Technology impacts processes, people, and even the products we make and sell. One simple definition of technology from Merriam Webster is “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.” Applying new ideas and new tools in the line of business can fundamentally change the business. By looking ahead to some of the shifts in available tools, business leaders can see ways that their business can expand, reshape, and adapt to the changing marketplace.
McKinsey & Company recently updated their list of formidable technologies that businesses should be watching. The speed of data development (doubling every 20 months) and the rapidly exploding number of wireless devices accessing the Internet are both helping to create a milieu that challenges business leaders to understand and utilize big data and advanced analytics across the spectrum of their organization. Our businesses must become learning and adapting businesses.
With this in mind, here are 5 technologies that may profoundly impact the nature of business in the coming years, and may open opportunities for you in developing and adapting your business. I’ll post 5 more technologies in the next blog.
1. Joining the Social Matrix – When you read “social matrix” don’t simply think Facebook or LinkedIn. These are simply applications within a larger trend of interconnections between people and organizations. This every-growing matrix of sharing information has potential to change the way we work and make decisions. McKinsey & Company speak of “distributed problem-solving,” referring to the utilization of brain power from customers and experts within and beyond an organization to work on a problem and reach breakthrough solutions.
2. Competing with Big Data and Advanced Analytics – As I’ve written before, the potential of big data and advanced analytics is not simply limited to Enterprise level businesses. SMBs can and will be able to leverage to power of massive data sets to better understand patterns in the market, the business, and more. While this offers great potential, it also has the big challenge of developing more data scientists and data communicators who can help businesses learn how to better read the analytics and more effectively communicate them within the organization.
3. Deploying the Internet of All Things – The rapid development and deployment of tiny technologies that can interact online or send out a GPS signal is allowing for a faster formation of smart networks that instantly communicate product distribution details, product failure, or any number of other details. FedEx has already implemented a program that allows customers to utilize a device that tracks their packages via GPS and even tracks ambient conditions. This type of advancement is also seeing rapid growth in the healthcare industry where more and more people are tracking a wide range of health stats through devices like their smartphones.
4. Offering Anything as a Service – Products are rapidly becoming services. For instance, instead of waiting two years to update a cell phone some businesses offer people that opportunity to pay an extra monthly service charge, which allows them to immediately update when new smartphone iterations are released. This process of moving all things to service means more convenience for customers and a steady income stream for businesses.
5. Automating Knowledge Work – Just as physical labor has been automated in various production lines, the rapidly advancing ability for computing systems to process language and understand context will change how information is processed. Companies will begin to rely on both human and machine processed knowledge.
 Merriam Webster Dictionary. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology>
 Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and James Manyika. “Ten IT-enabled business trends for the decade ahead.” McKinsey & Company, May 2013 <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/ten_it-enabled_business_trends_for_the_decade_ahead>