Is technology-led business innovation a best practice at your company? It doesn’t matter what industry you’re actually operating in these days — at this point, nearly every company is a “technology” company. In an effort to better serve their customers, to create smarter and more effective products and services, and to gain significant leverage over their competitors, businesses must be willing to innovate wherever possible. Over the next decade, many will do this by embracing digital, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
But at the same time, it’s important to note that you can’t simply begin with the technology and work your way back to your goals. You must first start with what you hope to accomplish and selectively apply the right technologies that are as closely aligned with that long-term strategy as possible. This means embracing technology-led innovation with open arms — something that organizations of all types are already doing in a number of ways that are worth exploring.
Emerging Technologies Lead to Business Revolution
One example where an underlying technology concept is opening new avenues for businesses of all types takes the form of the blockchain. The blockchain is a method of recording information that makes it largely impossible to change – which also prevents people from “hacking” or “cheating the system” in any way. The blockchain acts as a digital ledger of transactions that it itself distributed across a decentralized network of systems. Each new piece of information – or block – contains data pertaining to many different transactions. Every time a new transaction occurs, a block is added to the chain in a way that is irreversible and that cannot be altered from that point forward. It is also time-stamped and records are individually encrypted, thus allowing the ledger to have complete transparency as well.
Businesses are already using the blockchain in a wide range of different ways, including through smart contracts. These are contracts that are self-executing, meaning that the terms and conditions that all parties are supposed to adhere to are written directly into the code. Those terms exist on the decentralized blockchain network, meaning that nobody can change them once they have been written. Smart contracts help businesses make sure they get paid what they’re supposed to once they provide the goods or services as written. The major benefit here is that contracts cannot be disputed — saving businesses a lot of money in lawyer fees and more that they would formerly need to pay for dispute resolution.
Businesses are also using the blockchain as a way to share important records in a more secure fashion. This is particularly important in an industry like healthcare, where medical errors are often related to communications problems between two or more providers. Since those communications issues (and the errors they cause) are also the third leading cause of death in the country, it’s easy to see why any opportunity to improve upon this is a step worth taking.
Whereas most file-sharing methods can potentially expose sensitive patient records to theft, the blockchain removes this risk by creating blocks that can only be accessed or altered by those who have a specific keycode. From a patient’s perspective, this means that they can share their sensitive health records with their provider without worrying about that information falling into the wrong hands.
Many organizations are also using blockchain to improve communications across their supply chain, adding an important layer of accountability into the process of creating, shipping and releasing products to consumers. By funneling all communications through the blockchain, it creates permanent records that can be easily audited – thus allowing all key stakeholders to see the exact state of a product at each step of the supply chain. If any issues occurred, you’ll always know exactly when they happened and who was responsible – all so that you can quickly step in and do something about it.
Technology Led Business Innovation: Natural Language Processing
Another example where emerging technologies are leading to business revolution has to do with the use of artificial intelligence and conversational chatbots used in customer service. A chatbot, as the name suggests, is a computer program designed to simulate natural human conversation. People can interact with them via a chat interface on their computer or smartphone, or by voice — almost like how they would talk to a real person.
Chatbots (and similar tools) rely on a technology called natural language processing, also referred to as NLP for short. This involves the types of interactions that people have with computers, and specifically relates to how computer programs are able to analyze large amounts of natural language information. Using only the type of words and phrases that someone would have in conversation with another human, AI-powered chatbots (for just one example) can “understand” the context of that text. Not only that, but more sophisticated solutions are even able to understand contextual nuances within the language as well.
This benefits both businesses and consumers in a host of ways — chief among them being the superior customer experience it helps create. When a business employs chatbots on their website, customers don’t have to deal with long and frustrating wait times to get resolutions to their concerns. There is always someone available to answer questions or perform basic account functions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Chatbots can also be used to classify issues before handing a customer off to a human agent, thus minimizing the possibility that they’ll need to be transferred from agent to agent before finding someone who can actually help them.
One of the biggest applications of natural language processing takes the form of voice commerce. This is a type of technology that actually helps to reduce someone’s dependence on hardware like keyboards and other accessories by allowing them to use voice commands to search for and even purchase products over the Internet. In addition to creating a more convenient experience for consumers, it also helps to dramatically increase the speed at which they’re able to make a purchase. But using the data collected by way of these natural language processing enabled voice commerce assistants, it can also help create far more personalized buying experiences for shoppers than ever.
But the biggest benefit for businesses is that these types of solutions can help significantly streamline costs by reducing the number of employees needed for these types of customer service tasks. By reducing the amount of time that your actual human agents need to spend on solving simple problems, or helping users with purchases, they’re free to focus more of their time on those tasks that actually generate venue for your business.
Using Today’s Technology to Generate New Opportunities for Tomorrow
For businesses who are trying to keep up with fast-paced changes in market demands, and who want to be able to generate a significant advantage over their competitors, technology-led business innovation is a concept worth exploring. This also means that you’ll need to focus more on those breakthrough innovations than on those incremental ones. You shouldn’t use technology-led business innovation as a way to “reinforce the status quo.” Instead, you should let it inspire you as to what the status quo may one-day be — and also use it as a way to build the bridge that will help take you there.
If you are not engaging in technology-led business innovation, you are likely to be left behind.