In the late 1990's technology soared. It was the era of the dot.com boom and subsequent bust. Many new software and hardware advances were adopted by large companies that begin to integrate new technologies into their business processes.
Some of these technologies were on the 'boring edge' with buggy software, crashes, insufficient memory and so on. Online 'cloud' or web based applications were often not reliable and not user friendly.
For smaller companies without IT departments, being on the technology bleeding edge was the equivalent to living a nightmare.
Around 2003 the applications became more robust and bugs and crashes were less of a problem. Part of this progress was due to the dramatic drop in pricing for computer memory meaning that more robust programs could have run without crashing.
Also around this time many industries developed industry specific software to run businesses like car dealerships or bookstores. Called "management systems" This genre of software allowed smaller companies to combine all their processes under one program. This management software also did not require an onsite IT department to keep it running.
This vertical industry specific software was complemented by horizontal industry software such as bookkeeping and contact management software. This meant that a company could also run its books and keep track of prospects and customers in ways they were not able to do before.
Software and platform integrators stayed busy. The big drive during this period was to try to link and integrate software. For instance, management software would generate an invoice, note that it was paid and then route the data to the proper category in the general ledger through a linked accounting system.
It was clearly understood that the more integrated and "seamless" a software was, the more powerful and cost effective it could be. And since human error continued to be a major drawback to software applications, greater integration meant not only saving time and money but reducing errors.
As hardware and software improved it also became cheaper and more affordable to smaller companies. By 2005 and 2006 many of these applications became more mainstream and were used by smaller and smaller companies.
Perhaps the biggest advances during this time were web based applications. Companies could link all parts of their business online from sales and inventory to employee communications and human resources.
This shift also reduced costs from thousands of dollars for a software purchase to a monthly user's fee making it much more affordable. These applications also eliminated a lot of paper.
By 2007 the second wave of technology upheaval had begun as smaller and smaller companies being using technology to manage and market.
Smaller companies began to sell more online and funnel new prospects to their sales department. These new technologies allowed companies to sell more by expanding their markets.
"In today's marketplace if a retail or service business does not exploit all their potential markets then their competitors will," says Eric Ressler of Zuniweb Creative Services, "it's just not optional anymore."
Across horizontal and vertical industries the key driver is strategy. Those companies with a solid strategy that is well executed are stronger competitors.
Technology is a critical component in almost all business strategies and in recent years technology has enabled businesses of all types to leverage their strengths in their respective markets.
As technology has become more user friendly it also has more users. Today one does not have to know html or coding to operate very sophisticated software and companies do not require a high level of technical expertise to run most software.
The big advantage is that the user can focus on business functions and not on user unfriendly software.
With these innovations has come a second wave revolution that is changing the way business operates today. As always, the issue is which companies take advantage of these opportunities and which do not.
As always the marketplace will definitely decide which of these companies succeed.