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  • Annand Sharma

💻📡📱Technology is awesome and we are thankful for it

I’m calling it. I’ve had enough. Pumpkin spice season is over. Now it’s Thanksgiving month. Let’s focus on some gratitude. First and foremost I’m thankful for that extra hour of sleep last night. With that out of the way, what else are we thankful for? Upon reflection we’re thankful for the technology that fuels our business engine – the ability to automate, collaborate, and facilitate our daily workflows. We find it’s easy to take some of this for granted, so let’s take a moment and explore 4 things we’re thankful for.


Real time collaboration


This is one I take for granted. Decades ago, when I was in college some of our programming classes or labs had us work on assignments in a group. For those assignments we would spend nights in the CS lab with one designated “typer.” The rest of us scribbled on notebooks or whiteboards. Some debated solutions, while others referenced text books. I ate pizza.


The team had to work together, but was limited by using one computer. If you didn’t show up while work was being done, you couldn’t contribute. When we had to do write ups or presentations we would email those files back and forth. Each person would have their own file name and version number. It was a mess.


A grid of powerpoint files all with a variety of titles indicating they are the latest file version of a presentation

At EBH we’re fully remote. We work on lots of spreadsheets, documents, and presentations together. For the most part we discuss these things in Notion. We can leave comments and edit documents together while on Zoom. These filename nightmares are gone. Now we have one version of every file with time, and user stamped history. A unified audit trail of all changes makes it so much easier to go back to the version that was just right. Also, I am so glad we don’t have to look over the shoulder as one person types. I do miss the pizza.


Advancements in hardware and software enable us to work together in a way that feels like we’re in the same room on the same computer. It’s an amazing byproduct of always being connected to the internet. While we no longer have to work remotely, we are better equipped to do so than ever before.


Sending and receiving payments

In 1999 PayPal launched their first digital wallet product with a key limitation. You could only send and receive money from other PayPal users. Online payment companies, credit card processors, and digital first banks launched in the first .com boom faced a similar challenge. You could only send and receive money from people on the same network. In short, cash was still king.


Today, however, if you have an internet connection you can accept a credit card with Square. You don’t have to worry about storing credit card info, a card terminal, nor a merchant account. You can definitely forget about that little roll of paper for the receipt.


From a garage sale to an Italian restaurant (ok, ok pizza place) every person and every business can accept a credit card. You can use a phone or tablet to run any number of “point of sale” apps like Toast or Clover too. These apps, including Square, give you a modern cash register and credit card processor all in one.



Credit card processors, the companies behind the scenes who settle credit transactions, used to exclusively work with credit card companies. They had to, as these businesses were built more on contractual trust and assurances. As software security technology advanced, these companies could partner with software companies who were building products for more than just businesses.


With trusted and secure software integrations to a company like Square or PayPal, the processor could get more business at the same or even lower risk. A win-win situation where the payment processors, who make money on volume, and for us end users who can pay for things with a swipe or a tap.


Doing business at a trade show or a pop up location? Or if you’re a freelancer doing project work and sending PDFs for invoices. Using any of these tools you can accept credit cards in person, over email, or even over text or voice on the phone.


Marketing

I am not even sure how retail businesses find my address and send me catalogs, coupons, and flyers in the mail. I do like receiving them and reading through them.

An image of a Restoration Hardware catalogs lifting a table leg to stabilize the table
Sometimes they help fix wobbly tables. Thanks, Restoration Hardware!

I can’t help but think how many people are involved in sending these out. It sounds like a lot of time, effort, and expense. What do you even do when you find something you like? Put your shoes on, get in your car, go to the store, find parking, find the product, wait in line, and buy it? That’s so 1995.


Today businesses have increasing access to low or no cost tools to send marketing messages. There are free tools like Sendgrid, Constant Contact, or Brevo for sending newsletters or catalogs to your customers. You can even get data and insights for how many people opened these emails and what they clicked on in the email. That’s something paper could never do.


You can use these mailings to direct customers to a specific landing page. Use a tool like Unbounce or Canva to build a professional, branded landing page. Make a unique landing page for specific sales, or even specific regions. Now your business can learn even more about your customer base and their engagement with those mailers.


AI

When ChatGPT launched publicly, it formally kicked off a new level of AI zeitgeist that took the world by storm. 2 months after launch ChatGPT claimed 100 million users. Just before it launched, AI seemed to be stuck in never ending hype cycles. Just 2 years ago we advised being aware of AI while being mindful of the hype.


Before ChatGPT the most advanced interactions we had with AI were with voice activated assistants. These could be in your car, your smart phone, or connected devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. These devices could be great for routine functions, “set a timer” or “turn the living room lights off.” They were not perfect and sometimes simple queries could take longer than expected.


A screenshot of asking Siri to call an ambulance and Siri interprets this as a request to change the user's name to ambulance

ChatGPT, on the other hand, is quick, responsive, writes legal opinions, term papers, and even software. It may not always be accurate or correct, but it will give you an output and feel like you’re conversing with a sentient being. The launch of ChatGPT will be a landmark moment in the history of AI.


People are already streamlining their own business processes by using it to write marketing emails or translate documents. Others are building businesses on top of ChatGPT and offering niche solutions or adding it as a feature to their core business. Duolingo,for example, uses ChatGPT to build a virtual tutor that can help answer student’s questions as a real language tutor would.


Leveraging AI used to be something only large tech companies could tap into. Now anyone with an internet connection can interface with the most advanced AI. While AI has been around since the 1970s we’re finally in the early days of consumer AI where anything and everything we touch may be enhanced by AI.


Conclusion

In our modern, interconnected society it’s easy to lose sight of how much progress we’ve made in a short time. Personally, we send and receive marketing messages online. I split bills with friends online. Last, but not least, I interact with my great colleagues in real time. All thanks to modern technology.


Technology that operates so seamlessly in the background that we take it for granted and get upset when it doesn’t work. Taking a step back to think about how things used to be, not so long ago, has given me a moment to be grateful for all of these tools and the freedom, flexibility, and creativity they afford all of us in our lives.

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