Technology has disrupted the business landscape. While automation has cost the jobs of millions of people around the world, it has also produced new industries and opportunities. Below are five ways that technology will continue to affect business in the 21st century.
Reduced Demand for Office Space
As products and services continue to migrate to the cloud, there will be a reduced need for physical office space. For example, 40 years ago one needed to enter a store in a mall or on a street in order to purchase clothes. Today, online retailers like Amazon allow people to shop from the comfort of their homes.
Moreover, software like Slack, Zoom and Skype provide users with tele-conferencing and co-working capabilities. Board meetings with directors from across the globe can take place without anyone having to travel. All of this may be distressing for commercial real estate, which is designed to house businesses and their employees.
Increased Execution of Electronic Agreements
Companies and people will increasingly sign legally-binding agreements through the internet, rather than by meeting in-person. This will be especially true for those who do business across cities and countries.
“I rely a lot on a service called DocuSign,” says Vancouver businessman, Alexis Assadi. “Instead of printing a lengthy legal agreement, signing it, mailing it to the counterpart, having them sign it and return a copy to me, DocuSign lets both parties sign safely online. The company also tracks who, when and where the contract was executed, so there’s little risk of anybody claiming that their signature was forged.”
According to Mr. Assadi there are other similar services. “The ability to form legal agreements through the internet has changed my business. I can move faster, be more efficient and store my documents safely,” he says.
Less In-Branch Banking
Online banking is already common. But banking is still not 100% electronic. For example, wire transfers generally must still be done in-person or via telephone. One is often unable to login to their accounts and transfer large sums of money to another person online. That is expected to change as encryption technology allows banks and customers to protect against loss. It is likely that banks will increasingly turn to models like the Dutch company, ING, which has relatively few retail locations and operates mostly online. In theory, this should bring down transactional costs, too.
More Online Real Estate Showings
Prospective homeowners may soon rely on photo and video technologies to view real estate showings. Instead of dashing between multiple properties on evenings and weekends, buyers will increasingly take virtual tours of local properties. This will likely place downward pressure on the realty industry, as fewer real estate agents would be required. However, it may also cut down or eliminate transactional costs such as commissions. It is foreseeable that the entire sales process – including financing and execution – will take place online.
Decreased Privacy and More Data Breaches
One of the worst downsides of the internet’s ubiquitousness is that human data is more exposed. Companies like Equifax and Facebook, for example, have faced steep fines for allowing personal information to leak. Businesses, their staff and customers should expect to have less privacy going forward. Data breaches will become more common. While consumers may suffer, it will probably propel the demand for security experts to new heights.