The future of technology in business: will technology replace people?

Private Property South Africa
Press

Embracing technology could level the business playing field.

Technological progress is shaping the business world of tomorrow and is likely to have a huge, direct impact on how businesses operate, how they are organised and will, without doubt have an impact on the people working in big corporations and small companies alike.

Whilst many fear that their existing type of business might disappear altogether or that they will not be able to keep up with the changes in organisational structure that technology demands, the solution may lie in developing new business models that will embrace the many advantages that improved technology brings. The key lies in innovative thinking, rather than fear of the unknown.

With the help of cloud-based technology, video-based communication, smart phones and social media, small businesses are able to compete with corporates in a global environment at a fraction of the cost. More and more ‘virtual offices’ are being created and the need for physical office premises is dwindling. People can now work from anywhere, including their homes. Meetings take place in coffee shops and collaboration with co-workers and clients is done by making use of technology rather than from fixed office spaces. Clients also expect 24/7 availability from their suppliers. The small business can indeed have an edge over his big corporate brother due to being instantly available and responding faster to enquiries.

It is important to note that technology in itself is rarely the source of major new business, it is rather those companies combining changing technology with new business models that outperform competitors. The management of this over-whelming amount of data needs specialised skill and mastering thereof has become a business on its own. Productivity levels grow by the efficient use of technology: more things are being done much faster and in real time. Although this is great for business, it challenges job creation and sustained employment. On the other hand, it also creates numerous new occupations that did not exist in the past. Employees will have to take on the responsibility themselves to consistently up-skill and be able to self-manage successfully as a loss of staff engagement is inevitable in a virtual business environment. In the past problem solving and decision making were achieved through dialogue in face-to-face meetings. Nowadays virtual businesses have to develop effective practices for documenting and sharing organisational knowledge, whether through collaborative social media or other processes.

Employees will find that the greater flexibility, independence and empowerment they gain will more than compensate for office interaction. However, to benefit from the opportunities created by technology, business processes and structures will need to change too; and that transformation can only be facilitated by people. Corporate leaders who underestimate the importance of the ‘people aspect’ of technology might find their businesses in trouble in time to come. Those who put people at the centre of it all are more likely to have a more sustainable and successful business.

The traditional operational model for real estate agencies is also challenged. At the forefront of developing the “Virtual Office’ concept is the Huizemark Property Group that is boasting eleven franchises already successfully operating without fixed office premises.

The focus is on the creation of better systems and finding ways to take business owners towards a tech-orientated, paperless organisation. “We’re going virtual,” says Andre Hamman, Huizemark C.E.O. “Head office is already completely paperless, and we’re steadily rolling the system and tools out to our franchisees and agents.” Why, you may ask? “Because paper is distractive to agents,” he explains. “They need to focus on the task at hand, which is making sales and supporting their clients and not on endless paperwork.” Hamman is a firm believer that the industry can operate via the Internet and cloud-based technology, thanks to mobile tech like tablets, laptops and smart phones. “The main idea though, is that we’re enabling franchisees and agents to work from anywhere, which cuts down time wasted in traffic, time spent on admin, and most importantly, decreases overheads and increases time to serve our clients.”

Real Estate must remain focused on the needs of people, and that can only be accomplished by having agents who have the time and compassion to deal with people.

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