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Paul Nelson, director of information systems with the Minnesota Vikings, speaks about how the football team uses technology at the Nvision Conference at the Holiday Inn on Nov. 6 in Fargo, N.D. Image: Andrew Weeks/Prairie Business

Use technology to stay in business

FARGO, N.D. -- Don’t let your business become extinct by neglecting to adapt to technology. 

That was the message at the annual Nvision Conference, hosted by Network Center Inc. on Nov. 6, when business professionals came together to learn how to improve their businesses and stay up with the times by following technology trends. 

Those who attended the all-day seminars learned, among a number of other technological tips, that there is a rather simple way to leverage their business models: use data analytics. 

“Leverage what you already have,” Todd Bortke, senior technology advisor for NCI, said during one breakout session at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, where the event was held. There is “significant business value in analytics.” 

Keynote speaker Paul Nelson, director of information systems with the Minnesota Vikings, kicked off the conference by telling the audience how the football team uses technology to improve player training and performance. 

Perhaps unknown to most fans, for instance, is that the football team uses microchips in players’ uniforms to gather data that the team later uses in game review and training. 

Some of the things the technology tells team leaders are who is on the field at any given time, how fast and far a player runs, his catch rate, and even how many calories he has burned. 

Technology also has replaced the way the team selects its next players -- a process that previously involved a lot of paper cards and a number of hours -- to keep track of each player’s strengths and weaknesses. By adapting with the times, however, the selection process has been shortened and the workload lightened. 

No more redoing profile cards for each player every time something new is learned about a potential teammate; now changes can be made with the click of a few buttons and a digital screenboard. It is one way the team leverages its resources -- or in this case, its players. 

After Nelson’s address, which included video snippets of the team, visitors went to various lectures inside the hotel’s event center to learn of the many ways technology affects businesses in the 21st century. 

Technology can -- and in this day and age, should -- transform companies’ business models. 

Bortke asked his audience during one breakout session how many business professionals in the room were using analytics. 

And then: “How many don’t know where to start?” he asked. The answer to that last question may have seemed intimidating for those whose hands were raised -- if you’ve never used technology it’s tough to know where to start without some guidance, for instance -- but the same is true with regard to making other changes in business. It can be intimidating at first. 

Sean Todd, vice president of services with NCI, said in another breakout session that business leaders should look internally to optimize their operations.

“You need to be OK with change,” he said, noting business owners and managers should not be afraid to adapt, to evolve. Only by evolving with the times can most businesses confront the demands of an increasingly involved technological age. 

One way to leverage what you already have is to use your employees, those who may “work in the trenches,” so to speak, as Todd said. Employees, perhaps better than anyone else, know about the adjustments and improvements that should be considered. 

If you’re not sure what technology to start in your company, or how to incorporate it into your business model, employees also are a good place to start. There often is someone else in the room who knows more about technology and may have ideas on how to implement it. 

The one thing today’s professionals don’t want is to have their business become another Blockbuster or Toys R Us, both, among many others, which failed to innovate with the times and instead are but fading memories as the digital revolution continues to spin into the future. 

In short, Todd said, have a vision for the future and make technology a part of your plans. “You can’t have a strategy without a vision,” he said. 

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Andrew Weeks 

Prairie Business Editor

701-780-1276

aweeks@prairiebusinessmagazine.com