THOUGHT LEADER : From dial-up to LinkedIn

If you’ve been manager for some time, what challenges do you face now that you did not face 10 years ago? Thinking back that far is sometimes difficult, but it is useful exercise, as there are opportunities from our past that can reshape our futures and recent history is sometimes overlooked as source of inspiration for today and tomorrow.
So, let’s think back decade. We had to confront worldwide sharemarket crisis and the establishment of the euro. The new millennium and the Y2K bug took up all of our IT resources, and at the November general election in 1999 Helen Clark became New Zealand’s first elected woman prime minister.
The theme for business and managers was to understand how to harness the power of technology in our businesses. For example, back then we used dial-up services to access the internet and in June, Telecom ADSL (JetStream) launched at $89 per month for 600MB of traffic.
We now live in technology-based world, whereas decade ago we were just starting to understand the potential from technology to shape our future roles as managers.
Ten years on and technology is still major driver in our businesses. However, the pace of change has become much faster and is now accompanied by growing focus on how we integrate technology across our business processes. This leads us to ask the question, how has this changed the way we work? In addition, has this made us more productive?
From my perspective, technology has changed the way I conduct business. Technology makes me more productive, responsive to my customers and it makes me mobile. Technologically-driven change has been significant advantage to me. I would like to touch on three key areas of my business that have changed because of technology that is now available.
While one-on-one interactions are still vitally important, the use of the cellphones, text messaging and social networking has put much wider pool of business opportunities at our fingertips. The business networking site now has over 65 million members in more than 200 countries. This is allowing New Zealand business people to participate in massive business network. I have been using LinkedIn since 2007 and have experience of securing new business from working through this network.

Technology has driven systematic demolition of traditional business borders and has allowed New Zealand businesses to compete on the global stage while still maintaining Kiwi focus. I now conduct business in Asia, while being based in New Zealand. I can use the New Zealand time-zone to my advantage and by using VoIP I can stay in contact with my Asian clients.

Technology has driven major changes in the way we procure our products and services, for example, the government sector created the Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS). The service is designed to promote open, fair competition in the New Zealand Government market and meet international trade agreement commitments on the provision of information about New Zealand Government business opportunities. The result is easy access to business opportunities in this sector. I get daily updates of tendering opportunities from GETS and am able to respond to these opportunities while I’m away from the office thanks to mobile broadband.

The way forward
As managers, we need to acknowledge how far we have travelled technologically over the past decade. While – and indeed because – the current domestic and international business environment is challenging, it is important to reflect upon and learn from the way we have adapted to, and embraced, technological change over recent years.
This will help us to address the continuing technological and business change to come. While I don’t advocate back-to-the-future focus, I am proposing that as New Zealand managers, we do need to learn from the past to help us reshape our future.

Gordon Shaw is the new president of the Institute of Management Consultants of New Zealand.

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