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Article Review – Eight Business Technology Trends to Watch

Eight Business Technology Trends to Watch
By James Manyika, Roger Roberts and Kara Sprague (McKinsey consultants)

One of the sources I use to try and keep up with trends is the McKinsey Quarterly. It is a relatively low cost source of information from experts in many different areas. In addition to the nice magazines that arrive in my office each quarter I also get articles in my email. This particular article caught my attention because as a business person I am always looking for creative and innovative business ideas.

This article about eight business technology trends to watch distills the ideas into three primary areas; (1) managing relationships; (2) managing capital and assets and (3) leveraging information in new ways.

Managing Relationships

1. Distributing co-creation. We see this when companies develop products and services in conjunction with partners as opposed to doing it themselves. This is considered to be a growing trend made more possible by the advanced communications available to all today. One example they cite is Locin, a Chinese motorcycle company that creates the specifications for its products and then lets its suppliers work together to create the components, ensure they work together and keep the costs low! (Not sure how I feel about traveling down the 401 at high speed on one of those … but it works!)
2. Using Consumers as Innovators. Very similar to above but using the client as opposed to partners and this phenomena has been helped with the introduction of web 2.0 tools. The obvious example here is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Another less known idea is the online South Korean newspaper Ohmynews which is written with more than 60,000 contributing “citizen reporters”.
3. Tapping into a World of Talent. This is definitely in my world … and relates to the ability to tap into resources anywhere in the world, be they free agents, specialists or talent networks. The people can be anywhere in the world. I know of businesspeople in Ottawa who have used small shops in India to develop websites etc. This will spread to many industries.
4. Extracting more value from interactions. This is the next level of offshoring and taking full advantage of the types of interactions mentioned above through the use of technology such as wikis, videoconferencing and collaborative tools. The suggestion here is that these tools will become as commonplace as the computer on your desk today and will improve productivity immensely.

Managing Capital and Assets

5. Expanding the frontiers of automation. For the last 30 years or more companies have been investing in their core systems. These have become very integrated and very sophisticated such that companies are now going to the next level and using these systems beyond internal needs. The authors talk about the way in which suppliers (eg. Fedex and UPS) allow their customers to track parcels through the supply chain, and they talk about the increased use of RFID technology and what that may bring.
6. Unbundling production from delivery. This is another way in which organizations are making more and better use of their technology infrastructure. for instance will allow other retailers to use its logistics and distribution systems. It is the creative use of the resources available. Other examples include fractional ownership of jets or high-end sports cars. It allows the owners to have a sophisticated infrastructure but share those costs. Could we make better use of school buildings during holidays and evenings?

Leveraging Information in New Ways.

7. Putting more science into management. As our systems have become more sophisticated so we have gathered more and more data, which if well used can improve productivity and ROI. It doesn’t even need to be about volume, Google uses a technique of innovation where employees present ideas, which are reviewed by other employees and ideas worth pursuing become identified and put forward for consideration. Many online suppliers have advanced algorithms that examine buying patterns and make recommendations for other purchases (Amazon etc). The options are limitless.
8. Making businesses from information. As companies gather more and more data, the available information can spawn new business opportunities. If you can aggregate data and provide value to a customer base then you have the basis for a new business opportunity. One example given was digital security cameras which prevent shoplifting could also be used to analyse shopping patterns and traffic flows through stores.

The great thing for me about these type of articles is that they become just one more input to that creative process. They make me think and question the status quo, which is ultimately how businesses can innovate to pass their competition.

You can probably access this article at the McKinsey website but if you want the full thing you will need to sign up … not a bad investment for about $150 a year.

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