Leveraging Technology for Business Improvement
The tech talk seems to dominate conversations globally and across industries, but it’s important to remember that technology is not a silver bullet. While most businesses are likely to benefit from some form of tech adoption or improvement, not all technologies will be overwhelmingly beneficial to every business. We have certainly reached a point where the rush of digitalization has come and gone. However, new and evolving technologies offer opportunities for business improvement, provided leaders pay close attention to their teams’ needs and assess which tools would be genuinely helpful. This careful evaluation will determine the ROI of these technological investments, making it crucial to proceed with caution and thorough consideration. Let’s explore some technology for business improvement to consider and discuss how we might differentiate them to make informed choices.
Technologies to Explore
Automation is a household buzzword at this point, and for good reason. While not every business will need a full-fledged AI assistant running the show behind the scenes, most businesses will likely have some repetitive processes that workers complete more or less by hand. Automating processes like these helps the business on a variety of levels, especially when it comes to freeing up skillful hands and minds. Taking workers away from this busy work frees them up for more nuanced and sophisticated tasks, which can also be more fulfilling work on a personal level.
Data Analysis Tools are another powerhouse you could include in your tool belt. Part of comprehensive and effective marketing, sales, and other strategies always has to do with crunching the numbers. Chances are your business is already collecting valuable data from customers and clients, but raw data can be difficult or even impossible to read meaningfully with the naked eye. Data analysis tools can help find trends and important details in the data and can give important insights into your consumer trends and habits. This, in turn, informs other parts of your business strategy.
Data Visualization goes hand-in-hand with data analysis but in a specific way. Data analysis might give you specific trends, but it can still be important to see what the data looks like. Different data visualization tools can give you this visual insight, which can additionally make it much easier to share and communicate data trends and statistics with workers, stakeholders, consumers, and anybody who would be interested.
Cloud Software is nothing new, but its impact is often underestimated. Providing workers with access to cloud software enables them to access all the necessary tools and information from any location. This enhances travel convenience, facilitates collaboration, and ultimately grants more accessibility, allowing everybody to focus on the work, and worry less about access. Cloud software often also grants some flexibility to businesses, allowing for scaling in things like storage if necessary. There are pros and cons to consider, but some cloud migration is generally a good idea for just about everybody.
Navigating the Options
Here’s where the no-silver-bullet kicks in. While all the previously mentioned options (and more) are likely useful to most businesses to varying extents, going all-in for any one of these might not be the best option. Technology is a tool, and for it to be truly helpful, it needs to be used in the correct context.
Diagnosing what kind of technology will be the most useful to your team can be tricky, but getting explicit input from the people doing the work is invaluable. Both individual and team audits can give great insight into processes that might be automated, into tools that may be missing, and into other limitations that may be holding your team back.
Additionally, once you have an idea of which tools to bring to the table, it’s important to keep evaluating. An OKR-style evaluation of the payoff of the new tech can help you see when an investment is paying off and, perhaps more importantly, when an investment might be misdirected. Keeping a careful eye on these trends can help you catch miscalculations early—hopefully before they become rather expensive.
Examples of Success
Adobe is an example of a business pivoting to remain profitable in a risky yet successful way. As with other software companies, Adobe’s income stream came from one-time license purchases, which is an issue when people suddenly stop having the money and capacity to purchase updated software—like in 2008, for example. Moving to a subscription service is a solution to this problem, but one that is, understandably, bound to be unpopular.
To pull this shift off, Adobe committed hard to its new cloud model. Now, users enjoy a revamped product that offers seamless transitions and access between devices. Adobe leveraged the cloud and other key details to create a generally well-received subscription-based product, despite harsh criticism upfront.
IKEA is an example of a business that leaned into multiple digitalization fronts to come out on the other side as a more modern version of itself, without losing the IKEA essence. Heavy data analytics showed where customers were spending their in-person time, and IKEA was able to combine digital and physical attributes to create a truly modern shopping and design experience.
Now, most customers start their vision online and visit the store to see how this vision might come to fruition. AR and VR tech help customers visualize the outcome directly. The result? A testament to modernization and digitalization. IKEA is very much still IKEA, just built for the modern world.
There are other examples of successful digitalization efforts, but these examples shed some light on how to leverage technology effectively. Adobe identified a key problem in business sustainability and used tech to revamp its product into something now worth switching over to a subscription model. IKEA used careful analytics first to see what a successful transformation would look like, then doubled down by integrating advanced tech into that transformation as well. The result in both of these is a revamped business, truly fit for the digital age, without losing the original essence.
All sorts of businesses can take lessons from this. Namely: the importance of careful diagnosis and strategic investment to make sure digitalization efforts are properly placed for your business, team, and industry.
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