When I was growing up 20 years ago, dial-up Internet gave me five minutes to relax while connecting; broadcast TV with an antenna let my imagination fill in gaps in dialogue when the signal faded in and out; and my floppy disks, with their 1.44 MB of memory, really helped prioritize what was necessary to store.
I reflect on those memories so fondly. Life seemed so much simpler. But in reality, life was just slower.
These days the dizzying pace of technology evolution can make anyone yearn for the days of car phones and Windows 95. But those days are gone and never coming back. In the world of business, keeping up with technology is tougher and more imperative than ever.
Luckily at Olin, there are lots of resources, classes, organizations, and classmates to help Luddite-leaning cave people like me stay afloat in the digital sea. The Tech for Business event last Thursday, hosted by the Olin Technology Club (OTC), was one such event that brought together early and late tech adopters.
The awesome Tech for Business event crowd sourced topics on four of the most common tech buzzwords and business concepts: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Databases, and Internet of Things (IoT). And for all you unfortunate souls who missed out on these enlightening lightning sessions and equally wonderful accompanying St. Louis fare of IMO’s pizza and Budweiser, you’re in luck! I can’t (yet) give you pizza over the Internet, but I can share all I learned:
Former Deloitte consultant and MBA classmate Rohan Gujrati explains ERP to the Olin Technology Club.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
At first this nebulous concept seemed like the fancy jargon IT people love to throw around. As explained by former Deloitte consultant and MBA classmate Rohan Gujrati, ERP is a broad categorical term for systems that improve operational effectiveness for businesses. These modules channelize efforts for any number of specific functions.
ERP systems can be Human Resource Management, Financial Resource Management, Customer Resource Management, Supply Chain Management, etc. Some large companies develop ERP systems in-house to manage one of these functions, while other companies purchase the system from a third-party like SAP.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
I don’t even want to imagine how many CRM systems I’m a part of. REI, Dairy Queen, Southwest, Venture Café, I’m sure the list is in the hundreds. Brenna Humphries, former Oracle employee, explained that CRM systems allow companies to manage the entire sales funnel. They are an electronic rolodex of current and potential customers that can also capture leads, compile data from different sources, analyze metrics (e.g. lead conversion rate) and predict sales. Salesforce is the CRM juggernaut with a dominant 80% market share. Just remember, every little move you make on a company’s website can be tracked and mined for insights about your purchase behavior.
Former Oracle employee Nehal Kumar breaks down databases for business.
I’m guessing most people have heard the term “database”. But what is a database really? According to Nehal Kumar, another former Oracle employee with deep tech expertise, databases are simply a way to store masses of information and then allow analytics and reports to be run off that information. The traditional database consists of rows that contain records of something and columns which represent attributes. So if a database is just a big table, how is it different from Excel? The key is that databases can be shared and accessed by multiple people on multiple teams. Also, when updating a database all changes are saved all at once in comparison to an Excel spreadsheet where you can make multiple one-off changes to individual cells when the sheet is open. This ensures consistency of data. Trends include Big Data and cloud-based databases.
Internet of Things (IoT)
“Alexa, please don’t listen to all my conversations and turn all my household appliances against me.” Classmate Jin Lee described how, whether we are ready or not, the physical objects in our home, manufacturing plants, stores and everywhere else are quickly becoming enabled to connect to the internet. They can be controlled through apps, but also collect and share data. The cloud will provide the scale-ability to enable this exponential growth in digitally-connected devices, but also keep an eye out for the fog (it’s worth a Google). IoT doesn’t just lead to big business opportunities in more customer touch points, but it will lead to cost reduction and improvements in operational efficiency. That is if businesses can solve the challenges of security, high up-front costs of digitally-enabled products and more use cases to justify those costs.
So I’m sure lots of new IoT startups are using CRM, which is a type of ERP that uses databases. And now you know “exactly” what all that means.