do now that could be done better by automated processes, software, or artificial intelligence?

For example, a report from Gartner on strategic technology trends in 2018 noted that the use of narrow AI (“consisting of highly scoped machine-learning solutions that target a specific task … with algorithms chosen that are optimized for that task”) is on the rise. Applications that use narrow AI technology can do things like fill out your tax forms, book flights and hotels, recognize customers and provide them with a personalized experience, and plan your day—all by using existing data and previous preferences.

Narrow AI isn’t just for simple tasks—it’s the current basis for self-driving cars—but it’s the perfect example of an emerging technology that is being used in an expanding number of business tools, platforms, and services to help humans focus on higher-level tasks like decision-making, problem-solving, and communication.

Other examples include even simpler shifts, such as switching from desktop-based to cloud-computing software, or moving away from manual processes for tracking inventory and assets to management software. The companies that can offload essential but time-consuming or otherwise menial tasks—including planning, bookkeeping, and auditing—will be the ones that win.

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We still have a long way to go to see how exactly Fundera’s report on future industries will play out. But I feel pretty confident in predicting that technology will play a role in helping companies of the future succeed. The only question is, how will they use technology, and what forms will it take? Whether you work in transportation, retail, or the wide field of tech in general—or another field that is being augmented by digital tools—the results are bound to be fascinating.