Emerging technology for the future of business

Experts from RMIT and Amazon share their views on how emerging technologies are helping businesses in the race to pivot, innovate and scale in an ever changing world and what we can learn along the way.

The first in a three-part online series exploring the possibilities of emerging technologies, RMIT experts Associate Professor Ellie Rennie and Dr Julian Waters-Lynch were joined by Craig Fuller, Director, Amazon Australia Operations.

From the rise of cashless shopping and remote working in the time of social distancing, to the barriers and opportunities across blockchain, entrepreneurship and logistics, the discussion explored how technology is shaping the future of business.

New technology at our fingertips

Waters-Lynch, a lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship, said it was an exciting time for entrepreneurs, with the ubiquity of new technology platforms making it faster, cheaper and easier than ever before to start a business.

“When you start a company today, you’re sitting on all this digital infrastructure that’s very accessible and low cost,” he said.

But he cautioned that while it may be much cheaper now to launch a new company, much of the cost has been transferred to the challenge of growth and scale.

“The cost of marketing, customer acquisition and growth are still real challenges for any new businesses.”

Dr Julian Waters-Lynch, lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship. Dr Julian Waters-Lynch, lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Rennie, who researches blockchain and other automation technologies with an eye on cooperation, accountability and inclusion, said that businesses will also need to understand how processes are being transformed by the technology.

“Blockchain is an underlying infrastructure that’s already proving to be incredibly useful to businesses and governments,” she said.

“While starting a blockchain company remains a risky business, those who understand blockchain and are ready to use it will have an advantage as more services and supply chains are transformed by it.”

As consumer demand increases for products and services that are meaningful as well as socially and environmentally responsible, big businesses are investing in emerging technologies to improve a host of business functions.

For Fuller and his team, this means continuously innovating to speed up order processing times, make jobs safer and easier for employees, and improve the customer experience.

“At Amazon, building technology to automate functions is a continuous process and as an organization, we have a relentless focus on this,” he said.

Associate Professor Ellie Rennie, expert in blockchain and other automation technologies. Associate Professor Ellie Rennie, expert in blockchain and other automation technologies.

The way forward

Asked for advice to young entrepreneurs, Waters-Lynch said to start early and not spend too much money before testing an idea.

“The biggest challenge is actually finding a customer that’s willing to pay for the solution your business offers. So the goal is to build stuff as cheaply and quickly as possible so you can put your ideas in front of potential customers and learn from how they respond,” he said.

“At RMIT we have really strong links to the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Melbourne and getting connected to this community can help you get customer feedback early which is so critical.”

Rennie also said customers were central and that as new technologies are developed and implemented, it’s important that businesses think about who could be left behind.

“We have to keep asking ourselves, who has the digital infrastructure to participate? If we’re talking about digital transactions and money for example, what happens to people who fall in and out of connectivity? These are important considerations with any new technology.”

Finally, Fuller advised that businesses must evolve alongside their customers and never stop being curious.

“At Amazon we say it’s always day one, and that approach to business allows us to be agile as we continue to innovate and try new things to better serve our customers,” he said.

“We believe there is so much to be gained from asking questions and exploring new possibilities. I hope through knowledge sharing sessions like this we can inspire people to think about innovation in a new way.”

The next Technology Matters live webinar will be on Wednesday 3 June 2020 and will explore the future of health and social care. Register to attend.

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer