5 Disruptive Technologies That Will Change the Face of Business as We Know It
The modern ecosystem of global enterprises is changing due to several novel technological breakthroughs that have recently emerged. Businesses must choose to either adapt as technological innovations continue to evolve, or essentially be left behind. Though changing a corporation’s strategy, workflows and operations is a challenge to executives, new technologies offer an opportunity for corporate innovation. As new technologies are engineered to make things easier for businesses and end-users, leveraging the power and convenience that comes with new technologies, can make business operations more efficient, which can better an enterprise’s bottom line.
Businesses have typically relied on new technologies, software systems, and engineering novelties for expansion, innovation and day-to-day workflows. Originally, businesses had to complete manual financial sheets and calculations for both budgeting and financial reports. Then desktop computing and accounting software were engineered creating an increase in workplace efficiency. The Internet created an unforeseen opportunity for inbound marketing, while the advent of social media allowed businesses to connect with end-users like never before. When scanners and emailing systems largely replaced fax machines, business communications could be carried out much quicker. Before fax machines, “snail mail” allowed for communications that were not speedy enough to keep up with business workflows. VOIP and video calling allowed for remote workers to hold conference calls, while more and more powerful computers allowed for the collection and parsing of large corporate data sets. That said, while the advent of the printing press, desktop computing, the Internet, and email have changed the modern landscape of enterprises worldwide in an obvious fashion, less obvious technological novelties have helped to shape businesses as well. These include smartphones, tablets, Software as a service (Saas), cloud computing, and networking innovations such as VPNs and Next-Generation Firewalls.
In line with above, there are currently five evolving technologies that will both challenge modern businesses, and help them to innovate further once their power is fully realized and leveraged. “Business as usual” will most certainly change, so it is important to know what technologies are being developed, and how businesses can incorporate them into their daily workflows while minimizing overhead and increasing their bottom line. The five technologies are Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the Blockchain.
Big Data Will Permanently Change the Way Business Decisions Are Made
Big Data is the collation, parsing and analysis of large enterprise data sets. Businesses produce a massive amount of data on a daily basis - data that can be leveraged (analyzed) in order to make better strategic decisions in the future based on past operations and events. Due to the incredible opportunities created by big data analysis in the corporate realm, the field of data science has become much more significant. Data scientists can craft specific reports and offer valuable insights based on past business workflows and customer-relations, all of which can help executives visualize what has worked in the past, what has not worked, what can be tweaked to work better, and what can be innovated, changed, or removed from corporate operations.
When it comes to understanding how to better market products and/or services to end-users, big data typically encompasses the use of algorithms that can predict how end-users will react to particular strategies, and what business strategies will work. Such predictive data (predictive analysis) could help businesses tailor strategies according to the past habits of specific demographics, while also helping executives make more informed decisions.
As for all technological innovations, businesses have two choices - adopt the new technologies or refuse to adopt them. Those that don’t adopt the novel, evolving technologies are often left behind. When it comes to big data analysis, a lack of data analysis in use by an enterprise can mean missing out on a novel business strategy that could have helped to increase a business’s bottom line - such a strategy could readily be constructed after careful analysis of a corporation’s data sets. That said, it is already clear that businesses adopting the new technology of big data analysis are ahead of those who have not started using it - according to Dell’s second annual Global Technology Adoption Index (GTAI 2015), while 41 percent of businesses are using some type of big data initiative for marketing, those using big data (along with cloud and mobility strategies) grow 53 percent more in comparison to businesses not using such technologies.
Machine Learning is Making Business Data Even More Powerful
To correctly leverage such large amounts of data sets in big data initiatives, software systems must be used to efficiently analyze the data in a way that can produce reports and tailored business strategies. This is where machine learning comes into play. Machine learning is a novel application of Artificial Intelligence and data analysis that allows programmed computer systems to “learn” based on parsing large data-sets without being explicitly programmed with the new pieces of knowledge. Being more detailed, machine learning - in conjunction with deep learning - allows an engineered program to re-write some of its own algorithms with new knowledge based on analyzing present data, hence the program “learns” with a digital brain and can better analyze data and offer insights in the future.
Such a system allows computers to conduct more efficient predictive data analysis due to the use of neural networks and learning algorithms. It is important to note that this contrasts typical, non-AI data analysis, which is static and doesn’t include “learning” from past data sets. Non-AI data analysis is where a program does what it is explicitly programmed to do, while with AI/machine learning, a program can “learn” and operate outside of its explicit programming to offer more pertinent data analyses and insights.
Per above, unlike a static program/algorithm, machine learning offers a dynamic, changing algorithm that adapts to data in order to offer the most relevant insights to executives, while consistently learning to offer even more pertinent insights in the future. With that, machine learning offers a more dynamic data analysis experience - one where executives can rely on more reliable machine calculations. Daily business workflows are dynamic, and thus a dynamic system must be in place to adapt to changing data sets - something that machine learning offers that classical data analysis doesn’t.
Artificial Intelligence Will Be a Game Changer for All Business as We Know It
While Machine Learning and Deep Learning are focused and applied areas of Artificial Intelligence, general AI is also evolving business workflows in significant ways. Artificial Intelligence is any type of computer intelligence that processes information (inputted data) and outputs pertinent results in the same way that a human would, that is, based on programmed cognitive processes, visual/spatial data recognition, speech recognition, neural networks, etc. AI essentially is having computers think (and analyze) in ways that humans can’t, which can create novel business strategies, workflows, models and ventures.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiatives in business are usually coupled with big data analysis in order to better produce novel business strategies and increase workflow efficiency. This use of “smart” computer systems can help executives make better decisions and produce better strategies based on data analysis and insights produced by AI programs. Though AI can leverage powerful computational power to analyze large data sets, such AI algorithms must be “trained” via the collation and parsing of large amounts of data for the program to “learn” from.
According to surveys conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review, businesses that are utilizing AI initiatives are already ahead of businesses that are not leveraging the power of AI (2017). In addition to this, the reports indicate that AI will greatly affect several aspects of global economies, as well as multiple industries and business operations, including:
- According to Louis Columbus (Forbes, 2017), “AI-based improvements are expected to deliver Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) gains in the Financial Services and Professional Services industries .”
- As automation is leveraged more and more across global business industries to minimize corporate overhead, reports indicate that business operations associated with end-user activities (marketing, supply-chain management, etc.) - coupled with automation technologies - will be most affected by the use of AI initiatives in global businesses.
- Due to the novel nature of AI and machine learning, business leaders believe that AI will help them create new business models, transform current business workflows, and even create new industries and ventures once algorithms are sufficiently trained and implemented.
The Internet of Things Takes All Tech Advances and Applies Them to the Real World of Business
Contrasting the height of the Internet where most of the world’s population used, and was connected to, the Internet, in the current global marketplace, there are more devices connected to the Internet than people - hence the Internet of “Things.” This usually includes smart-devices, including smart watches, smart TVs, smart refrigerators, mobile devices, gaming devices, etc. Such a global network of devices that are interconnected with each other allows for network operations that were previously impossible. In the business realm, the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that businesses have new opportunities to market to end-users, communicate and interface with customers, and to tailor products and services to customers based on demographics and collated data.This is because of the unique feature associated with the IoT that can transform businesses via a novel opportunity - the use of Internet-connected sensors that can be applied to a variety of products (phones, computers, cars, kitchen utensils, clothes, glasses, etc.).
From a business perspective, these interconnected devices are no longer static products, but are dynamic, data-driven products that can facilitate new business strategies, ventures and marketing operations. Going back to data analysis, IoT sensors can be used to collate data, which can be sent to a business cloud server, where AI can analyze the data and send back instructions to the product for more optimal, efficient operations. From a marketing perspective, such collated and parsed data (via IoT sensors) can also be used to obtain better feedback on products, which can allow executives to make better decisions in the future. Smart IoT sensors coupled with data analysis can potentially transform business models and offer data-drive business operations, all of which can greatly better a corporation’s bottom line.
Blockchain Technology is Disrupting All Trust Based Systems
The blockchain represents one of the most innovative technologies that has the potential to completely revamp businesses, global industries, the Internet, financial systems, the economy, and more. Specifically, the blockchain is an open-source, digital ledger-system that was originally created as a platform for the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It is a distributed, decentralized network for recording and processing all bitcoin transactions. Another way to describe the blockchain is as a shared database or spreadsheet of financial transactions or digital contracts. Generally speaking, this system is immutable (read-only) and is a powerful decentralized verification system composed of a network of volunteer nodes.
Such an ingenious system has far-reaching potential outside of the original intended use (bitcoin), such as upgrading the global Internet (Web 2.0), offering platforms for app development fueled by altcoins, the use of the ledger-system by health, education and business organizations, the international use of digital currency, the use of intellectual property sales/licensing and management (smart contracts) and IP records via the blockchain/ledger, etc.
- The Blockchain and Currency: cryptocurrency is backed by the solving of power-intensive, cryptographic algorithm-puzzles, and - due to limited supply - can be worth a lot of money as digital assets. Such assets can be traded, where all transactions are verified by the decentralized, shared spreadsheet-like system (the blockchain) described above. Due to being decentralized, cryptocurrency greatly contrasts both central banks and fiat currency (legal tender), especially since the use of bitcoin can allow for digital transactions and complete anonymity. Along with smart contracts and Dapps, cryptocurrencies have the potential to either replace fiat currencies, or greatly rival them.
- The Blockchain and Intellectual Property: as noted above, IP records can be written to the immutable blockchain, while sales, licensing and management of IP rights/products can be done via smart contracts, which take place via the blockchain.
- The Blockchain and Businesses: businesses are leveraging blockchain technologies for both financial transactions (which are quicker, more transparent and safer), while also using smart contracts for everything from business deals to enterprise-level business contracts. Since the blockchain uses cryptographic security measures and is decentralized, it is also difficult to hack. In relation IoT technologies, smart contracts can be linked to Internet-connected smart chips and smart keys for the management of products, properties, and more. The use of the blockchain amongst businesses can significantly affect corporate financial transactions, contracts and data records and has the potential to revamp financial business models.
How You Can Prepare Your Business For the Next Wave of Technology
Being prepared for the evolution of technology disruptions among businesses requires having an open mind and a willingness to both embrace new technologies, and alter current, flexible business models for efficient implementation. That said, as noted above, being flexible enough to keep up with the implementation of new technologies can keep a business ahead of the competition, while allowing corporations to consistently innovate. Adopting new technologies in the earlier stages of their inception means having a head start in innovation so that, when such technologies become mainstream and standard, the early-adopters will have already developed their business model and incorporated the new technology to greatly increase their bottom line. Ultimately, it is neither wise nor completely plausible to simply ignore the development of new technologies that can - and will - impact businesses on a global scale.
Future Proof Your Systems
Certain steps can be carried out now to ensure that future technologies can be easily implemented and incorporated into the fabric of modern businesses. This includes keeping software systems up to date, replacing legacy systems with current industry-standards, and keeping databases updated, secure, and correctly managed. Additionally, crafting flexible business models that are open to innovation is also important.
Seek New Opportunities
While profiting from current business ventures is important, seeking new opportunities and ways to innovate is a key to success for the future. This requires re-analyzing current business goals and workflows to determine if other products and services can be offered, while also determining if the corporate supply-chain can be altered, and/or whether business processes can be changed to optimize business efficiency.
New technologies naturally develop that greatly impact end-users and businesses alike. Businesses must either attempt to ignore the new technologies - and fall behind the competition - or embrace the changes and become innovators by implementing the new technologies in the early stages. Like tablets, cloud computers and smart tech changed the global corporate landscape, Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Blockchain technologies continue to evolve in a way that allows businesses to greatly expand and increase their bottom line - if the technologies are leveraged efficiently.