The idea that technological trends play a dominant role in shaping the business landscape in the U.S. and abroad is hardly new. In fact, in the nearly three decades since the rise of the internet as a global force for commerce and marketing, they have only become more and more central to the choices managers, investors, and entrepreneurs make.
Whether it’s where to invest in the next drive for new customers, how to optimize a company’s infrastructure to keep resources allocated in the most productive way possible, or gaining insights into employee recruitment and retention, the forward march of technological development has basically picked the winners in the market for at least the last decade, if not the last two. For both established companies and up and coming operations looking to enter the market as disruptors, understanding where tech is going and what new processes to adopt is central to competition.
Machine Learning, Resource Allocation, and Operational Efficiency
Many of 2020’s top tech trends for business revolve around finding new advantages in the resources you have, including human resources. A variety of new software tools and practices have emerged in the last five or six years to provide detailed data about everything from employee productivity to the return on investment new equipment brings. Enterprise resource planning tools, training and development platforms, and productivity measuring utilities all fall into this category, and these days it’s hardly controversial to use them to gain an edge over the competition. What’s new about the wave of upgrades and platforms rolling out this year is the way they make use of machine learning and AI resources to deliver results that are targeted to the specific operations that employ them.
What that means to you, as the person shaping the growth and development of a business, is that your tools can now look at the actual results you’re getting and draw conclusions, providing insights into everything from how to engage more employees in professional development resources to which marketing tools are providing the best return on your investment. Modeling is no longer just about grabbing data from the rest of the sector and analyzing it for trends that will increase your odds of success, it’s also about grabbing your own data and looking at what has been successful for you. These new tools are not only better able to provide detailed analytics than their predecessors, but they’re also prevalent in more fields than before. The question is not whether machine learning is a good investment, it’s about which systems will best benefit your business.
Legacy Infrastructure and the New Normal for Technology
One of the side-effects of pivoting to put resources into new technologies is always the choice of how to handle legacy systems. Fifteen years ago, it was about digitizing your records so your file archives could remain accessible without taking up the physical space they traditionally required. Five years ago, it was about how to integrate emerging cloud technology services with mainframe infrastructures and in-house IT departments with dedicated servers for corporate intranets and remote VPN connections. This year, with the widespread normalization of software as a service model and the rise of machine learning-powered analytics, it’s about pivoting away from those legacy systems to take better advantage of the full range of tools that next-generation technology can bring.
This is especially true of finance technology, where the speed of automated trend identification and action on it can provide the edge needed to out-compete larger players. That means companies looking to expand their market share need to be up to speed, quite literally. So the question becomes how to finance that pivot, especially for smaller operations that have recently adopted expansive growth as a mission.
Investment and Incubation as a Pivot Point
For both new companies and established small and medium-sized businesses with an eye toward an eventual IPO and global presence, finding the right investors to incubate the next stage of growth can be the game-changer. Not only do investors who specialize in incubating companies that promise to deliver innovation provide financial resources, but they are also a great resource for knowledge about setting up an efficient infrastructure and the policies that help reinforce it. Experienced investors like Mark Stevens have a broad range of knowledge gleaned from past successes in both venture capitalism and the management of large corporations. Many of them bring the experience of having served as officers or board members in blue-chip companies. Just remember these points if you are looking to find the right VC investor in 2020:
- Investors each have their own areas of specialization, so look at their past successes
- Some can provide help with the organization of future waves of investment
- Many manage investment funds or have other obligations that may limit their hands-on activity as investors
- There is a real possibility that you and your competition will court the same pool of investors
With these points in mind, VC involvement is often a game-changer for growing companies, and there are very few more reliable ways of arriving at an IPO if that is the eventual goal. As you assess your resources and the new technologies your company needs to invest in as it grows, it’s worth thinking about.
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