The 21st century is undoubtedly digital. From Guttenberg’s printing press in 1436 AD to the almost omniscient Google Search Engine of 2015, the world has come a long way. Change in the consumption and supply of information in the last 50 years has been nothing short of phenomenal. For example, the Apollo 11, the first rocket to land men on the moon, was powered by a computer operating system that is 1,300 times less powerful than the operating system of Apple’s Iphone 5s!

According to Buckminster Fuller who created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, things are not as simple, as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.  According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

All of these have been on the back of a rapidly growing digital complex. Of course, business has gone digital as well and companies that cannot keep pace are left behind. The truth is that at the speed at which the world is changing, if your organization does not mount the horseback of digital technology, it will be left behind as well.

 With this astronomical burst in capacity, the question that begs an answer is how can you make sure your company is not left behind? Here are 4 things you should do.

  1. Go Paperless.

    Guttenberg’s printing press changed the world in 1436. That is almost 600 years ago. The paper simply put, cannot keep pace with the speed of data in 2015. If your company is still entirely paper driven, you should be very worried, why? Because paper is too bulky to lend itself to thorough analysis, which is the meat of today’s business. The apt analogy is that of a company in 2015 that still keeps data on leather scrolls or stone tablets – the paper is today’s stone tablet. It just takes too much space and it is too rigid, too difficult to duplicate, transmit and analyse.

    While you cannot entirely eliminate the use of papers in your organization, the ratio of its use is roughly proportional to how nimble your organization will be for the journey into the future. To survive in the digital world you need to take a look at all your processes and apply the question; “how can we go paperless?” to every single one of them.

  2. Go Soft

    Close to going paperless is going soft. Now, let us be clear, the way to reduce the clutter of paper is to pass information through digital channels; software and hardware. However, the power of software is not only in its ability to rid your company of paper, it does more. It impacts communication, technical processes, decision making, and transactions, virtually everything you do in your company can be “softened” with software.

    You should take an audit of all the processes in your organization and ask, how and what can we “soften”? An important caveat here is that when you “soften” your company, it is always better to go local wherever you can. This means it is always better to work with local software engineers (or local software) who can build tailor-fit software solutions for your company. An American software, as nice and comprehensive as it might appear was most likely built to solve problems from an American point of view, which is usually different from the Nigerian or African point of view.

    To make the most of software for your organization, therefore, it is better that you find local software solutions, build tailor-fit software or find a way to customize the foreign software for local use.

  3. Go Online

    This almost sounds cliché, but sadly many African businesses do not get it. Many companies assume going online means having a website, and corporate email addresses for all staff. No, going online means a lot more than that. Approximately 68 million Nigerians have internet access – this is more than the sum of the population of Benin Republic, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Ghana! Going online means being able to grab revenue from this online population, being able to find innovative ways to not just advertise but engage the online market.

    Again, you should lead this quest with questions. You should ask:

    1. Which of our revenue streams can we take online?

    2. What can we learn from how companies like ours in more developed countries are leveraging the internet (most times you do not need to re-invent the wheel)?

     3. How can we build locally relevant solutions on these lessons – locally relevant means considering the fact for example, that most internet users in Nigeria access the internet via mobile phones and they are data cost-conscious, so your solutions must be both data lean and mobile optimized.

    These should be some of the leading questions your research and development team should start with. The future of business is completely online – do not miss the train.

  4. Go Cloud.

    Cloud based technology is relatively recent and still largely poorly understood in Nigeria. A quick explanation will suffice – cloud based refers to services, resources and applications made available to users from a cloud computing vendor’s servers.

    Traditional business technologies are usually quite complicated and expensive. You typically would need an entire team of experts to build, install, configure, test, run, secure, and update them. When you multiply this effort across tens or hundreds of solutions your business will need, especially when you are trying to go paperless, soft and online you can only imagine the cost and complexity implications. This cost and complexity usually constitutes a huge challenge to large businesses, small and mid-sized businesses don’t even stand a chance.

    With cloud computing, you eliminate those headaches because you’re not managing hardware and software—that’s the responsibility of an experienced vendor. The shared infrastructure means it works like a utility: You only pay for what you need, upgrades are automatic, and scaling up or down is easy.

    Cloud-based apps can be up and running in days or weeks, and they cost less. With a cloud app, you just open a browser, log in, customize the app, and start using it.

    Businesses are running all kinds of apps in the cloud, like customer relationship management (CRM), HR, accounting, and much more.

    As cloud computing grows in popularity, thousands of companies are simply rebranding their non-cloud products and services as “cloud computing.” Always dig deeper when evaluating cloud offerings and keep in mind that if you have to buy and manage hardware and software, what you’re looking at isn’t really cloud computing but a false cloud.