In The Future You Are Either a Digital Business or a Dead Business

in the future you are either a digital business or dead businessToday, every business is digital and it’s changing how business is done. But many businesses have yet to wake up and understand this reality. Look at the chart below, I’m sure your business is lacking the digital skills necessary to compete in the information age:

A main challenge for businesses of any size is adapting to change, how to embrace emerging technologies and adapt them to the day to day. From a big picture perspective, the simple fact is that the internet is disrupting every know industry; so  adapt or die.

As a business owner, this is a situation where you can continue on the path to irrelevance or recognize how you can transform your business.

Today competitive advantage is fleeting

If you examine the most innovative companies in every industry, you will see that they recognized how the internet is driving change across industries by taking advantage of an emerging trend or technology, thinking about how that trend changes people’s behavior and then figure out the technology or technologies that can address those new needs.

How then, can your business become future-proof by embracing technology?

First, understand that today there’s constant reinvention: how you do business, how you deal with the customer.

So, ask yourself: how does digital affect the way we do business? How does affect the way customers interact with us? How will their expectations change and how might we surpass them?

A few months ago I answered 5 big questions on innovation and I shared my thoughts on what technologies will drive the most change over the next few years:

There are many that in combination will drive massive change across enterprises and all size of business. Specifically, I’m looking at artificial intelligence, big data, augmented reality, virtual reality, natural language processing, and speech recognition.

Why these?

Because in aggregate we will see them both in the consumer and enterprise domain; specifically in how we get stuff done, how we hire and how we collaborate.

Let’s dig into these areas a bit…

How we get stuff done

The way we get stuff done is consistently being anchored by the personal virtual assistant that lives in our phone, all of this happens thanks to artificial intelligence. For example, to make our daily lives more simple, efficient and delightful, the apps on our phones are learning our habits. So, every once in a while they’ll recommend stuff to us, notify us about a task / appointment we have, etc..

In our phones we have apps of all kinds: social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp), transportation (Uber), navigation (Google Maps), travel (AirBnB), productivity (Evernote, Dropbox), collaboration (Basecamp, Slack, Trello, Skype), etc..

It’s no secret that technology has completely changed the way businesses run and operate today. Even getting a business loan is getting easier. We’ve gone from paper records and lengthy loan application processes at the bank to digital record keeping and automated lending platforms like Kabbage.

For example, Kabbage allows businesses to use the power of their own data to get immediate access to the working capital they need to grow. They do it all online within minutes; 100% automated with no paper forms and no waiting. They also have a mobile app that allows businesses to draw against their line and check the status of their small business loan on the go.

Their fully automated loan application process is a great example of how business processes are moving online. In addition, their system reviews a variety of online business data when approving loans in contrast to just a credit score as with traditional loans.

Younger generations are the fastest adopters of new technology, and upstart businesses consistently seek them out to become early adopters. So, businesses that have yet to recognize, both how their employees and customers get their stuff done, are missing out on being relevant.

All these products and services change the way you do business and how you deal with the customer.

How we collaborate

How will we collaborate in the future? I’m fairly certain it won’t happen face to face all the time.

One area of importance is speed. Businesses that lack speed are tied to the old ways of doing business: face to face meetings, phone calls and emails.

These are not disappearing anytime soon, but businesses that move with speed make less use of them. Instead, they use video conferencing and online collaboration tools like Skype, Google Hangouts and Basecamp; while on the go.

Recently, Slack has become the defacto tool for collaboration because it intuitively mimics how people communicate face to face, but also because it is helping businesses eliminate email; today you carry your office on your phone.

From personal experience, I can tell you this is the way it’s going to be because I do it. And I’ve found that older generations have a hard time adapting to this. I also believe, from my own experience, that the future of collaboration is one where ideas from outsiders are embraced, one where a group of unknown people come together to work on solving challenges; including your own business challenges.

All this is being anchored thanks to digital technology, but will become normal thanks to millennials and younger generations who aren’t motivated to make a quick buck, but to make a bigger impact.

How we make stuff

3D printing is growing up. Today you can purchase a 3D printer and start making your own designs for things, even your own tools; at home. But this is a lagging view, for 3D printing has larger implications, for example GE has printed parts for a jet engine.

We’ll soon be able to print our own house! We will continue to see advances in additive manufacturing dramatically changing how we produce the core infrastructure and machines that makes modern life possible.

An are where social technology is affecting how we do business and make stuff that matters, is the ability to crowdsource, co-create with customers and even have unknown people fund ones idea.

It is now easier to develop and test ones idea before launching it to market. Before you would create your product or service, and then launch it with a solid marketing and hope people would respond well to it. Many products and services died pretty soon because the business didn’t understand the market and needs.

But today it’s different. The whole process of idea creation, even physical items, can be tested digitally with minimum cost and effort. You can sketch out a physical product, design it in a digital program, 3D print it, present it to a prospective number of users to get feedback. You can then go back and tweak the product based on the feedback you received: test, learn, iterated; repeat.

You can do the same process with digital services and products. For example, you can create sketches of your website and or app. You can then use Proto.io to develop a working prototype of those sketches, you then take that prototype and present ti to prospective users for feedback.

This process for quickly testing and launching a product or service is called rapid prototyping.

What does this mean for how you do business?

It means you can test your idea before actually launching it to market. Hope and pray is no longer an option.

How we hire

What’s does the future of hiring look like? It’s very difficult to know, but two thing are certain: human resources needs to become an asset; and access to data and company culture will play a big role.

Let’s look at Google for a futuristic look at how this looks in practice…

Google is constantly on the top of best places to work at, but it’s famous workplace culture didn’t emerge out of thin air. It’s the work of Google’s People Operations, one of the most innovative HR departments in the world.

Why?

One reason is they’ve adopted an analytics perspective to making hiring decisions, that is using data to judge a person’s ability to get the job done. Looking broadly, using this perspective, Google is the front-runner on using data to make hiring decisions.

Why use data to make hiring decisions?

Because Google wants to maintain their thriving culture. That means hiring exceptional people, and they find them through a very structured approach with the main focus being that they’ll hire the best people by looking beyond their degrees and focusing on the right kind of training.

The intent of using data is the eliminate the inherent bias of looking at surface level data, such as what school you studied that. Specifically, Google looks for people who are resilient and that are motivated to work on grand challenges; they then use data to find the right competence fit.

I’ve yet to see many businesses adopt an analytics perspective to make hiring decisions. But hiring really is about context and your own requirements, what matters is if you want to hire the best and be disciplined about doing so.

Actionable advice

So, how can businesses stay current in the changing technological landscape? And, how can your business embrace new technology?

Ask yourself some tough questions to reflect.

To begin recognizing that times are changing, you need to take a step back and reflect. Here’s one question to help you do that: If I started my business today, what would I do differently and why?

Zoom out and zoom in.

There are many ways to stay current on the changing technological landscape, for example reading tech blogs. Sure, but you also need to understand the implications of how these technologies will impact the way you do business. To do so I recommend you take at a minimum one day per week to do your own version of a technology safari, where you take a deep dive into a specific topic and understand the ways you can use said topic to make your business better.

Here’s a guide on how I use Evernote stay on top of things, and also how I use it to gather insights and develop ideas.

Experiment with technology.

One way to see how the future may play out is by looking for anomalies. In this case, the anomalies are younger generations; such as millennials and the generations that follow them. I suggest you aim to understand how younger generations use technology by spending time with them and asking questions, better if you can hire them to experiment for you.

Bottom line: Digital transformation is quickly becoming a priority for many leading organizations. Business as usual is an afterthought, today we are truly operating at the speed of thought.