Making Every Company a Technology Company is not a pipedream but an emerging reality. It doesn’t matter what type of business you’re running or even the industry you’re operating in — you’re a technology company, whether you like it or not.
In the modern era, it’s impossible to design, manufacture, deliver or even market a product without state-of-the-art technology. It’s also a big part of the reason why so many companies are embarking on their own digital transformation journeys. They’re coming to terms with the fact that they need to eschew the “old school” way of doing things in favor of a tech-based approach where innovation can truly thrive.
Of course, making every company a technology company is easier said than done, particularly with the IT skill shortages.
Making Every Company a Technology Company
We were collectively reminded of how important technology was to all of us in early March 2020, when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was still in its beginning stages. With the situation changing rapidly and with information scarce, employees were sent home to work remotely indefinitely in record numbers.
According to one recent study, about 47% of employees in the United States say that they never worked from home before COVID-19. Only about 17% said that they worked from home five or more days a week. After COVID-19, the number of people working from home exclusively jumped to 44% at the pandemic’s peak. Even with vaccines rolling out across the country and an end to all of this finally in sight, millions of people who never telecommuted before are expected to continue to do so at least part-time for the foreseeable future.
These employees leverage messaging apps, video conferencing, secure file sharing, and other solutions to communicate and collaborate with fellow employees and customers. They depend on high-speed Internet to be just as productive at home as they can be in the office. They leverage the cloud to offer anytime/anywhere access to data, turning every device they own into their “work device.”
Does that sound like the kind of thing that can happen anywhere other than at a technology company? Yet it’s a near-universal experience at this point, regardless of what your business does. It’s also why over the last year in particular, the primary role of leaders at most companies has shifted away from management as was true for so long. This period of connectivity and mobility has brought IT out of the back offices and into the limelight where it belongs.
It’s also brought a pretty significant competitive advantage right along with it.
Making Every Company a Technology Company: Some Are Already there!
Fascinatingly, the number of technology employee roles at major companies like JP Morgan is higher than that of many dedicated technology companies right now. According to one recent study, in 2017 JP Morgan employed over 40,000 technologists across 13 global technology hubs – all working with a combined annual budget of a massive $9.5 billion. There are very few dedicated technology companies that can match that level of activity once you remove giants like Google and Apple from the equation.
Likewise, technology budgets are increasing across Fortune 500 companies in general. According to another recent study, at least 50% of CIOs for Fortune 500 companies say that their IT budgets have increased since the last fiscal year from 2015 onward. Roughly 21% to 25% say that their budgets have remained the same. A declining number say that their budgets have actually decreased.
All of these underline the importance of transforming your thinking about the very paradigm upon which IT is built. Instead of looking at it as a cost center as so many businesses have done for so long, you need to make it a strategic imperative and an organic part of your operating model. When you start to think about it as a revenue generator, that’s exactly what it becomes — but a major perspective shift is often needed to get to that point from leaders.
Your Path to Integrating Technology With Your Business
But at the same time, getting to this point hasn’t been easy for most businesses — particularly given the additional challenges they’re facing during the pandemic. If you know that you need to reposition your information technology at the heart of your organization but aren’t sure where to begin, there are some critical things to keep in mind before embarking on any type of digital transformation.
The first is that you need to make an effort to truly understand how technology affects your business to its core. This goes beyond simply releasing a mobile app or putting a fresh coat of paint on your website. This means understanding the types of tools that your employees use to collaborate. This means understanding the resources they need to improve productivity, quality, and engagement. It also involves identifying opportunities to leverage IT to reduce human errors and become a more cost-effective organization.
When hardware, software, and data are integrated to form the very core of your business, your employees are in a position to do their best – and produce better results because of it. That’s how technology affects and drives your business, and each organization will have its unique perspective. You need to understand yours before you can continue.
How Being a Technology Company Impacts the Customer Experience
Next, you also need to have a better understanding of how technology affects your customers. This refers not only to how you deliver the types of products and services that they expect but also to how you continue to do so as those expectations constantly change. People are willing to spend more for better products, but they have a voice, and they want to know that this is being taken seriously. It’s up to technology (and your IT department) to bring them into a situation where they were formerly kept at arm’s length. One where they can offer their opinions and collaborate to create better results all the time.
By using technology and data to better understand your specific customers and their needs, you can pivot your larger organizational strategy into one that is even more customer-centric than it already was. This allows you to provide products and services that are more relevant, more personalized, and more agile.
This also puts you in a position to better address one of the most important issues facing all businesses these days: the customer experience. Partially due to the pandemic, customer expectations have never been higher. They’ve grown accustomed to having a seemingly limitless number of choices when it comes to products. They expect low prices and lightning-fast delivery times. Because of that, customer experience is one of the keys to your competitive advantage, and embracing the fact that you’re now a technology company is how you address it.
According to one recent study, just a single point increase in your business’s customer experience scores can result in millions of dollar’s worth of annual growth. This is because more companies than ever these days say they’re competing not on products and services, but on the experience they’re able to offer.
All of this depends on a company’s willingness to bring IT leaders in at the highest executive levels, adding the type of deep technical knowledge and insight that they do not have.
What It Means to Be a Technology Company
In the 1990s when people heard the term “technology company,” they probably called to mind images of businesses that manufactured computer hardware, software, and other electronic resources. That may have been true then, but it certainly isn’t any longer.
According to one recent survey, when respondents were asked what it meant to be a “digital business” these days roughly 52% of them said it involved enabling worker productivity through tools like artificial intelligence-assisted processes. 49% of them said that it involved their ability to better manage business performance by making data more available than ever. 46% of them said it meant using technology to help meet or exceed customer experience expectations.
This is also likely the reason why about 37% of respondents also said that the CEO of the board of directors was the source holding back their company’s digital transformation initiatives. Far too many organizational leaders still think it’s the 1990s and are still holding onto the same old definition of “technology company.”
In no uncertain terms: IT is the single most important driving force in every market today. Those companies that understand this and who are willing to embrace new technologies stand to gain to an incredible degree over the long-term. Those who don’t will soon find themselves left behind by their savvier competitors — regardless of how strong their products or how sustainable their business plan may seem right now.