One of our key takeaways from last week’s excellent Citrix Partner Accelerator event was the question above. The technological version of “the chicken or the egg” dilemma, one might say.
There is little question that the way we conduct business today is changing rapidly. There is also little doubt that technology is at the heart of that change. However, the root of that change is less clear. Who is driving the innovation we see today, one may ask. Are the techy people simply geniuses, whose out-of-the-blue inventions were too good for commerce to pass up? Or are they simply adapting their work to fill in the gaps emerging in the business world? Is it technology changing business – or is it, in fact, business changing technology?
The Key Advances
If we were to ask a room full of business owners how technology has helped them, we would probably hear a variety of disparate responses, mainly about specific applications that they have each benefited from. Yet to find to find the key advances that unite all businesses in approval, one must revisit the bare bones of modern technical infrastructure.
The most important word to consider is “access.” Access to the internet; access to internal company data; access to each other. The key advances in business technology have made all of these simpler, faster and more mobile. We are able to complete all three with equal ease, security and reliability, from anywhere in the world. This, in turn, has made the business world more exciting, dynamic and competitive.
From The Living Room To The Boardroom
Many innovations now found in the modern workplace first made their name in the lounges, kitchens and cars of consumers. People quickly realised that their personal devices – smartphones, tablets, wearables and so on – were more efficient than the equipment provided in the workplace. Slowly, they trickled into common, accepted use for professional purposes, without anyone’s say-so. Ironically, the smartphone that was expressly designed for business – Blackberry – has since collapsed. The consumer style has been significantly more popular.
In addition, consumer software platforms such as online data storage site Dropbox, or videoconferencing system Skype, began entering professional use. This created what became known as the “shadow IT” phenomenon. True, more professional varieties of these later emerged to take precedence. Nonetheless, these were technological concepts that were not necessarily created in conjunction with specifically business-oriented functions. Yet they have still come to dominate professional activity, as an unanticipated disruptive force.
The Henry Ford Philosophy
All this points to the conclusion that technology is guiding business, rather than the other way round. Perhaps here, however, we should remember the alleged words of motor car entrepreneur Henry Ford. He is famously said to have commented that, had he asked his customers what they wanted in terms of transport, “they would have said faster horses.”
The principle could apply to commercial technology too. The business world had its aims – in terms of maximising efficiency, flexibility and reliability – long before the high-tech aids emerged. Granted, many of the solutions were perhaps a little different to what business owners has expected. Yet that does not mean that the solution was never designed with them in mind. No innovator ever creates something without considering its potential uses.
A device like the tablet could hardly have been created solely for cheap tricks at home. Though the business world may not have expected its impact, pre-existing issues around presentation and collaboration with colleagues are at the heart of its appeal. Prior to smartphones, workers could only access email via a PC or laptop – cumbersome devices while on the go! The innovation allowed employees to maintain user-friendly email contact wherever they were, as did wearables later. Thus technology solves a pre-existing business problem. So where does the truth lie?
The Innovation Of Today
Today, innovation is more often developed at software rather than hardware level. Much of that is based in the cloud, with remote applications designed for CRM, finance, marketing and data access purposes. All of these, applied appropriately, may revolutionise how a business operates on a day-to-day basis. Many of these, however, were created to solve pre-existing areas – even concerns – in the workplace. Business creates the problem; technology creates the solution. The technology, however, is designed for a hardware platform that has come to rule the business world beyond any forecast.
From a hardware perspective, technology has seemingly led business towards a slicker, more efficient future. We rely on our own personal devices, rarely expressly designed for business, to conduct our working day. In terms of software, however, it seems more to be business changing technology, rather than the other way round. Though shadow IT is still commonplace, it is officially superseded by cloud desktops and new, high-tech methods of communication. Cloud-based applications are aimed squarely at gaps in the workplace. With technical innovation placing more emphasis on soft research, the importance of the cloud is only growing.
Problem in the workplace? Cloud technology can probably solve it.
Viastak work to support businesses looking to leverage technology, in order to streamline the way they operate. We believe in creating flexible, dynamic enterprises that are equipped to deal with the demands of the modern global economy. To find out more, please get in touch.
Written by Oliver Kiddell
Oliver Kiddell, Author at Viastak Technologists.