When we first got email back in the 1990s, most people saw it as a way to send faster letters. But email was just one manifestation of the wider digital ecosystem that would soon emerge. Now, with online seen as something parallel to the real world, the lines between the two are becoming more and more blurred.
Over the last five years, we’ve seen yet more radical change in the nature of business. We’ve seen the coming of age of digital marketing. We’ve seen the emergence of the digital workforce. And we’ve heard about how AI and big data are going to combine to provide intelligent solutions to complex and time intensive problems.
It’s More Disruptive
Being a disrupter is likely a term you’re going to hear more and more in businesses. Being a disrupter in the early 21st century almost always means leveraging a new technology like the internet or social media. Just look at how Google revolutionised the world of search in the late 1990s. Or how Facebook chose the perfect moment to launch their platform in 2005/6 just as internet bandwidths began to allow media sharing.
Being a disrupter in business today means knowing the precise time to act and launch a new invention. It’s about timing your innovation so that when it is ready, all the necessary prerequisites are already in place. It would have been no use for YouTube to have launched in the mid-1990s when people were still using dial-up. If they had launched in the mid-1990s, their business would have failed and we would never have heard of the name again.
Many businesses have already gone paperless. It’s better for the environment. It’s better for productivity and it’s better for the bottom line.
Going paperless for design companies has historically been a little trickier. But even for these companies, the benefits are endless. They are opportunities for better collaboration, quicker responses to clients and more capacity to manipulate designs.
Now that firms like Colortrac are building scanners that can support media up to 56 inches in diameter, the future looks bright. Even companies that were constrained by the size of scanning equipment can now quickly and efficiently scan material.
Mobile business is usually derided on the grounds that it interrupts people’s lives. They’re always connected to their work.
But there is nothing that says that this has to be the case. Mobile equipment can always be switched off at night or left in the office. But having mobile equipment during the day can make your business so much more effective.
One advantage comes from the confluence of cloud computing and mobile platforms. Once upon a time, if engineers in the field needed to have their timetable updated, the central office would need to make a call. But with mobile, that process can be streamlined. You can update worksheets from head office and then use the cloud to transmit updates to engineers instantly. This avoids making calls, filling in a new timetable by hand, and updating payment schedules. Plus, it can all be organised from one central resource.
Better Customer Service
In the digital age, customers expect the seller to go the extra mile. But what does that actually mean? One expectation that has arisen in the digital age is the expectation that companies make product suggestions.
The best companies already make suggestions about products the customer might like based on what they have bought already. Some sites also make recommendations based on what others who bought the same item bought in addition. Customer’s don’t want to spend all their time finding out which products work well together. They want to know straight away.
Customers also expect to be able to use your services over multiple platforms. Your main website should seamlessly transition to your mobile website. Customers now expect the same level of functionality from both sites.
Smart Machine Preparedness
Nobody really knows what the impact of smart machines will be on our businesses. Some see it as an opportunity to open new product lines and free employees up from rote, menial tasks. Others see it as the ultimate return to capital (that is, those that run businesses) since labour will no longer be required.
What is clear is that smart machines are on the horizon. In the future, 2015 will be remembered as the year in which it all kicked off.
If your business is to thrive in an age of smart machines, it’s probably a good idea to plan a strategy to take advantage of this upcoming disruption now. It’s almost guaranteed that your IT systems will have to change.