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The World Has Changed

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Now more than ever, Latin American companies need to innovate and recalibrate.

BY HERNAN RINCON

The world has changed. In the business and economy sectors, it is as simple as that.

This is the conclusion that I have drawn after reading an interesting post from the marketing and business consultant Steve Yastrow on the blog of another distinguished economist, Tom Peters , where they have taken the debate on whether or not there is a real economic downturn in Latin America and the rest of the world.

The main idea is that we are not in a recession. It is more of a period of recalibration. Everything is different now. We are facing a new economy, a new status quo.

And this is where the big question pops up: How is your company in this period of recalibration? Is it ready?  

NEW SITUATION

The first challenge is to assume the new situation. It is not just a question of tightening the belt and lowering costs in the hope that the market will recover. Once the current situation comes to an end, the economic environment will not be the same. Competitors will be different and so will your clients. And those people who have not recalibrated their business will find themselves facing problems.  

During periods of recalibration, changes are more profound than they may appear and you have to know how to weigh them carefully. If not, look at how the Internet has changed our lives. Since the mid-90 systems, broadband wireless access (BWA) have been successfully used around the world, particularly in developing countries, including portions of Latin America, where traditional telecommunications infrastructure is lagging behind, away from demand for even basic services and communications connectivity. Internet has changed our lives - having access to the network means being connected with others and providing aggregate information. It is becoming increasingly difficult to succeed in this world without such access. 

MEXICO'S INFONAVIT

We saw a very clear example, when The National Workers' Housing Fund Institute (Infonavit), a government mortgage provider with offices throughout Mexico, installed a new employee collaboration tool based on a unified communications network providing an integrated tool for instant messaging, presence and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, also called Voice over IP, VoIP, or VoIP, for its initials in English), plus audio and video conferences. 

The change not only simplified the communication of the employees, but it also offered a new tool for collaboration among employees, which has added about 30 minutes of additional productivity per day to Infonavit’s employees. 

The second challenge is to understand how your clients have changed in this globalized and interconnected economy. Think about conversations, dialogues with your clients and interest groups, and in language 2.0, basically a language totally transformed to fit into the new digital environment.  

It is a symptom of this new economy that, for example, only three of every four companies in the United States have a corporate website, of which only 11 percent offer a sales possibility via their site; 28 percent accept online orders; and only 21 percent  use other sites or webpages to commercialize their products online. 

RECALIBRATION

Given these scenarios, think about your company. Has it been recalibrated? Or is it on the road to recalibration? 

The answer lies in innovation. Why innovate? Well, because it allows organizations to find new answers to complex problems, such as how to operate with greater levels of efficiency and efficacy, or even how to create new business models which adapt themselves to the new reality.  

Think about how Information Technology (IT) can help you in the innovation process. IT today forms the backbone of our everyday lives: how we work, learn and communicate. From using technology to improve the performance of your employees; improve collaboration between your workforce and your community, and analyze or serve the needs of your clients; to how it helps reduce costs. For example, companies that use unified communications tools can save up to 30 percent on telecommunications costs.   

It is time to recalibrate. Companies that understand this and know how to recognize this opportunity will not only survive this period, but will also come out on top in the new economic environment.  

And your company, has it been recalibrated? Do not forget that the world continues to change, and will continue to do so for a very long time.

Hernán Rincón is president of Microsoft Latin America.This column was written for Latin Business Chronicle.

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