Bridging The Technology Gap

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Bridging The Technology Gap

How to Empower Human Capital in the Digital Age

by Byron Whetstone, President and CEO, American Direct

Digital technology has transformed nearly every aspect of our daily lives — in large part due to the influence of companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Alibaba (GAAFA).

As a result, most of us carry in our pockets powerful miniature computers, and for better or worse, we check these devices every five minutes.

From these devices, we receive customized instant notifications on changing weather, game scores, and breaking news. We answer emails in line at the grocery store, or we skip the grocery store completely and order for delivery straight from the touchscreen on our “intelligent refrigerator.” We might even take out our iPhone and share on Facebook how great it is to live in a world where you can order groceries from the refrigerator, at which point we will start seeing Google ads for Amazon’s new grocery delivery service.

This is not Orwellian fiction; it is reality. The “GAAFA mafia” already controls most of the technology that controls much of our lives, and that consolidation is only increasing. This is leading us toward a world that looks a lot like the business monopolies of the early 1900s, where men like John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie controlled the vast majority of power and wealth in this country.

The new digital oligopoly is driven by technology, and it’s making many companies susceptible to “Digital Darwinism,” a time when technology and its effect on society are evolving faster than organizations can adapt.

In other words, we must adapt or die.

A favorite new definition of work I have seen explains the state of things simply, “Work is that brief period during the day where I have to use old technology.” This might explain why, according to a recent study, only 29% of U.S. employees are fully engaged at work, and only half of them find meaning and fulfillment in their roles.

In many ways, technology makes our lives easier and more efficient, but it also creates a challenging dichotomy where many of us are trying to live online and offline at the same time. Because of companies like Amazon, we have all come to expect a customer experience that seamlessly bridges our tangible, “real world” needs with the online technology that allows us to meet these needs with just the swipe of a finger.

Our clients and employees are no different, yet many in the contract hardware space refuse the recognition we are living in a world that is changing at mind-numbing speed, even as we see product innovation at the door rapidly accelerating. Sadly, companies that do not adapt (quickly and continually) to this rapidly evolving reality will not survive, though it’s not as simple as just embracing the latest and greatest digital technology.

Technology alone cannot meet the tangible, on-the-ground requirements of our work. Humans are still required to bring a building and its door openings to life, and that won’t change anytime soon. Our challenge, and opportunity, is in figuring out how to make technology and human capital fully interoperable. This means more fully engaging the human capital already at work in our businesses, empowering them with the technology to make them more effective, efficient, and fulfilled in their work and service to our clients.

We cannot future-proof our business, and we cannot hold on forever to the way things have always been done. While this reality should be sobering for some, for those of us willing to embrace innovative new ways of doing business, it can open the door to a bright future.