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Technology needed

I just came back from New York where I attended a Story seminar taught by the master teacher of storytelling, Robert McKee. As I sat down to catch up on the news a few days ago, I came across an article in which the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Industry Development (what a mouthful), Donville Inniss, said that the region must keep up with technology and it tied in beautifully with what I had planned to write about this week.

I was so excited by the technology that I encountered on my trip that while I was in the US, I had to shoot off an e-mail to my mobile marketing friend, who is really ahead of his time in Barbados. First of all I went into the Apple store in Grand Central, which was of course populated by a lot of young people and professionals looking at iPhones, iPads and various other Apple products.

All of their devices are laid out on tables for customers to test out and play with, kind of like the one here but obviously on a much bigger scale. Then they have “specialists”, the name given to their sales people, who can provide you with information on a particular item and get it for you if you decide to purchase.

They also inform you about other Apple services, such as small business financing, technology solutions etc. Each of these specialists walk around with what I thought was an iPhone but which, my techie friend tells me, was actually an iPod Touch (iTouch) configured to read credit cards.

So not only are they able to tell you or show you the features of the item, they know what stock they have and it is in easy reach. If you’re paying by credit card, and I guess that most people do, the specialist can read your card with their iPod and either print the receipt for your or send it by e-mail to your address. I opted to have mine sent by e-mail and by the time I got back to my hotel, the receipt was in my Inbox of course.

Next, I was in one of the major department store chains and again I saw the sales people with these devices. This time I was trying to find a pair of shoes and the salesman was able to check the inventory using his iTouch and let me know right away if my size was in stock.

No more waiting around while the salesperson went into the back to physically look through their stock only to come back and tell you that they don’t have your size. This was so much more efficient.

Then I was at the airport at the security checkpoint and I saw some business men using their smart phones to check in. I’ve discovered that they were using a mobile boarding pass. How it works is that the airline sends your boarding document, with a link to your QR code, directly to your mobile device via e-mail. You clink the link in the e-mail to retrieve your QR code and whenever you need your boarding pass you hold up your QR code to a scanner which reads the information.

If you have a seat change or upgrade, or a change in the departure gate, your boarding pass can be refreshed electronically to display the new information. The pass can also be used to check any bags at self-service machines, airline counters and curbside kiosks. Obviously the airport has to have the facility to read QR codes.

I for one am trying to keep abreast of the technology and to use it to facilitate my business wherever possible. For example, a couple of weeks ago I held a seminar and the poster for it featured a QR code, compliments of my mobile marketing friend.

For those people whose smart phones had a QR code reader, they simply had to scan the code and it would take them to a mobile website which provided additional information about the seminar, included a teaser video and allowed them to register for the course, contact me and share the code with friends.

While a few people used the website to register, most people just did it the old fashioned way by calling or e-mailing so we still have a way to go.

There are so many other uses of technology that was can implement to “take full advantage of doing business in a global village” according to Minister Inniss and while, as he puts it “advances in technology can dramatically improve on business facilitation in Barbados and improve the economy”, Government should be among the first to implement some of these technologies.

Using QR codes to advertise a product, service or an event is not that difficult. The use of mobile devices to check stock and to process credit card information is not that costly and would probably just require a little training to implement. So we need to look at our businesses and see how we can improve our use of technology to make them more efficient and therefore competitive.

* Donna Every is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA who worked with Ernst & Young for ten years before starting her own Business Advisory practice, Arise Consulting Inc. She has written four books including What Do You Have in Your House?, Surviving in Times of Financial Crisis and the newly released novel The Merger Mogul.

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