Technology changes so fast that it is difficult to stay on top of it. Older businesses struggling to compete in the brave new world of advanced technology can follow the lead of golfers who take up the game late in life.
— By Vincent Pane
Technology impacts everything today – from the materials in golf club handles and golf balls to supply chains, customer services, and marketing. The term "keeping up with the Joneses" has new meaning in the dynamic world we live in today. It once meant working harder to buy shiny new objects like the ones your neighbours own, but today it is more applicable to staying current with technology to remain competitive.
For older established companies with legacy systems, keeping technology updated often means developing new strategies, changing the way business is conducted which requires retraining employees, overcoming resistance to change, and making a heavy investment of financial and human resources. These businesses can take a proverbial page from the golf book on learning or relearning to play golf later in life when older joints are stiff, new golf equipment is high-tech and unfamiliar, and learning updated golfing strategies requires adaptability and a willingness to invest the necessary effort and capital.
Back in the Day
There have been a lot of changes in the tech world over a short period of time. Decades ago, artificial intelligence (AI) was mostly a philosophical idea in the minds of scientists. Today it is in ever wider use for independently designing business strategies based on machine learning that requires a massive influx of data from multiple sources.
It was not that long ago that mobile phones were banned in the workplace as employee distractions. Now smartphones are used to create a seamless personal-work connection that enables training on the go, 24/7 access to corporate systems and information, and enhanced customer service.
However, critical work systems and processes are built around legacy systems, so integrating digital technologies means making significant changes to workflows in order to eke full value out of the new system.
Golfers who take up the game later in life or return to golfing after retirement face similar challenges. Golf clubs and golf balls are now high–tech designs made of high–tech materials. Back in the day, as the expression goes, golf clubs and golf balls were fairly standard.
Golf equipment was not robot tested; different irons sets were not available to handle different jobs; iron blades were either forged blades or large cast irons; and a golfer's swing was not computer analysed. Driver handles were wood, so the focus was owning clubs with high–quality wood in good shape. There were very limited choices in golf balls, too. One ball could travel farther and not stop on the green. The other golf ball would not travel as far but did have more spin.
Now, technology has created drivers with a higher launch without requiring higher spin; irons sets are available that are job specific; clubs performance is measured; golfer swings are computer analysed; and golfers can buy golf clubs with a customized fit. Technology has made tremendous changes to golf equipment and the ability of golfers to improve their performance on the golf course. For example, engineering changed the classic iron blade design which produces higher launch and more distance.
Making Success Easier to Achieve
Decades ago, persimmon drivers required hitting the ball on the screws for ideal performance. Since the club face was small, the golfer had to develop precise swings. Now the club face is larger, while at the same time the golf club head weighs less than older equipment.
Technology has improved golf balls. The older golf balls had many rubber threads wrapped around a rubber core. Newer golf balls have many solid layers, which enables getting optimal spin and longer distances with the driver.
Older golfers find the new equipment offers much more leniency than older equipment did. Get a computerized evaluation of stance and swing while using new technology clubs and balls, and the older golfer can get up to speed quite rapidly.
Think of older golf equipment as legacy equipment that simply cannot perform as well as newer equipment. However, the golfer who once played years ago must still learn to use the new equipment, adapting to the changes that technology has brought to the game of golf. For older people new to golf, the technology has streamlined the ability to learn how to play.
New technologies in the business environment can bring significant competitive advantages, such as improved customer service, more efficient decision-making through analytics, automation of labour-intensive processes, and targeted marketing. Everything adds up to more efficient and effective use of employees and enhanced competitiveness.
However, it is challenging to move away from legacy systems to an advanced technology system. This has become most apparent in procurement functions, which are generally seen as the last function to fully embrace technology.
In golf and the business world, modernizing with technology needs to be carefully planned, and only the technologies that are value-adding considered.
What is the Value Proposition?
In any function, integrating digitalization with legacy systems requires a willingness to invest the time and money. It is not always necessary to fully scrap a legacy system, any more than the golfer must scrap older golfing equipment.
The broader question is: What is the value proposition of embracing new technologies to whatever degree is deemed ideal? What value is added by adopting machine learning systems in sourcing or robotizing production processes or utilizing chatbots for customer service? What is the value in merging databases and using AI and machine learning to produce analytics that streamline the talent recruitment process, identifies hidden financial risks, or enhances dynamic market intelligence?
In golf and the business world, modernizing with technology needs to be carefully planned, and only the technologies that are value-adding considered. The older weekend golfer may not need the most expensive state-of-the-art golf club set that costs thousands of dollars because of its high–tech features. A business may not need to fully replace its legacy systems which could cost millions.
The key is being sensibly adaptable in order to be competitive, the critical feature of successful golfing and business management.