In this article, part of my series explaining better ROI from software development, I’d like to look at what sort of company you are.
Put simply almost all companies now are technology companies, even if they don’t realise it.
This matters, as if you realise you are a technology company you have a different approach to IT investment. It moves from being a burden to being an enabler.
I often see IT as being treated as a cost – a necessary evil of doing business – to all intents and purposes, a tax.
I can see where this belief comes from. It can be extremely expensive to provide even the simplest set-up for a new staff member;
You have their PC, their software licences, maybe training, all the time to set-up and maintain – this comes at a reasonable cost.
What we've forgotten however is the productivity that those tools provide.
What is the productivity improvement for that individual using those tools vs not?
I fear I'm old enough to remember when you wouldn't have your own PC. You wouldn't have access to email, internet, social media, etc. You don’t have to go back many years to see the productivity improvements that IT has enabled.
There are many many things that simple wouldn't be possible without those IT advancements.
There has been a growing trend in the IT community to look at technological changes as disruptors. And in fairness, that is a great way of looking at what any technology change can bring.
Go back to technological advancements like the rail-roads or telegraph or trans-Atlantic flight. Those changed the world we lived in forever. I'm sure there were those that would have described them as changing for the worse (and possibly some that still would) – but for good or ill, the world is no longer the same.
These are disruptors – they have disrupted the way we do things.
In that disruption, opportunities are created. Opportunities that can be exploited for considerable return.
Let’s look at some of the more recent disruptions.
(It makes me feel old again that some of the audience will have never known life without some of these)
Websites have provided any business with the ability to open their shop window to the world. It has provided amazing opportunities to reach out to a wider customer base. Previously most retail businesses would have been restricted by their physical presence and local customer base, now even the smallest of organisations can be selling internationally.
Smart Phones have provided us with the ability to access services from everywhere – producing an always-on culture. It has created entire markets. Look at the mobile games market which last year was worth $24.7 billion. Smart Phones have created a market amongst an audience that wouldn't have been buying computer games previously.
Big Data is the name given to the capture, analysis and benefits from large amounts of data. If you’re not familiar; think about how Tesco’s use your clubcard data & shopping habits’ to target you with offers. Big data provides a level of analysis and insight that simply wouldn't be possible manually. Again it is an industry in its own right. The insights it can provide can significantly change how a business operates.
Cloud computing is providing us with a means to rent hardware (servers, storage, etc) instantly with little commitment. It moves what was previously a CAPEX spend into OPEX. This allows us to try things very quickly and efficiently. Cloud computing is providing a platform for considerable start-up growth because they are only paying for what they need – rather than trying to justify a massing CAPEX investment. Cloud computing is a great enabler for low cost, low risk innovation.
Social media provides you a much bigger word of mouth network. Prior to this any comments on your brand would have generally been isolated to personal contact. Now a single comment can make it round the world in a matter of seconds. If a well connected individual makes a positive (or negative) comment, then this can have a considerable impact on the perception of you brand. Look at how much a restaurants reputation is based on review services like Trip Advisor. It can also be used to elicit feedback from you customers. Used correctly it can be an exceptional way to truly understand your customers and what they really want (and will pay for).
Internet Of Things (IOT) is where everything (as the name suggests) is connected to the internet. You've probably heard of the idea of a “smart” fridge that will add milk to your grocery shopping list as you get low. IOT however opens the door to so many more things than such mundane tasks. You have the potentially to put sensors or “smart” logic into every object in the world. Expect to see massive innovations in medical care, logistics, and security fairly early on. This is a growing area of innovation because we have only started to scratch the surface of how to use it.
3d printing is an almost undreampt of technology a few years ago. If you are in anyway involved in physical product design then 3d printing provides you with an amazingly cheap method of prototyping. Imaging if you can go into a kitchen showroom and they are able to print out your kitchen as a scale model?
This means that regardless of your industry that technology is (or will) disrupt it.
The question is if you will be taking advantage of that disruption or allow your competitors to take it.
I recently heard a story of a well know UK brand (name removed to protect the innocent). The UK brand in question would be most known for manufacturing. Yet they described themselves as a technology company. They still did their manufacturing, but the majority of their sales came through their website. Even though they still have bricks and mortar stores they found that their online presence was of such importance that they treated it with the highest priority.
That begs the question, when are you going to admit you are a technology company?