A decade of crazy: Mind-bending progress and epic fails in tech investment

Advances in technology over the past 50 years have changed the way we work, the way we communicate, our security, our privacy, and, for better or for worse, the way we think. We build teams of smart people to plan and build the technology that drives our businesses, while strategically, others build technology that can manipulate our personal lives and spending habits. Regardless of whether we use our superpowers for good or evil, one thing is for sure. Technology is changing and growing at an unprecedented rate. So much so, that we sometimes jump in without really understanding where it will take us. Let’s take a quick look at the year 2010 and what we then thought would become strategic in the world of technology. There were some clear winners. There were also a few poor tech investments. Either way, it sends a clear message that today, more than ever, the enterprise needs to ensure that investment in tech will actually deliver what it promises.

iPad

Advertised by Apple as a cross between a smartphone and a computer, the first iPad was released in April 2010. The iPad continues to generate a very enviable revenue stream for Apple, with 2013 being its best year at an admirable $31.9 billion. Apple has been unable to surpass that number since 2013, although its reported iPad revenue of $23.7 billion in 2020 doesn’t exactly represent a bad year. Through the years, its uses have varied, but predominantly the iPad seems to be most favorable for its personal mobility uses. With Apple’s clear decision to exclude docking stations and external monitors from their development checklist, iPads have not ended up meeting the basic requirements for most business needs. So, as far as a revenue stream for Apple, the iPad is a winner. However, as a business investment, the connectivity has left the iPad not conducive for use as a business tool. While overall, tablets have found business uses as a conduit for a specific and specialized business application, other manufacturers have kept their prices more competitive and have come out ahead in this market.

Surveillance tools

Tech progress
Shutterstock

The idea of surveillance tools can conjure up some rather emotional responses. For the sake of this article, let’s just assume that the business uses are ethical. Most of us are quite aware of corporate employee monitoring practices. If we look back at 2010, the investment in corporate surveillance tools was mostly about access to facilities or for purposes such as service desk monitoring to establish patterns like calls per shift or number of dropped calls. Today, surveillance has grown to encompass more than access, movement, and productivity. Corporate laptops use software tools to gather information on behaviors that can be analyzed to determine employee flight risks, succession planning, and inappropriate behavior. In addition, certain information can be fed back to employees to assist them in planning their calendars to increase productivity. Times have changed, and today the use of technology for surveillance can meet numerous strategic business needs. Everything points to the use of corporate surveillance tools as a good investment. Is it ethical? Perhaps we shall leave this question to the ethics professors. For additional journalistic insights on this subject, take a look at a recent article from TechGenix’s own Mitch Tulloch.

Social media

facebook data breach
Flickr / Anthony Quintano

In 2010, Time magazine named Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg its Person of the Year. This may be one of the key events, or perhaps even the key event, that caused businesses to begin looking at social media differently. At the time, very few marketers considered leveraging social media. That was all about to change.

Today, recruiters leverage social media sites to not only identify potential candidates but to scrape information on applicants to understand if their opinions and activities align with the corporate culture. Tools can be used to monitor existing employee behavior on social media to contain possible inappropriate or inaccurate information sharing. It is no longer the norm to use physical newspaper advertising. Social media sites with a business focus are now the preferred go-to sites for matching prospective employees with businesses in search of specific skills and experience. Business licensing with social media sites has become an operational cost that has become a necessity when staffing up.

Video distribution

advances in technology

In 2010, the thought was that Blu-ray would dominate the video distribution industry over the next decade. Corporate training investment for onboarding and training was routed to those organizations that could mass-produce what was thought to be a long-term video strategy that would be substantially less expensive than in-person solutions. We all know that this strategy turned out to be very short-sighted. Which, in hindsight seemed obvious, since, as they say, history is the best indicator of future behaviors. We had already witnessed the demise of the 8-track tape, cassettes, and the Betamax video format. VCRs, in general, were on life support as DVD use proliferated. Enter video streaming. Not only can we stream from a centralized server, but today numerous cloud options also exist, as does video streaming as a collaboration platform. One thing that did happen with video distribution in 2010 was the introduction of subscription licensing. Licensing that provided an ongoing revenue stream was about to become very popular.

Tech investment needs to be scrutinized

Of course, there are numerous other technology advancements that will continue to drive business investment. Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain are arguable 2021’s biggest areas for tech investment. The challenge is to align our business technology dollars with the actual requirements of our business and to beware of that horrible dichotomy between sales and delivery. When it comes to cutting-edge technology, we are all at risk, as we often have no way of understanding the longstanding implications of our investment.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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