There’s huge innovation afoot in fields such as advances in robotics, analytics, sensor technology, 3D printing and other technologies are “radically accelerating” this pace of innovation. With technology offering firms a potential competitive advantage, those who make the right decisions could leave competitors far behind.
But the speed of change in the tech arena means technology is a fast-evolving arms race for businesses; an area of strategic decision-making that can make or break even the biggest brand.
This advancing pace of change poses many questions to decision-makers. When should companies adopt new technologies – and which ones should they choose?
CTOs and CMTs will have to allocate budget between technologies such as IoT, AI, robotics, VR and AR. There’s a lot of work to do just to understand the possibilities of these developments in particular industries.
Firms will find it easy to waste huge sums of money chasing the wrong uses of these technologies. There’s also a lot of work to be done looking into how consumers will accept innovations such as bots in customer service. The risk of backing costly failures is high.
Even more importantly, how do decision-makers cope with the inevitable disruptive effects technology will have on every element of the markets they work in?
Technology can lower barriers to entry for new competitors and could transform the competitive landscape in many industries. Or they can radically change products themselves – even the CEO of Shell, one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, has admitted his next car will probably be an electric one. Technologies such as digital cameras and 3D printing are radically re-shaping many other industries, from camera manufacturing to jewellery
Gone are the days when tech could be delegated to a dedicated team or individual. Technology now impacts right across the business, and it’s vital that all key decision-makers are able to incorporate it into their strategies and spot emerging opportunities.
Organisations need to refocus their strategies and processes so that adapting to technological change becomes part of their permanent identity. Being prepared to spot and seize on emerging technologies, or understand the impact of external technological forces on the business case, needs to be a long-term proposition.
Uncertain technological roadmaps
When the only certainty is change, strategies need to be flexible. Brands that only occasionally review their technology approach are unlikely to fare well in a fast-evolving world. Instead, organisations need to get used to constantly reviewing their technological roadmap at regular intervals. Ideally, this should include a review of tech-sensitive areas of operation such as customer engagement, resourcing, and compliance.
PwC identified some key areas that brands should be actively monitoring: 8 tech trends that are likely to be the most disruptive, irrespective of the industry you’re in. These include AI and robotics, augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, Blockchain, drone technology, and the Internet of Things.
The report suggests that in the next 3-7 years, these are likely to have the biggest impact across all kinds of industry. Partly this is based on how much investment these technologies are receiving to develop their applications, and partly because of their potential to disrupt elements of many industries. This includes customer service, job growth, operations, and security.
Skills shortages, and job cuts
Technology changes are likely to radically re-profile the labour market. This will impact on all types of firms because they employ labour and because their consumer base will be affected by labour market changes.
Low-skilled and low wage jobs are particularly at risk from automation – in the US alone these jobs constitute around a third of the labour market. But higher skilled roles that require complex analysis and judgements are also likely to be affected as AI impacts on the nature of these jobs.
No-one’s quite clear exactly what’s going to happen, or how individuals and markets will re-adjust. A recent report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch couldn’t offer much certainty for the future of employment. Perhaps the only thing that organisations can be confident of is that there will inevitably be skill shortages as the pace of tech innovation moves faster than the spread of associated skills and knowledge.
Organisations will find themselves in the frustrating position of having access to a range of cool new tech toys but without necessarily having the skills to implement them successfully. Even the most tech-savvy leader will find it hard to craft a tech strategy when there’s an ever-changing landscape.
Even the nimblest IT manager will find it hard to keep up with all the integrations. Yet speed is the key to success with new technology, and the winner is likely to be the one that implements new technology before competitors can successfully do so.
In less than a decade the world is going to see enormous change as society, industry, and individuals struggle to adapt to the enormous pace of technological innovation. Your organization needs to get a strategy in place now that could help it weather the coming storm, and even perform well.
Companies that don’t understand technology, or ones which are too slow to adapt to it, need to be extraordinarily lucky to thrive in the face of tech tumult.
Now is the time to implement an innovative process for responding to technological innovation, for getting the processes, strategies and people in place. Only those brands with a robust and flexible tech attitude are going to survive and thrive the pace of escalating change.