news / tech talk

Impact of Technology on Existing Business...

by Lee LeClair
As seen in Inside Tucson Business

I recently saw a comedian on late night television and his bit was about the changes in technology he has seen in his lifetime. Think about that and then consider the impacts. In my life, I have seen a progression from corded, rotary dial telephones to phones that surpass Star Trek communicators: voicemail, email, calendaring, text messaging, music player, camera, and video recorder/players. The rise and ease of credit card use has changed our lives (though not always for the better). Advances in medicine can detect and treat many issues that would have killed us twenty or thirty years ago. Cars are comfortable, quiet and reliable compared to those during my high school years. The Internet provides a huge communication system that makes looking up information on almost anything (and anyone) pretty easy. It's difficult to imagine how we used to do it. Now, you can talk to and see someone in China on Skype for no cost but the infrastructure (e.g., a laptop and Internet connection). You can share documents or pictures in seconds with anyone similarly equipped. Twenty-five years ago, a computer cost about $3000 - now I can go to Target and get a miracle of miniaturization for about $350.

For most of us, the general impact has been improvement in our lives in terms of efficiency and convenience. However, these technical advances have other consequences - they change entire industries. At the turn of the previous century, a viable business was selling and delivering ice in blocks; the advent of the refrigerator eliminated that entire industry. Most mature companies do not survive such upheavals, they try too hard to improve the efficiency of their old ways instead of innovating with true game changers technologies.

News delivery is another industry that is seeing a big change. Television frightened the newspaper industry at one time but they soon learned that it was serial and could not compete in terms of the volume of content and detail they produced. The Internet has changed the game. Traditional newspaper models are dying as they cannot charge their cover price and advertising fees. Online "advertising-only" revenue is not proving sufficient. Stalwarts such as the NY Times and others have been watching their revenues degrade year after year.

I do not know how things will shake out for the music and newspaper industries but I am certain technology will continue to drive change for more industries and businesses. In the early 1800s, the English handweavers known as the Luddites tried to stifle technology (mechanized looms) to save their old way of life but could not stem the tide. I recommend occasionally taking time from the day to day operations of your business and look ahead to what's coming with technology and your industry. There might be new opportunities or there might be warning signs. Stay flexible and always try to innovate.

Lee Le Clair is the CTO at Ephibian. His Tech Talk column appears the third week of each month in Inside Tucson Business