Technology continues to evolve, affecting every facet of our lives, but it is especially interesting to see how it has changed the way we do business. Before the advent of the internet, people would look at you as if you were crazy if you told them you were ‘working from home’. Now that we have digital workspaces, we can work wherever there is internet, for the most part. Emails and instant chat apps help us stay responsive while allowing us ultimate flexibility. Employers everywhere are re-evaluating their policies to see if traditional work hours are necessary and if they even need the expense of a traditional office space. But while employers are being more flexible than ever, customers are expecting more. They want everything immediately, so employers expect high-quality work at unprecedented speeds. They wouldn’t be able to satisfy both their customers and their employees without keeping a pulse on technological trends.
With this efficiency comes challenges, however, as technology will continue to develop and employers will struggle with adopting it. Some types of technology may be a challenge to adapt to and you may find, after investing in it, that it won’t work for you. Still, you need to be ready to adapt to change and see the value in doing so. It is important to keep a pulse on changing technologies and see if there are ways they can help your workplace, or risk being left behind with archaic technology that the new, younger workforce will turn up their noses to.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The creation of all the internet-based technology we use is often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. First came mechanisation, as we found ways we could use steam and water-driven power to get things done. The second revolution came with the invention of the assembly line and electricity, as factory work was the new norm. Third was the invention robots and automation. This fourth, industrial revolution focuses on combining mechanics and data, using internet-driven systems that can ‘think’ on their own without the need for input by humans.
All these changing demands in the workplace mean a lot for your IT support team. Expectations are constantly evolving, and you need a team that can stay abreast of regulatory compliance, provide user support, constantly monitor for cyber-threats and much more. That is too much work for one person to do well. That is why it is important to consult with a local IT support team so you can more effectively use your time and money for growing your business.
Take a look at some of the more common ways technology has changed the way we do business.
The Internet of Things
The IoT refers to how computing devices are connected and embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. The rate at which it is growing is astonishing rate, as practically any object can be ‘brought to life’ and allow for streamlined processes. The infrastructure required for the IoT is quite considerable, however, as mass amounts of generated data must be transported, analysed and stored securely. It then has to be formatted in a way that makes it accessible to the humans operating it. The IoT will require more resources then formatted in ways accessible to human operators. The more common it becomes, the more resources it will demand.
Businesses like Amazon are already realising opportunities to tailor the IoT to their needs, as their Alexa device allows people to order products simply using a voice command. It makes in-home purchases easier for the consumer, which, in turn, is good for business.
Even within the workplace employees can benefit from the diversity that the IoT allows. Responsive heating and air-conditioning units, smart projectors, automated lighting and more can make the workplace more comfortable and more attractive to prospective employees. In addition, employers can manage systems remotely.
Data Storage in the Cloud
Every time we make a transaction using our mobile phones, laptops and tablets involves exchanging some sort of data. Although that data is stored at giant hardware server forms, that data has to be accessible, so they make it available through clouds of data storage, to get that data from the servers to our internet of things (IoT) devices. Though we use a singular ‘the cloud’ when speaking about it, it is actually many individual clouds of data storage.
If an organisation chooses to use the cloud and store their data off-site, they use a trusted third-party to host the data. The advantage of using the cloud is that it is accessible by anyone who has authorised access to it, regardless of where they are in the world. This remote access allows employers a variety of advantages, including access to talented employees from around the world instead of within the limits of their geographical boundaries. Employees can access sensitive data from anywhere, securely and without the need to be confined to a physical office space. A secure online portal allows access to the cloud from any laptop, tablet or smartphone that is connected to the internet.
Digital Payment Systems
Thanks to online banking, there are now countless ways consumers can move money between accounts and make instantaneous purchases from their smartphone or computer. Businesses can collect payments more easily now than ever. They can also more easily do their record-keeping and accounting, as these digital transactions are all logged automatically as they occur. What’s more, third-party vendors like PayPal make it even easier to move money between accounts, allowing for almost instant verification of funds.
It would be amiss to mention the advances in digital payment systems without touching on the topic of cryptocurrency. While still in its infancy, businesses are starting to explore the advantages of using cryptocurrency, particularly as it to relates to using blockchain systems.
With all the advancements in technology, there are concerns about digital security. Any organisation that is not concerned about cyber-security is making itself vulnerable to an attack. You can’t use the cloud or IoT devices without opening the doors to potential hackers who are constantly looking for ways to access your network. Gone are the days when sensitive data was stored in a lock-and-key manner at a physical location. Cyber-criminals will stop at nothing to access sensitive information, and you can even be fined under recent GDPR regulations if you fall victim to a data breach. Cyber-security will continue to evolve as technology involves, so it is important to always be prepared for a breach or attack and work with a trustworthy IT support team for ultimate cyber-security.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies
It is quite likely that every employee in the U.K. owns a smartphone or tablet of some sort. But employers struggle with identifying what roles these devices have in the workplace. Questions they’re struggling with include:
- Can I ask my employees to use their personal devices for work-related purposes?
- Should I offer my employees smartphones so I can access them as needed? If so, which employees should be allowed to receive them?
- For what purposes are my employees allowed to use company devices?
- Should I allow employees to access emails and messages outside of standard work hours?
- How should I manage digital security for remote staff who use personal devices?
- Is the workplace wi-fi network capable of supporting the amount of personal devices as well as workplace devices?
It may take some time for employers to figure out what is best for business and best for their employees concerning digitally connected employees, as boundaries and social norms are still being established. Nonetheless, it is important to set healthy boundaries. Establishing guidelines and helping employees disconnect from work after work hours can actually improve their productivity during their working hours.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Voice-activated response assistants like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are examples of how machine learning and AI work. The more you interact with these devices, the more they get to know you. As a result, it becomes easier for the devices to understand your requests.
As consumers acclimate to this type of technology at home, consider how it can change the way you do business? Soon, consumers are going to expect it. They’re going to want the easiest and quickest route possible to conduct their transaction, and you need to be prepared to provide it. You may be able to apply AI and machine learning to certain back-end functions as well, thus improving processes that don’t involve client-facing interactions.
Human Resource Management
Employers can utilise the internet to access candidates from around the world. After all, remote workers require less of an investment than a local candidate who may request a higher salary. Software platforms tailored specifically to HR solutions can make the selection process easier by filtering your options so you only see qualified applicants. This is another area that AI and machine learning can help with, as the software can get to know the type of candidates you require for a specific role.
HR managers can also benefit from certain freelancing platforms that make it easier to outsource work. Because of a boost in workers seeking a better work-life balance and employers who can now outsource the work thanks to the internet, freelance platforms are becoming more popular. Available platforms are becoming more trustworthy and transparent as they allow for better project management than ever before. The cohesiveness makes it easier both for the employer outsourcing the work and the freelancer.
During a typical workday, there are so many ways that technology helps us get work done more efficiently while also saving money. You don’t even need a meeting room any more as collaborative apps like Slack have changed the way employees communicate and work with their peers. The fact that you can have a video conference with someone across the globe instead of flying an employee there and paying travel expenses speaks volumes. And thanks to the cloud, documentation can be accessed and altered in real-time by multiple people in different locations, allowing for easier collaboration than ever before.
Technology can be quite expensive, so it is important for business owners to do their research to see how a specific technology will boost their return on investment before purchasing it. However, it has also helped reduce operational costs associated with items that are no longer needed as much in a traditional office, such as stationary, toner and printer ink. In addition, employers may not need to hire and offer benefits to full-time employees as outsourcing is becoming more common. The cloud makes the input of data, management of inventory, shipping processes and record-keeping much more efficient than traditional methods.
Many organisations have been able to capitalise on the sale of digital products, such as online courses and e-books. All it takes is a platform that allows you to create it one time, list it for sale and watch the income stream in. A good marketing team can help as well, as targeted email campaigns can help you find an audience who wants your product.
Advertising, Data Mining and Targeted Marketing
As mentioned, marketing properly is key to growing a digital business. Social media can be a priceless tool for data mining, as everything done online is tracked. The more data a company can acquire from its current customers, the more they can target their marketing efforts. This type of focused advertising yields best results when used across multiple channels instead of just one. As a business owner, it may take you a lot of time to look at and organise all that data, so it is important to look into software that does it for you. Even simply using Facebook can be an inexpensive way to gather such data and find your targeted clientele.
There is no doubt that technology has made a massive impact on the way we do business. In fact, it is highly unlikely that the business world will ever revert to its old ways thanks to the impact that the cloud, AI and the IoT have made. However, these technological improvements will force discussions around ethics and other HR questions. Nonetheless, businesses should constantly monitor advances in technology to see how to make it work for them and remain ahead of the competition.
About Mustard IT, your business technology partner
Mustard IT provide a trusted team who are experienced and able to explain complex issues to you in a language you’ll understand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you adapt to constantly changing business technology.