Staying ahead paradox, inconsistency

Staying ahead might mean going to extremes.

Staying ahead means accepting that business will never be the same

It seems illogicality that when you want a more comfortable business and lifestyle you are constantly facing change because of the need to be staying ahead. You must continually strive to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changes in the way business is being done today, or suffer the consequences.

Mind-blowing breakthroughs are too rare for you to depend on, so provide continuous improvement to existing processes. Be the inspiration for new processes, as a primary objective for staying ahead. Business process improvements rely on a steady stream of incremental enhancements.

A story described in Napoleon Hill`s book ‘Think and Grow Rich’, could be used on your path to achievement. The story will help you to develop a ‘burning desire’ to succeed.

“A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy’s country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, “You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice, we win or, we perish! They won.”

Staying ahead in the new global economy

A sure as night follows day, staying ahead will mean developing a better understanding of the global marketplace and the technologies involved. Never fear change, you should fear procrastination more. Ten years ago, rich countries dominated the world economy, accounting for two-thirds of global GDP. Since then, their share has fallen to just over half. In ten years, it could decline to a mere 40%, with emerging markets producing most global output.

The pace of this shift in economic power is unprecedented and raises as many questions as it does hopes. What will happen after globalisation and (often) good policies have enabled virtually all developing countries to catch up with their richer peers? And how will incumbent powers respond to the new players that economic convergence is bringing to the fore? Will their demands for a greater say in global economic governance, be met?

The path to productivity and growth is shaping the nature of today’s new global economy. But, its key drivers, innovation and trade, are under threat. Cash-rich but gun-shy Western companies are skimping on research and development. Emerging economies are rethinking their reliance on export-led growth. Rich and poor governments alike are tempted to intervene to shape the future.

Amongst all these major shifts we are seeing the emergence of the small and micro businesses like never before. They are the ones contributing most to jobs, economic growth and wealth creation. The big question for you is, “will you be staying ahead and getting your share”?

Staying ahead means being technology savvy

In the near future emerging technologies will be moving out of the strategy and planning stages into execution. Smaller businesses will be some of the many beneficiaries. Technology will ensure it will not be business as usual. There will be shake-ups in both technology applications and business management as technology takes on an increasingly more strategic role. Businesses, non-profits, communities, technology suppliers, consumers and investors are all struggling with questions about staying ahead.

Disruptive technologies abound. A disruptive technology can be defined as an innovation that will help to develop new value products, services, networks and markets. Disruptive technologies are creating new paradigms every day. The new technologies eventually disrupt the existing way business is done, as they displace earlier technologies. Disruptive technology will often force businesses to change the way they approach doing business. If they fail to adapt, they will likely risk becoming irrelevant or at best, lose market share.

Historically, there have been a variety of disruptive technologies that have changed the business world. The personal computer essentially displaced the typewriter, forever changing the way you communicate and work. The email also changed communication, largely displacing traditional letter-writing and causing problems with the greeting card industry. Additionally, smartphones have displaced numerous technologies with all of their available apps, including calculators, GPS devices, and MP3 players.

Technology moves fast so don’t  get left behind

More than this, changes in technology have opened up huge opportunities for people who are alert to them. They will continue to do so in the future. If you keep your technology skills up to date and relevant, you can take full advantage of the opportunities that change brings. This will help you on your quest of staying ahead. What major changes in technology do you see? How will they impact your business? Could it support and give you an edge in your marketplace? What technologies would you like to excel with?

Businesses of all types and sizes are still grappling with ageing technology systems because they don’t have an updating procedure. Systems that are costly to maintain and too inflexible to support new business initiatives should be replaced as quickly as possible. A growing number of businesses are currently moving into re-hosting their legacy systems. Moving applications from one technical environment to another with little or no change to code.

Contrary to what most technology suppliers tell their clients, there’s no one ‘package’ solution for modernising your current technologies. Unfortunately all too often suppliers are part of the problem. They are selling you on a new system while often lacking the expertise or support you want and need. This causes the problems and frustrations you have with technology to continue.

Technology is continuing to advance, and more innovative solutions are hitting the market. If current businesses don’t adapt, they could be at risk of becoming the next type of business to be phased out. By identifying some of the disruptive technologies, you can create a plan to adapt and stay ahead. Technology can provide you with one of the quickest shortcuts to future success.

The Cloud could determine whether you stay ahead

More and more businesses migrate their applications into the cloud. Most are still going through an extremely busy time implementing cloud computing. The initial fears you all had, have largely been dissipated and the cloud has increasingly become the norm. This is particularly so for small medium enterprises (SMEs). The importance of finding trusted partners will grow stronger, whether it is a managed public or, private cloud. Automating business operations, keep tabs on the key applications as they become available.

Whether you like it or not, cloud computing is changing every enterprise, from micros to corporations. It is a smarter more intelligent way to create velocity that will propel enterprises into the future.  The cloud helps to determine the right customers, partners and employees to connect with and why. Something that was either unavailable or too expensive before.

The cloud technology has become increasingly popular in recent years and these advancements are only expected to grow. It provides centralised computing services that can be accessed by a variety of users who can be anywhere at anytime.

Cloud computing is changing the way you  do business in a variety of ways

  • Better and cheaper applications. Applications that were too expensive for SMEs, are now focusing on practical delivery of services, and ease of use.
  • Easier updates. Cloud service providers will handle all of the maintenance aspects regarding cloud computing. You no longer need to worry about staying on top of system updates.
  • Improved mobility. The cloud is available everywhere on the computing platform, giving the business world improved mobility. If employees want to share documents with colleagues around the world or simply want to work from home, the cloud makes it possible.
  • Phone systems. The cloud allows employees to receive their calls through a cloud-based phone system from anywhere they have an internet connection and at far cheaper rates.
  • Improved storage security. The cloud is one of the safest ways to store data. Since your information will be stored in the cloud and not your actual device, business data is always accessible and secure. Old backup problems have been eliminated.
  • Better customer experience.- New and better customer experience applications are becoming available. Applications that were previously unaffordable by small enterprises.
  • Monetising of information and knowledge. New applications are making it easier to access ‘big data, build knowledge bases and monetize your information and knowledge. Content marketing is fast becoming a key marketing initiative for smaller enterprises.
  • Business analytics. An important new initiative being made available throughout the cloud. Cloud level business processes and business analytics will bring new understanding, visibility and value to enterprises.
  • Better money handling systems. There is now a much wider range of secure applications for the collection and distribution of money.

3D Printing could change your product development

3D printing is a process of making solid, three-dimensional objects out of a digital file. The creation of these printed objects can be achieved using additive processes, and it is changing many aspects of our society. Businesses will need to adapt their strategies to better fit the needs of their customers as 3D printing becomes more advanced.

These printers could change the way businesses make almost anything. Even allowing customers to make product components themselves. So for this reason, more thought needs to go into marketing strategies. Think of new ways to make your products stand out.

In the last couple of years, the term 3D printing has become better known as the technology has reached a broader public. Still, most people haven’t even heard of the term while the technology has been in use for decades. Larger manufacturers have long used these printers in their design process to create prototypes for traditional manufacturing and research purposes. The technology has become much less expensive, more reliable and more suitable for small businesses.

Robotics is a key to automation 

Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. It deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, including systems for their control, sensory feedback. As a small business grows, it is becoming critical that they invest in automation, which is where robotics comes into play.

These technologies deal with automated machines (robots for short). They can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes. They can resemble humans in appearance, behaviour and/or cognition. Many of today’s robots are inspired by nature, contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics. Some people are inspired by sport and have created competing football teams.

The concept of creating machines that can operate autonomously is not new. Research into the functionality and potential uses of robots did not grow substantially until recent times. Throughout history, it has been frequently assumed that robots will one day be able to mimic human behaviour. They will manage tasks in a human-like fashion.

Robotics is a rapidly growing field, as technological advances continue. Researching, designing, and building new robots to serve various practical purposes, whether domestically, commercially, health or military. Many robots are built to do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs, finding survivors in unstable ruins and exploring mines and shipwrecks.

Small and micro businesses can be involved

Smaller businesses are taking up the challenges as robotics become cheaper and more sophisticated and because of their benefits.  Robotics is also used in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as a teaching aid. Many people have written off robotic technology as too expensive for use in smaller businesses. But a new wave of relatively inexpensive robots is gradually proving that assumption wrong. Perhaps now is the time for you to take a second look at robotics so you don’t get left behind.

The real advantage to robots for smaller businesses  is their ability to perform a variety of tasks. As opposed to the large, industrial robots used by assembly lines to do the same thing repeatedly. Collaborative robots can also roam free on factory floors, rather than being bolted to a single location. They have safety sensors that prevent them from running into humans and other objects. This can be clearly demonstrated with the robotic vacuum cleaner used for domestic purposes.

Big Data could be important to your very survival

Big Data is a term for data that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate. I call it the ‘flooded river’ of data, information and knowledge flowing past my business. Challenges include searching, data capture, analytics, curation, sharing, storage, updating and privacy. The term often refers simply to the use of predictive analysis or certain other advanced methods to extract value from data. Accuracy in big data may lead to more confident decision making. Better decisions result in greater operational efficiency, cost reduction and reduced risk.

Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data, both structured and unstructured, that can flood a business on a daily basis. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what you do with the data that matters. Big data can be analysed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves. This could mean life or death for the business.

With Big Data you are seeing another great new innovation wave. A wave that can now reach and be adapted to SMEs. It has the power to transform your business. Big Data will be the chief competitive advantage for many businesses because they will stay ahead in the marketplace. This is particularly so when you couple big data with the megatrends of social media. Content marketing and mobile cloud computing are also creating completely new business models.

Smaller businesses are becoming involved

You are now seeing more businesses accepting that data, in all forms and sizes, is critical because it aids the best possible decision-making. You will continue to see new applications and systems that support non-relational or unstructured forms of data, as well as massive data volumes. This will enable business users, along with data analysis, to fully realise and unlock the value in big data.

You  live in a world increasingly driven by data. How you define your data strategy, including your choice of tools and cloud technologies, will make a big difference to your ability to compete.  What is considered “big data” varies depending on the capabilities of the users and the tools they use. Expanding capabilities make big data a moving target. For some organisations, facing big data for the first time may trigger a need to reconsider your whole approach to business.

Key aspects of big data

While the term “big data” is relatively new, the act of gathering and storing large amounts of information for analysis is not. The concept gained momentum in the early 2000s. This was when analyst Doug Laney articulated the now-mainstream definition of big data as the three Vs. Others have since added to them.

Volume. Data is gathered from a variety of sources, including transactions, social media and from sensor or machine-to-machine data. In the past, storing it would have been a problem but, new technologies have eased the burden.

Velocity. Data streams in at an unprecedented speed and must be dealt with in a timely manner. RFID tags (radio frequency identification) , sensors and smart metering are driving the need to deal with torrents of data in near-real time.

Variety. Data comes in all types of formats. From structured, numeric data in traditional databases to unstructured text documents, email, video, audio, stock ticker data and financial transactions.

Variability. In addition to the increasing velocities and varieties of data, data flows can be highly inconsistent with periodic peaks. Is something trending in social media? Daily, seasonal and event-triggered peak data loads can be challenging to manage. Even more so with unstructured data.

Complexity. Data comes from multiple sources, which makes it difficult to link, match, cleanse and transform data across systems. However, it’s necessary to connect and correlate relationships, hierarchies and multiple data linkages because your data can quickly spiral out of control.

Analytics and metrics

Analysis of data can find new correlations to spot business trends and improve decision making. Even very small businesses can derive important information to improve personal and business performance. Staying ahead today means making use of technology to deliver and analyse data.

Analytics is the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data. This is especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information. Analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programs and operational research  to quantify performance. It often favours data visualisation to communicate insight.

Analytics and metrics can cover many aspects of a business

Businesses apply analytics to business data to describe, predict, and improve business performance. Specific areas within analytics might include predictive analysis,  prescriptive analysis, enterprise decision management and be concerned with:

  • Market analysis.
  • Sales analytics.
  • Customer analysis.
  • Inventory analysis.
  • Financial analysis.
  • Marketing analysis.
  • Operational analysis.
  • Human resources analysis.
  • Production analysis.
  • Product and pricing analysis.
  • Customer service analysis.
  • Risk analysis.
  • Management analysis.
  • Website and social media analysis.
  • Technology analysis.

Many of the software companies offer analysis tools, some are for free, e.g. Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics.

A Business Metric is a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of specific business processes. Business metrics should be employed to address key audiences surrounding a business, such as investors, customers, management and different types of employees. Every area of business has specific performance metrics that should be monitored.

Marketers track marketing and social media metrics, such as campaign and program statistics. Sales teams monitor sales performance metrics such as new opportunities and leads, and executives look at big picture financial metrics. To be effective, business metrics should be compared to established benchmarks or business objectives because this provides valuable context for the values used in the metric. It also allows users to better act on the information they are viewing.

Context allows business metrics to make an impact because this is where the line between Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)  and performance metrics becomes blurry. The difference between the two ultimately comes down this, business metrics are used to track all areas of business and KPIs target critical areas of performance.

Staying ahead means adopting new marketing methods

Market presence

If you don’t have a market presence it will be hard for potential customers to find you. Bricks and mortar have been largely been replaced by websites. This means you should have a very professional website. Branding is more important today than ever due to ever-increasing advertising clutter, media fragmentation, product commoditization, and the seemingly limitless choices available through social media and other technologies.

Successful branding builds strategic awareness so it is critical to you staying ahead. You want people to not only recognise your brand but understand its distinctive qualities that make it better than the competition.

Social media

To some businesses, social media marketing is the “next big thing,” when they look at staying ahead. Some see it as a temporary yet powerful fad that must be taken advantage of while it’s still in the spotlight. To others, it’s a buzzword with no practical advantages and because it has a steep, complicated learning curve.

Social media has developed a reputation by some for being a passing marketing interest and therefore, an unprofitable one. The statistics, however, illustrate a different picture. Every opportunity you have to increase your visibility is valuable for staying ahead. Your social media networks are just new channels for your brand’s voice and content.

This is important because it simultaneously makes you easier and more accessible for new customers, and makes you more familiar and recognisable for existing customers. You should take advantage of the tools social media provides when it comes to connecting with their audience, meeting their wants and needs and staying ahead.

Content-marketing

By now, you’ve heard about content marketing. But, if you haven’t invested in it yet, it might be because you’re sceptical of the long-term benefits. You are reluctant to invest in what might turn out to be a fad. You might be intimidated by your perceived complexity of the strategy and you lack writing skills. Or you might have held off because you’re busy with other marketing strategies.

Know that content marketing is one of the most practical, effective, and useful marketing strategies you can deploy in staying ahead. With more time spent on content marketing, you’ll have more content on your website and in your social media. Managing your content can also lead you to unexpected breakthroughs because it means your customers will have more reasons to stick around.

There will also be more opportunities for customers to become familiar with your brand. Generate more trust, which will lead to higher conversion rates. With great content, your users will stay on your site longer and that leads to more sales and staying ahead.

Other ways content marketing can help you with staying ahead

  • Higher visibility in search engines because they can dramatically increase new business opportunities.
  • High-quality content because it will increase your perceived expertise, authority, relevance and trust of your website and social media.
  • More referral traffic as people shares your content.
  • Increased conversion potential as potential customers get to know you and trust you.
  • Improved brand reputation. As people read your material, they’ll be building an impression of what your brand stands for.
  • Sharing content with your customers so you develop a more personal relationship.
  • Decreased marketing costs because content marketing offers compounding returns.

Content marketing is inexpensive, safe, available for anyone in any industry and beneficial in many different ways. The sooner you start investing in it, the sooner you’ll start to see results, and the easier it will be staying ahead. Whether you’re in it for the increased traffic, higher conversion rates, or just better relationships with your customers, content marketing should be important.

Looking for the next big breakthrough for staying ahead

Imagine for a moment how you would have felt when the ‘horseless carriage’ was introduced. How does it work? There are no roads and you will get wet when it rains. The negative and sceptic people had a field day. However, many people were concerned with staying ahead. They took a positive approach and so went on to make their fortunes.

Sceptice come with innovation

“A new source of power called gasoline has been produced by a Boston engineer. Instead of burning the fuel under a boiler, it is exploded inside the cylinder of an engine. The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank.

“Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming. The cost of producing gasoline is far beyond the financial capacity of the private industry. In addition, the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture.”

Horseless Carriage Committee, U. S. Congressional Record, c. 1875.

There are many untapped ideas that could propel your business

The chances are that within your business there are untapped ideas and opportunities that could see you staying ahead in your chosen industry. Far too many people think, that because it’s their idea it can’t be any good, so it never sees the light of day.

The basic idea doesn’t have to be yours. You can build on someone else’s idea or opportunity. By way of example, look at the millions of businesses that have been created and live off the Internet. Look at the millions of people who use the Microsoft operating system to drive their technology ideas. Look at how many businesses across the world making car parts for the big car companies. The following photograph about Graphene also has the potential to generate many thousands of new businesses.

Look for the next big breakthrough

If Graphene, is the next big breakthrough, how will your business benefit? Watch this video for ideas.  https://goo.gl/0wX096 .

 

Evaluate your strengths

You’ll be happiest and most successful in situations where you can fully use your skills. To move into these, you need to understand and make the best use of your strengths. A personal SWOT Analysis is useful to carefully analyse your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It will help you to uncover strengths and the opportunities that can be actioned by you.

To understand where you shine, ask yourself these questions. What do you do well? What do other people see as your strengths? And what resources, talents, skills, experience or qualifications can you draw on? Ask yourself “which of your achievements am I proudest of” because past achievements can help you to stay ahead. So don’t be backwards is stepping forward because you need to be one jump ahead of your competitors.

There is countless ways technology might develop over the coming years. This makes it important to recognise new developments as you strive to be staying ahead and where developments will lead in the future. It will be education that many will look to in dealing with the changes. Why not start today by listing the top 10 opportunities you can see and start working on them? Make it a dynamic list by taking one opportunity off if you come across a better one.

Start by trying to manage change better than your competitors

The old adage “the only constant in life is change”, has rarely been applied to staying ahead.  Many businesses, non-profits and communities are still too slow to recognise the need to prepare for the demands they will face because there are too few advisors and suppliers pushing them.

Technology will continually change how you live and work because it will push the boundaries of what will be possible. It will also increase the rate and pace of innovation in every industry so you will want to be at the forefront in order to survive and thrive.

Quotable quotes

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. Mark Twain

“When you get just a complete sense of blackness or void ahead of you. That somehow the future looks an impossible place to be. And the direction you are going seems to have no purpose, there is this word despair which is an awful thing to feel”. Stephen Fry

 

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