An Article By, David Tan, Chief Technology Officer
When you hear the expression building blocks, if you’re anything like me, you picture a small pile of children’s toys, usually 3, with the letters A, B, and C on the side. These are the foundation that form our learning and understanding from a very young age. Technology and business consist of a series of building blocks as well. You can’t run a business, be competitive, or even make a profit if you don’t build the proper technical foundation for the business. So far nothing I’m saying is exactly revolutionary. What might cause you to change your thinking however, is that I’m here to tell you that those building blocks of business have changed. We have a whole new set of ABCs to consider if you want to thrive.
I spent a week last month at IBM’s new mega conference Think. Basically IBM took all the events they used to hold throughout the year and combined them into 1. They had close to 35,000 attendees, and arguably the future of technology was on display. If I step back for a second, that’s a crazy concept to wrap my head around. Growing up in this business IBM was the old guard. Huge mainframes, big iron, systems that ran legacy applications and sat in a room somewhere never to be touched. But IBM has reinvented themselves and it struck me while I was at the event just how much they have pivoted to become the poster child for innovation and disruption. Talk about amazing new technology, one of the “stars” of the event was a real quantum computer, sitting right in the middle of the show floor. We are very, very early in the life-cycle of quantum computing and how it will change our worlds – and trust me it will – but IBM is a pioneer in that space and it was incredible to see up close – all without a single AS/400 anywhere in site! I’m not writing this to talk about really future-thinking technologies however – look for that article soon – I’m here to talk about the technologies on display that you need to be using in your business today.
So what are the new ABCs of business? I think I’ve made you wait long enough, so here it is – AI (artificial intelligence), Blockchain, Cloud, Data, and Encryption (really security but I had to cheat a little to make that work). These 5 technologies are the fundamental platforms you need to be building your business on right now. Yes, some are common or standard, and some may be a little future thinking, but this is about building and anticipating, not waiting and reacting. Let’s look at each of them individually in more detail.
AI – Artificial (and really augmented) intelligence are starting to become standard in so many things we do and systems we work with already. From smart chat bots to marketing automation to content creation and delivery, you probably interact with some form of AI multiple times a day without even realizing it. Not to mention things like self-driving cars and home automation assistants that are growing in popularity by the minute. AI is probably already widely used in your industry, whether you realize it or not, you just need to make sure you are taking advantage of the opportunities it can create.
Blockchain – Blockchain is something you might not be thinking about today, but you will have to start and soon. It will come to every industry and will change the way business gets done. In brief, an immutable ledger of every transaction or component of a transaction that is completely transparent to all users has the potential to be a true game changer for business.
Cloud – This might almost be considered table stakes at this point. If you’re not leveraging the power, flexibility and efficiency of the cloud in your business today, you’re doing something wrong. This is business 101, but it’s very much still a building block of all these new technologies.
Data – I’ve have been saying for years that your data is your most important asset. Gleaning insight and intelligence from data you generate or other publicly accessible data sources can help differentiate you and truly allow you to plan, build, and streamline your business.
Encryption – Security must be the foundation of everything you do. Authentication, Encryption, Resilience all need to be top of mind in all stages of planning. Bad actors are getting smarter and more sophisticated so we must evolve to meet that threat. Data breaches can’t be considered the norm, and we can’t take privacy and security for granted. If you aren’t putting information security as your top priority in your business, you will not succeed.
I could write an entire series of articles about each of these topics individually. This was an attempt at a very quick overview and introduction. The tools and technologies we use to build and run businesses are changing. You need to change and evolve with them. There is no reason an outsider needs to be the one to innovate in whatever industry you are in. Disruption can just as easily come from within. Think about how you can leverage the new building blocks to disrupt what you are already doing and change the way business is being done.