“The future is already here,”

“The future is already here,” William Gibson, the science fiction writer and futurologist, has said. “It’s just not very evenly distributed.”

What does that mean? Gibson is making a point about global inequalities; but he could just as easily have been talking about competing businesses in the developed world: some are grabbing the potential of the digital world, and some are holding back, uncertain what to do.

There is big business in apps

Two very big businesses have recently partnered with Apple, in a vision of the future: IBM are aiming to harness the power of “Big Data” by utilising mobile technology to give users – employees, for example – instant and analytical access to streams of digital information. This empowers those individuals – and makes IBM not just a leader in digital technology, but a beneficiary of it.

Of course, IBM are also looking to sell these benefits to their clients: their “IBM MobileFirst for iOS” suite of apps offer businesses the chance to funnel the huge quantities of data stored in their own systems to the mobile devices of their employees. This unlocks the information businesses store, because it makes those facts and figures both more and instantly accessible – and more easily manipulated. In short, it creates new opportunities and brings to bear new efficiencies.

If that sounds good, it will be no surprise that one of the “big four” accountancy firms, Deloitte, have also just partnered with Apple. The company declares they want to help employees “work the way they live”: in other words, in a mobile way. Their focus is on information sharing, creating bridges between different data streams and employees in order to facilitate smarter working.

Deloitte have committed to this style of working by establishing an “Apple Practice” – a team of 5000 iOS experts who will help Deloitte’s clients think more clearly about issues of productivity and connectivity. Their “EnterpriseNext” app is designed to help businesses evaluate iOS-based mobile projects – avoiding wasting time on dead-end ideas, and accelerating the best ones.

In other words, two of the world’s biggest firms are committing whole-heartedly to mobile apps as the future of service provision. That’s because apps offer unrivalled opportunities for streamlining business processes, making them more efficient and productive. Apps aren’t silver bullets by their own, of course – but properly integrated into service design they can be hugely powerful.

Not all of us, though, are Deloitte and IBM. The good news is that even small businesses can leverage the power of apps – just find an agency that knows their stuff and you get along with. Entry into the app market can be cost-effective as well as profitable, too.

From apps that enable your salespeople to be immediately updated as to changes to the catalogue, to ones which automate appointment-setting or analyse key data streams, apps can give you enhanced business intelligence at the tap of a screen. That’s real power – and a turbo-boost to any business.

The bar for entry is not high: we don’t all have to partner with Apple. But we all do need to start thinking digitally, if we’re going to keep up in a world in which the big players are committing completely to the idea that apps have staying power.

In other words: the future is already here. Don’t settle for its unequal distribution.

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