By Joel Barnard, Contributor
Improved business technology has changed the way that businesses, both large and small, conduct their operations. Modern business technology has enabled companies to operate globally in a very efficient manner, to get more from their employees, to streamline and to cut costs, to manage their inventory better, to improve efficiency and to better customer relations. In addition, cutting-edge business technology enables individuals to set up their own businesses cheaply and efficiently, with a reasonable chance of success.
Let’s take a look at how all this has been achieved, and at the impact business technology has had on the way we operate in the market place.
One area in which business technology has made huge strides, is in the area of communication. Most modern businesses would be impossible to run were it not for our improved communication devices. Tele-conferencing, email, mobile phones and laptops, along with improved Internet access, mean that it is now possible for a national or international company to be in constant contact with employees, suppliers, clients and customers worldwide. No longer, for example, do companies need to wait for Bob to get back from his business trip to Taiwan before discussing next year’s budget, or for Susan to get back from her holiday in Tuscany before asking her what her opinion is of the new product launch. Thanks to the communication devices previously mentioned, Bob and Susan are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
In addition, these devices also enable employees to continue to work even if they aren’t in the office, so that even while they are on holiday or on a business trip they can be working on other projects.
This improved communication has also made it much easier for businesses to engage in out-sourcing; most large corporations such as Nike, Apple, Microsoft and so on do this, that is, run operations over-seas where costs are less, or where their is a greater pool of skilled operators. Or, put more cynically, where they are able to pay people a smaller salary. Although this is a controversial practice, it enables businesses to be more cost-efficient, thus more competitive and thus make larger profits. In fact, without this capability to outsource, many modern businesses would simply cease to exist.
Improved inventory management
Before the implementation of computer software programs that could manage inventory, inventory management was a huge task, especially for larger companies. These days however, it is fully automated in most businesses. Whenever stock of a particular product, for example, is running low, the system will inform you, or whenever you wish to know how much or many of a particular item your company possesses, the system can tell you instantly. This means that the turnover of goods can be improved, there is less chance of running out of stock, and that less money needs to be spent on storage facilities.
In addition, many companies now embed microchips into their products or their products’ packaging. This microchip operates as a tracking device and enables businesses to know, more or less instantly, where a particular item is. So if, for example, a customer should complain that his or her product has not arrived, a simple check on the computer can determine where exactly it is, and, indeed, where it should be.
Business technology helping small businesses
Innovation has also made it much easier for budding entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses. In the past, setting up a business was much more costly than it is today. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, virtually anyone can set up a small business simply by creating a website and offering their goods or services online. This has completely changed the landscape of modern business and has actually been good for today’s consumer because heightened competition keeps prices low and affordable for the masses in the market place.
In addition to low start-up costs, product and service marketing is also immeasurably cheaper. In fact, it is now possible to market yourself, your goods or your services via social media for virtually nothing. And it is not just marketing that is cheaper: any service that a prospective business owner requires to help set up his or her business, is almost certainly available online at a competitive price.
Business technology and efficiency
Modern technology has also enabled modern businesses to streamline their operations, making them much more efficient. Automated production lines mean that goods can be produced quickly and at a far greater scale than could previously be envisaged. General motors, for example, produce more than nine million cars per year; yes, things have come a long way since the days of Henry Ford’s first assembly line.
Financial systems too, are becoming more and more computer-automated. Whereas previously bookkeeping was a labor-intensive and time-intensive process, it can now be done quickly and easily with the appropriate computer software. And, as well as cutting costs and time, it also means that a business’s financial reports can be accessed almost instantly. This means that businesses can easily identify any problems they might have and quickly look at ways to solve it.
Business technology and customer interaction
Interaction with customers has also become easier for large companies, due to modern business technology. Previously, only smaller businesses could offer that personal touch so valued by customers. Now, larger companies are able to access customer feedback through simple-to-fill-out online forms and emails. They can then create a huge database of customer input and access it at will. This enables them to analyze what it is that customers want, what they like, what they dislike and so on. They are then able to tailor their products, services and prices to their customers, thus improving profit and staying competitive. In effect, a multi-national corporation is able to operate in a similar way to a smaller business, when it comes to customer – company interaction.
Business technology and the consumer
Technology has given many benefits to the consumer too. In the modern business world, due to the proliferation of review sites and on-line forums, positive customer feedback is invaluable. Good feedback is there online, for all to see, as is negative feedback.
No longer can a private company continue to offer second rate goods or services and hope that the consumer is ignorant of this. These days the consumer can, and probably will, research a product and company before they buy. If other consumers have reported a negative experience, then they need only move on to another company, service or product with a better approval rating.
Never has it been more true that, a good reputation is hard to gain but easy to lose. These days, if any business is to thrive, then they need to be aware of this.
The business world has changed much in the last couple of decades, mainly due to the rise of information technology and communication devices. And there is no reason to think that the way businesses operate won’t continue to change radically in the next couple of decades. Any company that does not utilize new business technologies, simply won’t be able to survive in the competitive marketplace and will fall by the wayside. Companies that do utilize appropriate business technologies, on the other hand, have the best chance of competing and surviving.