By Kaushik Bagchi, VP, Information Management Asia Pacific, ASG Technologies
In the late 1880s, the Swiss Army desired a simple, portable tool to be used by their soldiers for cutting things, opening cans and disassembling rifles. Because Switzerland didn’t have any suitable factories, the initial order had to be outsourced to German knife manufacturers Wester & Co. But soon, Swiss cutlery manufacturer Karl Elsener started producing the indigenous Schweizer Offiziersmesser, which had a single blade, reamer, can opener, and screwdriver. His first batch, named the Modell 1890, was approved, and manufactured for the Army by 1891.
In 1896, Elsener, unhappy with the design of the existing knife, modified it to have tools on both sides of the handle, which could be retracted by spring mechanism. This innovation allowed him to put twice as many features on the knife, and remains the basis for the modern iteration of the tool. But it was only during World War II that the knife gained both international popularity and its name, as American soldiers unable to pronounce it’s German-language name instead used the literal English-language translation: “Swiss Army Knife.”
In modern times, the term has evolved further to become a benchmark for versatility. Today, to compare something to a Swiss Army Knife is to say that it possesses extreme utility, the property of being applicable to any scenario at hand.
A Swiss Army knife for businesses
Businesses today are under tremendous pressure to respond to what is being called “the biggest disruption since WWII.” Strategies are being drawn, plans are getting laid out and teams are going into action — all to facilitate a comeback in this complex and unprecedented business environment. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the assumptions of the past will not be valid in the days to come, and that change will need to go from being a principle that we just talk about to an action that we execute every day.
This ability to change daily will be essential as business models, systems and processes all navigate unique environments. In these scenarios, there will be three main capabilities that businesses will expect technology to deliver
Agility — Speed will be key to every business decision. Opportunities will present themselves for only a small window of time within which they can be leveraged. Similarly, a threat, unless addressed immediately, can throw the entire business off balance. So, it’s fair to assume that the turnaround time for everything will need to come down significantly.
Simplicity — Speed is, in turn, driven by simplicity. We are in a world where employees need to be productive remotely and clients need to understand the value of what businesses offer. Businesses will expect technology to simplify things. A simplified front end experience, assisted operations, and easily configurable rules from different business situations will all be part of this simplification expectation.
Visibility — Visibility drives trust in the process, and in turn, the organization. It gives clarity to participants about what needs to be done when and why. Without clear visibility, it is impossible to take decisions and take them on time.
What will Swiss Army knife inspired technology do?
Technology needs to help businesses become more responsive, so they can fulfill the above requirements. Over time, most businesses have built islands of great technology which are “fit for purpose,” i.e., they do what they were originally acquired to do, and they do it very well. As a result, businesses end up with many silos of high performing technology islands, each with it’s own design and operating principles.
However, with the demand for versatile digital applications which are process and automation centric, the need for multifaceted technology platforms is emerging strongly. In other words, we need a Swiss Army Knife of Technology: multiple tools brought together to achieve functions that are different from and greater than what they could individually do.