How Technology Creates a Competitive Advantage

by | Sep 26, 2023 | Business Process

Creating a Competitive Advantage

Unstable tech systems create a domino effect of declining production, escalating labor costs, and prolonged downtime. However, upgraded tech systems can be leveraged to improve efficiency and deliver your company a competitive advantage.

Historically, IT has been viewed as a cost center, following a break/fix model (an outdated mindset that no longer aligns with the evolving business and technology landscape). As the industry matures, businesses increasingly rely on technology in their operations. That means that today, tech is a tool to do our jobs more quickly, efficiently, and with fewer errors. Tech is now an input like any other with benefits and ROI.

That changes how leaders view IT. It is no longer a pure cost but instead a potent performance enhancer. A competitive advantage mindset defines an era dominated by digital transformation. In our view at ZAG, viewing IT as an investment and the catalyst for unlocking your competitive advantages is the path forward.


One of those IT tools is cybersecurity. In recent years, the ag and food and beverage industries have frequently been in the news as victims of cyber and ransomware attacks. In some cases, those events have caused prolonged production downtime, emptied store shelves, business losses, and substantial recovery costs. Fortunately, the reality of the threat has assisted in reshaping views on IT security within agriculture: security is a competitive advantage.

Although the ROI for IT looks different, many in ag are finding C-suites more receptive to it as a strategy than ever before. After witnessing weeks-long competitor take-downs after a cyber incident, mitigating cyber risk is a priority to many execs. “Presenting to a client a one-day recovery after an online attack versus a three-week recovery is not a hard sell,” said Greg Gatzke, founder and president of ZAG.

When broaching the topic and discussing strategies, it’s important to ask the hard questions:

  • Am I mitigating risk?
  • What if we have an incident? What is our disaster recovery plan?
  • What is my business continuity requirement in the case of a breach? 24 hours? One week?
  • Am I willing to pay a ransom, or can we recover systems with only a few lost hours?

Gatzke continued, “We need to be that direct – I don’t want to pay. I want to recover systems, data, and control in a set amount of hours. That control and those recovery goals are a competitive advantage and must come from the board, C-suite, or others who set the tone for the company.”

Awareness of risk can be a catalyst for future conversations about the other competitive advantages tech provides. While cybersecurity will continue to play a significant role in IT strategies, there are other great opportunities within agriculture where, according to Gatzke, “Tech is becoming the new farming input – found in waste reduction, improving efficiency and production outputs, and reducing labor requirements. Tech and agriculture are more aligned than ever before.”

Data: The Next Frontier

Data collection has become a deep mine of information with all of the advancements in ag tech. But data is only as good as our ability to use it, not just save it. According to IDC, every sensor on a farm or in a warehouse or manufacturing plant collects data, resulting in the average farmer collecting half a million data points every day. But how is that mass of data used, and how can it provide a competitive advantage? Therein lies the opportunity.

Data collected on the farm is raw and indecipherable. Think of data like oil. Oil is only valuable to us once it has been extracted and refined. The same is also true for data, and without teams of advanced analysts, data is rarely, if ever, mined or refined.

That’s why organizations have turned to strategic technical consultants like ZAG’s Data and Software Services team to assist in extracting and refining data to deliver actionable insights. Quoting a colleague, Gatzke remarked, “They aren’t making more land. Use your data to create more products at a higher volume with better quality.”

Embracing advanced technologies doesn’t need to be a cost center that drains resources; it is a tool that empowers businesses to streamline operations, optimize processes, and amplify productivity. When viewed through a lens of performance enhancement, IT becomes the backbone of innovation, fostering agility, data-driven decision-making, and seamless connectivity across the enterprise.

By investing in robust IT solutions, modern tech-forward organizations equip themselves with the tools to scale, adapt, and remain agile in an ever-evolving marketplace.

Listen to the Podcast

For more insights and commentary, listen to the entire conversation in the player above or on the Tip of the Iceberg podcast, which The Packer published here.

We launched an informative and entertaining series talking all things ag tech, from new tech applied to organic fruit to cybersecurity, AI, robotics, and everything in between. A respected thought leader in the industry will join us each episode to share their knowledge and experiences with all of us. Join us as we uncover how technology is reshaping agriculture.

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