Whether it’s transforming processes with the internet of things or using blockchain to provide trust and transparency, more and more firms are recognizing that the purpose of technology investments is to deliver business impact with positive change.
Here are five companies – each with a clear enterprise purpose that goes beyond profit and shareholder value – using technology to drive change and make their purpose a reality.
1 Walmart: Collaboration and engagement across the ecosystem
The world’s largest retailer has a clear purpose: to save people money so they can live better. And it harnesses the power of technology to ensure the food it sells is as fresh as possible.
Walmart’s Eden, a system installed at the company’s 43 food distribution centers, monitors fruit and vegetables from farm to store and is able to predict the exact date when they will spoil. Not only does this mean that customers get quality food, it also saves waste.
Eden is a suite of apps that use artificial intelligence to analyze data from across the company’s supply chain, from images taken by drones flying over farms to temperatures in delivery trucks and storage areas. The project grew from a hackathon among Walmart engineers.
They used the US Department of Agriculture food product specifications, Walmart’s own product standards and more than a million photographs to build an algorithm that prioritizes the flow of perishable goods worldwide.
In the first year after its introduction in 2017, Walmart says Eden saved the company $86 million, and it predicts total savings over the next five years at $2 billion. Reducing costs will help deliver on its promise to save customers money through low prices.
2 Starbucks: Fueling empowerment and inclusive growth
Starbucks’ purpose is to be the “the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world” while maintaining its “uncompromising principles” as it grows. From cloud computing to blockchain, technology is embedded deeply in delivering that mission from bean to cup.
Working with Microsoft, the company is using blockchain to trace its coffee from the farm. Not only does the technology verify provenance but it also allows Starbucks to tell its customers who grew the beans.
The company’s customer-centric culture means that all its technologies feed into its customer app. Using machine learning, the app is able to recommend choices to customers based on their purchase history.
Such mass personalization is harder in drive-through stores where the app is not used, but Starbucks is currently working on a system that will use store transaction histories to make recommendations to customers on a digital menu display.
Internet of Things devices embedded in-store equipment not only alert staff to breakdowns and service deadlines but they also allow new coffee recipes to be delivered from the cloud directly to the barista’s machines at the click of a button.
3 Salesforce: Creating positive environmental impact with AI
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way people work, using robotics, AI, the Internet of Things, and more. By making these innovations easier and more accessible, we’re helping create a future with greater opportunity and equality for all.” So says global customer relationship software company, Salesforce.
Salesforce has gone much further than using artificial intelligence to predict the best leads for sales people or delivering superior customer experiences. It has established the Einstein innovation lab and its latest project is designed to track and protect great white sharks near Southern California’s beaches.
The team has trained the Einstein Vision algorithm, originally designed for brand recognition, to analyze footage from regular drone patrols to identify individual sharks. This is increasing knowledge about a much-misunderstood species, which has been spotted in growing numbers off California in recent years.
4 BlackRock: Improving financial well-being with technology innovations
“Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being – what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders. The purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them,” says Larry Fink, BlackRock’s CEO.
The global investment house’s purpose is “to help more and more people experience financial well-being.” At the heart of BlackRock is a world-class technology system called Aladdin, an operating platform that unites all the information, people, and technology needed to manage money in real-time.
Technology at BlackRock is not regarded as a cost but a “profit centre”. Everything its developers do must be for the benefit of the people who invest their money through the firm. Developers work in teams focused on specific clients and client groups.
Forbes said recently that this technological innovation is turning BlackRock into “the Amazon of Wall Street”.
5 Honeywell: Disrupting traditional business with blockchain
Honeywell says it is transforming the way the world works. It’s a bold statement, but the purpose of technology is playing a key role in disrupting the industries in which it operates. Honeywell’s response has been to prioritize innovation in the service of its corporate purpose.
Aviation is a core market for the company. It is a leader in designing and manufacturing aircraft systems. But a focus on the needs of its customers took Honeywell into a new area – used aircraft parts.
By the time an airliner retires, its components, from engines to avionics, will have been replaced many times. Most will still have many hours of useful life when the airframe reaches its operational limit. So Honeywell has moved into the aircraft dismantling business.
As well as refurbishing parts to extend their safe operating life, it has launched an online platform to allow operators to buy components with a history verified using blockchain technology.
GoDirect Trade is a marketplace open to competitors as well as Honeywell’s business units. In a market where most orders are still placed by telephone and email, it’s a great illustration of the purpose of technology in transforming business.
The purpose of technology: Fueling holistic growth
For many enterprises, the purpose of technology is now to drive more inclusive growth, including all stakeholders – clients, employees, partners, influencers and even the community – through responsive and responsible investments and innovations.
These enterprises are bringing to life their commitment to the philosophy, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.