Forget the gadgets, curved and flexible screens will have us viewing data and images in new ways and smart technology like screens and watches will be more pervasive in our lifestyles. This is great material for consumers and for our personal lives, but what will business owners and leaders be adopting to get ahead of our competitors?
Business reporting has long been a conundrum in business where we don’t want to waste time and money analysing everything to death, but we also need to know what is going on to avoid expensive mistakes. When something as simple as how we manage cash flow can make the difference between sinking and swimming it rapidly becomes clear that being able to see our company reports in real time will change how we manage our companies and our people.
Big data is one area that is getting a lot of attention and a lot of investment, but for the SME community there should be a focus on small and medium data. (Can I call it SMD for the SME?) The combination of improved BI tools in Microsoft Excel and SQL, as well as innovations such as iDashboards, are leading to real-time data visualisation that gives us up-to-the-minute reporting on all aspects of our business. Those people who adopt SMD solutions will be looking ahead over a dashboard while traditionalists will be driving their businesses using outdated monthly reports, which is like driving a business looking only in the rear-view mirror.
Another big change is affordable 3D printing, which now makes it possible to print models of products or even to print buildings using a 3D cement printer. Now that reasonable quality 3D plastic printers are available from companies such as mine for under a few thousand dollars, all designers can create models and prototypes for a few dollars each. This will significantly speed up production times for all sorts of physical things from houses to furniture to machine parts and more. If you are in the design space and you are not currently sourcing your 3D printer or arranging for access to one when you need one, do expect your clients to quietly move on soon.
Of course, we can’t do 3D printing without 3D design. 3D design tools have been around for a while now, but 3D sampling tools with multi-point laser are changing how we bring information into our 3D tools to design add-ons and modifications. Linking this sort of thing to 3D catalogues and building information modelling (BIM) solutions can speed up design, construction and building maintenance and every aspect of the building industry is being impacted by this technology wave right now and will be for the next few years. Construction costs are being squeezed and builders are forced to be more productive, and so technology will provide solutions. Project management tools will see tighter scheduling of works as well to ensure projects are completed to shorter timelines.
Manufacturing lines will run to tighter deadlines as well, as LEAN methodologies are applied, just add 3D design processes to facilitate faster production lines. With components being modelled faster and changes being applied faster to reduce production costs. Savvy manufacturers are already building 3D catalogues of their products with embedded product details in a way that they can be selected by designers to be included in the 3D drawings using BIM systems. So you don’t just select a water heater you select a Rinnai and place it with all the flow metrics and pipe connections required. You don’t want to be the builder who puts the wrong water heater in because it will be marked as a defect later.
Of course, the other big change in the business world is the speed at which information is going to flow as our access to greater bandwidth improves. There are just so many tools waiting or being developed to take advantage of the improved flow of data. Video telephony tools are here now waiting for better bandwidth in regional areas to really become popular. The real explosion we are about to see, according to Gartner analysts, is in the number of sensors connected to the internet feeding information back to the mother ship about how we are living our lives.
I have not even mentioned the number of people using mobile devices and the rate that is increasing, but let’s just say that if your web site, like mine, is a few years old it probably needs a re-design to be mobile friendly so prospects have an option to choose you.
Gartner are predicting a tenfold increase in the number of internet connected devices from three billion today to 30 billion by 2020. That is just seven years from now and means there will be more to measure and improve than ever before.
The message is clear: Solve your data storage and management systems, build your data processing systems and solve your problems now, because it is about to get a lot more complex and the companies that survive are those that master the technologies within their industry.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for solving business problems with IT. How can we help?