If your business is primarily services-oriented or sells goods in a physical location, you may be wondering whether technology acceleration is relevant.
You may say, “We use technology, but it just keeps things running in the background. It’s not a priority.”
Three Benchmark Questions
Fair enough, but answer these three questions:
- How do you manage your business contacts?
- How do you run your marketing?
- How do you track, analyze, and act on key sales metrics?
Surprise! Technology is the underpinning for each of these three components. And each is key to running a forward-minded business.
There may be many businesses out there who are profitable and aren’t really investing in technology to push their sales, operations, and marketing forward. That may work for a time. However, as we’ll see in the next section, technology is increasingly one of the key factors that creates a competitive edge.
Technology’s Rate of Acceleration is Also Accelerating
We humans are wired to think linearly. We tend to put the path of the past directly in the future, but that doesn’t really work for technology. We need to think exponentially.
- Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns is the foundation for understanding this concept, and can be summarized by saying that evolutionary processes (e.g. biological or technological) reach a point where they transition from accelerating in a linear fashion to accelerating in an exponential fashion. In layman’s terms, this ain’t your grandma’s technology. You can’t expect historical change to persist at the same rate – the rate of change itself is accelerating.
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted 391,103 patents in 2019, double from just ten years prior in 2009. And the 191,927 patents in 2009 were roughly double from 20 years prior. Assuming an exponential rate of change, we can expect this to double again in 5 years, and so on.
- As a popular example, Moore’s Law continues to see the increasing number of transistors on integrated circuit chips roughly every two years (see image below).
- Now, quantum computing is still nascent but promises speed and complexity which appear to transcend traditional computing. It could be the inflection point that takes Moore’s law parabolic as the computing platform evolves and shape-shifts into something new. In the image below, for example, imagine that the progress curve begins to bend steeply as it begins a vertical ascent.
What does this mean for your business?
Let’s briefly explore three key themes.
1. Lagging Behind is Getting Easier
Let’s start with an example — the telephone. The first US coast-to-coast telephone call was made in 1915. Sixty-nine years later in 1984, Motorola invented the first big-as-a-brick mobile phone. Twenty years later in the mid-2000s Palm and Blackberry were the early smartphones. And today, our phones are millions of times faster than the computers that sent Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969.
Wait, what? This all happened in a century. Your great-grandparents would be shocked.
The point is that for the first round of telephony, not a lot happened for about 70 years. You could cruise along and the basics of communication weren’t changing very much. Then in the last ten years — boom! — app stores, phone media, Zoom, TikTok, and who knows what’s to come.
Today, because big shifts are happening much faster, the risks of inaction — or just doing business as usual — are likely to compound within a shorter timeframe.
2. Opportunities for an Edge
However, the flip side of that scenario is pretty exciting. If we look at just the three key areas of business technology we mentioned earlier: contact management, marketing, and sales, we can imagine a vast opportunity to transform business. Just think of the following trends:
- The ability to meet your customer where they are, with exactly what they need.
- Eliminating irrelevant offers and communications.
- Learning what your prospects and customers respond to, and meeting them at every step of the journey.
- Using web, marketing, sales, and service data to make your business more efficient, relevant, and profitable.
- Streamlining and improving your operational processes so your team can focus on innovation and differentiation.
In the decade ahead, those businesses who actively monitor technological improvements wield the power to leap ahead of their competion by combining technologies in new and exciting ways.
3. Facing and Embracing Change
Technology changes are happening — they don’t need your permission. Your advantage lies in how you approach them.
If you reward a culture of curiosity, innovation, exploration, and experimentation, you are preparing your teams to find opportunity and proactively navigate towards success. In times of flux, attitude is everything.
If you’re a marketing professional, focusing on marketing technology (AKA “martech”) platforms and systems are essential.
If you are a business leader, looking for ways to keep yourself and your leadership informed and proactively learning about evolving technologies will help foster innovation.
If you are an operations leader, establishing a proactive process for evaluating and refining your technology processes will both streamline and optimize your organization.
These are exciting times — one day we’ll look back on them from a very different world.