Three Technology Trends Your CU Can't Ignore

Focus on what will shape the future of your organization and industry.

July 22, 2011

By Daniel Burrus

Technology is evolving—fast. For that reason, it’s imperative for your credit union to focus not just on changes that are happening today, but also on the technological trends that will shape the future of your organization and your industry.

Why? The more anticipatory you can be with technology, the more creatively you can use it to gain competitive advantage.

As someone who has been accurately predicting the future of technology for more than 25 years, I urge all leaders to focus on these three emerging trends that are reshaping the business landscape as we know it.

1. Just-in-time training

Thanks to cloud-based technology, we’re on the brink of a revolution in just-in-time training. This will enable people to use their laptops, cell phones, and tablet computers to receive training precisely when they need it.

At most organizations, people receive training for a variety of things before they actually need the expertise, taking them away from their jobs and costing the company a lot of money. With just-in-time training, companies can keep people in the field until there’s a need for specific training.

Then, when people need a certain skill set to complete a job or do a task, they can receive the pertinent training in real time via cloud-based technology. This can be used to train staff on new software, train salespeople on product upgrades, instruct employees on new policies and procedures, and so on.

It’s different and better than standard tutorials because staff can access the training via any device anywhere and at any time with the option for live help. The applications for cloud-based, just-in-time services are virtually limitless.

2. Processing power on demand

The increased bandwidth that our mobile devices now receive enables us to connect to cloud-based technologies easier and faster than ever before. And one thing we know about bandwidth is that it will continue to increase.

Because of this, we’ll soon be able to take advantage of another trend I call processing power on demand—or virtualized processing power.

We’ve already virtualized so many things. Consider virtualized storage where we can store our data on a cloud-based network. Many companies choose this option for data safety, ease of backup, and the ability to access the data via any device.

We have virtualized our desktops so we can see them on anyone else’s machine just how they’re supposed to appear.

It makes sense, then, that processing power will be virtualized too. In other words, a mobile device only has a certain amount of processing power. But if you can tap into additional processing power via cloud-based technology, you can turn your mobile device into a super computer where you can do advanced simulations and crunch different data streams together to get real time analytics.

Now, your handheld device is as powerful and advanced as your desktop. Imagine the increase in productivity if your employees could do complex work requiring advanced processing power while they’re on the road, armed with nothing more than their mobile device.

What would that shift do to your company’s bottom line?

Next: Creative application of technology

3. Creative application of technology

For both of these trends and others to fully emerge, business leaders have to consider what their people would do with the technology. It’s no longer enough to simply deploy technology; you also have to consider how your people can creatively apply the technology to gain competitive advantage.

Therefore, you need to go to your internal customers (all the people using the technology in the enterprise) and ask what they want technologically. Give them what they ask for, but realize they will under-ask because they don’t know what’s technically possible.

So while you want to listen to what your staff ask for and give it to them, realize that what they’re not asking for are bigger and better capabilities—the things they don’t even know are possible.

You need to go to the next level and help people do what they want—if they only knew they could. After all, people didn’t ask for an iPhone or a Blackberry. They wanted the ability to access e-mail and the Internet without being tied to a desktop or laptop.

This is about putting existing technologies together and using them in creative ways.

For example, there are literally thousands of features in Microsoft Word you can select. But most people use only seven to 10 features. Your competitors are using the same features, which means you’re not getting any true competitive advantage.

So you need to ask, “What features would be great for our sales group [or human resources or accounting, etc.] to use—features that are so buried in the software that no one knows they exist?”

Most information technology departments won’t ask those questions because they’re too busy making sure everything is connected, working well, and safe. And if they’re not asking, who is?

Who in your organization is looking at the tools you already have and asking if they’re underused? Chances are the answer is “no one.” As such, it’s safe to say all your tools are underutilized.

Therefore, you need to implement a communication vehicle that engages the different groups you serve in the enterprise—i.e., sales, accounting, human resources, etc.—and help them understand the power of the tools they have access to.

One suggestion: Show staff a “feature of the day” and how it can make their lives easier. This is about giving employees information in short, fun, engaging ways rather than a 100-page document (which no one will read anyway).

Some software programs offer such a feature. Perhaps you can customize that idea and apply it internally so different groups get information tailored specifically to their needs.

Create your CU’s future

Many business leaders will say they’re too busy to address these trends. But if you don’t address them, who will?

Ultimately, whoever drives these trends within an organization will be perceived as a significant contributor to the enterprise—someone worth keeping and someone with high value in the marketplace.

When that someone is you, you can drive bottom-line results and be a key contributor to the organization’s success.

DANIEL BURRUS, founder/CEO of Burrus Research Associates, Hartland, Wis., is a noted technology forecaster and business strategist. He’s the author of six books, including “Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible” and “Technotrends.” Contact him at 800-827-6770.