Technology update: a study of pioneers in global mobility

5 June 2018

Global mobility is as fluid as any business, with new technologies, apps and platforms appearing on a regular basis. But how much do they really affect the way global mobility professionals work?

There are 6 main technological innovations that are making an impact in our industry right now, and will be big part of our future.

1. Mobile apps for business

The all-pervasive use of mobile devices and social media platforms is exceedingly obvious. In fact, 40% of businesses already have a “mobile-first” strategy in place. As the technology matures and the adoption base grows along with the infrastructure – such as high-speed cell networks in developing countries – it can be used in different ways.

The art of communication between global mobility departments and their assignees is greatly facilitated by easy-to-use, social-type tools and platforms. The assignees themselves also have access to a myriad of apps that can both enrich and simplify their lives overseas.

N.B. Mobile technology was the #1 prediction in our global mobility trends of 2018.

2. Better expat selection with AI

The strategic importance of gathering and using data in order to make smarter business decisions is undoubted. Artificial intelligence takes it a step further via software algorithms that uncover insights we didn’t even know were there.

Artificial Intelligence is now such an important technology that 70% of business leaders cite the use of AI as a key business advantage. Total expenditures in the technology are predicted to rise from $8 billion in 2016 to $47 billion in 2020.

An obvious application for global mobility is to help identify the right candidates for each assignment. Based on data received about previous assignments and data held on the available candidates, we can make better matches and achieve higher success figures. Indeed, it can help remove the danger of unconscious bias entirely.

3. The growing concern over data

You have a responsibility to think about data privacy. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study, 15.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2016. There is growing awareness – and concern – about the individual data held by various organizations.

Rigorous new regulations (such as GDPR in Europe) are forcing us to be much more disciplined and transparent in the way we gather, store and process data about our assignees, customers and suppliers.

Correct data treatment is both complex and strategically essential. In the REACT Global Mobility Survey, Santa Fe Relocation notes that, while 47% of business leaders are “aware and planning” for GDPR, this is only true of 30% of global mobility professionals.

4. Your assignments in blockchain

If you thought blockchain just meant “bitcoin”, think again. While temporarily tainted by boom-bust story of cryptocurrencies, blockchain is a fundamental technology that will make a huge difference to the efficiency of global activities, from logistics and insurance, through to international contracts, taxation and remuneration. (IBM alone is investing $200m and dedicating 1,000 employees to it.)

In short, blockchain can replace the often expensive and slow-moving intermediaries of banks, governments and large corporations with the lean and incorruptible instancy of the Internet’s own community.

The application of blockchain to global mobility lies in the way that all the items required for an assignment (from customs clearance documents and work permits to accommodation contracts) will be more efficiently and easily processed. Blockchain applications are being trialed in all industries, and will affect us – positively – very soon.

5. Cyber security: don’t risk your progress

It’s a cat and mouse game. An arms race. However you look at it, the threat of cyber security is one that is always on the agenda, because it is always changing. Each ‘successful’ cyber attack is met with a solution, yet these defences then need to be reconfigured to guard against the inevitably more sophisticated attack that will follow. And so it continues.

The answer is vigilance combined with responsible processes and, in our world of global mobility, where we are increasingly using technology to communicate across borders, we have a whole world of cyber-threat to deal with. 

According to IBM, there are more than 4,000 cyberattacks daily, which translates to 3 every minute. We’ve got to be ready.

6. Automation will set you free

A much more positive technological development is the automation of various tasks that makes global mobility administration easier, thus releasing GM professionals to spend more time on higher value work. One commentator lists the 7 tasks that are most readily automated.

Routine requests from assignees abroad can be handled directly via an AI-informed chatbot, for example, rather then requiring contact directly with the GM department. There is also the added advantage that a chatbot can handle multiple enquiries at once. The more such systems are used, the smarter they become (as they have more data to work with), and the more helpful they become to the people who use them – who then use them even more. A virtuous circle that leads to a better experience for the assignee and an easier life for you.

Get ready for the future

Technology is undoubtedly changing the way that global mobility departments operate. More specifically, it can bring benefits in five distinct areas of global mobility operations.

But it may not be happening as fast as some commentators would have you believe. In their report The Impact of the Digital Age on Global Mobility, Deloitte observed, for example, that 71% of organizations felt that data analytics was important for? planning workforce mobility – yet only 8% reported that they felt they had ‘usable’ data.

There is clearly work to do, before we reach the promised land of perfect, data-driven decision making, and can realise all the much-vaunted potential of new technology. However, we are moving steadily in that direction – and we need to be discussing it now to increase expat success in the future.

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