Growing up, I had the privilege of witnessing my parents successfully run a retail shop using manual bookkeeping techniques. After completing my high school studies, I had the privilege of running the retail shop for eight months, and with the manual recording of inventories, sales, debtors, and reconciliations, I always thought this could be done better. It never settled well with me that I could not easily measure the profitability of the business without spending hours reconciling stocks against the prices I purchase the stock and the selling price. Worse, I could not negotiate better prices from suppliers depending on fast their inventory was moving off the shelf. This in a way doubled my passion for enrolling in a Computer Science program at The University of Nairobi.
In an era where technology dominates many aspects of our lives, it is intriguing to ponder whether businesses can still thrive without relying on technology. This article explores the significance of technology in today’s business landscape while acknowledging the potential for success through traditional manual methods.
The Evolution of Technology in Business
Technology has revolutionized the way we conduct business. From the advent of computers to the widespread use of mobile phones, the internet, and advanced software applications, businesses have gained access to unprecedented efficiency, speed, and global connectivity. Technological advancements have streamlined operations, enhanced productivity, and facilitated effective communication with customers and stakeholders. For instance, a manufacturer can in real-time know their production capacity, inventory count, account receivables vs payables and so much more. This is only possible through effective utilization of technology by using Entity Resouce Planning Systems (ERPs) coupled with Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs), or any other business software. There are various ways a business can succeed by adopting technology:
Automation and Efficiency
One of the primary benefits of technology in business is automation. Automation systems like Solutech Sales Automation Tool help streamline repetitive tasks, improve accuracy, save time, and enable business owners to make data-driven decisions. Technologies like inventory management systems, sales force automation software, point-of-sale software, and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms enable businesses to track sales, manage stock, and provide personalized customer experiences.
With automation, businesses can accomplish tasks at a much faster pace and with greater accuracy. Tasks that used to take hours or days can now be completed within minutes or seconds. For example, a manufacturer or a distributor using Solutech SAT, with ten (10) salespeople visiting thirty-five (35) customers a day can perform three hundred and fifty (350) survey audits in a day. This would be a nightmare to achieve without utilizing any form of technology. Automated workflows and task management approach streamline processes, enabling teams to collaborate seamlessly and achieve more in less time. This increased productivity allows businesses to handle larger workloads, serve more customers, and scale their operations effectively. For instance, automated inventory management systems can track stock levels, generate sales orders, and even predict demand, enabling businesses to optimize their inventory and avoid stockouts or overstocking by optimizing production capacities.
Data Analysis and Decision-Making
Technology provides businesses with the ability to collect and analyze vast amounts of data. On average, Solutech SAT clients collect 500,000 records of data in a day. This ranges from customer visits to retail audits, sales orders, payments, and delivery data. By analyzing this data, these clients are able to draw key insights and make data-driven decisions based on up-to-date information. This data-driven approach empowers companies to make informed decisions and gain valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operational efficiencies. Analytics tools and artificial intelligence algorithms enable businesses to optimize processes, target their marketing efforts, and identify areas for improvement.
Enhanced Customer Experience
In today’s digital age, customer expectations have evolved significantly. Technology plays a crucial role in meeting these expectations by providing personalized experiences, efficient communication channels, and convenient access to products and services. Online platforms, mobile apps, and e-commerce websites have transformed the way businesses interact with customers, making transactions faster, more convenient, and tailored to individual needs. Recently, we developed a Whatsapp chatbot embedded in Solutech SAT to help businesses receive feedback directly from customers and manage the feedback through customer service agents. Such chatbots and AI-powered virtual assistants can provide instant responses to customer queries, ensuring round-the-clock support and reducing response times. By automating customer service processes, businesses can provide efficient and consistent support, leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Scalability and Adaptability
Automation lays the foundation for scalability and adaptability in business operations. Without leveraging on technology, a business owner may not know whether to scale their business operations or whether to open a new branch or not, whether to introduce a new product in the market, or whether to increase or reduce their prices. As businesses grow, automation can accommodate increased workloads without significant disruptions. Automated systems can easily handle higher volumes of data, transactions, and customer interactions, ensuring seamless operations even during periods of rapid expansion. By utilizing data, business owners can make informed decisions for scaling, backed with data without questioning whether they are making the right decisions or not. Additionally, technology implementation allows businesses to adapt to changing market dynamics and customer preferences by quickly adjusting processes and workflows. Case in point, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw an upsurge of businesses wanting to adapt to new ways of doing business by utilizing technology to reach out to their end customers.
Security and Risk Management
As businesses embrace technology, the need for robust cybersecurity measures becomes paramount. Technology helps safeguard sensitive information, protects against data breaches, and ensures compliance with regulatory standards. From encryption protocols to secure payment gateways, businesses can mitigate risks and maintain customer trust. Therefore, it is important that as businesses engage technology providers, they assess their security mitigation measures to ensure they protect themselves from potential security risks and data breaches. From experience, small businesses are much less worried about security, probably because they think they do have not much to lose, but this is a skewed view. A security breach no matter how small it is, can have dire consequences for a business from exposing their customer lists to payment data. It is crucial then that businesses irrespective of size pay close attention to the security risks that technology providers may expose them to.
Effective Cost Savings
Implementing technology can result in significant cost savings for businesses. By reducing manual labor and minimizing errors, companies can save on labor costs, particularly for repetitive or low-skill tasks. Automation also optimizes resource allocation, ensuring that resources are utilized efficiently. For example, implementing Solutech Sales Force Automation can help businesses in the proper utilization of human resources as they can easily know which of their sales teams are working and who is not working. Moreover, manufacturers and distributors alike can effectively manage their customer base by monitoring the productivity of their customers and setting appropriate customer targets. Automation reduces the risk of costly errors, such as billing or invoicing mistakes, saving businesses both time and money.
While technology has become indispensable in today’s business landscape, it is worth acknowledging that certain businesses can still find success using traditional methods. Some niche markets, local businesses, and artisanal crafts thrive on personalized customer interactions, word-of-mouth marketing, and a sense of authenticity that technology may struggle to replicate. For example, businesses in the informal sector such as welding, tailoring business, etc, may not find much profitability in implementing technology other than utilizing social media to reach more customers and using accounting software to manage their business expenses. However, for such businesses to scale, it becomes important for them to utilize technology to understand their operations better and know which aspects of the business need improvements.
Moreover, businesses operating in remote areas with limited access to technology or those catering to specific demographics may find manual methods more viable. In such cases, it is crucial to adapt and optimize traditional practices by incorporating digital tools strategically, such as using social media for marketing or employing cloud-based solutions for record-keeping.
Technology has undoubtedly become a cornerstone of business success in the modern era. By streamlining processes, reducing errors, and enabling data-driven decision-making, automation empowers companies to achieve higher levels of operational excellence, cost savings, and scalability. Embracing technology is crucial for businesses seeking to thrive in a highly competitive marketplace and stay ahead of evolving customer expectations.
However, it is also important to recognize that certain businesses can still thrive using traditional methods, particularly when combined with selective technology adoption. Although such businesses may cope without technology, their competitors who invest in technology will surpass them in being more efficient and in the long term in overall growth.
Ultimately, the key to success for businesses in utilizing technology lies in understanding a business’s unique needs and characteristics and leveraging technology accordingly. Striking the right balance between day-to-day manual operations and innovation allows businesses to stay competitive, adapt to changing times, and cater to evolving customer expectations.