How Technology is Helping Drive Private and Middle Market Company Growth Firms are embracing analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation technologies as tools to fuel development

By Jason Downing

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Forecasting almost always carries high stakes. Thanks to technology, prognostication is becoming much more of a science than an art. This year, for instance, artificial intelligence (AI) tools made stunningly accurate predictions about the Academy Awards, and the World Cup, to name a few high-profile events.

Better forecasting is also big business for businesses, and one of the key reasons mid-sized private companies are among the fastest-growing cohorts in the corporate world. Simply put, they are relying on the predictive powers of emerging technologies to put distance between themselves and their competitors.

From choosing which product or service to develop, to assessing data security risks, these companies know that if you can accurately anticipate trends that define the future, you can close the competitive gap and potentially surpass larger players.

As 2019 approaches, the leaders of the mid-sized businesses are focused on three specific areas for strengthening their predictive powers.

Insights through predictive analytics

What does changing a job description have to do with technology? Predictive analytics offers companies revealing clues about how simple word changes can influence pools of candidates and find the right match much quicker. In HR settings, the opportunity for such technology is much broader than that, though. Fifty-six percent of respondents in Deloitte's annual mid-market technology survey say they're using data analytics to manage talent sourcing and acquisition activities. Other ways companies are using predictive tools is to detect potential skill shortages and telegraph which employees are most likely to succeed.

Private companies are also using analytics for more accurate forecasts when it comes to better serving their customers. In Deloitte's most recent global survey of private companies, 62 percent of respondents said they're using predictive analytics to increase efficiency. A few examples include making better predictions about which items to keep on hand and how much to ultimately charge for products based on anticipated market demand.

Artificial intelligence: Harmony with humans

The emergence of AI is another area that's helping private companies get a stronger grip on the future. Consider that 57 percent of respondents in Deloitte's mid-market technology survey say they rely on machine intelligence to automate business analysis and anticipate business outcomes – the biggest area of focus of AI, according to the executives surveyed. Case in point: Deloitte works with companies that have used machine learning to predict the likelihood of prospects becoming paid customers, turning a formerly manual task into an automated process.

Separately, companies are also using AI to put the right people in the right jobs. One example comes from staffing companies, which are using AI in real-time instead of historical scheduling data to continuously predict when companies will need outsourced help. More broadly, companies are using AI to help forecast surges in demand for labor and arm their sales professionals with data they need to better anticipate which prospects are likely to convert or churn.

The early returns from these forays are encouraging: 82 percent of private-company respondents in a Deloitte survey on AI technologies say they're generating a positive return on investment. So, it comes as little surprise that 88 percent say they plan to increase AI spending in the coming year.

Accelerating automation

Businesses that have made automation-related investments say the innovations help their teams sift through increasing amounts of customer data to get ahead of changing behaviors and tastes.

Forget the notion that humans won't be needed in the automated future. One area where machines are still outmatched is reading and encoding human communication. While two-thirds of respondents in our mid-market survey say they're focused on automating high-volume, labor-intensive tasks, the number of those using machine intelligence to decipher and support communications fell. And there is broad agreement that automation boosts productivity and spending power, laying the groundwork for more, higher-value jobs.

Midsized, private firms are trend spotters that are driving growth across the economy. As analytics, AI, and automation continue to drive the technology agenda for 2019, expect private companies to continue to face the unknown by using innovation to shrink it.

Jason Downing

Vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and the US Deloitte Private leader

Jason Downing is a Vice Chairman of Deloitte LLP and the US Deloitte Private leader, where he oversees the strategic direction of Deloitte’s portfolio of services to private company and mid-market clients. He most recently served as managing partner of Deloitte LLP in the North Texas marketplace and remains active with several North Texas clients and community leadership roles. Jason holds a BBA in Accounting from Stephen F. Austin State University and is a Chairman of the Board for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

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