Ten technologies to separate the winners from the losers

  • Technologies such as mobile, data analytics, and the cloud offer significant competitive advantages.

  • Here are ten technologies that innovative companies must evaluate to reap the gains of being an early adopter.

With incredible speed and proliferation, technologies such as mobile, data analytics, smart manufacturing, location intelligence, and the cloud are rewriting what it means to be in business today.

Why give these valuable early-mover advantages away? Organizations that leverage the following are much more likely to win against competitors who might be hard on their trail.

Ten technologies for success:

1. Better data security

Yesterday it was Target; today it’s Staples. At this point, very few companies can boast that they have not been the victim of a massive data breach. Investments in data security have become a competitive game-changer, given the cost of remediation and potentially severe reputational damage.

2. Smart machines

It’s called the New Industrial Revolution for a reason: Machines embedded with sophisticated sensors wirelessly talk to other machines to speed or slow production, reducing labor expenses, increasing product quality, and alerting control rooms when something is about to go awry, possibly averting the cost of a full-plant shutdown.

3. Location intelligence

Mapping websites and GPS mobile devices dictating directions from here to there offer marketing and advertising opportunities. Knowing where someone is at a particular point in time—and then analyzing his or her location along with the person’s demographics, social networking and browsing history—allows companies to serve precise ads to these potential buyers, thereby marketing in milliseconds.

4. The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is flattening the more traditional ways of doing business. A case in point is the pay-as-you-drive insurance concept, where the cost of insurance is hinged to the periods of time in which a car is driven. Now imagine the same digitization principle at play in other contexts. For example, rather than buying mobile devices outright, someone could pay for them as they are used.

5. Cloud, cloud and more cloud

Organizations today want software delivered to them by the cloud in order to store data and to have infinite, flexible access and control. On-premise systems are outlandishly expensive and difficult to implement, giving IT departments enduring maintenance migraines. The cloud, on the other hand, is scalable, cost-effective and self-service, freeing IT to assist (if not drive) more strategic technological goals.

6. Wearable technology

No one imagined a decade ago that hordes of employees would accessorize with tablets and smartphones like they once did with ties or handbags. Mobile devices worn on the wrist are tomorrow’s tablets—to a point. People won’t populate a spreadsheet on them, but they’ll dictate and receive work-related emails and texts, pay for things like a new tablet, and record and analyze customer interactions on the retail floor.

7. Data analytics—internal and external

Businesses are increasingly analyzing internal sales and financial data, but what about exogenous macroeconomic and geopolitical data that can doom an otherwise best-laid plan? Companies that access key business drivers in geographic markets ahead of the competition can swiftly act on this information to seize opportunities and evade risks. Investing in new analytics solutions will become increasingly necessary to beat out local and global competitors.

8. Planning and forecasting tools

Large organizations want the agility of small startups, with the ability to quickly react to real-time business intelligence to inform more accurate, insightful, and confident forecasts. Investing in cloud-based planning and forecasting tools helps companies nimbly respond to rapidly changing market and customer dynamics.

9. Enhanced finance and accounting automation

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are great at automating the nuts and bolts of accounting, but they travel only so far on the journey toward the financial close. In most organizations, accountants are mired in the work trenches, manually using spreadsheets to complete such vital tasks as account reconciliations and intercompany transaction matching. Cloud-based software now exists to help organizations reduce labor costs while redirecting smart financial people to address more value-added strategic issues.

10. Branded content platforms

Many companies are increasing their marketing clout through sophisticated branded content published on their websites and other platforms. Hiring seasoned business and financial journalists is key to providing crucial information to existing and prospective customers online in real time, leveraging their competitive positions as real thought leaders.

I could go on and on—such is the power of today’s blistering pace of technological innovation. With the economy steadily improving and many companies reporting much better results than they have in several years, 2015 may be the opportune time to avail some capital to set your competitive path to win.


Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated business journalist and best selling author.  AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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