Many SMEs are so focused on the here and now, and survival, that they forget to look at how disruptive technologies are going to affect their business or how they could use these technologies to improve their businesses or products.
In recent months, I’ve been improving my understanding of the massive changes we’re facing. We have a choice; either we benefit from them or we become victims of the rapid changes taking place around us.
The extending reach of disruptive technology
Disruptive technologies are becoming more pervasive and there is no industry or profession/job that will not be affected by these forces.
These technologies will have a far-reaching impact in manufacturing, retail, finance and healthcare, to name a few.
In manufacturing, 3D printing drives an increase in innovation, while improving product design cycles and costs, increases production speed and quality, and reduces warehouse inventories through virtual inventories. The use of nanotechnology will also improve precision, product performance and cost.
Related: The Dawn of Digital Disruption
How disruptive technology is already influencing retail, finance and healthcare
In retail, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will track products from supply chain to consumer, providing benefits for retailers. The use of ‘beacons’ gives retailers insights into the way consumers are navigating their stores, where they’re shopping and for how long.
In finance, the use of blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and biometric verification is already finding its way into how we do business.
In healthcare, the use of genomics, big data and cloud- based robotics is enabling cheaper, faster and more efficient patient care.
While these changes may seem far-removed from your own industry or markets, the reality is that technology is disrupting everything, and your industry may be next.
The question isn’t if we will be affected, but when and how we respond to these changes?
1Be aware of the changes that are taking place
As a business owner, you should make time to read about these changes in the medium and short term and attend seminars or conferences where they are being discussed and debated.
2Evaluate how technology can improve or disrupt your business
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can my business benefit from this? Is there an opportunity for my business to launch into a new market, provide a new product or offer my current service faster or at a lower cost using technology? How will the technology assist my business to recreate our Unique Selling Point (USP)?
How is the technology going to affect the viability of my:
- Business: In what way is this technology a threat to my business if we don’t or can’t adopt the technology?
- Target market: Will this technology take over my target market and how do I respond to this? Do I adopt the technology or redefine my market?
- Distribution channel: How do we respond to distribution channels moving closer to the consumer and increasingly going virtual?
- People: Do I have the skills in my business to adopt, adapt and make use of the changes that are coming and can we drive these changes?
- Business processes: How is technology affecting the way we handle our financial transactions, collect data or product development cycles, movement of products from manufacturing stage, through to warehousing and the consumer?
- Speed to market
- Cost structure
How do I prepare my business and people for the changes?
3Develop a strategy to deal with technological changes
Any strategy is better than none. You can’t ignore the reality that tech is changing how people do business across countries, industries and communities.
4Focus on customer engagement
Ensure that you stay close to your customer and target market so that you’re able to respond to changes.
Bringing it all together
Technology is going to affect us all and the sooner we ask these questions the better. Failure to address them will force us to react to the change, or be overtaken by it, resulting in obsolescence.
Begin your new tech-focused disruptive strategy with these three questions:
- How can we do this faster?
- How can we do this cheaper?
- How can we improve the product quality?
You’ll find that the answer to all three has a tech component.