Babatunde Oshikoya |
Chances are you are reading this right now on the screen of your smartphone or smart device, while you are probably at work. Right? No reason to fear, no one’s going to tell on you.
When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, I am quite certain that even his own brilliant mind could not have envisaged that his practical, yet bulky and cumbersome, device for transmitting human voice by means of an electric current would one day evolve into something so revolutionary that it would change the very nature of human interaction.
With the lightning speed at which technology has grown, the telephone has transcended the barrier of being just a phone, a mere tool for voice communication, into a must-have device that has essentially become so intelligent, it had to be renamed ‘the Smartphone’ or more aptly, the ‘smart device’.
Smart devices have become ubiquitous and integral to certain aspects of our lives as individuals, most especially the way we do business.
All over the world, these once ‘tech-whizzy’ devices have become a staple of conducting business, and Nigeria is not left out of this. The Nigerian smartphone market is estimated to be worth N245 billion, and over 10 million smart devices worth $1 billion (N167 billion) were sold in the country in 2013.
It is now commonplace to see your typical white-collar business executive toting the ever-present ipad, while bopping his head to the beats streaming through the Beats headset connected via Bluetooth to his Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
So is that all they use the smartphones and devices for, you ask?
The first thing to really grasp is that the name ‘smartphone’ is really a misnomer. Just because it looks like a phone and provides the basic functionality of a phone doesn’t mean it is ‘just a phone’. A smartphone is actually a pretty powerful pocket computer, allowing people to be instantly, continually connected to the greatest collection of information ever put together.
It also leverages the ability of people to gather massive amounts of information about the world around them, share it instantaneously with others and aggregate that data easily. Those abilities are already having, and will surely increasingly have, profound impact on everything we do.
So how then does all this word translate into business evolution?
Email has done a lot to change the way we think of business communication. Likewise, smart phones have done a lot to change the way we think of emails.
While it was once standard to let emails pile up consistently and create responses in batches, instantly checking your messages has become something of an expectation for serious business people, and with the plethora of smart devices that are available today, you can now read, forward and reply to emails quickly. As such, the expected response time for any urgent message has decreased from “one to three business days” to about “two to twelve hours.
Social networks have already ramped up in popularity and importance for businesses, and thanks to the constant attention users pay to the social networking apps on their smart phones, this medium has become the single greatest source of word-of-mouth traffic. Businesses now pay more attention to the more personalized forms of interaction that exist on these social network platforms, knowing very well how rapidly information can spread on these media. Hence, serious-minded business executives now try to keep a finger on the pulse of their specific business sectors by checking out the trending news or latest information which often tend to appear first on some of these social networking platforms.
The pairing between the smartphone and social media has also thrown up a veritable treasure trove of information that businesses now mine to obtain valuable data about customers. User information on social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, can be used by product marketers and brands to create specific ads that will be targeted at a more streamlined audience.
Companies are now following and tweeting, thus tapping into opportunities to connect and engage with potential customers. Social networking has levelled the playing field, allowing even small companies with tiny ad budgets to make a big impact, if they so choose. Businesses that not only create a presence on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, but actually leverage that presence in consistent and creative ways will be able to expand their reach, increase brand awareness, and create a loyal following of customers.
Imagine this scenario: you are on your way to make a sales pitch to a client and you decided to leave your laptop behind. Half way there, you realise that you forgot to print one of the documents you need from your computer! But no need to fret, your smart device has got you covered. With the cloud computing technology that allows people to save files on the internet, you can store your important files on the internet with services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, and access your documents straight from the internet without worries.
You can also share files with your colleagues or team-members when working on a project, thus providing hassle-free file transfer that comes with flash drives.
The only app that probably does not exist, right now, is one that will let you download ready-to-eat food (and no, apps for making food orders don’t count), and it’s quite possible that some developer somewhere is probably trying to create an application that will do just that.
There are tons and tons of apps that can assist in boosting productivity, both at a personal level and at the organizational level. From apps that can help you schedule meetings, create reminders about that email you need to send and allow you hold a virtual conference, to apps that help safeguard all your passwords and allow your clients sign forms on the screen of your smart device, mention the business productivity service you want and there is most likely an app for it.
It once was a chore to manage one’s extensive collection of business documents and files. Keeping track of correspondence was difficult as well. But modern-day smartphones have the uncanny ability to neatly organize and arrange everything in one’s life. Whether you’re searching for a specific email or an obscure memo from months back, or would like to remind yourself the last time you spoke with a client, smartphones make browsing and retrieving your personal information simple. Smartphones also act as personal assistants, allowing users to set up reminders about upcoming meetings, bills and deadlines.
Building and maintaining business relationships is a key component in today’s fast-paced world, especially with the advent of social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Smartphones provide access to these platforms and have effectively allowed us to outboard our social circles. Having access to information about acquaintances and clients on-the-go makes a huge difference in daily business interactions. For example, if you’re going to a business meeting with someone you’ve only met once, you could go to Facebook or LinkedIn to discover more about them and potentially develop conversation points that’ll help you build a rapport further down the road.
ON-DEMAND STRESS RELIEF
There are times when everyone feels stressed by the pressures and rigors of their business. Now workers have access to high-quality games directly on their phone. A round of play may be just what you need after a stressful meeting or dealing with a grouchy client. Smartphone games help workers de-stress and keep their spirits up throughout the day. Smartphones are revolutionizing the way we conduct business, interact with those around us, and keep track of an ever-changing social landscape.
Built-in media functions such as cameras, voice recording, video and idea playback, and more means that a business person who has access to smart phone has the ability to utilize the power of digital multimedia anywhere anytime. Of course, business is stressful and the ability to have access to digital multimedia files such as movies, videos, and music allows a business person the chance to unwind when a rare moment of peace comes along. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why most businesspeople swear by the power of smart phone.
It can be something of a challenge to adapt to a world being created by smart phones.
For one, it is possible to get an overload of information when you structure your life around these devices, and what you request is constantly being delivered to you, sometimes you can’t assimilate it all.
However, for businesses and consumers alike, this whirring-fast, brilliantly intelligent modern technology will save time, effort, and money while introducing an impressive array of new opportunities on its own.
Therefore, every business, no matter in what field, should think about how deploying a ‘portable computer’ can help to cut costs, improve communication or deliver services more expediently.