There have been many important advances in business technology this century, almost all of them enabled by ubiquitous broadband internet access, improved software development tools and the scalability and reliability of data centers.
Here are some of the technological advancements that have had a significant impact on how businesses operate and how business users interact with prospects and customers.
Business Management Applications
With its CRM platform, Salesforce popularized the concept of cloud-based, multi-tenant business applications. Since the launch of Salesforce in the late 90’s, many other business management categories have followed suit, including ERP, marketing automation, professional services automation, human resource management and more.
Email and Office Applications
For many businesses, G Suite from Google and Microsoft Office 365 have eliminated the need for an in-house email server and even for a desktop email client — although many people still prefer to use a desktop email client. While desktop spreadsheet, document and presentation slide applications are still more feature rich than their cloud counterparts, the latter are continually improving.
Due to robust APIs and the absence of corporate firewalls, integration among cloud-based applications can be just a few clicks away with applications like Zapier. Vendors such as Informatica, Scribe, MuleSoft and Jitterbit are seeing extensive enterprise adoption.
The transition from “live human” customer service to comprehensive self-service has been a bumpy road. For years, online self-service left a lot to be desired. However, between dedicated support applications such as Zendesk and social customer service offerings such as Lithium, customers can get most of their questions and concerns addressed quickly online.
Applications such as UserVoice and GetSatisfaction have allowed software developers to enhance the end user experience based not only on what they think customers need, but also on what customers say they want. Over time, these applications have also added customer self-service functionality.
The rapid growth in usage of applications such as GoToMeeting and Join.me has provided a greater number of salespeople and customer support representatives with an easy way to visually communicate with prospects and customers.
Cisco WebEx and GoToWebinar were the early webinar applications. BrightTALK created a webinar platform that allows for spreading of content through a community-based approach. Webinar apps such as these have become indispensable to many organizations.
Brands such as RingCentral and 8×8 have disrupted the traditional concept of a business phone system. Many businesses are moving from landlines to VoIP. Microsoft shops have embraced Lync. Skype, traditionally a consumer app, is gaining popularity among business users as an outbound calling platform, since calls to landlines and mobile phones are so inexpensive.
Business Intelligence and Analytics
The options for reporting on data from a variety of sources has grown significantly this century. Business Intelligence also moved down from the enterprise to the mid-market and even to small business. GoodData is an example of an application that has been integrated into many other offerings.
Mobile apps for business user have proliferated. Now, business users can use mobile apps to access a CRM system, view or update shared documents, make and receive phone calls via their organization’s IP phone system, participate in web conferences and more.
Content Management Systems
Video & Audio Hosting
Business use of Internet video has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 15 years. Many companies are making YouTube, Vimeo and Wistia an essential part of their marketing and training strategies.
Podcasts, which represent episodic audio content, are often hosted on Libsyn and distributed on Apple iTunes and Google Play. Non-episodic content can be hosted on SoundCloud and used as part of an overall marketing strategy. Some podcasters, such as Kip Bodner of HubSpot, leverage SoundCloud as a secondary distribution network for episodic content:
Other Social Networks
While not all companies benefit to a measurable degree by having a presence on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, many companies do benefit — especially B2C organizations. For certain types of companies, customer and audience engagement on these platforms is critical.
It’s now easier than ever for businesses to set up shop online. With a plethora of open source Ecommerce platforms including WooCommerce, osCommerce and OpenCart as well as paid services such as Magento, Shopify and Bigcommerce, there is no shortage of options for businesses.
On premises computing is still alive and well, but the days of IT staff having to spin up a separate physical server for every application are waning.
Through server virtualization with products such as VMWare, XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V, IT departments have been able to manage multiple servers much more easily and with fewer physical resources. With virtualization software, servers can also be provisioned more economically by hosting providers.