Beyond 2014


p064-067-ABS#31-Technology-1By Donna Hanson.

Take a moment to think way back in time… well, back to 2008 to be precise. Facebook was gaining momentum as the major social media tool and Twitter was new to the scene.

Fast forward just four years to 2012 and the London Olympics. Social media use was in full force. Marketing, reporting and commenting on activities (in and out of the sporting arenas) for both athletes and audiences was a given. This was further enhanced by the increase in consumers with smartphones and tablets.

Social media enabled the world to ‘be there’ virtually and engage in a way they had never been able to before. The global audience was connected 24/7 via a tool that enabled them to interact with team members and hear and respond to what was happening at the games in real time.

Those changes were revolutionary to the world and business, from both a communication and marketing perspective. There were interesting discussions about the positive and negative uses of social media, as well as the innovative ways people were choosing to use it. One enterprising US marketing firm paid US$11,000 to advertise its Twitter ‘handle’ on the shoulder of an Olympic runner!

Fast forward 12 months to today and we ask: what does technology have in store for business in the next 12 months and beyond?

Innovation has long been a ‘buzz’ word in business, but Business Futurist, Morris Miselowski, thinks that SMEs are no longer immune. “There’s no get out of jail card to bypass innovation. Small and Medium Businesses need to be listening to yesterday and speaking to tomorrow. No longer will whatever happens in the US hit Australia in a few years’ time, it’s now instantaneous, there is no ‘generational gap’, and there are no time and space barriers in business anymore.”

Miselowski believes too many SMEs are operating in ‘catch up mode’ or listening to yesterday when they should be “actively looking over the horizon”.

As far as the future for SMEs is concerned, Miselowski offers three interesting concepts:

  1.     Hyper-personalisation

“Not so long ago we went out to the world, out to work and out to discover, now we stand still, pull out our mobile device and search, connect and communicate knowing the world will to come to us. In the past decade we have increasingly begun to see ourselves as the centre of our universe, expecting a hyper-personalised world to come to us, a world that looks at where I am, who I am and what I want and gives me unique, made to order, bespoke, real time and in situ solutions. Smartphones will become our Personal Assistant, gathering, combining and making sense of all our disparate information, emails, calendars, movements, location and what’s going on around us and feed it back to us in real time recommendations.”

 2.    Collaboration And Co-Creation

In the past, SMEs had limited options for collaboration and co-creation. Now businesses, regardless of size, budget and resources, can tap into different ways of thinking.

According to Miselowski, “this is the start of the Third Industrial Revolution. A new paradigm of working is emerging, one in which time and space disappear. We will work more often to project and task, work in both physical and digital workspaces, work with local, national and international co-workers and clients. We will no longer be bound by old management paradigms of having to know, own and do everything in our business, instead we will form alliances, co-create and crowd source our non-core needs and come in and out of these loose arrangements’ when/as required. No longer are organisations bound by geography. They can offer their services to a global market place 24/7.

“For a long time, big business has collaborated with other big businesses to provide product offerings. With an Omni 24/7 global marketplace, SMEs are realising they too can collaborate with other like-minded businesses to provide entire product offerings.”

3.    Big Data [term given to the plethora of data now available on the internet]

We have spent the last 30 years feeding information about ourselves and the world into the digital ether, without getting much wisdom back. The next frontier is mining this information and turning it into purposeful knowledge. A new breed of must have employee is emerging called Data Scientists, who are tasked with the job of refining data to enable good decisions. “Organisations who can help find and create products and smarter devices that manage life and data will be successful. In 3-5 years, all information about us will be on line” says Miselowski.

Overall, Miselowski says SMEs need to ensure that their physical and digital worlds are telling the same consistent story.

Tim Longhurst, a Sydney-based trend spotter and futurist, somewhat tongue in cheek says, “Australians have become ‘cyborgs’. Part person, part mobile phone. Instant access with technology today is AMAZING. Current trends of web-searching, mobiles and social media mean consumers get instant answers to the questions they have. Technology allows a total stranger the ability to take time out of his or her day to support another complete stranger in answering their questions. It doesn’t matter where in the world they are.”

From an SME perspective, Tim says, “Businesses need to be ‘cyborg’ ready. Are you marketing on the web? Are you using social media to engage with customers and create raving fans? Most of what is happening is now on mobile, so is your business mobile enabled?”

If it is not, Tim suggests potential dollars could be walking out of your business and down the road to your competitors.

In the future, Longhurst believes consumer behaviour is going to be analysed more and more via Google, LinkedIn (for Business to Business) and Facebook. “Google has now become today’s ‘Yellow Pages’,” says Longhurst. His advice to SMEs is that integrating your offering into social media and having a mobile-enabled website is a MUST.

Innovation Expert and Business Futurist, Craig Rispin, says before looking to the future we need to look back to the last 12-18 months and “realise that technology will accelerate twice as fast. In the past 18 months we’ve seen a massive shift by SMEs moving content to the cloud rather than having it on in-house servers.”

Not only does this remove the need to invest in expensive equipment, but it also reduces the need for ongoing maintenance and support from both a staffing and financial perspective.

Rispin expands further, “IBM research indicates that currently 50 per cent of all computing is in the cloud (data stored ‘offsite’ as opposed to in-house), they anticipate it will move to 100 per cent before the end of the next 18 months”.

The movement towards an increase in cloud-based solutions is obvious in the form of products such as Microsoft Office 365 and Xero (accounting software).

Security is the driver for this. Rispin says he is “constantly asked about the security of cloud-based information, particularly for SMEs. In my mind there is no question. Cloud solution providers spend billions of dollars on security. I don’t know of any small business who can, or does do that.”

Technology has enabled many new SMEs to develop solutions and become global players in a marketplace that even five years ago would not have been possible without large budgets.

According to Rispin, the mistake many SMEs are making is “they are still talking in terms of websites. I regularly meet with clients who don’t realise that 50 per cent or more of their customers are viewing their website via mobile devices. Many of their current websites aren’t easily accessible or easy to navigate on mobile devices. Businesses need to ensure their online presence is designed to create the right experience for customers regardless of the device they use.”

So often in business we get caught up in the ‘busyness’ of doing stuff. In order to grow and thrive as we move into the future, we need to consistently take time out to review the past, observe the present and plan for the future.

If the past 18 months are any indication, the future for business is bright, providing you have your eye on future developments and your customers. Businesses also need to commit to the technology needed to engage and grow quickly to meet customers’ increasing desire for access all areas, instant information and an experience that is all about them.

Disclaimer – The information contained in this article should be used as a guide only. For your businesses specific needs you should contact your preferred technology provider who can advise what is best for your specific requirements.

 

Donna Hanson is the director of productivity training company Prime Solutions Training & Consulting. Donna and her team partner with organisations to deliver a better return on investment through strategic computer training solutions. For more on Donna and Prime Solutions, visit www.primesolutions.net.au.

Most Read at ABS!

Boost Your Business By Boosting Your Brain

By Dr Helena Popovic MBBS. Your most powerful business asset is your brain. By understanding how your brain works, you can work more productively, creatively and efficiently. You can learn how to think more incisively, focus more effectively and sustain your mental energy throughout the day. Here are some of the latest findings from neuroscience […]

The Fifth Assessment: What Is It And What Does It Tell Us?

By Mark O’Brien. Recently, the media has been reporting that the latest report on the science of climate change has been released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This report has stirred up plenty of commentary, especially while the fires in NSW were burning during October. A lot of the commentary is focussed […]

How To Protect Your Intellectual Property

By Kim Khor. Corporate information systems are thought of as housing data-like documents, messages and databases. They should also include all digital devices like mobile phones, cameras and GPS (global positioning system) navigators. When people use any of these systems, their actions are also converted into data. Each action is recorded in some way and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: