Whatever sector your business operates in, the disruption of the information age will have a profound effect on it. No field has been untouched by digital transformation, and the new ways of thinking and working that this new world has introduced.
Companies can either adapt to the new realities, or fall behind their more technologically agile competitors. At worst, it could mean the end of the business.
The dawn of the information age was digital
Before the industrial revolution, wealth was generated, and in some ways defined, by land. Wealthy landowners made their money from tenants who lived and worked within the boundaries of their property. The industrial revolution changed that—no longer did land itself generate wealth. Infrastructure built on that land, like factories, concentrated wealth generation into smaller pockets and larger numbers of people. Industrialists became wealthy and powerful beyond the imagination of their landowning predecessors.
The dawn of the information age has seen the birth, and success, of companies that have no land and little or no physical infrastructure. Information is the new foundation of money and power—tech companies are overtaking the old industrial giants as the largest companies of the era. In the information age, Google is more valuable than General Electric, and most of the top ten companies in the world by market cap are tech businesses.
Carlos Marquerie, Director IE University´s Bachelor in Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence, commented on how computer science and artificial intelligence is transforming industries and by extension the world:
The global AI market, including technologies such as machine learning, image processing, natural language processing and speech recognition, will reach a value of more than $191 billion by 2024. Due to advances in computing, AI is rapidly gaining popularity, and various industries are seeing dramatic improvements in efficiency and quality.
Although skeptics warn that AI-powered machines could make humans obsolete, such apocalyptic scenarios won’t happen anytime soon. Instead, AI will help human workers to handle complex and time-consuming tasks.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning technologies have entered the mainstream; they’re being adopted by enterprises all over the world. While these technologies certainly hold the potential to vastly improve the quality of operations in the corporate sector, they also stand to disrupt many existing markets—such as food, retail, supply chain and logistics, construction and more.
So how to leverage the value of the virtual in the information age to ensure your company is successful?
Here are five ways to run a successful information-age company:
Build customer relationships
This has always mattered in business and that’s still the case now. But in the information age, where many companies have no physical presence and online competition has multiplied, it’s more vital than ever. Customers are now separated from companies in a way that never happened before—they may never speak to a real person in their day-to-day interactions, and never step into a shop.
But they’re still human. Brand loyalty is still real, good service and high-quality products still matter, perhaps more than ever. In the information age, online feedback on companies is visible to all and carries considerable weight, so if it’s negative it can do great damage. Something goes wrong? Go the extra mile to put it right. Engage with your customers through the modern channels, build relationships with them, keep them coming back.
Learn from others
A willingness to learn from business peers, to network with similarly entrepreneurial businesspeople, can be invaluable in the information age. What are others in your sector doing well? What are they doing wrong? Though the information age came quite recently, the pace of development means that there is already a large pool of “pioneers” whose businesses have been through the process of digital transition. Many modern entrepreneurs have experience of building digital-native companies. This is a source of knowledge and experience that should not be ignored.
Be flexible and agile
A successful modern company may look very different to its industrial-age predecessors. The business model of an information-age company may not require physical premises at all, for example. Not being tied to an office or shop can lead to cost savings, greater flexibility in where employees are based, and a “portability” of the business that would have been unthinkable until quite recently.
A readiness to be agile in terms of scaling, operation, and even offering can make a difference. Don’t lose sight, though, of the fact that both your customers and your employees are still human. If you’re all working remotely, real or virtual activities to build a team spirit and sense of belonging are especially important when times are tough.
Make your own mark
The number of companies, and therefore competition, has exploded in the information age. Without shops in the mall to give companies visibility, they’ve had to make their mark in other ways. To be the one chosen for a customer’s business, your brand has to stand out from the others. You have to be the one that’s different.
You can start by having the strongest, most consistent message, or by offering something nobody else can offer. Or by having such outstanding customer service that people not only come back again and again but recommend you to others. By tapping into whatever the next “big thing” is before anyone else. However you do it, you need to stamp your company’s mark on the world so it’s unmistakable, and different.
The biggest no-brainer of them all. In the information age, if your business fails at social media, your business fails. Nowadays most potential customers don’t look anywhere else first, so this first point of contact can win or lose potential business in a moment.
If you want to be taken seriously, use the right channels, and say the right things on them. An effective social media strategy is absolutely essential—hire a professional if necessary, but get this right and it will go a long way towards making your company successful.
In the modern business world, with all its complexity and its increasing pace of change, there’s no single right way to go about it that will guarantee success. That’s something companies do still have in common with their industrial-revolution era ancestors. But getting these five key areas right will at least give most companies a fighting chance of becoming a success story in the information age.