How have technological changes affected businesses around the globe?

Introduction

In the 21st century and particularly the last decade, technological advancements have happened at a very fast pace. The disruptive rise of several new technologies from the social media to AI and blockchain as well as the rise of new large technology firms like Alphabet ( Google) and Facebook is a proof how much technology has changed the world. Technology has changed many more things around us from the way we used to shop to the way we pay for products and services.  Technology has brought higher convenience for the customers who can easily search and shop. In case of businesses, it has helped them increase their productivity manifold, engage their customers and employees as well as   achieve their other targets with higher efficiency. Technology has brought both growth and efficiency for businesses. Its role in every sphere in business has grown from finance to marketing as well as HR and customer service. The IT function itself is one of the most important functions for businesses. In today’s hyper competitive world, it is difficult to imagine growth and success without focusing on technology. 

Businesses stand to benefit from technology implementation in diverse areas. The advantages of technology are several and it has helped businesses achieve new possibilities but it has also led to some new challenges. Technological growth has also created new divides and added to the level of complexity in some areas. The scenario has changed a lot and mostly positively. Apart from a few negative effects like issues related to data security and user privacy, things have generally turned out to be beneficial. Both businesses and customers have found new opportunities. Technology allowed businesses to lower prices by building more cost efficient models and made them more accessible. Customers on the other hand are enjoying the benefits of online shopping and easy purchase options as well as getting to experience a large variety of an entirely new category of services delivered mostly online. 

Marketing

Marketing is a key area in the field of business where companies have always sought to increase their ROI by use of the best techniques and technologies. In the last ten years, the face and condition of marketing has changed a lot with technological advancement. The increased use of online channels for marketing has shifted the focus of advertising from physical channels to digital channels. Digital technology has brought  a revolutionary change in the world of marketing and advertising. The digital industry is enjoying immense growth every year and with increased use of smartphones and other mobile devices, it has become all pervasive. While accessing digital channels including websites, blogs and social media networks is now much easier, marketers cannot find anything better and more convenient to reach their target markets. 

Social media in itself has proved to be no less than a boon for marketers who use it to implement their marketing and promotional campaigns and  for customer engagement. They also enjoy much higher ROIs on their marketing investment than they used to through physical channels. A large part of their audience is found online most of the time and technologies like marketing automation and Data management platforms have made their tasks  all the more easier. Now it is easier for marketers to manage large volumes of data and to convert it into actionable insights. They can also segment users easily into distinct segments and send them personalised messages. Email campaigns and social media promotions have now become an intrinsic part of brands’ digital marketing strategy. If there is any function which has benefitted the most from the rise of technologies like social media, then it is the marketing function.

Finance 

The role of technology is not limited to marketing or the IT function only. In the other functions too, technology has helped manage both work volume and work pressure. The finance function has traditionally been a complex function. However, things have simplified a lot with the advancements in the area of Information technology. There are several softwares  that help finance managers achieve their targets and manage their account books with much more efficiency and convenience. Traditionally, the finance function has remained inundated in large volumes of financial data. Apart from managing such large volumes of data with highest precision and efficiency there is another challenges before the finance managers too. Managing financial data and presenting it ethically is also an important challenge. However, there are several software in the market to make their task easy. Apart from manipulating a large amount of data on a daily basis, the finance managers have more choices in terms of its presentation also. Sharing data with other functions and the leadership is also much easier which is because several online tools like spreadsheets and Information systems are there to make it possible. 

When these software were not available, the finance managers were forced to rely upon common tools and their task used to be burdensome and boring. Things have changed as they can process a lot more data using latest hardware and software and that too in minimal time. so, the finance function has gained higher efficiency from the IT tools and is able to maintain much more transparency than it once did. The finance manager’s role is a challenging one since the data and results he offers are used to make significant decisions. All of this is not possible without the use of technology and lots of computing power.  However the role of technology in terms of facilitating financial dealings is not limited to just the finance function but in other areas too including online transactions. Number of online transactions and use of digital currency has grown a lot over the recent years. The Western world has generally remained ahead in this area but the emerging economies have also seen the volume of digital transactions growing at a very fast pace in the recent years.

Operations and supply chain

Around the globe from the developed world to the fast developing and emerging economies, technology has changed the fate of businesses both big and small. These businesses have enjoyed significant  gains in their operational efficiency and overall productivity. Apart from higher production, the supply chains around the world have also grown more efficient and interconnected.  Operational efficiency has always remained a central worry for business owners both big and small.  Businesses have always wanted to increase their productivity manifold overnight. However, to accomplish this just does require just technology but skilled workers also. Whether it is about production management or supply chain innovation, digital technology is helping businesses accomplish the impossible in each of the two areas. They have achieved agiler supply chains, streamlined production and cost efficiency in their business models.  Businesses have supply chains scattered all across the world from North America to China. However, they still do not experience disruption or delays which is because apart from production technologies digital technology and other new and advanced technologies like blockchain are helping them build more efficient supply chain models. 

HRM

HRM is also an area where businesses have benefited a lot from technological advancement. Managing your human resources and engaging them better is something which can be accomplished with far more easy than before using technology. Apart from payroll software, there are many more which can help you with better hiring as well as performance management and retention. Every company wants to manage its employees with higher efficiency and train and engage them in a way that helps increase their productivity. On the one hand while technological advancement has increased the competition for hiring skilled employees, on the other it has also equipped the companies with better technology and tools for managing employee productivity and performance.  The focus of businesses on employee management has grown which is because they know managing them strategically helps bring better results. However, they are also willing to spend more on their employees and invest in technology if it helps make their employees more productive. 

Customer Service

Customer service has generally been a painful area but given the latest technologies, such issues can be sorted within seconds. Apart from their websites and through the use of CRM software companies are already handling customer service challenges with far more dexterity. There are several kinds of CRM software that are helping businesses manage their relationships with their customers and retain them for longer. Apart from it blogs, websites and chat are also great tools to address customer service related issues. Customer service is a central focus for most online businesses. Apart from increased competition and greater availability of information, technology itself has added to the bargaining power of the customers. The rapid growth of technology and spread of internet have also increased he level of competition in the market. Businesses are investing much more in attracting and retaining customers. The customer service function itself has grown into an inseparable part of marketing. Businesses are now more effective as mail, chat and other customer service tools are helping them grow the effectiveness of their customer service function. In this way, they are creating higher customer satisfaction and themselves enjoying higher degree of success. 

Entirely new classes of online services

The proliferation of internet and computing technology has led to the rise of several new classes of services that did not exist previously. The  entire web world has itself expanded a lot in the last five years. There are big and small websites whose number runs in millions. Apart from Facebook or Google whose business model is based upon internet, Amazon’s business model is also largely internet based and connects with millions of customers every month through its website. Till some years ago and before the rise of Google’s search engine and the social media, one could not imagine the rise of entertainment channels like Netflix. However, the web world has kept growing richer and from shopping to fun, there is everything customers need found online. Internet has also served a central role in the rise of Uber and more similar businesses that rely upon IT and internet for service delivery. Other advantages that have helped businesses manage their operational costs and productivity better include outsourcing, remote working as well as similar more arrangements. 

It gave rise to new opportunities for people in all corners of the world and affected the rise of sharing economy. In this way, the rise of technology also helped businesses with the skill gap since more and more skilled people were available and ready to work on part time arrangements. The customers are experiencing the benefits in the form of lower costs, higher convenience and increased number of alternatives which would not have been possible without technology. The rise of new businesses, some of which have become empires within a short span of time has also created higher employment. Rise of internet technology has also facilitated trade which is good for businesses around the world. Several technologies are still in their infancy and are expected to bring bigger changes as they mature helping businesses achieve higher productivity and save more time and labor. 

These were mostly the positive effects of technology. However, all aspects of technological evolution have not been as pleasant. Apart from the digital divide and increased complexity of jobs, some more problems have emerged. The level of competition in the technology industry has also grown intense. technological innovation, while it created opportunities for several, on the other hand also hurt many. So, in some areas technology also gave rise to disparities. 

Higher Competition

It is not just the technology industry but competition in the other industries has also grown higher which is because of the growing role of technology in every industry. From operations to supply chain and marketing, everywhere businesses are investing more and more in technology so as to stay ahead of their competitors. On the one hand, while this has led to higher business activity, on the other it has also given birth to intense and sometimes unnecessary competition. Each business is investing in technology just for the sake of gaining extra edge over its competitors. In the technology industry itself, Billions are spent every year on research and development.  Each technology brand fears that disruptive innovation by one of its competitors could take away a large part of its customer base and market share. So, the fear of technology too gives birth to more technology. 

Increased Operational costs

Technology has added to the operational efficiency of businesses which is quite true. However, the  race for better technology has also given rise to new costs. Businesses are investing a lot more in research and development and patents. They also need highly skilled technology professionals for the sake of implementation and use of these technologies. This is adding to their operational costs while race for more technology continues. If businesses invest in a major technology or IT system, they also have to spend on its maintenance and the human resources required to run it. 

Increased complexity of jobs

The complexity of IT related jobs has grown. Over time as new technologies have kept coming to the market, the need for highly skilled professionals has also grown. Jus have grown highly complex and the businesses need to hire skilled professionals and pay them the fattest salaries. This is also causing the operational costs  to rise for businesses. The more complex the job, the higher a business would need to invest in training and staff management.