From simple cash registers to cloud-based POS systems, here are seven examples of how business technology and its capabilities have transformed over the years.
You can’t talk business without talking about technology. Customer expectations are growing, and it’s becoming more noticeable that businesses falling behind the technological curve are at a severe disadvantage.
And as you might expect, the recent pandemic put even more pressure on businesses to become digital. In fact, according to a recent global survey of 899 executives, Mckinsey reports that COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by as much as seven years.
Most businesses are leveraging a few pieces of technology to enhance certain processes, but could businesses be doing more? Read on for examples of how common business technologies have transformed over the years to offer more capabilities than commonly known.
What is business technology?
First and foremost: the basics. Business technology refers to hardware, software, and any other form of technology that adds value to businesses and their customers. Business technology covers a wide range of technology types, including:
Back-office systems such as inventory management and accounting software
Communication technology such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and smartphones
Customer-facing technology such as POS systems
Storage technology such as hard drives and the cloud
And many more
The transformation of business technology over time
Business technology has obviously evolved throughout the years, but it didn’t start at the invention of the internet. No, business technology reaches as far back as the very first cash register. Here are seven examples of how business technology has evolved throughout the years.
1. Barcodes to inventory management software
When barcodes were first introduced, they were revolutionary—but expensive.
Today, they’re much more affordable. Inventory management software applications on smartphones and computers come with built-in barcodes, RFID scanners, and QR codes. In addition to this, inventory software has the capability to be integrated with other business technology, such as your point of sale system and accounting software for your convenience.
Sophisticated inventory management software also leverages AI to automate certain workflows such as automatic reordering and other supply-chain-related workflows. Modern inventory software also uses AI to help with demand forecasting and to predict more accurate arrival times for your customer’s satisfaction.
2. Cash registers to robust POS systems
Ways of processing transactions have come a long way. Not too long ago, the idea of touch screens on cash registers was unheard of. There was also no way to connect receipt printers and cash registers.
Businesses today have many options—POS systems are mobile, cloud-based, or online-based, to name a few. The right POS system can also integrate with other business technology such as your inventory management system, CRM system, accounting, and payroll software. You can easily connect your POS system to barcode scanners and receipt printers for added convenience, making a modern POS system a irreplaceable asset to any brick and mortar business.
These days, POS systems are also a great source of data for business intelligence and machine learning recommender systems. Although a lot of data comes with a lot of responsibility, POS systems today can leverage AI to minimize fraud and thefts—all while maximizing insight and ROI.
3. Landlines to VoIP
According to Statista, more than 90% of households in the USA had a landline in 2004. Now, it’s about 36%. Although it’s quite common for businesses to have landlines still, many businesses are starting to realize the value of a new alternative.
VoIP, a low-cost alternative to standard business phones, uses an internet connection for calls. Think of Whatsapp. It also offers far more capabilities than a traditional landline. For example, your business phone number goes wherever you go.
Additionally, due to its digital nature, VoIP can use emerging technologies such as AI. Natural language processing, a subset of AI, analyzes speech patterns and can detect the mood of callers, which can lead to more effective customer service and sales calls. The audio data can be sent to your machine learning system to refine your model.
4. Sensors to smart sensors
The internet of things (IoT) has increased the popularity of smart sensors. IoT refers to connecting traditionally isolated things to the internet, which enables the flow of data. Popular examples of items that can become “smart” include water sensors, thermostats, and lights.
The added benefits of smart sensors are that they can send data straight to the cloud and provide you with the ability to monitor all types of things in real-time. For example, in predictive asset maintenance, smart sensors allow you to notice when something is not working as efficiently as it usually does, something that is usually not obvious to the human eye.
5. Hard drives to cloud storage technology
The first hard disk drive could hold just under 5 MB, which is only about the size of two photos taken from an iPhone. Nowadays, you can store 5 GB for free online using Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage. That’s over 2,000 photos. Cloud storage also offers the possibility of unlimited storage for reasonable prices.
The size of the first hard drive was also massive. Now storage technology can take up virtually no room.
One notable achievement of cloud technology is that it has made AI and ML more accessible. AI requires high computing power, and before cloud technology, this was very expensive. Additionally, cloud storage makes collaboration and remote work more effortless.
6. Spreadsheets to accounting software
When people think of spreadsheets, they usually think of Excel, but the first spreadsheet software was named Visicalc, which stood for visible calculator. The interface resembled accounting paper.
Now, we have access to accounting software, which allows you to automate many processes, including bank reconciliation, invoicing, and journal entries. Many accounting software solutions also seamlessly integrate with payroll software, point of sale systems, inventory management systems, and more.
Accounting software minimizes the chance of human error, prepares your business for tax time, and saves businesses hours by automating tedious day-to-day tasks.
7. Cloud-based CRM softwares
Back in the day, businesses would keep the notes of prospects, customers, and vendors on the Rolodex (pictured above). To find a specific person, they’d rotate the Rolodex to find the right file. Although this process became digital, it was still inefficient and time-consuming.
Salesforce revolutionized CRM technology by introducing a cloud-based CRM and diving into artificial intelligence with Salesforce Einstein. After Salesforce, more affordable cloud-based CRMs have emerged.
CRMs today have the ability to consolidate data on each of your leads across social media platforms, email content, and much more. CRMs improve the efforts of sales and marketing with features such as lead scoring and predictive analytics, which enables your business to focus on leads who are most likely to convert.
The future of business technology
Emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, augmented reality, and blockchain will continue to play a massive role in business technology in the future. The technologies are still in their early stages, and they have already impacted the world of business, mainly in cybersecurity, data analytics, and workflow automation. The future of business technology is looking exciting.
Business technology trends to look out for
No one can say for certain which future technologies will leave the biggest impact, but there are some trends.
Technology keeps improving as customer expectations continue to grow. For example, we saw more capabilities added to POS systems as more people began to pay using their smartphones and as more businesses went online.
Additionally, it wasn’t until the adoption of technologies such as cloud computing that smaller businesses could afford to experiment with AI and ML. In the same way, thanks to big data from web 2.0, businesses have enough data to make powerful ML models. Without enough data, AI and ML wouldn’t be as powerful as it is today.
Wondering how machine learning uses data? Here’s one way data is used to train a machine learning model.