The tech world is always abuzz with hot new technologies and the possibilities they bring.
Whether you are an avid tech watcher or a casual observer, you’ve probably heard the hype about some of the latest offerings like:
* Artificial Intelligence
* Machine Learning
* Internet of Things
* Industry 4.0
* Drone Delivery
* And on and on
We’ve worked in many of these technologies here at Worthwhile, and the hype is real. If they’re implemented wisely, they could add tremendous value to your company and enthrall your customers.
(You know that with hype, there’s always a but.)
But is your business ready to profit from these hype-worthy technologies?
In fact, probably not.
That begs a question: What does your business need to do before it can use a hot new technology?
Good news: We have an answer.
Actually, John F. Kennedy has an answer.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave one of the most famous speeches of his presidency. Before a joint session of Congress, the president said that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
It was an audacious claim. The United States had put lts first man in space just 20 days earlier, when Alan Shepherd blasted off from Florida.But in the end, President Kennedy was right. Neil Armstrong took one small step for man on July 20, 1969, just as President Kennedy had predicted.
Putting a man on the moon was the hype. But before NASA could do it, it had to catch up to the and then pass the Russian space program. The USSR had been the first to put a satellite in space, and had beaten the U.S. in putting a man in space by a month.
Before bringing the hype of the moonshot to life, the US had to catch the Russians.
This is the lesson for your business. Before you can bring the tech hype to life, you have to catch up to the present day.
Herein lies a problem for many businesses. They aren’t prepared to do something new because they’re not set up to do what’s now.
* Maybe it’s because the business is still using an ERP from the 1980s.
* Maybe it’s because data is hopelessly siloed.
* Maybe it’s because users are reticent to learn a new system.
* Maybe it’s because the hosting or IT infrastructure isn’t set up to change.
Whatever the reason, your business is stuck in a time warp. And before you can embrace the future, you need to escape the past.
So how do you do it?
TWO VITAL STEPS FOR PREPARING FOR NEW TECHNOLOGY
1. Data Confidence
Two things have prompted the move toward initiatives in artificial intelligence and machine learning:
* Increased computing power at cheaper prices
* The exponential growth of data itself
Because companies now are collecting more data—whether through new tools like connected devices or old standbys like inventory management systems—they naturally want to leverage the data for better analysis and better decision making.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are major tools for doing this. But for them to work, they need solid data inputs.
Therein lies the problem.
Many of the data sources do not record data in the most helpful ways. Here’s an example: We are currently working with two different companies that need to redo the way they collect and parse, so that it’s not all stuck in large comment fields. These companies need to do this before they can unlock the power of machine learning systems.
Even if the data is in good shape, it still might not be useful if it is stored in different silos. (More on this in a moment.) If this isn’t the case, then the data has to be merged somewhere—and that means you can have duplicate data, or different versions of data if it is changed in one place but not the other. That makes the data unreliable.
A necessary prerequisite for most of the innovative new technologies is solid, reliable data that is in a useable form. If that’s not the case, a machine will have little or nothing to actually learn from, and so the results of an innovative project will be disappointing.
Likewise, an Industry 4.0 project that collects new data in amazing new ways is of little use if the data you collect cannot be matched to the data existing in your system. Your business needs to get the old data in a useable form in order to make the most of the robust new data.
We mentioned silos earlier, but they are part of the second major prerequisite—interconnectivity. You need your systems and web apps to work together so that data stays updated, inventory remains current, and your employees can keep working without interruption.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds—in part because so many businesses have older systems from these 1980s. These ancient ERPs are like problem children because they don’t play well with others.
But even if you don’t have read/write API connections between all of your systems, you can still connect them through an enterprise service bus. Basically, a service bus handles all the communication between systems, so that you’re not relying on the actual systems to talk to each other. This allows each piece of your tech stack to only do what it is made to do, making things more stable on the whole.
Service bus or not, you will need some way to ensure your systems talk to each other—to keep your data clean and also to eliminate duplicate work or effort.
Your goal to adopt the technology of the future doesn’t start in the future. It starts in the here and now, as you catch up to where technology is currently. Then and only then are you ready to innovate and add the next big things to your company’s portfolio.
So catch the Russians.
And then take your shot at the moon.