5 Ways Technology Changed the Business Environment and How to Adapt to Change

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Advancements in technology are necessary for innovation, growth, and problem-solving in almost every field. The business environment has transformed significantly with the invention and mass-adoption of the Internet, as it has shaped the way the entire industry functions in today’s world. Hardware and software advancements have revived dying industries and completely reinvented old business practices. Zimbabwe is no exception in this regard. We have seen the massive adoption of top technological trends and advancements. Innovation is what drives positive change after all, so here are the biggest and most influential ways technology has changed the business environment.

1. Communication

The list of things to sell is infinite – really up to your discretion. The pertinent feature now and beyond is that you must sell online. Thus you can open an online shop. The concept of an online shop is so broad because the approaches are several. An online shop can be as simple as a comprehensive WhatsApp Business catalogue. Then it can be as intricate as an ecommerce website. I recommend that you have a multi-platform approach. This can work for pre-existing businesses or brand new ones.

Online Listing Or Marketplace Platforms

There is no doubt that the biggest change is how everyone communicates. The Internet has made global communication fast and cheaper, but also incredibly easy. Businesses can get in contact with any other business anywhere in the world at any time on a variety of platforms comprising of text, voice calls, or video calls. Getting in touch with worldwide companies means the door is open for collaboration, and companies can work with or do business with people or other brands from anywhere.

In Zimbabwe one of the most recently adopted communication platforms that has been adopted by businesses across the company is the use of WhatsApp. WhatsApp is now a vital customer care or support platform that businesses now use to offers customers a fast, simple way to keep in touch with customers and get feedback. The WhatsApp platform has offered businesses a cost effective way to communicate with not only customers but suppliers and even internal communications throughout the business. ​

2. Recruitment

In the past all over the globe finding the right employee was a very big task selecting the right print media, industry publications and television stations was essential in recruitment. The costs and process was time consuming and was a huge undertaking.

Currently finding the perfect candidates for positions is much easier with thanks to the Internet and technology. There are a large number of websites that act as job boards where employers can post available positions and wait for applicants to submit their curriculum vita's (CV's). To aid in the screening process, software has been developed to automate the process entirely and make it more efficient. These programs will pick out the applicants who have relevant skills and experiences to the posted job and sort them itself in no time at all.

If a permanent position isn’t on the table, freelancers are also much easier to find these days, thanks to websites like Upwork or Dribbble even Facebook. Businesses looking to hire can browse by the freelancer’s work individually, or post an available job and wait for people to apply. Zimbabwe has also website that cater to our recruitment such as CV people and iHarare jobs to name a few.

3. Advertising

The Internet revolutionized how brands advertise, especially with the social media movement. According to Statista.com in 2019, social media revenue was US$89.5 billion and forecasted to be at US$138.4 billion in 2025. So clearly there is a lot of value in advertising on social platforms. The conversation has shifted from, “why should I advertise on social media?” to, “how should I advertise on social media?” because frankly, if your business or brand isn’t on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or all of the above, it doesn’t exist to the vast majority of your audience or target market. Influencer campaigns, native advertising, and pre-roll videos are just some of the new strategies businesses are using on social.

The amount of data available to marketers—thanks to the Internet—is greater than ever before. Brands can track the online journeys and habits of their target demographics in order to gain insights on how they search and purchase products and services, and then target ads directly to them for greater conversion rates. The size of the audience available to market to is much greater as well, since you aren’t limited to a physical geographic area the same way a billboard or newspaper ad is.

Although in Zimbabwe the choice of social media advertising or traditional advertising has changed it has not yet totally changed. Considerations businesses use are of target market, location and pricing. A low cost product that targets people in the rural areas a business should consider a mixed approach of advertising so as to ensure product penetration.

4. Shopping

Brick-and-mortar stores seem like they’re becoming a way of the past. More companies are offering e-commerce as a primary or even sole purchasing solution for customers, and Amazon could be to blame. There is a big plus to this though, as e-commerce stores are much cheaper than physical stores.

The world of e-commerce has created this need for instant gratification among shoppers. The process is so quick and easy – all you have to do is search for the item you want online, add it to your cart, and a few clicks later, you’ve purchased it and it’s on its way directly to your door. This has raised the bar in terms of delivery times and product availability, because people no longer have patience for items that are out of stock or slow to arrive – they simply will find it from a competitor rather than wait for it to restock.

While there are some negative aspects to drastic changes brought on by technological advancements, the majority of change is positive as it solves problems and generally helps society progress. Slow, outdated practices are upgraded to be more efficient, gaps are bridged, and opportunities never thought possible are now the norm.

5. Businesses Productivity

The Internet also introduced the concept of telecommuting, which can significantly help a company’s bottom line. Telecommuting, or working remotely, is when an employee works from outside the office and communicates via email or internal messaging. Many traditional companies are allowing their employees to work from home, while quite a few new businesses have chosen to be completely remote offices. This way, these remote businesses can save on renting or buying an office space, buying equipment for staff, and spending on utilities.

Remote work allows companies the choice of doing business in multiple countries from a flagship office. A company can open a location in one city, then open more locations around the world and still maintain contact and operative control without being there physically.

Although technology has brought many improvements into the businesses environment we have to be able to leverage technology to grow businesses into the future. One might ask how can we do this under the current COVID19 pandemic and what technology can help to grow my business beyond the pandemic and into the future. One such solution is the concept of Hybrid Work solution.

A hybrid Work solution allows some employees to work remotely while others work on-premises. Within this structure, you may have teams or departments split between working remotely and working in-house. Your marketing team may be off-site, for example, while your sales crew shows up at the office every morning.

A hybrid Work solution allows some employees to work remotely while others work on-premises. Within this structure, you may have teams or departments split between working remotely and working in-house. Your marketing team may be off-site, for example, while your sales crew shows up at the office every morning.

Considerations For The Zimbabwean Context

The list of things to sell is infinite – really up to your discretion. The pertinent feature now and beyond is that you must sell online. Thus you can open an online shop. The concept of an online shop is so broad because the approaches are several. An online shop can be as simple as a comprehensive WhatsApp Business catalogue. Then it can be as intricate as an ecommerce website. I recommend that you have a multi-platform approach. This can work for pre-existing businesses or brand new ones.

CONS

- Over 90% of the Zimbabwean workforce is in the informal sector
- General Digitally averse older workforce
- Unemployed youth with no exposure to current expectations of future work trends
- Infrastructure for the facilitation of a large scale seamless remote working process

PROS

- Internet Penetration rate of 59.9% and mobile penetration rate at 87.7%
- E-commerce upsurge and a reinvigorated sense of trust in these platforms
- Remote working and virtual platforms upsurge across many sectors
- Business model pivots by Executives with new and improved services such as home deliveries

Practical Points & Key Take Aways

• To keep the workflows moving, create a virtual office for employees. Invest in the best video conferencing and collaboration tools. Create a forum for employees to share personal as well as professional updates.
• Try to assign collaborative tasks weekly, encouraging team members to work together and stay connected
• Use remote working software to enable tracking of hours worked and ensure regular updates on deliverables
• Invest in the technology and support necessary and conducive to cover remote working - remember your IT department may possibly be working remotely too so ensure that they are equipped to handle tech related requests on a larger scale.
• Consider security settings emanating from the fact that workers are no longer on the secure company network and also which devices are permitted for company related business. An investment in actual hardware and in cloud based solutions maybe prudent
• Repurpose the workspace to ensure that both high proximity workers and those on full remote working have an equitable share in contributions to the company’s core business

So as an organisation focused on how to take advantage of hybrid work one also has to consider hardware needs of the employees working remote, network security and cloudbased solutions. How secure will the organisations data be as employees work from home from time to time? As organisations thrive on intellectual property a VPN is a good solution to address network security. The term virtual private network VPN describes any technology that can encapsulate and transmit network data, typically Internet Protocol data, over another network. One organisation that offers a good solution is Citrix Systems, Inc. An American multinational software company that provides server, application and desktop virtualization, networking, software as a service, and cloud computing technologies. Other local Zimbabwean providers include ZOL and Telone. This would address the issue of security. To address the other issues mentioned, an investment in actual hardware and cloudbased solutions may be prudent. So as to simplify what the probable requirements your organisation might need in terms of hardware and cloudbased solutions investment consider the following;
• Company issued laptops with chosen VPN client
• Video conferencing apps such as MS Teams, Google Hangouts
• Online office suites such as Trello, Microsoft Planner
• Cloud storage such SharePoint
These are some of the hardware and cloudbased solutions that can help an organisation successfully utilise hybrid work and integrate it into the day to day operations of any organisation. Flexibility is necessary to achieve a seamless remote working policy.

by Littchel Mathuthu & Vickie Ngono

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