15 Oct 2021 20:27 IST

Harnessing technology to better skill managers

Well-prepared and aware managers can turn this wave of technological revolution to their advantage.

Over the past two decades, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has penetrated significantly deeper into business functions. What started off as a gradual process of electronic enablement in manufacturing, services, operations, and retail, has snowballed into a full-scale behemoth digital revolution impacting a much wider range of industries and functions. Fundamental technological and infrastructure development — Internet 2.0, mobile, cloud computing, advanced VLSI, and convergence — were already providing full impetus to business productivity in the previous decades. Now, AI and ML has changed the whole ballgame. The pace of adoption is fast, and the impact is profound.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR), Blockchain, Robotics, 5G, and various emerging technologies have found a myriad of useful applications across business ecosystems, giving way to a much superior user experience, stakeholder engagement, and completely transformed business models. For modern-day business managers, harnessing emerging technologies is not a choice but a compulsion that will determine the fate of their business.

Digital first

The business enterprise today embodies an assortment of vital digital assets. Many businesses, all over the world, have become increasingly virtual. In stark contrast with their traditional counterparts, digital businesses are far more agile and can completely re-jig the industry dynamics (American Well, Zopa). While conventional managers might get jolted and feel threatened by this sudden influx of technology, however, if aware and well prepared, they can also turn this wave of technological revolution to their advantage (like Walt Disney).

In today’s hyperconnected environment, there are numerous ways in which business managers can derive a much better value-add by harnessing emerging technologies. There is no need to get lost in the jungle of software, sensors, actuators, control processors, and complex infrastructure, but rather a business manager has to learn to envision potential business applications to deliver the real value, at the same time, discover and build the context in which the various emerging technologies can be applied (like Kindle or Amazon AWS). In many conspicuous ways, emerging technologies are creating a better value-add for business managers.

Enhancing user experience

In the existing mature markets, the competition is tough, and companies are struggling to find new unique factors of differentiation. Emerging technologies have proven instrumental in providing a superior user experience (Zara fashion). Analytics help in greater customisation and in discovering hidden patterns of consumption enhancing the reach to a larger and profitable market share (IBM Watson). IoT is poised to play a very big role in the upcoming smart city or smart home concepts (Cisco, Huawei), promising a better quality of life.

Redefining product/service

Business organizations who continuously enhance their offerings by revisiting their core product or services also find the emerging technologies very important to create new value prepositions. From smart TVs (Samsung, Sony) to smart refrigerators (LG, Bosch) or driverless cars (Tesla, Hyundai), all newly redefined products are finding their way equally well into the developed and developing markets.

Reinventing business models

Employing emerging technologies is an amazing way of creating or repackaging the way businesses are done. Limited only by one’s creativity, tech can help to tap such unexplored business value propositions. From vendor-managed inventory systems and to dark warehouses today, all rely extensively on emerging technologies. OTT (over-the-top services Netflix, Amazon Prime) platforms that have created a parallel universe of opportunities in the media industry rely extensively on AI and generative adversarial networks.

Whether it is one of those cab-booking apps (Uber, Ola) or food-ordering apps (Zomato, Talabat) enticing a whole new generation of customers, it is evident that an entirely new form of business value emerges by just realigning the relationship between stakeholders, thereby enabling a unique customer experience.

Exploring unexplored markets

This phenomenon is observed in consumer markets or institutional markets alike. The recent developments in IoT-based Industrial Internet opportunity is an example of how industrial giants with heavy assets such as O&G operators (Shell, BP), and aircraft engine manufacturers (GE) can also leverage to bring the operations and maintenance costs down considerably. Today, AR is powering manufacturing and maintenance (Predix). Pilots are being trained using highly immersive simulators (Emirates). Smartwatches (Apple), wearables (Smart shoes, belts) are transforming the wellness and healthcare space.

As more and more organisations move away from brick-and-mortar setup to digital operations, the ability to imbibe and utilise emerging technologies is becoming a key tenet of business model development. This will eventually determine the success of the new-age businesses. Irrespective of their functional area, the success and effectiveness of any business manager today is truly based on his capability to embrace change. And it is only by harnessing emerging technologies that the new age business managers will be able to create a significant and long-lasting value-add for themselves and their businesses.

(The writer is Associate Professor, Technology Management, and Deputy Director, Faculty Management, SP Jain School of Global Management.)