Business trends that don’t include blockchain

In one of my previous blogs I wrote about digital transformation, so I’ve decided to expand on that topic, given how much has changed in the business world in the last couple of decades. Globalization made the world a much smaller place. By opening up and interconnecting the market, every company was given a chance to leave their mark on it. However, it is no longer enough to offer a good product that will grant a stellar success. In a fast-paced and ever-changing market, companies must be ready to work on their business standards, pay close attention to changes, learn and quickly adapt to set requirements. At the same time, they must build and maintain relationships with suppliers, partners and customers – connect with them on various channels and continuously work on user experience. Given how hastily the business landscape changes, this list will probably be much different in a couple of years/months/days, but for the time being – I opted for 4, especially “loud” trends.
 
 
How the Internet of Things strengthened the bond between people and technology
 
Even if you feel that the progress in the field of artificial intelligence signifies the demise of the human race, it is hard to diminish the role that technology had in making everyday life easier. Time, when our smartphones weren’t like an extension of our arms, seems far gone. From devices like phones, watches, jewelry or spectacles, whose intelligence became somewhat mundane, we came to an era where almost any device can attain a doctoral degree – glasses, fridges, ovens, lights, sockets, cars… But it was their linking that prompted the real revolution of smart technology that collects information, analyzes them and takes action accordingly. Yes, I am talking about Internet of Things; and since I don’t want to get lost in a bunch of technical details, I will use an example of a smart office to explain various opportunities this trend brings.
Responsive technology transforms such an office into a connected ecosystem that adapts to present conditions and persons’ needs. Imagine working in an office that sets optimal indoor temperature by itself, sitting at a smart desk that reminds you of a meeting or lets you know it is time for a quick walk, automatic adjustment of lighting in conference rooms for presentation purposes or sensors that notify about energy consumption by tracking the use of office spaces. In case it all still sounds like sci-fi, feel free to check out this Microsoft video on smart buildings:
 

 
 
Why complicate if you can automate?
 
Automation of business processes greatly simplified strenuous, redundant tasks that took up all of our time. It is applied to organizational and repetitive duties, in order to increase speed, ensure efficiency and accuracy of the process, as well as to enable employees to focus on more important and productive tasks. In the abundance of useful solutions and tools offered today, companies have to decide which requirements they want to meet – facilitate communication among teams, allocate assignments better, improve progress tracking, reduce the likelihood of human error or something else. And it is crystal clear that everyone wants to save time and reduce costs. Automation is nowadays visible in all business aspects – from marketing and HR, through communication, finance and operative, to one of the least favorite tasks – invoice processing and billing.
 
There are many interesting tools today but I would like to mention IFTTT (easier to remember in its full name – if this then that), that creates communication between all the apps and devices you are using. Automation is achieved through applets that link applications and establish a cause-effect relationship. For example, if you want to ensure that you don’t forget an important meeting, you can link your Google calendar with a reminder in a form of SMS, or connect e-mail with Dropbox so that every sent attachment is saved to your Dropbox account. Check the simplicity of creating your own applet in the video below:
 

 
 
Everything As a Service – shifting solutions for businesses that never stop moving
 
Era of cloud solutions came as a proof of the claim that leading technology does not necessarily have to be the most expensive one. It has enabled access to fast and modern technology at affordable prices. Why did those “as a service” solutions become so popular in today’s business? It is quite simple – they are easy to implement and are adaptable to company’s needs, without a permanent commitment to the service. Whereas implementing and maintaining in-house solutions always poses a certain risk, “as a service” solutions allow choosing an option that suits your business and one that can be changed according to your requirements. Depending on the chosen service, you pay a monthly subscription, without the fear of chosen technology going obsolete.
 
An interesting example is surely the one of Amazon, a “store” that apart from selling just about everything, recognized the potential of cloud-based services early-on. They started Amazon Web Services (AWS) ten years ago and in the beginning, it was a service used only by startups that needed a cheap solution. Despite Internet giants such as Microsoft, Oracle, Google and IBM, AWS is the largest provider of cloud solutions today and their services are used by companies like Netflix and General Electric.
 
 
Custom-made business
 
Globalization and digitalization emphasized the importance of human factor. By breaking down the business boundaries, steady pillars of hierarchical job division loosened up. In the modern working environment, there is a noticeable shift towards a more adaptive workflow model where people work in teams or network of teams that collaborate and exchange information. A large number of jobs can be performed from any location at any time. This change enabled a more flexible working setting where 9 to 5 is no longer an imperative.
 
It is clear that customers are no longer just the anonymous users of your services. Their needs, expectations and opinions are important to an extent that their dissatisfaction in the form of an unfavorable criticism can cause great damage to your business. But the first step towards success must be understanding that comes from within the company. New solutions, no matter how innovative, must clearly convey the value they generate. It is unrealistic to expect that your clients embrace a service or a product that the employees themselves don’t understand. Start from the beginning – make sure that your employees know the unambiguous answer to the “why” question, so that they can clearly pass it on to potential customers.
 
The same goes for digital changes in the office. People don’t like using new technologies and adapt to new ways of processing if they don’t understand their benefits. If you grasped the importance of change and prepared for it structurally and procedurally, don’t omit from that equation two-way communication, investment in employee training and building up corporate culture. A culture that understands the value of its employees, enables them in realizing their potential and recognizes the importance of reasonable balance between business and private life.
 
 
It may seem like these changes have nothing to do with your business, but keep in mind the instructive story of Kodak, leader in film photography that failed to perceive the potency of the shift towards digital. The challenges they encountered were not unique, the only significance was their inability to understand that the world around them is transforming and that change waits for no one. So don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, pay close attention to the market’s heartbeats and you will clearly hear that the time is up for corporate inertia.
 
P.S. Surely you must have noticed that there is no blockchain in this list, although many things could be written about it. But since I learned that everything that contains the word blockchain in its name experiences a value growth (as you can see in this clip from the show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver):
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D70g122myWo
 
 
I thought I should use the phenomenon to increase the value of this blog. 🙂
 
Nino Strajher, director, Omnizon Networks
 
If you are interested in the topics of electronic data interchange, new technologies and optimization solutions, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or subscribe to our blog.

Just In Time – the Biggest Untapped Potential in Production

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Will Durant)

 

Have you ever thought about how someone rose up to become one of the industry’s greats? We are not talking about those who had a stroke of luck (although, that’s not a bad thing), but those revolutionaries whose ideas, knowledge, skills and hard work shaped and directed the future of doing business. It’s enough to go back in time a bit in order to find interesting examples that set the foundations and became the role-models of a certain industry. So today, we’ll go back to post-war Japan, where a business strategy based on the concept of utmost efficiency of all production processes was developed.

After WWII, Japan’s production was in a crisis, and it was imperative to find a way to get it back on its feet again. A sudden decrease in demand for cars and high production costs destabilized the automotive industry, which affected Toyota as well. By studying the American automotive industry, especially Henry Ford’s production technique, Toyota’s management grasped the possibilities of standardized production and segmenting it to deductible steps. They also noticed how the shelves of the American supermarkets were stocked only after the customers bought the products, which enabled the stores to order the products that were actually sought and to reduce their stocks. Japanese production lacked resources and inventory reduction was just the key Toyota needed to develop its production system, known today as “Just In Time”.

 

“Improvement usually means doing something we have never done before.” (Shigeo Shingo)

 

The concept of “Just In Time” is actually pretty simple: you only produce what is needed, when it’s needed and in the quantities needed. On the other hand, the implementation of the system is not so simple. It takes careful planning, good teamwork, efficient schedule and coherence. And none of it comes easy. Since stocks are reduced to a minimum, a perfect flow of materials needs to be ensured. That is achieved through good cooperation and communication with suppliers. In order to anticipate all the potential delays, it would be ideal to have a larger number of suppliers that are located close to the production facility. They have to be able to deliver the necessary parts in the given time frame and adapt to any changes. Naturally, in order to perfect the production process, it is important to uncover the market’s demands so that you don’t manufacture surplus or unnecessary goods which then become waste.

 

“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.” (Shigeo Shingo)

 

Toyota developed a system based on the total elimination of waste. The waste is defined as everything that does not add value, in terms of time, goods or space. In order to remove the waste, it is very important to recognize it, so that it doesn’t slow down production in later phases. The system has to be flexible enough to adapt to market demands and it is also very important to establish trust between supervisors, employees and suppliers. Although it sounds illusory, harmony within the system is necessary because floundering in one segment affects the final state and the quality of the product. Realising that, Toyota developed another key element of the Just In Time strategy – the autonomation (jidoka) of the production system. To minimize the chances of manufacturing a faulty product, the machines stop as soon as they detect an error and the production continues only after the error is removed.

 

 

 

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (unknown author)

 

Toyota is today, without a doubt, one of the industry’s greats. Their success story is a firm evidence of the potential that lies in the Just In Time strategy. Despite the fact that the strategy was profoundly studied and many books were written about it, the fact remains that its implementation is not easy. The notion of the very precise amount of parts that have to be at the right place at the right time in order to start the production is scary enough. Just In Time requires a complete adaptation of work processes and systematic planning but it ultimately leads to an efficient production system that eliminates manufacturing of faulty products (that lead to additional check-ups, complaints and other waste that slows down the production). The costs of production are reduced by investing in efficiency and organizing the supply chain, without raising the price of the products. However, the key to JIT is constant work on the improvement of the process, so that the quality of the parts and the final product remains flawless. Because nobody who craves success should not forget that the price of greatness is responsibility. (Winston Churchill)

Gordan Smadilo, project manager, Omnizon Networks
 
If you are interested in the topics of electronic data interchange, new technologies and optimization solutions, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or subscribe to our blog.

From saving paper to revolutionizing your business

Time is a limited resource, but the decision on how to use it irrevocably changes the business flow.

“Time” is one of the most frequently used words:

“I don’t have time.”
“We’ll do it when we have time.”
“How the time flies.”
“We have to organize our time better.”
And the one we all know so well:
“Time is money.”

Probably because it’s so precious and there’s never enough of it. In the race with time, the general networking of the world certainly made the communication easier. If we take into account how easy it is to convey information from one part of the world to another digitally, and how fast and cheap that type of communication is, it comes as a bit of a surprise that a lot of companies still interchange their documents in a paper form. Every company wants to stay competitive on the market and have good relations with people, organizations, and institutions whose interests are related to the company’s business activities. For a successful collaboration, it is necessary to pay attention to details and to be punctual, yet exchanging documents in a paper form is susceptible to errors and delays.

But let’s not waste time on words: we have illustrated the specific numbers of the time needed for processing paper and electronic documents.

 

 

The illustration shows that the processing a single invoice in a paper form takes twenty-one minutes. Seems a bit much for just one invoice, does it not? So what is different in the electronic data interchange? Numerous processes are automated and the others are shortened. Two and a half minutes is all it takes to process an electronic invoice.

We will now explain the savings on a specific number of electronic documents. Let’s suppose that 3300 documents need to be processed monthly. To process that number of documents in a paper form, you need 144 man-days (man-days consist of the 8-hour working days). Electronic processing takes 2,5 minutes per document, which amounts to 17 man-days. To sum up, here’s some basic math: when we deduct the number of man-days needed to process the paper documents from the number of man-days needed to process the electronic documents, we get a real saving of 127 man-days.

We highly doubt that there’s a company out there that hasn’t thought about reducing the wasting of the resources, but a good number of them probably did not realize the potential that lies in the electronic data interchange.
Even if we only take into account the time saved (we will talk about other advantages some other time), that time can be productively used. You don’t have to invent a new, unseen way of doing the business to be successful; invest your time in improving the quality of it, bettering relations with customers and other relevant groups, and that will make you stand out on the market.

Just in case all this talk about numbers made you sleepy, let’s recap. E-business is your efficient helper in the battle against inefficient business practices. By switching to the electronic business you are switching to a smart way of doing business – business that saves time and money. And if we bear in mind that time is money, just think about all the money you’ll be saving.
And who wouldn’t want that?

Nino Strajher, director, Omnizon Networks
 
If you are interested in the topics of electronic data interchange, new technologies and optimization solutions, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or subscribe to our blog.

E-business – Do You See Opportunities or Obstacles?

E-business is one of those terms that can basically mean anything you want, so you will probably come across different iterations of the same term in different situations.

The only term that’s worse than e-business when it comes to a multitude of definitions is digital transformation – from purchasing a new scanner for the office – with a colleague yelling sarcastically: Well, this is some digital transformation right here! – to a more proper usage – electronic exchange of documents, serious cognitive analytics, IoT, and industry 4.0 – the term is popping everywhere and anywhere.

If you really want to squeeze every ounce of meaning from digital transformation in all industries, I recommend an exquisite blog (although, it’s more of an e-book) on the topic.
I have to warn you though; the blog is not something you can scroll over in a couple of minutes – you’re going to need at least 2-3 cups of coffee and a quarantine type of situation to keep you resistant to outside disruptions.

The broadest definition of both e-business and digital transformation can be pretty much boiled down to the same need – upgrading your business operations via new technologies.
At first, this whole definition seems completely positive:

Improvement + new technologies = “Great! I’ll be faster, better, and stronger on the market!”

Here comes the key difference between companies that always see opportunities and those that keep seeing obstacles everywhere. The internal monologue of an obstacle-focused company, after the transformation is proposed, goes something like this:

That’s all nice and well, but how much does it cost?
Our whole way of doing business is inherited, we’ve been doing it like this forever, that kind of change is more than we can chew.
Our business partners cannot keep up with us on a technological level.
We don’t have time to educate our employees.

Of course, every company needs to ask these questions, lay down its finances, and come up with a plan, but it often doesn’t even come to that, because the list of obstacles keeps getting longer, time goes by, and the market race keeps getting more merciless with every fiscal quarter. Suddenly, you are losing the race to people that used to look up to you.

Deloitte has an amusing video that shows what every company goes through while trying to navigate between business changes, client expectations, and internal processes:

 

 

This example should be observed as a metaphor, because if we concentrate on the discussion on the evils of gluten, we’ll miss the whole point. Change is inevitable. We can either be terrified by it or look at it as a catalyst for development.

That realization is actually the most important one in today’s world. Everything else is easier to get to later, while constantly thinking about the ratio between feasibility and effectiveness.

When talking about electronic exchange of documents and digital archives, the ratio is transparent, time saved is easily calculable, and archive costs go down by up to 75%.

Bureaucracy makes slaves of companies and drowns them in paperwork, but today there is really no need for that any more. Tried and tested tools are available, which can speed up the whole process, eliminate the potential for human error, and be adapted to companies with an integrated ERP system, as well as smaller companies. Most importantly, they can even offer you an affordable answer to the question:
“That’s all nice and well, but how much does it cost?”

E-business in Europe is constantly developing, but it’s still not optimal. That’s why the EU has been issuing guidelines and recommendations for a while now relating to business transformation, as well as implementation deadlines for state institutions.
But Europe’s mandate is not the main reason why you should switch to e-business.
The main reason should reflect your company’s philosophy, the one which sees an opportunity to grow and speed up business processes, because your time can be better used for real challenges in your industry and those posed by your clients.

The question then is:
What type of baker do you want to be?

Do you want to continue with a business the rest of the world has suddenly developed an allergy to?

Or do you want to be a strong competitor who doesn’t fear change? A competitor who actually embraces it and knows that change is the only constant in life?

Nino Strajher, director, Omnizon Networks
 
If you are interested in the topics of electronic data interchange, new technologies and optimization solutions, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or subscribe to our blog.