Technology, more than a lifeline for companies in times of crisis

As the concept of Digital Transformation It has matured and that companies have appropriated it in a more conscious and adequate way, it has become clear that it is not an exclusively technological matter. It is, really, a cultural process that relies on technology.

However, this does not mean that the role of technology is secondary or less important: It is as inefficient to have the most advanced tools and not advance in cultural change, as having clear concepts and not being able to take advantage of the necessary tools to put them into practice.

Cada Industrial Revolution has brought ever more profound and accelerated changes the way human beings work, produce, live. And the fourth, or 4RI - in which according to some we are already walking, and according to others it is just around the corner - is the epitome of speed and the significance of change. AND puts us just one step away from the practical application of the concepts of quantum computing, which will surely bring even more radical and rapid advances.

Common places abound: the technology present in current cell phones is superior to that used to take man to the moon in 1969; 15 years ago it was necessary to pay for a long distance service to communicate with a person on the other side of the world, with whom today we can connect in real time and with video, without paying more than the Internet access plan. Neither televisions nor television are what they were a couple of decades ago ... And in all these advances, technology has played a fundamental role.

What about the business world, in which technology has led companies to be increasingly productive, efficient and competitive? Acronyms such as ERP and CRM have been recognized for several years as the fundamental tools to improve internal processes and customer relationships, and they have been mixed with concepts such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Robotics –To mention just a few– to revolutionize the way businesses operate.

And it is not just about companies in the world of technology, as used to be thought 10 or 20 years ago. The technologies are transversal to all industries and are at the service of companies of any size, practically anywhere in the world.

So talking about Enterprise Technologies is not just talking about IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, SAS, Unisys, SAP, Zoho, Cisco and a long list of global firms, but about all the companies that create their own technologies, the that integrate technologies from those and turn them into successful projects and, of course, the organizations that benefit from their developments.

Business Technologies serve the same in the automotive industry, agriculture, health, entertainment, retail ... On a smaller scale, there are people who sell their products and services through social networks or WhatsApp. They can be as simple as an email platform or as complex as a cloud infrastructure or an Artificial Intelligence platform.

How is Colombia progressing?

The situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the processes of Digital Transformation and technology adoption around the world, this is not a secret; even consulting firms like Deloitte estimate that during a few months of 2020 this process has accelerated up to 5 years. But this does not mean that Enterprise Technologies have emerged only as a reaction to face the crisis. In this regard, it must be said, however, that The current situation has made it possible to understand and demonstrate the importance of technology in all areas, and one of the most marked is business.

Juan Pablo Villegas, manager of Citrix in Colombia, he is convinced of that: “One of the great lessons is that if this pandemic had happened 20 years ago, the photo would have been catastrophic. Today we were surprised with connectivity, the Internet, decent bandwidth, multiple applications that allow people to collaborate in each of the industries, and we have survived. Technology, without a doubt, for me is the big winner –if it can be said that way in such a complex situation–, it is the great enabler to understand what can be done, beyond that people used to see it only as the mail, the computer, the office automation tools and the cell phone ».

Technology, definitely, generates many advantages and managed to open our eyes so that we could see that there are processes that we used to do in a very inefficient way.

Juan Pablo Villegas, Citrix manager in Colombia

That said, and back to the local level, the progress made has gradually become evident in different studies, such as the Digital Transformation Survey, which was recently presented by the National Association of Entrepreneurs of Colombia (Andi).

In the 2019 edition, a very significant jump was noted compared to the results of the previous ones in relation to the importance that entrepreneurs give to Digital Transformation. These were their responses when asked without having a strategy in this regard. The jump from 2017 to 2019 is remarkable:

Business technologies

“The country's private sector recognizes the Digital Transformation of its business models increasingly necessary. This is evident, to a greater extent, in service companies, since 71,1% of these responded positively to the question of having a Digital Transformation strategy, compared to 54,9% of companies in the manufacturing sector . The latter creates an opportunity for, precisely, the traditional industry to change and, therefore, thanks to the technological appropriation of digital solutions such as the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, robotics, virtual reality, among others, productivity is improved of their companies", says the study.

As significant as the above is the fact that in Colombian companies, technology (and the strategy around its adoption) is increasingly understood as a cross-cutting element to the operation and not as the exclusive responsibility of a specific area, as illustrated by these 2 graphs below, taken from Andi's study:

The indicators that Colombian companies use to measure the impact of investments in mature technologies (a category that includes online sales or procurement, collaborative platforms and digital marketing) also make the picture clear regarding which areas are in those who hope to get more benefits from them. Clearly, technologies allow increasing income, reducing costs, making processes more efficient, supporting marketing efforts, generating new sources of income ...

The challenge, however, is not less if one takes into account which are the greatest barriers and challenges that the entrepreneurs consulted by Andi consider must be overcome in order to achieve a successful Digital Transformation. That the first one is the budget is not a minor problem, but that the lack of culture and knowledge closely follow it speaks of a long way to go.

Business technologies

Apart from the studies and from the point of view of technology providers, Jaime Yory, general manager of Automation Anywhere for Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, maintains that Colombia has had a development accelerated in the adoption of technology in general and Robotic Process Automation (RPA, the strength of the company) in particular, if compared to other Latin American countries. «That does not mean - the executive clarifies - that companies have the level of massification of robotics that would have been necessary to face a crisis such as COVID-19«.

But the situation has also made it clear that culture and technology must go hand in hand and that technology cuts across different industries: Yory points out that Automation Anywhere is working with clients in the financial sector who have had to 'rebuild' the terms of the credits; with contact centers that were overwhelmed by the amount of user requests; with companies in the food sector in relation to their inventories or portfolio reconciliations. In other words, technology supports the rebuilding of different sectors.

In this scenario, adds the executive, companies that already used the technology (RPA, in the specific case of their clients) have seen the advantages of having a digital workforce, and those who had not started are considering doing so as soon as possible , among other things because the situation derived from the crisis is going to be long.

And what are the appropriate technologies?

When thinking about which are the technologies that promote the development and competitiveness of companies in Colombia and in the world, the answer depends on their current degree of advancement, the specific needs for their industry and other variables that do not lead to a single answer for all cases.

“More than technology as such, it is very important that companies today think of Digital Transformation as an integral process of cultural change and the way things have been done. This is achieved by being clear about what the company's objectives are in the medium and long term. and determining how the Digital Transformation strategy will accompany the achievement of these objectives. With this definition, changes in technology can begin to be made, changes that cannot be generalized to all companies because they will depend on their nature, their needs, their objectives and, in general, on their business plan ”, Jairo Guzmán points out, Marketing Director of Internexa.  

The executive affirms that, in any case, there are some key technologies that work in most cases - if not all -, a statement with which Alberto Saavedra, manager of Digital Transformation of Business Controls, which highlights 4 main areas.

"If we talk about the technologies that have proven to be key in the advancement of companies - Saavedra says - we must list 4 of high impact: the cloud as a model that allows easy adoption of platforms and solutions of all kinds as general management tools or customer management, etc .; the data and their analysis, which have made it possible to find spaces for improvement and new opportunities in the markets; automation of processes at all levels, which allows control, traceability, monitoring and reduction of errors; and cybersecurity, and not only because it directly impacts productivity, but also because it enables projects to be tackled on the 3 fronts listed above. Cybersecurity is an enabler of other scenarios in organizations ”.

A very important aspect that must be taken into account is that technology always has to help processes to be simplified, faster, more efficient and safer. This is how Axel Díaz, director of the computer forensic laboratory of Adalid Corp., which adds that the balance between these last 2 factors (safety and efficiency) is not always easy to achieve, because the most efficient processes are not necessarily the safest, but if too much security is added, efficiency can be reduced.

Technology is not a fad

Being clear that the selection of technologies depends on the mentioned variables, it is not difficult to specify which are the most frequent errors incurred when adopting technologies as part of the Digital Transformation processes.

«The most frequent mistake made is the acquisition of technology by 'fashions', regardless of the business processes to be improved. That is perhaps the biggest criticism that can be made to some Digital Transformation initiatives. Technology holds a clear promise for improvement; Without being clear about the business process that you want to improve, this promise can fail", contributes to the discussion Milton Quiroga, Cyte general manager.

Alberto Saavedra, from Controles Empresariales, considers that a very common mistake is to think that something that positively impacted another company can equally impact one's own: “It is not just about technologies, but about ways of working. The 'technological update' per se does not generate changes in the company and it will not impact productivity or performance. The alignment that is given to this technological project within the organization, and this with the processes and people, is what can reach that impact.

In this regard, Axel Díaz, from Adalid, points out that another mistake that companies make is not being aware of the technologies they have, so they end up investing in tools for which they already had a solution, but did not use it. He points out the case of the pandemic, during which many companies contracted teleconferencing services through Zoom, although they already had packages contracted with other companies that included the group communications tool.

In Saavedra's opinion, another mistake is just thinking about to update (update the same that you already have or that is already done) and not give yourself the opportunity to rethink technology and the way of developing activities. In other words, it is not about 'digitizing inefficiencies', but about rethinking processes and using the right technologies to develop them efficiently.

Do things right

Having a clear picture of what not to do when thinking about the technology that will help drive the business forward, we can talk about what should be done: “We must not lose sight of the fact that the benefits of technologies can only be reaped when they are applied in the improvement of some business process of the organization. That is to say, Any Digital Transformation initiative must begin by clearly identifying the organization's business processes that are slow or complex to operate, or prone to error, or have a permanent level of fraud. Once these processes have been identified, you can go on to identify what technologies can be used to improve them. Starting to buy technology without being clear about the business processes to improve is in many cases wasting money", states Milton Quiroga.

From a slightly more technical point of view, Víctor Díaz, country manager of the Lenovo Data Center Group (DCG) for Colombia, Ecuador, Central America and the Caribbean, affirms that from the understanding of the needs it is possible to advance in the search for specific objectives to improve processes, increase productivity, reach new markets or simply adapt to the 'new normal', to choose a technology that meets all requirements. "This state-of-the-art technology must be agnostic to software, allowing it to be integrated with any solution, it must allow future growth without generating dependencies on brands, guaranteeing the availability and protection of information."

Jairo Guzmán, from Internexa, adds the human and cultural components to the formula: «The first thing is to identify in which phase of the Digital Transformation you are in order to know where the main gaps are and what your future needs are with the technological update that you are going to carry out. This will allow him to be assertive in the tools, the necessary changes in culture, the human resources and the strategies that he must implement to be at the forefront ”.

Technology as a promoter of inclusion, diversity and rehabilitation

Lenovo and Intel conducted a study titled Diversity and inclusion in the global work environment, according to which technology «Will play an integral role in achieving diversity and inclusion in the workplace of the future, with the ability to reduce accessibility gaps, connect people who would otherwise be separated, and expand the impact of improvement programs of competencies and progressive training ».

“We know that when organizations prioritize diversity and inclusion, financial performance, innovation, and talent acquisition and retention thrive. As manufacturers of devices that enable connectivity across cultural and geographic boundaries, technology companies like Lenovo have an obligation to ensure that products are created with the diversity of consumers in mind, and that can only be achieved with a workforce. diverse and inclusive ”, stated Yolanda Lee Conyers, Lenovo's Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Lenovo Foundation.

For her part, Barbara Whye, Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Vice President of Social Impact and Human Resources at Intel, said: “We believe that transparency is essential, and our goal is to see that our participation reflects the markets and customers we serve. Just as we apply our engineering mindset to create the world's leading technology innovations, we do the same with our diversity and inclusion strategies, using data to inform our decisions and share it transparently to drive clear accountability and deliver results across the whole industry ”.

Regarding the population with disabilities, the Rehabilitation Center for Blind Adults of Colombia (Crac) has launched a campaign to make technology an ally to promote comprehensive rehabilitation programs for occupational performance and social inclusion of blind or blind people. with low vision. To achieve this, conventional computers must be adapted with specialized programs for people with some visual impairment, available through the ICT Ministry and that can be downloaded for free, thanks to the country license. and the Convertic strategy:

  • Jaws: It is a screen narrator that, through voice, tells what is happening on the screen and receives instructions on what the person wants to do through keyboard commands. It should be noted that it can be a conventional keyboard or a Braille keyboard.
  • Zoom text: It is a screen magnifier that increases the size of texts and images, but also modifies the contrast and color to facilitate readability by people with low vision.

And the cost?

One of the workhorses of companies that develop or manufacture technology is to point out that access to technology tools is becoming easier and cheaper, and that the cloud has democratized access to technology. However, This panorama contrasts with the fact that Colombian entrepreneurs point to the budget as the first barrier to advance their Digital Transformation processes, as evidenced by the Andi survey.

In this regard, opinions, rather than being divided, have nuances that differentiate them. For example, from Internexa's point of view, in accordance with the possibilities of each company and with its same needs, there are all kinds of solutions, services and products that will allow companies to take steps forward to achieve Digital Transformation and thus improve its relationship with the client or increase its productivity, points out its Marketing Director, Jairo Guzmán.

Alberto Saavedra, from Controles Empresariales, adds that technology is a fairly mature market in which the possible investments in each solution are well aligned with the value they are capable of generating. “There are solutions for all types of markets, the task is to find the right ROI scenario for the company and ensure that the adoption and use is adequate to really impact the business. So, looking at it like this, [that technology is expensive] is a myth or better yet it is a challenge when it comes to making technology generate the maximum possible impact on productivity.«.

Cyte's Milton Quiroga recognizes that technologies can be expensive in terms of the budgetary effort they require, but that such effort must be weighed against the benefit the organization can receive: «That is, in the case of information security for a typical organization, what is expensive is not protection technology, what is expensive is fraud«.

Jaime Yory from Automation Anywhere notes that small companies often mistakenly think that technologies are only for large companies or specific sectors. In the case of the company that it leads in Colombia, it points out that it offers from free training processes to free tools for developers and students, so that its use is not limited only to the largest in the market. Sure, as businesses and their needs grow, there are also more costs associated with implementing technology; but this can be available for companies made up of one person to large corporations.

The foregoing acquires greater relevance if it is taken into account that, according to information from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) represent 99,5% of the business fabric in Latin America, in which they generate 61,2% of formal employment. «Only 29% of jobs in the region depend on the activity of organizations with up to 5 jobs or micro-enterprises. In the Colombian case, these represent 80% of the country's employment and 90% of the national productive sector.

A summary of the different points of view is the concept of the head of Lenovo's DCG, Víctor Díaz: "It depends. If the acquisition of technology helps to reduce the operational expenses of the business, to improve the response times to our clients, to increase the productivity of each resource we have, there is no doubt that the return on the investment will be obtained in a short term and therefore we would forget the purchasing cost of said investment. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the challenges to be solved, because once we have the solution, the perceived value in acquiring the technology is not relevant. If technology is acquired and it does not solve anything, the value is very high and we can almost assume that it was a bad investment.

Open source, growing momentum

Open source software is an increasingly important tool for companies of any size and industry that want to support their operations in the use of technology. A report titled The state of enterprise open source, based on a survey of 950 IT leaders in the world, finds that 95% of them believe that open source technology is important from a strategic point of view.

This answered the respondents to the question about the importance of enterprise open source. Graphic taken from the study 'The State of Enterprise Open Source', commissioned by Red Hat.

The study was sponsored by Red Hat, a pioneer and world leader in the open source software industry, which clarifies that respondents were unaware of their sponsorship when answering the questions. According to the results, the use of proprietary software systems is declining: in the study published in 2019, respondents noted that around half (55%) of the software systems they used were proprietary; now, that percentage is 42%. It is estimated that within the next 2 years, this will drop to 32% of the systems in your software stacks.

This trend, however, must be considered from the resolution of the 3 biggest obstacles that the respondents identified, which - in fact - are the same as those that appear in the 2019 study: security, support and compatibility.

You can find the full study at this link.

It is an investment, not an expense!

In the end, the important thing is to understand that technology should not be seen as an expense, but as an investment that is owed (and can) get the maximum benefit: “Without a doubt, technology is an investment in the short, medium and long term. On this depends, in many opportunities, the viability and possibility of the company to continue operating, to be competitive and to stay alive in this digital and technological environment in which we live today. This pandemic has shown us that those who were able to stand out in this situation and did not suffer major complications to continue were those companies that had already been making investments in Digital Transformation and had tools that allowed them to face moments of conjuncture like this one ”, says Jairo Guzmán, from Internexa.

Juan Pablo Villegas, from Citrix, reflects on the importance of technology to more consistently adopt models such as remote work, but his reflection can be extrapolated to other areas of the business world:

«We have a unique opportunity as a country to capitalize on the current situation, to take advantage of all the advantages that technology is already offering us to increase productivity. I believe that if companies, the government and all the sectors involved understand what they can gain in productivity with the proper application of these models, they will very hardly want to go back to work as they did before.«.

So you can learn more about business technologies for the remainder of September Impacto TIC will publish content related to the subject within a special titled Technologies to the rescue, which includes information on process automation, cybersecurity, remote work, electronic commerce; mature trends such as 'take your device to work' (BYOD), concepts such as Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), among others. The opening of this special is the event 'Technologies to the rescue of companies in Colombia', held this September 10, whose content you can see here:

Jaime E. Dueñas M.
Journalist with an emphasis on technology issues, and with more than 25 years of experience in media such as El Tiempo, Pulzo and Enter.co. Contributor to science and technology publications.



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