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How new technology changes your company – for better and for worse

21 February 2017

We’ve all been to Blockbuster before, haven’t we?

Blockbuster was, at one point, the shop to go to if you wanted to rent a film or a game for a weekend. By 2004, it had over 6000 offices around the world and 80000 employees. Then came a shift in the way people bought their rentals – sometimes it was on streaming websites like Netflix, or by receiving DVDs in kiosks like Redbox, but people weren’t going to brick and mortar stores anymore to get a rental due to new technology.

Slowly but inevitably, Blockbuster fell into bankruptcy as it tried to hold on to its now outdated business model. Blockbuster isn’t the first company to fall dead in the face of technological advancement – Kodak went bust in 2012, presumably due to your phone carrying a perfectly adequate camera for everyday use. Many other companies, both now and in the past, have failed to adapt to new technology, and lost their market as a result.

However, it isn’t necessarily bad that new technology destabilises – it can allow underdog companies to rise above and beyond their competitors, such as Netflix. It can allow for new services that wouldn’t have existed without it, such as ecommerce or on-demand video streaming like YouTube. It can allow small companies to get the same recognition and power as a multinational corporation – Apple Inc started out as 3 bedroom programmers, and over 40 years later it’s the most valuable brand in the world. Apple, and personal computing in general, has shaped the world in a way only comparable to the development of cars or electricity, and yet it’s not even half a century old.

Your company is always sitting at a crossroads in its development. Should we get an app? Should we retool our website? Should we start a new office somewhere in the world? All of these are desirable, but sometimes it just isn’t warranted: you don’t have the money or brand recognition to start a new office branch and keep your company in the green. However, one thing that should always be noted is that new tech that isn’t a fad will change how we all do business. How many offices these days use a typewriter? Do you still use a portable CD player? Probably not, because computers and MP3 have made them obsolete.

The same can happen to a company. Ignoring the smartphone boom and the abundance of do-everything free apps may lead to your line of work slowly shrinking in demand, and customer loyalty means little when someone else offers a vastly improved service to them, possibly even for free. Nevertheless, consider what your company does and how vulnerable it is to new technology before investing in costly solutions. Sometimes the best response is nothing at all.

Ryan Shotton