Emerging technologies for business can help solve both operational and strategic problems. These technologies represent a growing toolbox of opportunities to help solve problems, but there might not always be an obvious match between the problem and an emerging technology.
Steve Andriole, the Thomas G. Labrecque Professor of Business Technology in the Villanova School of Business at Villanova University, laid out the executive’s guide to emerging technologies for business in an article he wrote in Forbes. His guide laid out what executives need to know and five steps to help them find the answers to their questions.
It’s up to executives to remain aware of emerging technologies for business in order to save money, make money, keep their companies competitive, and avoid inflicting pain on their company by making the wrong technology decisions. Business technology stakes have never been higher.
What Executives Need to Know About Emerging Technologies for Business
At the highest level, executives need to at least know what the macro technology trends are. On top of that, they should know what technology toolboxes are. It’s also important to take note of development and adoption trends. Executives need to connect technologies with operational and strategic business processes that they want and need to improve or eliminate.
Bottom line, executives need the answers to these three questions:
- How can the technologies save me money?
- How can they make me money?
- How can they help me beat my competition?
How to Find the Answers
Executives can find these answers by focusing on five core areas.
- Business processes and models
- Macro technology trends
- The emerging technology toolbox
- Executive responses
- Getting over “IT”
The first step is to look at business processes and models. Executives need to assign their team with tasks to model business processes and models before thinking about making technology investments. If the team cannot produce an inventory of business processes, executives will never know how and where to even think about potentially leveraging emerging technologies. Modeling these processes and models requires investments in business process modeling (BPM) and robotic process automation (RPA). With them, executives will end up investing in technologies in search of problems instead of as a solution to them. This approach is one of the least effective ways to invest in technology.
The second step is to gain an understanding of macro technology trends. No company can survive or grow without a wide and deep understanding of digital technology. Emerging technologies are changing the way companies develop products, communicate, collaborate, serve customers, and deploy technology. If executives ignore technologies like analytics, social media, Cloud computing, automation, supply chain trends etc., they will be at competitive risk. While these technologies are powerful in their own right, they can completely change the competitive game for companies when they are taken on together.
Operation technology is what most executives think about when thinking of business technology. This type of technology includes things like devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and software applications (SAP, SalesForce, Microsoft Office, etc.). Operational technology also includes applications and processes that directly impact revenue and profitability. Emerging technologies can also directly impact revenue and profitability, but most executives have little understanding of how.
It’s important for executives to understand that the pace of digital technology change has dramatically accelerated. The ease of deploying emerging technologies out-of-the-box is growing—primarily through Cloud delivery. Instead of hiring large teams to build out data centers and deploy enterprise software applications, companies of all sizes can pilot and deploy emerging technologies with little or no initial cost.
Executives know that their ability to compete is tied directly to their ability to leverage digital technology generally and individual technologies specifically. The role that digital technology plays in every aspect of business has increased dramatically.
Executives should also understand how difficult it is to recruit and retain technology professionals with emerging technology skills and competencies.
The third step is to keep up with the emerging technologies for business toolbox. The short list of technologies that executives should keep track of include:
- Robotic process automation
- Cloud computing
- Virtual and augmented reality
- Social media analytics
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Augmented analytics
The fourth step is to evaluate executive responses. Executives should do the following five things:
- Demand briefings on the range of technologies impacting their industry, company and competitors.
- Model the TCO and ROI of technologies.
- Identify and launch technology pilots designed to impact specific business processes, products, services and whole business models.
- Profile their emerging technology workforce and plan to fill the gaps.
- Repeat this process every month.
The fifth step is to get over “IT.” “IT” is over. The days of technology offices tucked away in the basement are over. Now, technology powers all business processes and models. If there’s still remaining doubt about technologies, executives should start by describing how the companies could survive without it.
Technology no longer just keeps the trains running on time. It also enables strategic objectives. Most executives already know it’s time to invest in technology for operational effectiveness and competitive advantage, but hopefully, this guide helps them improve awareness and pursue productive pilots.
For more information about emerging technologies for business, check out the full Forbes article and additional Quest resources attached below.