Where I see the most opportunity for capitalizing on web and mobile technology is for traditional, old-line businesses and organizations, not just high-tech firms. These are the firms that can use the technology to create even greater value. Manufacturing, retail shops, even agriculture can realize efficiencies and create new opportunities using these technologies. Government is the perfect example. In the government, things have been done largely the same way since the advent of the “modern bureaucracy” during China’s Qin Dynasty well over 2000 years ago. Slowly people in bureaucracies are looking at their processes and procedures, then asking, “How can technology improve the way we work?” For example, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves used paper-based processes to schedule training and administer attendance and performance. Since pay is linked to these records, errors made on paper created problems with issuing accurate checks in a timely manner. Automating the system not only made it easier to manage drills, it reduced the lag in pay from months in some cases to the standard of two weeks.
It is the intersection of web and mobile technologies with traditional ways of doing things that is the most exciting because it can yield the greatest results. The firm Legal River created a platform to link small businesses with a legal problem to quality lawyers able to solve the problem. They used technology to address the issue of “how do I find a good attorney.” Manufacturing plants are using mobile phone applications to monitor assembly line metrics, which are automatically input into a web technology that generates performance reports broken down by machine, worker, and hour. Small mom and pop retail shops can use the web to not only sell products across the world, but to reach highly defined niche target markets of people most likely to buy their products.
Using technology to make traditional businesses and everyday processes better is where the real innovation exists. And this is what makes our jobs so rewarding.