Doing Business In the Age of Information Technology

As a former employee of a business consultancy firm for the past 8 years, it has always intrigued me as to why some small businesses or practices were more ‘successful’ than others. By ‘successful’ I am referring to a business that has survived its first year of establishment and turned it into a profit-making business the years after. My mentor once told me that in order for a business to survive profitability, it must continue to create value.

Creating Value Through Strategies

In today’s competitive business environment, the only way for your business to prosper is to create value through strategies. You have to prioritize your business strategies depending on the type of industries you are in. Nevertheless, there are some strategies which are generally applicable to a wide range of businesses, namely:

(1) Segment Your Market

(2) Create a Unique Product

(3) Sales and Marketing

(4) Evaluation and Feedback

(5) Selective Outsourcing

(6) Develop Hybrid Skills

(7) Building Partnerships and

(8) Exploit Information Technology.

As the nature of my business is to provide e-business solutions for small- and medium-size businesses, I’d limit my writings to my area of interest i.e. e-business and its significance in today’s marketplace.

Exploit Information Technology

One the best ways to leverage your time and resources is to let information technology do the work for you! The great benefit of today’s information technology, particularly Internet, is that it allows easy access to information and knowledge just a click away regardless whether you are running a small business or managing a corporation. Internet helps us to level the playing field.

How many times have we heard someone say, “Just check the Web.” Many of us have begun using Internet to conduct our day-to-day chores as compared to 10 years ago when Internet is still in its infancy stage. We now use Internet to buy cars, upgrade software, track shipments, store data, compare prices, conduct research and much more. This trend is growing at an immense pace and will continue through the next decade. Our reliance on its capabilities will increase. Many experts believe that this sector is projected to be one of the top strategies to jump-start and grow a business in the coming decade. Even Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Inc. has eloquently put it, “If your business is not on the web today, you won’t be in business….

Beyond the Brick-and-Mortar Business

Brick-and-Mortar business can simply refer to a business with a physical presence – which offers “human-touch” experiences i.e., a consumer could feel and touch the merchandise before purchasing. This model of business is no longer viable in today’s world. But before you jump into the deep end of e-business change and began shifting the model of your business towards Click-and-Order, you should bare in mind that doing business online alone, is not going to bring any significance results.

Take the example of Napster and iTunes. Both companies offer similar services by selling music online. While Napster is an online only business, iTunes on the other hand, is associated with the Apple brand image. iTunes is more successful than Napster because the business can be seen beyond the monitor. Though both market an invisible product, music in this case, the business with a physical presence has an advantage.

Here’s a formula for the digital age: (brick-and-mortar) + (click-and-order) = click-and-brick

It’s no doubt that the next trend of business model is towards the click-and-brick pattern, a combination of online/offline business model incorporating both physical and online business practices. If your business were to survive the first year of its establishment, perhaps it’s about time to take a paradigm shift and take a leap ahead of your competitors.