Is technology just another expense? Most businesses probably see it like labour and equipment, something that they only grudgingly spend money on. That perspective of technology as a costly investment, one that is only done out of necessity, is common but it is also wrong. Technology is the only real driver of productivity available.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
– Arthur C. Clarke
If that last statement seems like hyperbole, you need to consider some basic economic history. The application of new technology to change patterns of business was, and still is, the only way our whole world has achieved exponential GDP growth almost every year for the past 200 years. This tends to be forgotten in day-to-day of business operations, where the focus is on making pecuniary gains through pecuniary means.
Do you want some real world examples of technology causing growth? Let’s talk about the transportation industry and route optimization. Imagine you had a fleet of 20 minivans carrying low-mobility patients between hospitals. You have some dispatchers controlling your fleet and things are running smoothly. Over time you develop a process where you know you can serve all your customers with those 20 minivans If you wanted to serve more you would have to purchase more vehicles and hire more drivers. Growing this way is a hassle, you increase the size and complexity of your operations and it costs a lot of money.
What if you could grow by doing less less work? There is technology (Shameless plug: we make it) out there that enables this. The information age is a wonderful time to be in the transportation industry. With GPS, maps, mobile technology and all those other buzzwords, you can now gather all variables that are relevant to your service, run them through an algorithm and it will spit out a perfect solution, every time. What just happened? You got optimized; another buzzword, but also a cold hard fact. Instead of needing 20 vehicles to serve your customer base you might need 15. When your run with good technology, instead of relying on fallible and expensive humans, you rely on math.
The basic power of technology, whether it is a machine or software, is its ability to remove inconsistency and human guesswork from a process. And here is the real kicker. It is not just about pushing down margins and saving some money on labour or operations. When applied with vision, technology will change the scale of operations not just efficiency. Think back to our minivan example. Let’s say you double the size of your fleet, do you have to double your software? Of course not, there is no meaningful limit to the number of vehicles that software can manage. Technology is not just a means of marginally increasing revenue it is a gateway to the next level of revenue. This application has been the secret of growth from the industrial revolution all the way to Google and Uber. Get the right tool and then let it do the work for you.