How leaders should keep up with tech trends

Steve Jobs once said, “Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.”  With businesses like Apple setting the tone for modern innovation, new technology trends are always emerging. For businesses, it’s not just the technology that’s important, it’s the experience they create with it.  Emerging tech trends like artificial intelligence (AI), are set to change the course of business. In fact, more than two-thirds of Australia’s top tech leaders say AI is on track to be the defining technology trend for 2024, according to research released by the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) A recent global survey by Robert Half also echoed the growing prominence of AI. The digital transformation study conducted among c-suite leaders, also identified machine learning as one of 2024’s biggest disruptors, followed by immersive technology, the Internet of Things, Blockchain, and Robotic Process Automation. With digital transformation dominating boardroom discussions across Australia (and the world), leaders are eager to understand how to keep up with tech trends. As technologies emerge, c-suite leaders have a chance to update legacy systems and prepare the ground for new ones. Join us as we explore three ways to keep up with tech trends in 2024 and beyond. 
In 2024, it’s clear that no one can escape technology.   According to Robert Half Director, Richard Sinden, embracing tech trends is not optional for businesses, it’s imperative.  He says, “Once upon a time, we viewed tech solutions like AI as science fiction concepts. Today, it’s everywhere - from healthcare to agriculture, entertainment to customer service, it’s redefining how we live and how we do business.” “With these applications shaping our future, businesses would be foolish to ignore how to keep up with tech trends. I’ve seen the transformative power of technology first-hand, and I know that it can drive growth and efficiency. By embracing the power of tech in the digital age, businesses can sharpen their ability to streamline processes, manage change, make decisions, and unlock innovation opportunities,” Richard says.  “Of course, harnessing tech trends can help to improve things like customer experiences and internal workflows. However, in the process, it helps to cultivate a dynamic company culture founded on innovation, optimisation, and new ideas. That will prove invaluable in helping your business to adapt and succeed in an ever-changing market.” Let’s take a deeper look into how to keep up with tech trends. Related: Five benefits of working in tech in Australia
To quote Steve Jobs again, “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.” Let’s consider this in the context of a hypothetical situation. Let’s say, a government says it wants to streamline tax using digital systems. Businesses scramble to understand what it means for their legacy operations and the new technology they need to implement. While specialists consult on scope and delivery, few professionals understand both the technology and the tax. While everyone appreciates the need to make the project stick, the reality is, employees are learning as they go.  Here are some key considerations for c-suite leaders in this situation. First, if a business is trying to do something differently – to innovate – it is trying to change what it is currently doing. The best way to do that is to raise awareness. At the outset, an innovation strategy helps to provide structure and a safe environment for creativity and the evaluation of ideas. It also creates a culture in which people are willing to, and able to, innovate. In this case, leaders could run design thinking sessions on tax and technology to challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and identify potential solutions. By involving everyone, it could serve as a forum to help share knowledge and identify employees with key skills. It is often those at the edge of a business, who work with technology every day, who bring fresh ideas and perspectives. Remember, the highest-paid opinions don’t always matter the most.  Once the design thinking sessions have taken place, then project teams can be established. Each one should have employees from different areas of the business. They will need strong leadership and a vision of success. The project should also be explained in simple terms: why it matters, the benefits, and how it can be delivered.  In 2024, developing an innovative approach to major projects can only be done successfully by keeping people at the forefront. This will be powerful in helping businesses to keep up with tech trends and optimise them.  
Digital transformation introduces new systems. These help to streamline processes, but they also introduce risks. Operational improvements come with security challenges: the more technology in a business, the more there is that needs protecting (especially in a market where hackers are sophisticated and quick). Of course, it’s important to have controls in place, but it’s also important to understand how systems work together. What does the architecture look like? How are systems connected? How do they fit into the digital transformation strategy? And, importantly, where are the weaknesses? Robust cyber-security can help businesses gain a competitive advantage and improve their operations. However, when it impacts every corner of a business, it impacts every decision – from the security of new systems, the security of data, and the security of applications like AI. It’s important to recognise that because security matters everywhere, it’s everyone’s business - from the c-suite leaders with budgets to spend, to the employees exposed to potential attacks. As a leader in 2024, you must be prepared to invest. Make it your mission to educate and empower your employees and find professionals with the relevant cyber-security experience and certifications who can steer the ship. Raising awareness, and providing training is pivotal. If most hackers are gaining entry through phishing or spam emails, for example, then education is essential in helping to prevent attacks.  To keep up with tech trends, start by bolstering your team - combine the skills of cyber-security professionals with increased awareness across your workforce. If cyber-security is everyone’s business, then it is everyone’s job to understand it. Related: Why is cyber-security in demand in Australia?
Richard Sinden says that the workplaces of 2024 are proof of the prominence of AI. He says, “You don’t have to look very far to see how AI has gained traction. From a productivity perspective alone, you can see how reliant we are becoming on AI. We use ChatGPT to power chatbots, Jasper for content creation, Grammarly for grammar checking, Asana for task and project management and Fireflies as a transcription and meeting assistant. The list goes on, but it’s clear we are discovering more ways to trust these once niche applications.” As an evolving tech trend, the headlines about AI are coming thick and fast. C-suite leaders need to remember this: AI models are only as good as the data on which they are trained. So, before your business rolls out an AI strategy, consider these questions: What are these models going to do? How will the data be used? Does it need to be transparent and explainable? Does it discriminate in an unintended way?  As an example, if a business is building AI models that will alter people’s jobs, the inputs and outputs of those models need to be considered. Comprehensive considerations need to be made, especially if such models are making decisions on behalf of the business.  AI adopters must balance innovation with the responsible, safe, and ethical use of this emerging technology. The Australian Federal Government’s interim report on AI regulation identifies that current regulation around AI may not be sufficient.  However, businesses must understand that while regulation parameters are still being established, they are not free of all obligations.  As the interim report noted, “businesses and individuals who develop and use AI are already subject to various Australian laws. These include laws such as those relating to privacy, online safety, corporations, intellectual property and anti-discrimination, which apply to all sectors of the economy.”  Internationally, the forthcoming EU AI Act, and GDPR regulations, also provide guidance for businesses to use data safely and ethically within regulatory guardrails. Many businesses have focused on cyber-security training in recent years, moving forward, the same robust approach will need to be applied to data. Those adopting AI will most assuredly need a Data Literacy Programme that is rolled out across all levels of the business, to equip individuals with more sophisticated skills.  With the right skills and the right awareness around regulations, businesses have a greater chance of (safely) maximising the true potential of AI.  Related: How to become a Cyber-security Analyst
The 2024 tech trends aren’t surprising, but they are important.  While it’s crucial for businesses to understand how to keep up with tech trends now, it’s equally crucial for them to understand how to keep up with tech trends in the future. Richard says staying “ahead of the curve” is essential. “Of course, applications like AI are a hot topic at the moment. Businesses must acknowledge this but, they’ve also got to keep their finger on the pulse of the systems that aren’t getting as much hype. Take neuromorphic computing as an example – this is a branch of computing that seeks to emulate the neural structure and function of the human brain. It’s remarkable and likely to be relevant to how organisations do business in the future,” he says. “Sovereign cloud is another development on my radar. This cloud-based environment is operated and controlled by a specific government or public sector organisation within its own jurisdictional boundaries. This type of infrastructure could have major implications for businesses in the way of data privacy, security, and compliance. So, it’s worth keeping an eye on.” While current trends may demand immediate action, emerging trends should inspire careful introspection about the impact they could have on business operations in the future. To navigate the dynamic tech landscape, leaders must actively stay abreast of developments to anticipate change, make informed decisions, and drive innovation.  Being a business thought leader will pay dividends when it comes to adopting the technologies of the future. Proactivity and preparation will pave the way for success, ensuring that you don’t just work with the technologies, you make them work for you. If you’re wondering how to keep up with tech trends, focus on building a robust tech workforce for the future. Ensure that you are recruiting the right talent with the right tech skills to level up your business. And, don’t overlook your existing employees – make retaining them your priority and look to upskill them wherever necessary.   As technology evolves, and the digital backbone of businesses strengthens, knowing how to keep up with tech trends will be the difference between success and failure. Prioritising innovation, cyber-security, and data (over AI) will help businesses now and in the future. However, c-suite leaders who grasp current opportunities while exploring the emerging ones, are sure to be the front runners in the ever-evolving tech race.
1. What are the biggest technology trends for 2024 and beyond?
According to the Tech Council of Australia’s Australian Tech Leaders Survey 2024, the top technology trends for 2024 are artificial intelligence (AI), cyber-security, and quantum and space. Let’s look at some of the reasons why: Despite being at the beginning of GenAI’s evolution, the technology promises swift evolution. Generative AI alone has the potential to add up to $115 billion to the national economy by 2030.  With the rise in cybersecurity incidents comes the need for stronger cybersecurity strategies and investments.  With Australia set to invest almost a billion dollars to build the world's first commercially useful quantum computer in Brisbane, it’s clear that the Australian government is serious about building a strong quantum ecosystem. Similarly, Australia's space sector is skyrocketing, with annual growth of more than 7 per cent – outpacing GDP – and the industry on a mission to triple in size to A$12 billion by 2030.   2. Where can I find reliable information on tech trends?  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the sea of tech related information.  Focus your attention on trusted and reliable industry sources such as: The Tech Council of Australia (TCA) The National Science and Technology Council Science & Technology Australia Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering   3. How can I build a company culture that embraces innovation and technology?  Remember, long-term success is about more than just the tech itself.  Building a culture that embraces innovation and technology starts from the top. As a leader, focus on cultivating a culture that embraces creativity, collaboration, and a growth mindset.  Carefully consider ways to establish an environment where employees feel comfortable and confident to experiment, take risks, and challenge ideas. Help employees reach their full potential and leverage each other's strengths by: Offering professional development opportunities Encouraging continuous education Providing effective tools and resources Celebrating wins (and losses aka learning opportunities) Promoting collaboration between teams Recognising achievements   4. Which tech trends are most impactful for [my industry]?  Part of being a good leader is knowing how to maximise your limited time.  When it comes to identifying the most relevant tech trends for your industry, it’s important to cut through the noise and align with the tech trends that meet your strategic objectives.  At Robert Half, we are proud to offer a range of consulting services to help you understand your options around transformational technology capabilities. We’ll help you to identify the tech trends (and the tech talent) that can propel your business forward, so you can get back to your other pressing tasks.  Find your consulting solution today.   5. How do I balance staying up-to-date with focusing on current business needs?  Time is critical for any leader. Staying up to date with tech trends should not detract from current business needs.  Maintain a strategic approach by: Setting clear goals and priorities Aligning research with clear business objectives Scheduling research and learning periods Prioritising reliable information sources Leveraging professional networks and industry associations Regularly reviewing your tech strategy