Remember when information just sat there, generally in paper format? You couldn’t do much with it back then. You could mail it, copy it, clip it together, stuff it in a briefcase, store it in a file cabinet. It took a lot of effort to analyze, but it stayed put. And one of the best features of pre-digital information was something we never even thought about: you could get rid of it. Permanently.
I don’t have to tell you that the analog world is becoming a distant memory. Perhaps more than any other year so far, 2013 has pushed us all into the often amazing but occasionally unnerving world of digitalization. We’re amazed at the possibilities of boundless information and an unlimited flow of data, accessible anytime, anywhere, on many different surfaces. But sometimes we’re a little intimidated by its power. And sometimes, it may be tempting to believe that we can stop change at a certain point and insulate ourselves from the future. But when you look at the speed with which we’re moving forward, it becomes obvious that that’s not likely to happen. For example: we created 5 billion gigabytes of data from the beginning of recorded time until 2003. In 2011, we created that amount of data every two days. And this year, that time will shrink to 10 minutes.
But technology brings enormous opportunities in the digital world. It creates new possibilities every day, no matter what business you’re in. Whether we work in software, tax, payroll, or something else, we’re all essentially in the information business. And information managed properly is power. The old rules are fading fast, and it’s up to us to write new ones. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. How will you interact with clients in this new environment? What new services will you offer? How will you profit from the new opportunities that digitalization holds? It’s all up to you. And the possibilities are endless.
Progressive firms are already rewriting the rules, having learned that digital information can be transformative when it’s used effectively. They’re taking advantage of technology that allows for self-serve client access to reports and finished documents, business coaching services, new ways of capturing client information for better management of firm-customer relationships, instantaneous access to information and applications on an increasing variety of mobile devices, and much more. These firms are becoming much more relevant to their clients – and frankly, much more useful to them. I’m looking forward to meeting many of these firms at the upcoming SYNERGY Users’ Conference in Miami Beach. And I think the latest issue of Solutions magazine has some great examples of what’s possible when firms realize that their business model has changed as a result of our new world, and they drive their practices to take full advantage of new opportunities.
For all of us in the information business, answering these existential questions is a big responsibility. But it’s also incredibly exciting. It’s an unprecedented opportunity, and it’s up to all of us to grab it. Because, while it may be true that digital information never goes away, it’s also true that it never stops working. It certainly doesn’t just sit there. And neither can we.