In today’s society, it’s hard to imagine running any business without the basics of technology. And by basic, we mean such things as computer systems, including the advantages of a wifi connection, with the means to utilise email and social media channels. If a business is still reliant on typewriters and fax machines, then they won’t be open for very long.
Then there are all the emerging advances in technology, such as the wealth of software apps and tools that are available to automate business tasks and speed up workflow. That’s fine, and business owners and customers now rely on them. But we do have some concerns with modern technology, and chances are, despite loving all things tech-related, you may have some concerns too.
Listen, we are not averse to technology in business. Why would we be? For starters, we are keen advocates on technology on this website, in all its forms, so we are all for innovation and change. And besides, emerging technology has always been a part of most businesses, so why should we raise the question about technology being a good thing or not?
Well, here’s the thing. Technology has come on in leaps and bounds, and the business landscape is becoming more reliant on it than ever before. In some ways, this is a positive thing for both business owners and customers alike. But, and there is always a ‘but,’ there has to be some pause for thought.
We are thinking of the human element. While technology can help us speed up communication with businesses, it can also prove detrimental. While we love the convenience of ‘live chat’ online, for example, sometimes we miss human interaction; the ability to see or hear another person. We can’t always type fast enough to let the computer operator know what we want to say, and a better conversation can be had over the phone when we can get to grips with things that are too complicated to convey using a keyboard.
Then there are chatbots, automated programmes that can hold a conversation with us but are distinctly short of feeling. We get that chatbots can speed up customer service, but overworked business owners can utilise an answering service if they are too busy to use the phone, as that at least affords us more human interaction than these AI alternatives.
And when thinking of the human element, we are reminded of the many people who have lost their jobs, as automated services become the norm in all kinds of businesses. In manufacturing plants, robots are now taking on the roles that used to be given to people. Yes, these robots may be efficient, and they may work at a faster pace, but they can’t do everything.
Elon Musk admitted this himself, apologising for excessive automation, and declaring that he had underrated the human side in his operations. Consider your experiences of automated devices. Ever used a self-service till in a supermarket? They are supposed to speed up checkout queues, but in reality, they can still cause massive frustrations. Hands up who knows what we mean?
That’s most of you then! Thankfully, most technology is still no substitute for actual human beings, although that is no longer solace for those people who have been replaced by automated devices. The Terminator movies taught us to fear the rise of the robots, and while we aren’t expecting an all-out rebellion, those films did make a point. They are taking over, in some quarters at least!
The other issue we are thinking about is privacy. We can just about control our digital privacy at home, thanks to firewalls and VPNs, but we are putting a lot of trust into businesses who currently hold our sensitive information. Through computer systems, businesses collect our data to understand our shopping needs and behaviours. They use our data to then formulate ways to advertise and market products to us. They store our details in the cloud, which despite what we may have heard, is still not as safe as it’s supposed to be.
There have been data breaches within popular household names, such as Google Drive, Evernote, and Facebook. Cloud security threats are extremely prescient right now. We pass our details over to these big businesses, knowingly and unknowingly, but the technologies being used are seemingly not enough to protect us. Now, bigger companies are doing all they can to protect our sensitive information, and strategies are being put in place as hackers become cleverer in their approaches, but the same can’t always be said of the little guys in the business. These are the people who don’t have the money to defend themselves from every known attack. These business owners and their customers alike need to be afraid.
If you are a business owner, you need to be mindful. There are software tools and apps for business which can easily be downloaded for everyday use. From accountancy tools to staff management programmes, life is made easier. Hoorah! And while we would not knock any of these things, there is one thing to remember. They still require human interaction. The information entered into these programmes requires a first-hand knowledge of how the business works. Enter the wrong information, and there may be consequences.
In short, if you work in any kind of business, don’t assume these apps will do everything for you. You should still work on your skills, rather than relying on these tools to paper over your weaknesses. Remember too, that technology does break down, computer systems can cease to operate, and smartphones do run out of juice! Where will you be then? Your best option is to have a paper backup of important information and to have the skills required to conduct those parts of your business where you are sometimes reliant on tech. And if you really are weak in certain areas of your business, consider outsourcing as an alternative to yet another app.
Here’s the thing. There is nothing wrong with technology. We love it. We love the way we use it in our homes, and we love the way it helps us at work; we love it for making our lives easier! But we are becoming too reliant on it. We are relying on our skills less and less. We aren’t using our brains as much because we are letting technology do the thinking for us. And we are in danger of losing the human element in our workforce. Technology has changed the way businesses work, and it has changed the ways we relate to business, and it is a good thing…until it isn’t.
While we can’t do much to turn the tide of this technological age, we should still take time to consider this possibility that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.