What is internet technology?Although it was originally intended for the US defence force, the internet is now used by an estimated 4.5 billion people. The rapid rise of the internet is one of the defining factors of current generations (with children born between 1995 and 2012 being known as the internet generation, or iGen), and one of the biggest catalysts in the 21st century for mass thought, change, and communication. The internet is now used in almost every industry with multiple applications that could not have been predicted. The term internet technology is a catch-all term for internet capabilities, specifically referring to more recent developments. Internet technologies include: – Communication tools – Social media – CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other database software – Web-based software – Web-based collaboration capabilities – Cloud storage This is not a comprehensive list and doesn’t touch on the full spectrum of internet technologies available to businesses. But even with a limited view of the technology available, it is already possible to see the ways businesses might use these capabilities and improve business practices, processes, and outcomes with them.
What are business processes?With a better understanding of what internet technology is, we can start to apply it to business processes to improve business functionality. But to apply it properly, we need to fully understand business processes. A business process is a series of steps carried out in any business to achieve a goal. These can be written into policy, done out of habit, or completely subconscious, but every business will have processes in place. In larger businesses, these processes are broken down into smaller parts with different employees working on individual steps. In a small business or start-up, processes may be completed from beginning to end by the same person. Once you have broken your process down into steps, you can start to see how each step can be made more efficient. This is often a good starting place when self-auditing your business to improve productivity. It is also the best place to start when looking for ways to introduce new internet technologies. This is because different software, programs, apps, and developments will have been created to help specifically with different steps in the business process.
What internet technologies can help business?With so many capabilities, the internet has many uses – not all of these will be beneficial to your business. Some internet technology will also benefit some business while being redundant in others. It all comes down to your business and what your business truly needs. Some of the more popular internet technologies for businesses include: – Communication tools: Especially with people working from home, communication tools including chat functionality, shared timelines or project goal maps, and video conferencing have all become vital to a lot of businesses. Online communication allows a more natural flow of communication than phone calls or emails alone. A lot of software has also been created specifically for businesses and allows colleagues or team members to see when someone is busy, if they’re on a call, or if they are available to chat. – Shared files: sharing documents in cloud storage allows multiple people to access the same data in real time and see changes as they are being made. This can clear up a lot of confusion and save time when it comes to looking through multiple versions of the same document to find the most up-to-date one. – Social media: Once viewed as a sap on time in the office, the business world has changed its view on social media and now recognises the vital role it can play in market research, increasing customer interaction, boosting conversions, and improving brand recognition. Most social media platforms also offer business capabilities designed specifically to help businesses use their platforms to become more efficient and profitable. – CRM software: Managing databases is much safer online because developers can put far more defences into their software and keep them updated. Online CRM also allows you to store more information, know that it is GDPR and data protection law compliant, and rest assured that there is backup in case you lose any information. Stored information is also easier to find which makes business run more smoothly and customer relations more manageable. – Market research: with online quizzes, surveys, and interaction tools with monitoring capabilities, market research is much easier online. See exactly who chooses to interact with your business, how long they stay on your page, or ask them for opinions on your product. Gathering the data and compiling it is easier and larger datasets can be gathered than is possible with in-person market research.
How does internet technology improve productivity?In business processes, one unproductive or slow step can slow down the whole process, jeopardising projects and timelines. Internet technologies allow supervisors to monitor how staff are spending time, what they are working on, and how work is progressing. There are multiple task management tools available to help you track daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities and targets to keep your team on track. You can also use various technologies to set up reminders and prompts for certain tasks. This helps you and your staff stay on top of emails and other daily tasks while still making space for unique projects.
How does internet technology improve flexibility?Within your business process there is always flexibility. If your systems are too rigid they won’t allow for unexpected changes and will break down when challenges arise. Every step in the process requires a certain level of flexibility and adaptability. Internet technologies have brought in flexibility in numerous ways, the most obvious being in the way people work. A decade ago most workforces would have needed to work from the same building and at the same time for business to run smoothly. With new internet technologies, those same workforces can work from anywhere and at any time and still be as productive – if not more – than they were before. This kind of flexibility works in both the business’ and the employees’ favour, and that, in turn, gives better service to your customers. With improved communication, there is also more scope for quick adjustments to any aspect of work. Queries can be dealt with more efficiently, problems can be solved collaboratively and effectively, and there can be more flexibility overall in the way your business runs.
How does internet technology improve customer serviceNo business can run without customers or clients, and customers are often the focus of many steps in the business process. If customers are not at the forefront of your mind when developing services and products, your business is unlikely to be successful. Internet technologies allow you to engage more meaningfully with customers at all points along your business process. Starting with market research and brand engagement and leading to after-sale and customer support, technology has made it easier for customers to contact and interact with businesses. Using technology like artificial intelligence online chatbots, online customer support, and social media, you can help your customers stay connected and feel heard. The simple act of making your business available for interaction can often set you apart from aloof competition. More frequently now, people are turning to brands they trust. A large part of that trust is built on a perceived relationship. Using internet technology to improve overall customer service and communication will enhance your business and lead to greater success.
How does internet technology improve marketing?Marketing is key in any business and a lot of time will be spent on working out the best leads or most appropriate campaign. In bigger businesses, entire marketing teams will be devoted to the marketing process which includes properly understanding customer needs and keeping abreast of changing trends and advertising opportunities. If the marketing part of your business process breaks down, you are unlikely to make sales and your business will suffer. Internet technology has the advantage of being highly intuitive as well as being able to gather and process mass data quickly and efficiently. With these tools fully accessible to businesses, you can not only understand your market, but very easily create marketing campaigns that target the exact area of the market you are interested in – be it existing customers or new market areas. Software is available for building websites without existing coding knowledge, and eye-catching graphic design tools are available for creating promotional materials. In addition, most social media platforms allow you to advertise for free, or give you the option of targeted marketing for a fee. This means you can make the marketing work for you on whatever budget you are operating on.
How does internet technology improve safety?Keeping physical data is risky. Businesses that only use physical data run the risk of losing information if it is not stored in at least two different places in case of fire or other damage. Physical data is also often difficult to handle and it can take a long time to pull up specific information, especially if a lot of people are involved in the filing and handling of data. With strict laws around data protection, it can also be difficult to properly protect physical data. Internet technology makes handling data easy and secure, which protects your business and your customers. Advanced coding is used to restrict access to files that need to be protected, while allowing a select few to access the information that is needed. Software designed for business data is also designed with an understanding of business and legal needs so you can be assured that your information is stored legally and securely. Most software also comes with encryption on passwords, files, and messages. Encryption makes it difficult for hackers to access the information that is stored and adds another layer of protection. Because data is used in every step of any process, having the right technology to gather, store, handle, and delete data can save you a lot of time and a lot of money.
Using the Internet of Things (IoT)Internet of Things is the term used to describe any item with internet connectivity – this now applies to all sorts of devices, from watches and smart fridges to computers and mobile phones. The introduction of IoT into the workplace has started a shift in the way processes are handled. More processes are now data-driven as IoT has allowed for faster and easier recording and monitoring of data, which is then passed directly to the step in the process where it is needed. IoT has different applications in different industries. In manufacturing and warehouses, it is used in monitoring and maintaining supply chains and machinery through the use of sensors, alarms, and other triggers. In retail, IoT is often used for keeping track of inventory and monitoring sales patterns quickly and easily. Every business can benefit from IoT as it helps to improve automation, effectively cutting costs and improving business efficiency. When used alongside artificial intelligence and augmented reality, internet technology has the potential to inform a multitude of business decisions. Taking advantage of internet technology will allow your business to make informed decisions, grow faster, and turn over more business.
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