Technology in Business, Society and Consumers

This Chapter explores the impact of technology for business and the associated issues for society and consumers, focussing on developments in the current digital age. The increased working flexibility facilitated by technology developments as well as changes in consumer buying habits which web and internet enabled platforms support are also reviewed.

The increased supply chain transparency facilitated by Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and barcodes is highlighted, along with the opportunities for business outsourcing that can result.  However, the challenges presented by technology adoption and adaption are also reviewed, considering issues such as the increasing consumer preference for convenience and the impact of social media. Ultimately, the core issue is how technology supports modern communication and engagement approaches, leading into a review of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) approaches.  Whilst digital media is now the preferred stakeholder engagement mechanism, the associated challenges presented by information security are also emphasised.

The way in which technology supports business process automation and streamlining is covered within this Chapter, exploring activities such as human resource management and marketing. When combined with the increasing consumer preference to conduct purchasing and associated research through mobile internet-enabled devices, the requirement for businesses to develop and implement tailored technology strategies is clearly presented.

Innovation - the creation of a new idea or a new way of doing things - is explained, clarifying the differences between product and process innovation. Importantly, the difference between innovation and invention (the initial conception of an idea and the first introduction or creation of a product or process) is discussed. Innovation introduces invention to the market, commercialising the idea and potentially improving on the original concept. The need for businesses to create a culture of constant challenge to support innovation is emphasised as being a key enabler if a company is to maintain its competitive advantage in this information age.

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Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Theory (2010) is outlined in the Chapter, exploring the implications of the five-step innovation adoption process proposed (knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation). However, the complexity of social systems and the assumption that all innovations are beneficial are offered as key criticisms and weaknesses of this theory.

Specific technological developments in the 20th Century are reviewed in the Chapter, examining the implications of the internet, the World Wide Web, wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi), cloud computing and associated networks. Specific office solutions such as spreadsheets, word processing, database management and business presentations are also highlighted.

The Chapter closes with a consideration of how technology developments have introduced a significant obsolescence management challenge, compounded by the increasing rate of technology change.  Businesses unable to adapt quickly lose their competitive position in the market and can even go out of business. The importance of companies avoiding the physical trap of technology (previous equipment investment making change expensive), the psychological trap (focussing on own corporate success whilst ignoring new technology threats presented by competitors) and the strategic trap (losing future focus by concentrating on the current business environment) is also shown.


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