6 ways technology is changing the way we do business

The continuous evolution of technology is changing the way do business, the dynamics of the workplace and what we perceive is possible. Here are six ways in which technology is transforming that environment.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/38471709@N02/Over the last 10 to 15 years, technology has drastically changed the attitude and processes of the workplace. More importantly, the continued evolution of telecoms and IT technology is fuelling the on-going transformation of the business environment to take advantage of available tools and opportunities.

In the Caribbean, as in many developing countries, there can still be a tension between the traditional practices and the improvements that can be realised through technology. One of the reasons for this standoff might be that decision makers still have not fully appreciated the irrevocable changes that technology had brought to the workplace. This post discusses six key ways in which technology is changing the way we do business.

1. Productivity. One of the early driving forces supporting the take up and use of computers were assertions that increased productivity could be realised, thus allowing us more time to attend to do other things. Indeed, the use of computers has transformed the workplace as we know it. It has driven down the cost of data processing, and the ease with which large volumes of data can be manipulated by and transferred between various units within the organisation. Moreover, this increasing processing power, along with the broad range of off-the-shelf and customised hardware and software that are available, have resulted in changing employer and client expectation of work quality and throughput both at the employee and organisational levels.

2. Collaboration. In situations where persons might not be in office physically, e.g. due to teleworking arrangements or offsite work assignments, and even to interact with clients, technology is offering a number of connectivity options that facilitate continued discussion and collaboration among work teams. Options can allow for real-time or non-real time interaction, and can also be integrated into specialist workspaces to allow access to and use of different tools and features.The word cloud below shows only a small sample of the collaboration tools that are available.

Figure 1: Sample of collaboration tools that are being used in the workplace (Source: ICT Pulse)

3. Resourcing. Separate and apart from the impact technology has been having on productivity, it is also changing the way businesses are resourced. Two key examples of this are

  • cloud computing, which allows a broad range of resources, such as software applications, hardware and infrastructure requirements, such as storage and processing power, to be accessed online, and
  • outsourcing, where, thanks to technology, companies can devolve or delegate different aspects of their business to either affiliate or third parties, but still remain connected and have critical inputs to processes that have remained in-house.

These two examples highlight the changing view on how operating resources are deployed and managed, and more importantly where such activities occur – e.g.. online, offsite and even offshore. Organisations are becoming increasingly hesitant to absorb large upfront (especially capital) costs for facilities and services that might also have high operating costs, but for which more cost effectively, but reliable alternatives exist. Hence business models have been changing on the basis that it is no longer necessary for the supply of many of those needs to be resident in-house; but they must be accessible as and when required, which current technology does facilitate.

4. Interaction and participation. This point is readily evident through the impact of social media in business. In addition to the providing organisations with another platform for marketing and promotion, and to disseminate information, social media offers consumers and the public a large, a voice. Many organisations are beginning to capitalise on the opportunities to secure feedback on their products and services, and even to use the collaborative environment that technology now fosters for crowdsourcing initiatives, such as crowdcreation, crowdvoting and even crowdwisdom.

5. Cost management. Invariably, increasing competition is fostering an ever-growing need to manage cost and streamline operations. Management is continually being asked to get the most “bang for the buck”, and in these trying economic times, to control spending and realise savings. Once again, technology is providing cost-effective alternatives, such expertise/labour and computing resource outsourcing, and also with respect to in-house solutions that can improve the efficiency, productivity and performance of the individual employee, and ultimately, that of the organisation.

6. Efficiency and optimisation. Finally, this point is a natural, but very important consequence of many of the earlier points, since there is a greater thrust towards organisations becoming more streamlined. Traditionally, one of the greatest challenges that businesses have faced is that although they might be very clear about what their core objectives might be, considerable attention – financing, manpower, management, etc. – had be given to supporting activities and processes to the core business. However, thanks to technology, companies have more options through which to reallocate their efforts towards critical processes and functions that they must manage, thereby increasing productivity and outputs.

Are there any other important  ways in which technology is changing the workplace that have not been captured in this post? Do share in the comment box below.

Image courtesy of Mal_irl, flickr

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