What is technology doing to our businesses?

Businessman touching a modern interface

Business Services Associate Director and Asian Business Desk specialist, Ruby Cheung discusses the increasing use of apps and other technology to communicate in the fast paced business community. Her recent trip to Hong Kong highlighted how this technology is becoming the ‘norm’ and ponders whether we are still being security conscious in this new business world. 

I’m definitely not the most tech-savvy person especially when it comes to knowing the latest developments and trends, not in my household or work or social circle. But like many of us, we’re forced by innovation, creativity, intelligence and market trends to keep up with the pace if we are to survive and stay competitive in this modern technological environment.

Technology has shaped, and continues to shape, the way we do business. The use of emails, text messages, video conferencing, Skype, live chats and the like are just part of the “norm”.  In recent years, the increased use of “Apps” has added another level of complication, or is it a revolutionary convenience for our business dealings?

Often now people have their heads down on the street, bus, train, ferry, restaurants or just queuing. It doesn’t matter what age, whether you are 5 or 70, students, working or non-working, families, retirees, there are Apps which are suited to you.

Many of us would have heard of Apps like “whatsapp”, “WeChat”, “LINE” – amongst the most popular communication Apps (or as the Chinese would refer to, the “A” “P””P”) used in particular by the Asian community. What was originally designed to be social mobile messaging tools, I believe, have found their way into our business dealings.

In recent years, I have occasionally used text messages and mobile messaging Apps to communicate with my business clients, however, they were almost the last resort or necessitated by the urgent responses/instant attention required to progress with a certain matter. My recent trip to Hong Kong though, has confirmed that in fact this is the way that most people communicate now, whether for business or personal matters.

For those of us who have been to Hong Kong you would no doubt associate the city with its fast pace setting – this is a city where people are literally everywhere, and where the MTR (subway) stations are often packed at midnight. Put aside the association with food, shopping and its vibrant night life, it’s one of the most westernised, commercialised, South East Asian cities. My observation, as soon as I landed, is that there are no shortages of Smartphone or mobile Apps being used all around me!

In talking to people who work and live in Hong Kong, it’s clear that the use of Whatsapp or WeChat is “expected” of everyone. Not only is it a social media and messaging tool which allows business networking and promotion, it can often be the quickest, easiest and effective way to get a response or a decision made. I have learnt that (at least for SME businesses anyway), Whatsapp or WeChat are often used in business negotiation and even discussions on employment matters. I have seen them used on the run for intense discussions for business proposals, or just when you “don’t feel like having a face-to-face discussion” on pay reviews and appraisals! There is no holding back in messaging your boss or client or suppliers and anticipating an almost instant response or acknowledgement. It seems there is no hierarchy or much emphasis on formality anymore. The availability of these Apps at our finger tips means that they can be used on the go and allow us to “clear a few things” in between meetings, stuck in traffic or on the way to school pickups. As I expanded my horizons in Hong Kong and spoke to a few more people, it became apparent that this method of communication is also very common and widely accepted in the Middle East and other locations especially when internet connections are not reliable. Sending short messages or use of voice or video messaging via one of these Apps has become a more reliable alternative then emails and video conferencing for business conversations.

So if this is the way technology is trending us in business dealings, where does it leave us with data integrity, security and quality control?  Or do they not matter as much anymore?

In my opinion, I think technology is requiring us to be more self-disciplined on our acts as the speed of data flow means there are potentially multiplying damaging effects if we are not careful in what we say or share – and how quickly. Business etiquette also appears to be less important as often messages are direct and brief, without necessarily having the full sentences or correct grammar or spell-checker!

Although we may be caught up with the latest App/technology usages, are we up to speed with our document management system, data integrity and security? Is your business information secure? Have you got adequate measures to ensure your data is protected and all communications captured? It might be time to think again to make sure that your business is ready for this fast-paced environment – it certainly demands a continuous review and recognition of upgrade requirements.

I wonder if business dealings in Australia are trending the same way as in these other locations?

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