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There’s no question that technology has changed the way most businesses operate. Technology has opened up new frontiers, enabling businesses to reach markets not only across the state, but around the world. Companies also are able to run more efficiently, impressively streamlining departmental functions. Just think about order processing alone: An online order can be quickly scheduled for delivery and tracked. Further, customer queries can be answered via online chat features. Technology has leveled the playing fi eld, too, allowing even small startups to leverage their expertise and take on more of a “big company” persona. All that’s required is establishing an online market presence.
On the human resources side, advances in technology have made it easier for companies to locate highly desirable talent, compare the costs of benefits, and hire new employees. Likewise, skills can continue to be honed by taking advantage of training options that range from virtual classrooms with instructor-led webinars to self-paced courses.
In spite of all these changes, however, there are times when technology alone isn’t the total solution. Businesses still involve people, after all, both on the customer and staffing sides.
Q: How is digitalization impacting higher education?
A: Information technology’s role in higher education continues to transform how business is conducted, as students demand digital services to support their educational experience. While digitalization is technology-driven, at Northwood University it’s not just about file servers or the wireless access they provide. IT has to make sure online registration goes smoothly, payroll runs, and students can binge-watch Netflix outside of class.
Northwood University understands that providing an advanced student-focused digital environment is critical in developing future leaders. The university constantly scans the digital horizon to implement enhanced services that impact student success. In the classroom, business intelligence tools, and even the beginnings of artificial intelligence software, are helping increase success by alerting advisers when students are academically at risk.
While students at Northwood University will always be provided a free-enterprise-based education, technology increasingly delivers instruction and related services in a digital format, whether it be face-to-face or via an online environment.
Robert G. Wisler, MBA
Director of Information Technology
Q: As a human resources and benefits decision-maker at my organization, I’m always seeking ways to minimize health care costs, while offering comprehensive services to keep my employees emotionally and physically fit. Is technology the best way to reduce costs and create healthier and more fully engaged employees?
A: Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance and Wellness Programs work with organizations to implement a customized well-being strategy for employees. Several different models of interaction and intervention are offered — telephonic, video, in-person counseling, and an online resource center.
Although technology offers convenient solutions, if your employees want to achieve sustainable, long-term behavioral change that lowers claims and increases your bottom line, face-to-face counseling and coaching win, hands down. Technology still cannot replace the human experience.
Kent Sharkey, President & CEO
Human Resource Management Solutions
901 Wilshire Dr., Ste. 210
Troy, MI 48084
Q: Self-driving Cars. Industry 4.0. Should we care?
A: GM, Ford, and other automotive companies are becoming technology companies. The Society of Automotive Engineers has defined six levels of autonomous driving, from level 0 (no autonomy) to level 5 (full automation). Presently, the most advanced cars are at level 3, conditional assistance, where the driver must be ready to intervene. By 2020 or 2021, level 5 cars will be on the market.
The way companies make products is changing, too. Smart Factory and Industry 4.0 are terms that describe these changes, together with the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems. The new products will require lots of engineers, technicians, and IT professionals, and traditional labels — mechanical, electrical, or computer engineer — don’t fit anymore. New titles are emerging, like connected systems engineer, which describes an integration of skills from different areas.
Baker College’s electrical engineering and computer science programs have started looking at the fusion, and students are invited to come along on the journey.