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Commentary

The Big Picture: Consumer Tech Will Change Business

We have a lot to learn from the business-to-consumer tech world.
In 2004, a strange thing happened in the semiconductor market that received little fanfare but will have incredible impact on business for years to come. It was the first time ever that shipments of integrated circuits for consumer products exceeded the value of those used in the corporate marketplace. Consumers, namely our youth and Gen X, are becoming the technology elite, and with this comes huge implications in the structure and composition of tomorrow's business world.

Today's youth is tomorrow's business leadership, and we need to be prepared for the way this set of professionals will work, communicate, and collaborate. You can quickly see by the way they use today's consumer technologies that they're all about sharing, mobility, easy access, and speed. Are we prepared to handle this workforce with the organizational and technological structures that exist within our companies? If the answer is no, then look closely at the following tech trends to get a feel of what they use and rely on.

1. Online gaming: Any parent of a tween or teenager is already aware of this trend, but have we thought about how this experience will change the manner by which employees share information and collaborate? Workflow, project management, and instant communication can happen all at once from anywhere across the globe. The new workforce won't just expect this type of environment but demand it.

2. Podcasting and instant messaging: How are people learning and communicating? The phone is no longer the prime method of communication, it's IM. E-mail and IM have overtaken the communication landscape like kudzu. E-words are fast and collaborative. Now add to this the movement away from the printed world into one of rich multimedia and you have a new method of learning and media consumption. Podcasting is transforming the way information is transmitted and consumed. Think of the implications this will have as you roll out training programs within your company.

3. Blogs: Quickly becoming a "trusted" media source, blogs are a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links that allow a multifaceted dialogue. As a manager, how will you respond when one of your employees decides to write a blog about your company? Will this be looked upon favorably, or will it cause human-resources standards to implode?

4. PSP: This isn't a new standard or tech term but rather one of the hottest gaming consoles in the world. Sony's PSP is a wireless portable entertainment device that combines communication, gaming, music, and movies. Think about the level of expectation this will carry to the business user as we have a generation that expects a multimedia experience in the way it works. Are we ready?

5. Search: With the explosion of search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN, will our customers continue to value our brands as much as they currently do? Is it more important to rank first on a requested search? If a consumer wants to buy a PC, will Dell, Hewlett-Packard, or Gateway be top of mind based on advertising or search-engine optimization? For now, when searching "Buying a PC" on Google, the only vendor-specific brand that comes up is Dell, and that's a paid contextual ad. Are we maximizing our search efforts to make sure that we're ahead of customers' expectations?

We live in a fast-changing world that's going to become smaller in scope. We have a lot to learn from the high-tech business-to-consumer world, and we must be proactive about these exciting technologies that are quickly impacting our business and workforce.

Michael Friedenberg
Senior VP/Strategic Customer Development
[email protected]