The tsunami of disruption that’s headed your way

Shannon Ryan of Nonlinear began his presentation ‘How the nature of work, people, process and technology is about to radically change your workplace’ held as part of the 2016 IABC World Conference on Tuesday 7 June saying: “The world of work is about to change: are you ready? If you don’t believe me, ask anyone in the music, news or automotive business”. Everything is now faster – iPhones have sped up the world of work such that it is inconceivable to be without those devices.

“Change is hard,” says Ryan. “Yet it is something we need to get good at, fast.” He says a tsunami of change is on its way and that most organizations are nowhere near ready for that change, addressing the topics of speed, complexity and culture during his presentation. Importantly, Ryan says the outlook for this change is not ten or 20 years ahead but five, describing the Internet of things: that is, the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. Ryan says that transformation is not easy and takes leadership, vision and alignment.

“Digital forces are diving change in operating models, go-to-market strategies and people management,” says Ryan. “Change no doubt that you have already felt. Yet we truly are only at the beginning of a new cycle of change in the enterprise. Five current technological trends are cumulatively about to radically transform your people, processes and business.”

Ryan says digital is transforming the business world and outlined the waves of technology that he says are about to meet the enterprise – and asks us whether we are ready for it – including:

  • Rise of the machines
  • The cloud
  • Greater insights derived from data
  • Connected devices, everywhere
  • Moore’s law is still a law (i.e. the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years)

Yet, Ryan exhorts us to start by thinking of people and not technology. He referred us to the seminal article written by Nicholas Carr in 2003 and, entitled ‘IT doesn’t matter’ published in Harvard Business Review. Ryan says the following are the wrong questions for organizations to ask themselves:

  • What can we do with beacons?
  • Why is no one using Yammer?
  • Do we need a mobile app?
  • What’s our drone strategy?

Ryan says what makes a resource truly strategic is not ubiquity but scarcity, saying: “Technology for the most part has become ubiquitous but the talent and wisdom required to use it strategically, to successfully capture, analyze and employ information to the greater end of profitability and growth are all too scarce.” How do we communicate and share knowledge?

The definition and world of work is changing every day. Ryan illustrates this point, saying that after the last recession, businesses in the USA scaled back significantly on full-time equivalent staff, replacing them instead with contingent (or contract or freelance) workers at all levels so they could size up and down according to boom and bust cycles. In fact, the government of the USA recently announced that contingent workers now represent more than 30 per cent of the workforce. Where does this leave corporate memory? You may well ask. Technology is an import ant part of the equation: 60 per cent of jobs in USA are knowledge-based roles. Gartner predicts there will be 20 trillion devices online by 2020. “Data is the most exciting thing I get to talk to my customers about because it has the opportunity to tell us something new,” says Ryan. We have more data and more insights into the connectedness of those data sets. He encourages us to think about how we can use data and technology to achieve an outcome and not get bogged down. He cites corporate Intranets as an example: Intranets are essentially a way to separate employees and non-employees and organizations invest a lot in keeping them secure. Yet with the changing definition of employees, we might want to think twice about this.

Culture needs to nourish and encourage innovation inside the business. The question is not whether we will be safe but when we will be disrupted. Ryan outlines various models of disruption including the freemium model (e.g. Dropbox), the free model (e.g. Facebook), access-over-ownership (e.g. zipcar), the pyramid (e.g. Amazon) and on-demand (e.g. Uber). How do organizations face the challenge of disruption not knowing where this will come from but that it will indeed come.

He offers this digital primer for management:

  • If you can’t understand the new world of digital, fire yourself
  • Build an executive team that is digital first
  • Build an executive team that is mobile first
  • Figure out where the business will be most disrupted and send the digital troops there — don’t spread them everywhere; go where the fight is
  • If the board has a low digital IQ then the company will have a low digital IQ

Nonlinear has designed an executive briefing, which analyzes and frames the challenges and opportunities inherent in today’s digital landscape. Part one of this briefing covers understanding of how the current technology environment translates to changes in the enterprise and comprises cloud, data, people, devices and computers. Part two covers preparing and comprises important digital lessons i.e. nest practices and techniques for innovation, digital leadership, people, processes and platform-management are emerging. Part two also includes the following questions: how are changing marketing dynamics impacting your business? What capabilities/skills are needed to address these opportunities? How can this bring focus to our digital transformation efforts?

Digital teams will no longer be a silo. Every group will be digital and need access to those skills. He says that in future, everything will be a conversation and conversations will be platforms. Everything begins with leadership, according to Ryan, who cites the example of Disney’s current board and its high digital IQ, including Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook), Jack Dorsey (CEO Twitter) and John S Chen (CEO Blackberry).

In introducing 14 essential questions for the digital workplace, Ryan says there is a tremendous amount of media coverage and discussion about the topic of digital transformation. “Yet when we stop and look upon most companies and organizations, most are still struggling to understand the new world,” he said. “Executives and management continue to value ‘tangible things’ over the intangible knowledge, collaboration and learning etc.” These 14 questions for executives or Intranet leaders comprise seven questions for users and seven questions for the business.

Ryan concluded saying the quick shall inherit the earth. Indeed you had to get in quick to meet him. After his presentation, Ryan was swamped by attendees asking questions and requesting business cards – a ringing endorsement of what he shared over a short half-hour period that was all too short.

Written by: Christine Elmer. Original article may be found here.