You cannot teach an old dog new tricks the saying goes. However, there are businesses and entire industries that would disagree with this. With new technology, old businesses have found new leases of life. Some of these businesses took advantage of technologies that naturally seemed like threats to their existence and dominance to usher themself into the next generation of business and commerce. Here we look at some of these businesses and how they achieved this to see how we can apply the lessons in our businesses and industries.

Medicine – telemedecine

The old medicine model worked just fine, you had a problem, and you go to see a professional. Not everyone was happy with this arrangement but it worked. It was such an established practice that in Shona we have the colloquial saying “doctor haafambire murwere” meaning the patient goes to the doctor, not the other way around. Telemedicine has transformed this by neither party needing to go to the other. By using video calls doctors and other health professionals can assess patients remotely and provide prescriptions or medical advice. This came in handy with the difficulty in travelling presented by covid 19.

Logistics – ecommerce

Logistics boomed largely through courier services for documents and parcels. The ability to send documents via electronic methods threatened the possibilities for logistics as electronic communication was both cheaper and faster. However, the internet that both takes away and gives us a new lease of life was extended to the logistics industry through eCommerce. The shift to greater eCommerce usage turned courier services from industry under threat to a booming industry. Logistics are not only a part of eCommerce but one of the most important parts as eCommerce requires a smooth logistics environment to be viable.

Fast food – eCommerce

The threat to fast food did not come from technology. It was the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic that upset the model massively as people shunned, either by choice or by force going to establishments. Fast food had in earnest embraced eCommerce before the emergence of the coronavirus. The coronavirus gave eCommerce the extra push it needed to become a fully viable part of the fast-food industry, especially in the developing world.

Music/video sales – streaming

Music, video and other media sales had long been under threat from the technology itself, in some ways they still are. The emergence of peer to peer file sharing rocked the world and provided free access to pirated media. The emergence of stores like iTunes rocked the industry by providing a flat fee model for all media, something akin to the P2P file-sharing world. This priced all music and media the same. This did not put an end to P2P file sharing but cut into premium pricing. Streaming further rocked the industry and is the model we have today. Why pay to own the media when what you want is to enjoy the media? Streaming allows members to consume all they want for a flat subscription fee though some media still attracts individual charges such as movies. Artists and creators get paid based on the usage of their media on the platforms.

Communities – social media

The internet has gone through many phases. While communities are not all businesses per se, communities are a big part of business and have been for a very long time. The transformation of the internet from a “read-only” resource to a viable two-way communication platform greatly changed the way communities are run. Social media created a version of the internet where the individual is just as loud as the corporation and users created communities that were outward-facing. This changed perspectives on community management for businesses and gave new and ingenious ways to engage the masses.

Software – cloud computing

Software as we know it ran on what was called the legacy principle- people paid developers a once-off fee for their software and enjoyed the use of it. Every few years a new version was developed and users paid to access the new version. Advances in the capacity of the internet introduced us to cloud computing which allowed applications to be housed online rather than on devices. The devices instead acted as terminals to access the software. This birthed the concept of software as a service (SaaS). Users pay monthly or annual subscriptions to access and use the software. This has changed the fortunes of many software companies that also faced the threat of piracy to their legacy software sales.

As you can see technology has both taken and given to businesses.