3 ways technology will change the way we do business in 2013

Photo: Philip Gülland / AP Photo: Philip Gülland / AP

Over the last two decades, it sometimes felt as if every time we mastered one device, a newer one would pop up on the market. Tablets have burst onto the digital scene in a big way in the last few years, but unlike other technologies that quickly faded into memory, the way we use tablet and smartphone technology continues to grow and evolve. More and more people are converting to tablets, and they’re here to stay. 

In 2012, 70 percent of device sales were for smartphones or tablets; sales peaked well over the 800 million mark. But, get ready. Gartner predicts 2013 sales will reach 1.2 billion devices purchased worldwide. In 2013, tablet purchases will continue to boom and their use in the sales process will redefine the way we do business, from initial data capture to lead management, paperwork and fund transfers. This will lead to big decisions about how companies manage these technologies, from which devices to support to cloud computing and the ultimate issue of security.

Here are three ways technology may very well impact the way we do business over the next 12 months.

1. Companies will have to make concrete decisions about “BYOD.”

While many consumers love the thrill of being ahead of the technological curve, businesses are often slower to adapt to new technology. Adopting new tech is expensive and takes time, demanding a financial investment in new gadgets, a human investment in implementing resources, and time spent training employees on the new standard.

In 2013, businesses will be forced to start making decisions about how to handle tablets in the office and what to do about the escalating issue of BYOD (bring your own device). People like using tablets for work because they’re convenient, but as everyone from salespeople to software engineers totes their personal devices for use at work, IT departments are facing new security and support issues. Businesses will soon be forced to dictate the ins and outs of how these devices will be managed within the company framework, and enterprise or face a runaway train of digital devices. 

2. Tablets will change the way agents manage the sales process.

Not long ago, field agents made their way through the sales process buried in mounds of paper. Wrinkled maps, highlighted lists of addresses, and sheaves of half-used yellow legal pads littered back seats as agents made wrong left turns and scrambled to keep their information straight. Cold leads often froze over, and if an agent left the company, their legal pads of client notes went with them. Once a sale was closed, agents filled out and mailed paperwork to underwriting and hoped it didn’t get lost. If information was incomplete or incorrect, the process repeated itself. And remember how long personal checks took to clear?

This paper mayhem has been replaced with a single glowing device, the tablet. Sales apps make it easy to store and search contacts, navigate GPS routes efficiently, and even unearth new opportunities in whatever neighborhood an agent happens to be near. Agents can access fresh and cold leads based on geography and then link their schedule to a GPS that shows them the best way there. Information about each lead is stored on the company network so data can be easily reviewed and revived. If an agent leaves the company, lead data is no longer lost.

Tablets will also continue to make the sales process simpler. Agents can show off presentation materials on a sleek screen and then follow up by drafting quotes faster than ever. When it’s time to close a deal, apps make it simple to fill out all the necessary “paperwork.” Required fields are no longer left blank by accident, and incorrect information is easy to catch and correct. This takes pressure off underwriting, makes the approval process faster than ever before, and saves both agents and the newly insured headaches all around. When payment is due, instant electronic fund transfers make the process speedy and painless.

Tablets and smartphones can streamline every step of the sales process to make everything easier and save time. Never mind the time saved by not having to fold a crinkled map again…

3. Security, especially in the cloud, will be paramount.

According to ABI research, more than 20 percent of U.S. companies have formally deployed tablets and nearly 80 percent plan to do so in 2013. However, these numbers don’t cover unofficial tablet usage in the office, which brings us back to the issue of deciding how to manage BYOD. As businesses balance a myriad of devices, security will be in the background of every decision.

With more sensitive information flying across networks in insurance sales, protecting network integrity will matter more than ever. PCI compliance will also have new meaning as employees leverage remote access to collect instant payment. Security will come into play with cloud networks, which will become more widely used as businesses require more efficient, cost effective digital storage. 

Hacking and targeted attacks will continue, but more tablets and smart devices will open new doors for hackers and make malicious remote network access simpler than ever. More and more personal and sensitive data is passing through wireless devices and clouds, so many antivirus solutions are focused on trapping traditional operating system malware, as well as browser-based infections. Man-in-the-Browser (MitB), also called browser zombies, are the newest way hackers are invading privacy. The malicious browser extension, plugin, helper object, or piece of JavaScript doesn’t affect a machine’s entire ecosystem, but overhauls complete control of a browser and runs wherever the user surfs online. Combating these and other invaders will be paramount to company and customer security. 

Though there are challenges to overcome with integrating new tablets and smart technology into the workplace and sales process, in the long run tablet integration will make nearly every process simpler and increase ease of work and productivity. Though businesses have to think in the long term when it comes to tablets, if you ask most converts, they’ll say the benefits to using smart mobile technologies come in the short term, too.

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