The pace of change in technology continues. Every week brings with it new announcements about innovations some are incremental, others are disruptive. Even though now companies are more cautious about adopting the next new thing, the fact remains that technology can bring about gains in productivity and market share if used intelligently. Consider Dell, for example. In a market as commoditised as personal computers, it now aspires to have a share of 30-40% in a few years, more than double what it is now. This is driven by its supply chain and distribution expertise. Remember: even Dell was a small company once.
What is interesting about technology has been its commoditisation. John Sculley, who once ran Apple and now is a venture capitalist, summarises this trend: We’re going through a systemic, secular change in high technology. We saw, in the 1990s, the commoditization of hardware. Now, we’re going to be seeing the commoditization of almost everything, including software and services. This makes a lot of sense because, as the technology world moves from being computer-intensive to communications-intensive, you have to have open standards, which means innovation is going to have to take place in different parts of the value chain. The things that we used to think of as the areas for wow technology, like computers, have become commoditized and even transparent, as they are embedded into systems. The innovation now is taking place with things that are largely being driven by market opportunities and customers.
This commoditisation has the promise of making technology affordable for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is also making technology vendors start looking at the SMEs as a market opportunity. In addition, it creates new business opportunities for SMEs as various industries will get disrupted with these emerging, new technologies. Wrote Business Week recently: Simply put, tech hasn’t settled down yet. Its days of maturity may be decades away. The IT revolution may share many parallels with previous transformative technologies such as railroads and electricity, but it differs in one key way: The underlying technologies not only aren’t slowing down, they’re accelerating. Computer-chip performance keeps doubling every 18 months, and disk-drive capacity and Internet-connection speeds are improving even faster. That’s spurring new products, from MP3 and DVD players to Web services for corporations, that are disrupting industries from entertainment to health care.
For SMEs, it is important to consider the new, emerging technologies to see how these can be applied appropriately to cut costs and improve topline growth. There is no one, magic formula which will fit every SME. Yet, it is possible to extract out certain common technologies which can make a significant impact on operations, and help SMEs break out of the twin technology and marketing traps.
We will begin by considering some of these technologies and trends, and later see how they can be aggregated together to create a reference technology architecture for SMEs. Having a common architecture makes not just the buying decision easier for SMEs, but also enables vendors to create plug-and-play standardised components.
Tomorrow: New Technologies and Trends (continued)
TECH TALK SMEs and Technology+T