THE start of a new year is always the time for people to make predictions and set expectations for the year ahead and the technology space is no exception.
Instead of making a list of predictions for my first piece, I felt it would be more valuable to take a look at the bigger picture. During the coming 12 months I firmly believe that it is the disruptive influence of technology on business as we know it that is going to be of most profound significance.
We are in the middle of a revolution. Technology is changing the rules of business and disruption is becoming the norm. This will accelerate in 2016 and as business leaders we need to absorb, understand and adapt. If we don’t we will be left behind.
Technologies such as Big Data analytics, virtual reality, 3D printing, drones and Internet of Things are underpinning seismic shifts in how business is done.
In recent weeks I have seen increased visibility and talk about “The Sharing Economy”. The technology that underpins this concept is truly disruptive and provides a clear example of the disruption I am trying to highlight.
Technology is finally allowing us to identify underutilised resources and make them available to people so that they can “share” them. Sharing technology enables more sustainable use of idle resources, cost reductions, and instant business matching. One such example is Ride-Sharing, which is causing disruption in traditional taxi services.
Global companies are spearheading the sharing economy but guess what, we have our own in Malaysia too
Uber and Airbnb are sharing economy companies that have rewritten the rules of entire industries across the globe. They have done so in an alarmingly short time. This pace of change is only going to accelerate. No industry is immune and the greatest risk to your business may no longer be your competition.
It could literally be a group of smart programmers about to launch an app that could rewrite how your business is done.
In Malaysia we have companies like Tripda enabling people driving outstation to sell trips in the empty seats of their cars and one of my favourites, ClosetStyles enabling women to turn their own closets into an online clothing store and make quality branded clothes available for sale.
JustPark in the UK, for me is the epitome of how the sharing economy can transform businesses. JustPark allows people to rent their own parking spaces such as driveways to commuters that work in their area. The implications for parking companies could be hugely disruptive, stealing market share and driving down pricing. From a town planning and congestion perspective, the benefits to the rakyat could also be significant.
Data will change everything even the value of your own brand
Big Data, the data revolution and data-driven business. These terms may be starting to sound clichéd but data is proving to be the massive disruptor for all and every business. As a business person, you don’t need to understand these technologies but you do need to understand the way in which data and the way it is now being used can affect your own company.
Let’s consider the data phenomena which most of us can easily associate with – the power of “recommendation”. This is a concept whereby people rate the service of the products they purchase so that others can make a more informed decision on whether to make the same purchase.
In Malaysia we have companies like Kaodim that enable consumers to select service providers by comparing quotations and viewing other customer recommendations.
Recommendations are not just a nice feature in mobile applications; consumers are making hard purchasing decisions based on recommendation data they view on social media. In fact, according to Forbes, more than 81% of consumers use recommendations to make purchasing decisions.
Knowing this fact should have us thinking seriously about our future marketing plans. Data is being collected and used by consumers to rate their customer experience and other consumers are increasingly trusting these ratings to make their purchasing decisions.
So do we invest in advertising and branding in the same way as before or do we now have to spend more time ensuring customer service levels are consistently high and that company social profiles are also high?
Embrace and celebrate innovation. Don’t fear it
Technology no longer is the backroom support for business. Technology is business. As I look into 2016, it is clear that disruption is going to come thick and fast. Who could imagine that a company like Uber could go from a startup to completely disrupting the taxi industry across the world in five years? Such fundamental change at this pace is only possible with the technology that has underpinned it. Incorporating future proofing into your ongoing business review processes is a great way to stay ahead of the curve.
These new technologies and the change they bring don’t come without concern, some people are likely to feel affected or threatened and so will resist.
However we ignore lessons of history at our peril. Progress and innovation is an unstoppable wave, if we ignore it or fight against it we are likely to lose out in the long term.
Business leaders must grab this opportunity with both hands
Consider the example I gave of JustPark in the UK. If your company’s bottom line is in any way dependent on parking lots in commercial car parks it seems to me that you have two options.
The first is to carry on as normal, hope that progress won’t make it to Malaysia and your business will never be impacted.
The second is to “future proof” your business now. Accept that change is coming, embrace the disruption early, understand how it will change your own playing field and then build your game plan. The game plan might even be jumping the gun and getting into the disruption early perhaps by buying a startup working on a disruptive technology.
When compelled to give a succinct, one liner answer to the question “What must I not ignore in order to future-proof my business?” My answer would be – SMAC (Social + Mobile + Analytics + Cloud).
Business leaders need to be ahead of the curve, understand the impact of technology on your business, look for the disruption ahead of time, and future proof your business before it happens otherwise it might just be too late!
Datuk Yasmin Mahmood is the chief executive officer of Multimedia Development Corp. She can be reached at email@example.com