Unlike the industrial revolution, loud and filled with smoke, the digital revolution — or the “fourth industrial revolution” — happened quietly. It curled up around us and now touches every part of what we do, from how we eat to how we sleep, move, exercise, work, love and interact. It’s the voices in your car and the gadget on your wrist telling you to take more steps.
It also crept into the workplace and cuddled up with your core business model, whether you like it or not. No company can make, deliver or market its product efficiently without technology. The companies that embrace this fact are the ones that shape our world.
If you ask “What does my company do?”, what would the answer be? Most people will say, “We’re an ecommerce company” or “We’re an apparel company” or “We are a biotechnology company.” The smart ones will say “We’re a technology company that happens to sell health care.” Every company is a technology company.
Take Blue Apron as an example. Are they a tech start-up or a food company? The business is food but the driving force is technology. If you think Blue Apron is a food company, you’re missing something important — just like the people in 1995 who thought Amazon was just a bookseller, selling a super-low-margin product over what happened to be a new channel: the internet.
Understand How Technology Affects Your Business
Leaders must understand how technology affects their business. This doesn’t mean just one idea for a new app or a new website. It means really understanding how technology organically flows through the business.
Take a look at Kodak, Blockbuster and Research in Motion. When looking at the fates of these companies we think, “That could never happen to us.” Guess what? They said the same thing. These companies were faced with a changing landscape but they were so wedded to their existing business model they couldn’t see how the changes would affect them. Technology was going to be important to their core business but they weren’t paying attention.
Whether your products are consumer products or you operate business to business, there is a technological solution somewhere in the workflow that is keeping your business alive. That technology needs to be nurtured.
Technology Needs to Be at the Core of Company Culture, Not an Afterthought
At a company like Google or Facebook, engineering positions are the most prestigious, highest status roles at the company. The founders and CEOs of technology companies are often engineers and may have even built early version of the products themselves. For companies to be successful, cultures need to change to take into account the unique way that software development works and to highlight the importance of technology and the people who manage and build it.
One more time: the technology needs to be nurtured.
Embrace New Ways Of Working
The most successful and highest performing companies have little separation between their business strategy and their technology strategy. They have technology as a part of their DNA.
For many companies this will be a new mindset. They’re not used to thinking like a technology company. It’s hard to get caught in an old way of thinking but that will ultimatley set you up to fail. If you don’t nurture the technology that is driving your business, the technology will stagnate and so will everything else around it.
One of the most common mindsets that needs to change is that technological solutions are a destination. In fact, it’s a never-ending journey of continuous improvement, continuous innovation, and continuous experimentation. Companies who are able to successfully create internal engines of innovation are positioned to continually evolve and stay competitive. Technology has no finish line.
It’s time to take a step back and look at what’s keeping the lights on. Can you identify the technology that’s driving your core business? Is that technology helping guide your business strategy? Is the technology being nurtured? Is the technology creating new paths for your business to grow? I hope you answered at least one “yes”. If not, go back to the top and read again.