In one of my previous blogs I wrote about digital transformation, so I’ve decided to expand on that topic, given how much has changed in the business world in the last couple of decades. Globalization made the world a much smaller place. By opening up and interconnecting the market, every company was given a chance to leave their mark on it. However, it is no longer enough to offer a good product that will grant a stellar success. In a fast-paced and ever-changing market, companies must be ready to work on their business standards, pay close attention to changes, learn and quickly adapt to set requirements. At the same time, they must build and maintain relationships with suppliers, partners and customers – connect with them on various channels and continuously work on user experience. Given how hastily the business landscape changes, this list will probably be much different in a couple of years/months/days, but for the time being – I opted for 4, especially “loud” trends.
How the Internet of Things strengthened the bond between people and technology
Even if you feel that the progress in the field of artificial intelligence signifies the demise of the human race, it is hard to diminish the role that technology had in making everyday life easier. Time, when our smartphones weren’t like an extension of our arms, seems far gone. From devices like phones, watches, jewelry or spectacles, whose intelligence became somewhat mundane, we came to an era where almost any device can attain a doctoral degree – glasses, fridges, ovens, lights, sockets, cars… But it was their linking that prompted the real revolution of smart technology that collects information, analyzes them and takes action accordingly. Yes, I am talking about Internet of Things; and since I don’t want to get lost in a bunch of technical details, I will use an example of a smart office to explain various opportunities this trend brings.
Responsive technology transforms such an office into a connected ecosystem that adapts to present conditions and persons’ needs. Imagine working in an office that sets optimal indoor temperature by itself, sitting at a smart desk that reminds you of a meeting or lets you know it is time for a quick walk, automatic adjustment of lighting in conference rooms for presentation purposes or sensors that notify about energy consumption by tracking the use of office spaces. In case it all still sounds like sci-fi, feel free to check out this Microsoft video on smart buildings:
Why complicate if you can automate?
Automation of business processes greatly simplified strenuous, redundant tasks that took up all of our time. It is applied to organizational and repetitive duties, in order to increase speed, ensure efficiency and accuracy of the process, as well as to enable employees to focus on more important and productive tasks. In the abundance of useful solutions and tools offered today, companies have to decide which requirements they want to meet – facilitate communication among teams, allocate assignments better, improve progress tracking, reduce the likelihood of human error or something else. And it is crystal clear that everyone wants to save time and reduce costs. Automation is nowadays visible in all business aspects – from marketing and HR, through communication, finance and operative, to one of the least favorite tasks – invoice processing and billing.
There are many interesting tools today but I would like to mention IFTTT (easier to remember in its full name – if this then that), that creates communication between all the apps and devices you are using. Automation is achieved through applets that link applications and establish a cause-effect relationship. For example, if you want to ensure that you don’t forget an important meeting, you can link your Google calendar with a reminder in a form of SMS, or connect e-mail with Dropbox so that every sent attachment is saved to your Dropbox account. Check the simplicity of creating your own applet in the video below:
Everything As a Service – shifting solutions for businesses that never stop moving
Era of cloud solutions came as a proof of the claim that leading technology does not necessarily have to be the most expensive one. It has enabled access to fast and modern technology at affordable prices. Why did those “as a service” solutions become so popular in today’s business? It is quite simple – they are easy to implement and are adaptable to company’s needs, without a permanent commitment to the service. Whereas implementing and maintaining in-house solutions always poses a certain risk, “as a service” solutions allow choosing an option that suits your business and one that can be changed according to your requirements. Depending on the chosen service, you pay a monthly subscription, without the fear of chosen technology going obsolete.
An interesting example is surely the one of Amazon, a “store” that apart from selling just about everything, recognized the potential of cloud-based services early-on. They started Amazon Web Services (AWS) ten years ago and in the beginning, it was a service used only by startups that needed a cheap solution. Despite Internet giants such as Microsoft, Oracle, Google and IBM, AWS is the largest provider of cloud solutions today and their services are used by companies like Netflix and General Electric.
Globalization and digitalization emphasized the importance of human factor. By breaking down the business boundaries, steady pillars of hierarchical job division loosened up. In the modern working environment, there is a noticeable shift towards a more adaptive workflow model where people work in teams or network of teams that collaborate and exchange information. A large number of jobs can be performed from any location at any time. This change enabled a more flexible working setting where 9 to 5 is no longer an imperative.
It is clear that customers are no longer just the anonymous users of your services. Their needs, expectations and opinions are important to an extent that their dissatisfaction in the form of an unfavorable criticism can cause great damage to your business. But the first step towards success must be understanding that comes from within the company. New solutions, no matter how innovative, must clearly convey the value they generate. It is unrealistic to expect that your clients embrace a service or a product that the employees themselves don’t understand. Start from the beginning – make sure that your employees know the unambiguous answer to the “why” question, so that they can clearly pass it on to potential customers.
The same goes for digital changes in the office. People don’t like using new technologies and adapt to new ways of processing if they don’t understand their benefits. If you grasped the importance of change and prepared for it structurally and procedurally, don’t omit from that equation two-way communication, investment in employee training and building up corporate culture. A culture that understands the value of its employees, enables them in realizing their potential and recognizes the importance of reasonable balance between business and private life.
It may seem like these changes have nothing to do with your business, but keep in mind the instructive story of Kodak, leader in film photography that failed to perceive the potency of the shift towards digital. The challenges they encountered were not unique, the only significance was their inability to understand that the world around them is transforming and that change waits for no one. So don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, pay close attention to the market’s heartbeats and you will clearly hear that the time is up for corporate inertia.
P.S. Surely you must have noticed that there is no blockchain in this list, although many things could be written about it. But since I learned that everything that contains the word blockchain in its name experiences a value growth (as you can see in this clip from the show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver):
I thought I should use the phenomenon to increase the value of this blog. 🙂
Nino Strajher, director, Omnizon Networks