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October 2012

Evolution of technology

Can you believe that it is almost 70 years ago that Thomas Watson (IBM Chairman, 1943) said he thinks that there’s a world market for maybe five computers? And boy – was he wrong. By the end of 2011 there were more than 2,267 billion Internet users worldwide, and these numbers leap forward daily.

As the world becomes more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, while the people of the world wholeheartedly embrace social computing, today’s companies face the dawn of a new era – that of Social Business.

Just as the evolution of technology and Internet changed the market place forever, the integration of social computing into company business models represents another massive shift in the scene. Organisations that successfully transform into Social Businesses can potentially reap countless benefits – among them the ability to intensify customer relationships, drive operational efficiencies and optimise the workforce.

As we move into this decade of Social Business, this evolution is fundamentally shifting the position of the customer. Consumers are more empowered than ever and it is no longer about B2B or B2C or B2B2C, it is about a company’s relationship with its customers – with you as the focus. What is driving this shift? Technology. And sometimes it is necessary to step back to see how dramatic the changes have been and to realise how dramatically different our future is shaping up to be.

According to an article in Forbes, before we had access to modern technology, consumers struggled to engage with companies that weren’t suited to them. For many, this meant dealing with businesses located nearby, or those they had access to. Buyers were at the mercy of sellers, but as technology spread – in the form of PCs, then the Internet, then mobile devices, and then smartphones – consumers are increasingly empowered to deal with companies of their choosing. With social media now driving the relationship, we’re undergoing a sea change in how customers can openly review and engage with companies, provide insight into products and services, negotiate prices with greater effectiveness and access insights that were previously restricted to just a select few.

Over the next few years the power shift in favour of the customer will continue accelerating. Social media is simply a first step of this broader change. What are just instruments today will evolve into a more fully integrated experience of allowing the buyer to experience transactions as they want.

It goes beyond tweeting a request or using a community to answer questions. These are mere tactics. It is about a fully engaged experience of always-on, rich data at your fingertips, to help make decisions regarding all aspects of a company and gaining a more powerful voice to alter and influence that company’s course.

This might sound like a total power shift to the buyer that leaves the company vulnerable. This is true – for some. Some organisations will be slow to adapt. However, companies that see this shift – and see it now – begin to view the customer as an advocate for the marketplace. This mindset shift allows companies to have greater insights into what the marketplace really wants, what its customers are really looking to purchase – and how they want to be engaged. It is a game-changer. And like all evolutions and revolutions, some will thrive and some will die off.

That the next revolution in technology is upon us is a fact. In this issue, as we take a look at how accounting software is driving fundamental change in the accountancy industry – as just one example – we say companies need to embrace this change, otherwise they may find themselves in the same boat as those firms in the 1980s that didn’t believe they needed computers.