Technology is a game changer for companies – it can provide a competitive advantage or open up a whole new industry in which to compete. Take some of the biggest companies today for example: Netflix wouldn’t be a reality without cloud computing and Uber would never have made its mark without GPS. In addition to spurring innovation, technology makes it possible to do more in less time, and in business when time is money, this is an incredibly important part of gaining a competitive advantage.
Let’s take a look at a few key technologies that are enabling companies to do more with less.
The growing number of applications, technologies and platforms in the modern IT environment is putting more pressure and strain on already overworked IT departments. In the past, companies would offset this demand by hiring more IT staff and requesting larger IT budgets. However, this requires two things most organizations don’t have today: excess budget and a large talent pool of IT professionals to choose from.
To make matters worse, this IT resources gap is widening and isn’t showing any signs of catching up. For example, global IT spending only increased 1.6 percent in 2016, and is estimated to grow merely 2-3 percent from 2017 to 2020, according to Gartner Research Vice President John-David Lovelock.
This is where IT automation comes into play. IT automation makes it possible for disparate systems to communicate with one another in order to be self-acting or self-regulating, which reduces error-prone manual intervention and speeds up product releases and technology integrations. Therefore, IT is able to focus on mission-critical work and companies are able to get ahead in the age of unpredictable customer preferences and ever-changing technological developments.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Speaking of unpredictable customer preferences – how do businesses know what current and potential customers really want? While market research has its place, AI makes it possible to deploy a more personalized shopping experience in real-time.
Leading retailers such as The North Face and 1-800-Flowers.com are using AI to better learn individual customers’ preferences by providing online visitors with AI-powered personal assistants that guide them through the shopping process. By learning from individual customers’ behaviors in real-time, the personal assistants are able to present hyper-personalized product recommendations.
To provide another example, Salesforce’s Einstein AI technology automates the process of delivering optimized product recommendations by analyzing individual behavioral data and making recommendations without having to create rules. A smarter process combined with fewer steps means companies can convert more sales in less time.
Businesses leverage robotics by programming robots to perform certain tasks, which, like IT automation and AI-driven marketing, generates efficient and consistent results. Robotics benefits businesses in a wide range of industries, such as retail, by greeting and guiding customers in stores, and healthcare, as robots are used by many surgeons in the operating room.
Manufacturing is another big industry for robotics: Audi recently became the latest manufacturer to open a “smart factory,” which not only employs robots to carry out automated production, but also uses a network of sensors and devices to track data that helps enhance the process.
According to calculations by London’s Center for Economic Research, robotics improves the labor productivity of the modern workforce as much as the stream engine did for the workforce from 1850-1910. The use of robots in the manufacturing industry alone has increased GDP .37 percent annually, driving 10 percent of all GDP growth – which means robotics in manufacturing has contributed to economic growth as significantly as railroads did in the 19th century and US highways did in the 20th century.
Cloud computing is nothing new, but we would be remiss to exclude it from the list, as companies – including those in regulated industries – are still finding new ways to benefit from on-demand computing resources. In fact, the worldwide cloud computing market grew 21 percent to $110 billion in 2015 according to Synergy Research Group, and Forrester expects this strong growth to continue, predicting a $236 billion market in 2020.
With cloud computing, companies can store, manage and process their computing resources and data on an internet-based server. This simplifies the process of implementing many of the new technologies available, without consuming in-house computing resources. Cloud computing is particularly beneficial in tandem with IT automation, because IT automation enables companies to leverage cloud systems incrementally, according to demand. As a result, companies can optimize their allocation of cloud resources, utilizing them when the company is busy or burdened and saving them otherwise.
Companies can get caught in the trap of being too complacent, especially if everything is going smoothly. However, if a company isn’t looking ahead to tomorrow’s technologies and constantly improving, there will always be another company in the wings ready to offer a solution that is better, faster or stronger.
(About the author: Mehul Amin is director of engineering at Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc.)
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