This Modern Life: How Business Has Changed in the Last 25 Years

Posted on April 2015 By Jack Bland
How Business Has Changed

​Anyone who has been alive more than 25 years (okay, maybe more than 26 years) knows that there have been incredibly dramatic changes to the way we do business in that time. Technology has vastly altered every aspect of how we work, from how we sell a pack of chewing gum to how we close multi-million dollar deals.

There are a few different areas in which this change is most noticeable. Let’s take a look and envision how our jobs might have differed if we were working all the way back in 1990 (it doesn’t seem that long ago when you say the date, does it?).

Relax guys, manual labour is so ‘90s

Since the 1990s, manual systems have pretty much been replaced by automated ones across a range of areas. Thinking back to 25 years ago, many files were still on paper. There were no Wikis, no databases to speak of and many businesses were not even using email yet, so many lower-level employees’ jobs involved manual tasks like filing. Even technical staff like accountants have seen many of the manual tasks traditionally associated with their jobs disappear as Excel formulas and clever software became commonplace.

We’re all connected

25 years ago, logistics and supply chain solutions relied on one thing: stocktake. What this meant was hand-counting thousands of items regularly to ensure everything was accounted for. Today, even online technology allows business owners to monitor stock levels as items are dispatched or used – right down to something as small as what a certain tradesman has in his van – which avoids being caught without and allows and businesses to avoid over-stocking.

Similarly, international companies (and even local companies with multiple offices) relied on the phone and fax to communicate in the ‘90s. Purchase orders were raised manually and often sent via mail. Today, access to online information via Wiki, intranet and knowledge sharing applications, as well as email and other immediate-contact technologies, mean we can collaborate and access information across oceans and time zones ways our ‘90s selves never could have dreamed of.

Time to get flexi

This accessibility, bolstered by smart phone use, has also increased flexibility for workers and employers alike. We’re accessible to each other 24/7, sure, but remote access to servers and other work-related resources means a greater work/life balance, with employees able to work more fluid hours and take care of business from a range of locations outside the office. Not the kind of traditional 9-5 in the office people were used to in the 1990s, that’s for sure.

Welcome, ladies

In the 1990s, very few women worked in the IT field. It was an industry packed with men, and females made up only a small percentage of all roles, let alone technical roles. Today, the figure of women in SAP alone stands between the 18% it was at in 2012 and the goal set by the industry for 2017 of 25%, a figure that will almost certainly grow in the future.

Access granted

In 1995, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) products like SAP were the stuff of Fortune 500 companies (and sometimes only Fortune 100 companies!), thanks to their prohibitive cost. By 2006, experts were already talking about this technology as becoming essential to every business and, today, SAP solutions are available to every business, thanks to the increasing flexibility and online nature of the industry and its products.

Here’s hoping the next 25 years see the business technology trajectory continue to rocket as it has since Paul Keating was PM and Seal’s Kiss From a Rose was topping the charts. Ah, 1995. Now where is my Seal CD?