In class, we are constantly hearing how technology has changed the way that businesses operate. The idea that without technology, businesses cannot survive, is constantly promoted. I can see how technology has changed society. For example, practically everything is done using a smartphone. I can even order at McDonald’s or Taco Bell using their app. However, how exactly has technology transformed business? Are we really in a world where it is impossible to conduct business without social media, mobile technology, and other advances? I am just curious if the claim that technology is indispensable to all businesses is a bit exaggerated.
You ask a very good and deep foundational question and we applaud you for questioning the status quo. For companies, technology provides a way to increase efficiency and reach with less effort. The appearance and development of certain technologies has created businesses and entire industries that would not otherwise exist. Think of Airbnb, Uber, and the entire concept of the “sharing” economy. The consequent transformation of industry is permanent and traditional companies need to identify new fronts and opportunities that align with the new ways of conducting business. This trend, however, is not new. Businesses have been adopting technology throughout history with each new tool that is developed. This adoption is part of the natural evolution of our society, in which how things are done is shaped by the innovations of the times.
In essence, companies will have to adapt to changes because, as the evolution of tools and technology continue, they will not have a choice. Meaning, older alternatives will eventually become obsolete and no longer readily available in the marketplace. For example, think of photography companies that traditionally used 35mm film. Even if said company wanted to continue using that type of film regardless of the benefits of newer technology, 35mm would be difficult to find and process. The costs of insisting on using the obsolete technology would not make sense. However, these changes are gradual, so the change is not necessarily felt immediately.
Complete sectors have changed the way that they operate. Stockbrokers, for example, were indispensable middlemen in equity transactions. Today, however, these are mostly replaced by smartphone apps that can process transactions in seconds. Even the way that investors obtain information has changed. If a trader is looking for stocks under 5 dollars or data on cryptocurrency stocks, the investor can access a wide range of sites with volumes of information before making a decision. What this does is provide access to anyone that wants to buy and sell equities as a profession to do so, thus creating a different type of job. Day trading, for example, would be impossible to do without the advances in computing and communication technologies.
Conceptual technologies and tools such as the internet, computers, electronic mail, e-commerce, and others have been used for decades. While they may have been disruptive technologies when introduced, these would now be considered sustaining technologies that form part of daily activities not just in business, but in all aspects of society. For example, decades ago you may have written your question and mailed it to the editor of your local newspaper or magazine. Today, this may be practically impossible and the only avenue for asking a question is to send an email. These innovations have been promoting activities for years and, although users may take for granted its impact, the effect is substantial. The tasks that companies can perform are faster, more efficient, and cheaper.
The impact that technology has on business has been growing in importance during the last few years as newer trends have produced great advances. Each time, technology makes it easier and faster for businesses to produce innovations, which makes it harder for other businesses that do not implement technology as effectively to remain competitive, thus rendering such companies as obsolete. Businesses that adopt new trends are more competitive, have increased resources, and are more productive. Such improvements can lead to better cost structures which may increase profitability. An example can be seen with Brickell Key Court Reporting which is an agency that offers court reporters in Fort Lauderdale. They provide litigation support services using the latest technologies for greater accuracy and accessibility. These types of companies create competitive advantages by leveraging technology to improve performance. Competing companies that do not offer the technology may not be as attractive and will be pushed out of the market.
All businesses, regardless of size or type, have a dependency on computing technology. The reason is that business processes are integrated with the production, compilation, use, and distribution of data to some degree. Therefore, even though a business may not believe that a dependency on computing exists, at the very least, there is a dependency on the data produced by the integration of technology. Furthermore, the simplification of operations that employees once produced in a manual manner forced employers to develop leadership abilities that allow the control of strategic operations. Ultimately, the goal of all business is to produce a profit. The production of a profit will stem from activities that relate to customers and technology allows for easier handling of customer and customer service activities. Businesses can connect in a manner that is more direct and constant using tools that allow employees to be more effective and productive.
As the world continues to evolve within the realm of technology, the way that we learn also continues to transform. The encyclopedias and library books used by our parents morphed into a CD version of Encarta. Information then transitioned to an online format with the collaborative and peer-reviewed format of Wikipedia. The pen-and-paper note-taking format has evolved to the use of a stylus on a tablet or smartphone as the digital revolution changes the way that people can go to class. Although books may never disappear, it is hard for anyone to argue the extent to which eBooks and tablets have transformed the way that people read. Even training and university programs have changed. Individuals looking for something as specific as an automotive & diesel technology college in NY can search online and find complete degrees offered from the comfort of their homes and be completed at a customized pace.
Entertainment has also changed. This change is not exclusive to the way that people consume entertainment services but also in the way that companies operate an entertainment business. Massive companies like Blockbuster have been eliminated by innovative companies like Netflix. Think about it this way: even if there are people who want to rent movies in the same manner that they rented movies their entire lives, the overall market has pushed the disappearance of video rental companies. Therefore, people that desire obsolete services are forced to change to the new ways.
When you analyze the effect of technology, try visualizing the tasks that you are performing without using the tool. Would it be possible? Would it cost more? Would it take longer? As you ask yourself these questions, you will have no doubt as to the reach and impact that technology has on business and society in general. The problem is that it is so seamlessly introduced, and sometimes so gradual, that it is possible to overlook its effect. However, the influence of technology is felt in practically all areas. As the evolution continues, the effect will be further ingrained in society.