Future-proofing your business for the changing technology landscape
As we approach 2020, the technology landscape is changing. Information based on data is driving business solutions, while everything from cool rooms to cars are connecting to the Internet of Things. To keep all this running smoothly, cybersecurity policy must be at the forefront of every business. Even if your company isn’t in a traditionally technology-forward industry, there’s a number of technologies you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve.
In an April 2011 report, Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) defines the Internet of Things as “the point in time when more ‘things or objects’ were connected to the Internet than people”.
Are we there yet?
Well according to that definition, the future is already here. Thanks largely to the prevalence of Apple’s iPhone, the number of connected devices rose from 500 million in 2003 to 12.5 billion in 2010. Cisco predicts there will be at least 50 billion connected devices by 2020.
Questions for your business
What this means is that in both the workplace and at home, the things we use will likely be connected to the internet in some way. For your business, that raises at least some of the following questions:
- Are you selling products the consumer wants?
- Is there opportunity to provide your customers with a better solution?
- Will your staff be able to work how they expect to?
- Can you guarantee effective security to both customers and workers in this new landscape?
While achieving these goals will be largely dependent on the type of business you’re in, there’s two services you’ll absolutely need, regardless of your company:
- A good Internet Service Provider
- A reliable Cloud Service
Both these technologies will be necessary to provide a safe and reliable connectivity for both your staff and customers, regardless of where they may be.
In the Internet of Things, nothing remains static
Our understanding of what constitutes a ‘connected computer’ is also changing. From smartphones to wearables like smartwatches and Google Glass, augmented reality is sneaking its way into many industries. This offers real time access not just to the data, but meaningful interpretations that have relevance in physical spaces.
Smaller devices, even smaller than wearables, are becoming more common. The Internet of Things constitutes billions of tiny, networked sensors that are able to gather information from key data points and send it to relevant data stores. Just about every industry will feel the impact of the Internet of Things on the way they do business. For example:
- Warehousing and logistics will use interconnected sensors to better understand inventory and stock levels at both the individual and global level. Augmented Reality will allow businesses to deploy robotics and automated stack and retrieval drones to better scale operations.
- The food industry will benefit from better understanding of food storage, transport and science.
- Pharmaceuticals and medicine will see an exponential growth in data collection for use in providing better solutions to sickness and ailments.
- Retail will use the Internet of Things to deliver products to customers quicker, from days to hours, even minutes.
What does it mean to your business?
In the near future, your customer will be ‘always on’. You’ll need to provide solutions that acknowledge the multiplicity of technologies out there, while staying on-brand and on-message across a range of platforms.
Take customer service, for example. A customer might choose to interact with you across SMS, phone, a variety of chat apps (Messenger, WhatsApp, Allo), email, and even through embedded chat windows on your webpage. How do you offer a complete solution across these platforms? It will require savvy planning and smart management of time and resources to deliver consistency to your customers.
Flexibility in strategy
With digital services augmenting so much of the repetitive workload, the focus turns to ‘creative thinking’ and, in particular, ‘creative solutions’. What this means to your business can be varied, but in general terms, it means freeing staff from less repetitive work, and getting more value from our work hours by focusing on flexible, agile solutions.
Agile working as a buzzword can sometimes feel a little worn out, especially now that just about every company is clamouring to be ‘more agile’. For it to be more than just boardroom talk, ‘agile working’ really comes down to a flexible approach in business strategy that doesn’t overcommit resources and time to a specific, too distant outcome.
Small steps, big gains
An iterative approach is often better. With data analytics at your fingertips, small and quick changes that can be measured for return on investment will help younger organisations catch up to their competitors. For established enterprises, the trick to re-discovering comes through the core values expressed by management, transparency in strategy and business conduct, and a sense of ownership over deliverables and outcomes. This will ultimately drive staff towards higher creative goals.
This can only be achieved if staff can truly be freed from automated work that is better done by computers. In order to future-proof your business, you’ll need to empower staff with digital technologies that not only help them do their current jobs better, but drive everyone to redefine what work is to them.
Innovating the future
Policy and process remain key elements in the strategic direction of any company, but in a more rapid data environment, innovation becomes a key metric by which to measure company success. Businesses need focus on providing more than an ‘alternative’ to their competitors.
While many of the leading tech companies might be seen as innovators, closer to home, we’re still behind the eight ball. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, less than half of all businesses in Australia identified as ‘innovation active’ in the 2015-2016 financial year.
How to define innovation
Innovation is about pioneering new methods, revolutionising existing paradigms, and changing the fundamental ways in which we do business.
Innovation can be disruptive, coming about unexpectedly and turning an industry on its head (and leaving many companies in the dust), but it can also interative – a dynamic act that comes about through many small changes in technology and process.
Utilising people and technology for future-proofing success
Innovation is driven by people, but it’s people with the right access to technology (and a freedom to experiment) that generally innovate within a business. This can sometimes run counter to the general application of technology within an organisation, where the focus is not on experimentation but process and application. The ‘hacker’ mentality can work across many industries. It often takes a fresh perspective to see how existing functionality can be taken apart and put back together in new and interesting ways. While the right technologies are required to stay ahead of the curve, you’ll still need the right people and partners working with you for your business to flourish, both into 2020 and beyond.