If you believed the pundits, 2016 was when the tech bubble would finally burst. Not surprisingly, we saw the opposite. Now we are almost a quarter of the way through 2017, and it’s clear the growth in technology continues. In fact, the most recent ADP jobs report showed 25,000 new information-related jobs were created in February.
As technology continues to push into new areas, the physical and digital worlds increasingly overlap and blend together. What’s more, this trend will only continue. As emerging technologies like Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence become mainstream, the only thing that’s certain today is that stability and predictability are a thing of the past.
I know what you are thinking: These technologies will not impact my business or industry in the near term. And you may be right, but that’s the challenge with the current wave of technology innovation: it strikes when you least expect it.
Take the 500-year-old wristwatch industry. Hundreds of years without any major changes and then it is reimagined almost overnight by a wave of new wearable technologies. Or the telecommunications industry, which seemed protected by the very nature of its infrastructure before a range of new digital services emerged that enable consumers to talk to their friends around the world, without cell service and free of charge. Similar changes have impacted industries ranging from retail and hospitality to transportation and education. And this is just the beginning.
Augmented and virtual reality are perfect examples. We saw a brief glimpse into how these technologies could take off last year when Pokémon GO became headline news around the world, and there’s much more to come. In fact, some experts predict that the VR/AR market could be worth more than $100 billion by 2021.
These rapid and unpredictable shifts present both challenges and opportunities. With digital technologies now woven through every facet of society, at the heart of today’s new business environment is an ever more empowered customer. These customers have awoken to a world in which they can buy anything, from anyone, instantly and from anywhere. This is resulting in a new culture of experimentation and unlimited choice. Industries that fail to adapt to this new reality do so at their peril.
What this means for business leaders
In short, the convergence of cloud, mobile, social and data have ushered in a new wave of business models that will present unique challenges for various industries. But it’s also interesting to take a step back and look at the questions and challenges facing business and IT leaders that transcend industry borders.
In my role at Oracle – which involves overseeing seven industry-focused organizations spanning health sciences, retail, hospitality, communications, financial services, utilities, and construction and engineering – I have a unique vantage point from which I can view the complex and critical business problems and regulatory requirements leaders face across industries. In my own conversations with executives, certain key themes come up time and time again.
As I look at what these themes will mean for the way technology impacts business in the future, I believe all business and IT leaders, regardless of industry, should be asking themselves the following questions as they seek to flawlessly execute mission-critical operations that are the lifeblood of their organizations.
1. Is my technology really what is giving me my advantage? Or should I focus on my organization’s core competencies? All too often, organizations spend more time and money on managing technology than they do on the areas that will really serve their customers and their bottom line. This has to change. To take advantage of the opportunities presented by today’s economy and achieve the agility required to stay ahead of the competition, organizations in all industries need to rethink how they use IT in order to spend more time on innovation and less time on integration.
2. How can I use what I have today to invent what I need? Staying ahead of digital disruption doesn’t mean you have to abandon the mission-critical systems that support your business. Instead, look at how you can take advantage of innovations in cloud computing to extend your existing IT investments by enhancing them with modern tools and more agile processes. Despite what some companies might have you believe, the cloud is not a zero-sum game. It is possible for your existing systems to coexist with modern digital technologies when you have the choice to deploy in the cloud, on-premises or a combination of both.
3. How can I break down the barriers between different customer channels? Today’s customers expect a personalized experience whenever and however they engage with a business. And with an ever-increasing number of channels that span both the physical and virtual worlds, delivering a consistent and personalized experience presents a complex equation for organizations to solve. To meet those expectations, organizations need to go beyond the mantra of delivering the “right message, to the right person at the right time” and engineer one-to-moment strategies that blend marketing and the customer experience.
4. How can I be empowered and inspired by data, not overwhelmed by it? Today’s world is exploding with data and this will only continue, particularly with the rise of the Internet of Things. In fact, IDC expects that 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created every second for every single person on earth by 2020. The sheer volume of data threatens to overwhelm us all, but if it can be managed correctly, it can provide unprecedented insights that will reduce risk, increase agility and drive innovation.
5. How can I manage the unknown unknowns? Data can provide answers to questions. But in business as in anywhere else, the old adage is true: You can’t get all of the answers you need until you know which questions you need to ask. With stability and predictability a thing of the past, this ability to use data to see over the hill will provide the all-important flexibility and speed that will define the winners in today’s rapidly changing business environment.
6. How can I meet the need for speed while ensuring security and compliance? Keeping up with the breakneck pace of change can be daunting especially when it concerns your mission-critical applications. But it’s not the only concern, particularly for highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance. To overcome this perceived Catch-22, organizations need security capabilities that are always on and protect every aspect of their technology infrastructure, from the application access, to the data, down into the silicon.
7. What does my company stand to lose if we don’t quickly and efficiently embrace new and emerging digital technologies? Missed opportunities are but one risk. An organization that allows itself to fall behind its competitors in the adoption of new technologies is a brave one in this new digital world. One look at how the Fortune 500 has changed over the last decade tells its own story.
Matching the pace of change
Across all industries, a dizzying rate of change is the new norm, and things will only move faster in the future. According to Forrester Research, customers’ Year Zero intention of buying a new product or service when it first launches is as much as five times greater than it was just a decade ago.
To stay ahead of the competition – and win – organizations will need partners that can provide insider knowledge and deep domain experience in their industries. They will need specialization at scale. And they will need to constantly rethink existing and often entrenched business processes in order to maximize the performance of mission-critical industry operations. This can be a scary proposition, but it’s a stark choice: embrace digital technologies or be relegated to the increasingly long line of major organizations that are now confined to the history books.
You hear it every day, but it truly is a new world and the pace of change is accelerating. Meeting the needs of today’s business environment will take a new breed of organization, one that’s unafraid to confront the tough questions that need to be answered in order quickly and efficiently address complex and critical business problems and regulatory requirements.