Opinion

The race for change

Rajnish Sinha / Vaibhav Gawde | Updated on July 04, 2018 Published on July 04, 2018

Making transformational tech work for business

The adage ‘change is the only constant’ best sums up the corporate world today, one where the need to transform and modernise is the constant variable. To keep pace with the digital economy, it’s not enough to realise the rules are changing; rather, the game needs changing.

Indeed, every now and then, something comes along that fundamentally changes the way the world works.

The microprocessor ushered in general-purpose computing. A DARPA research project became the internet. And smartphones permanently altered how we live our personal and professional lives.

From a business perspective, these technologies were transformational. You couldn’t do business the same way once they’d been adopted.

Our current era is uniquely challenging as we grapple with no fewer than three transformational technologies. The race is on. And, thanks to cloud computing, enterprise adoption rates for these technologies are faster than for others in the past.

The big three?

First, there’s the Internet of Things, or IoT. Every physical object can now be a sensor. A world of sensor-embedded things becomes a world of data, including us as individuals thanks to wearable tech. Next up, there’s artificial intelligence, or AI. Software analyses, makes decisions, and takes action in ways previously associated with humans. And it gets smarter over time.

Finally, blockchain. Far more than enabling digital currencies, it’s the ability to capture and preserve transactions and events in an unalterable and verifiable way. No more headline news about deleted texts or emails, for example.

Taken separately, each technology is compelling in its own right. Taken together? A veritable tsunami of transformation will be unleashed. From a business leader’s perspective, there are a lot of positives to consider: improve existing processes;create entirely new ones; and, get busy thinking about all the great new products and services that could be offered as a result. Heady times ahead.

There’s also justifiable cause for concern. Transformative technologies open the door to competitors and disruptors. They also demand organisational transformation to fully exploit their power, and that’s never simple or easy. Heavy lifting ahead.

Business leaders should, therefore, figure out what’s fundamentally changed. Look at the past. The microprocessor made computing cost-effective. The internet enabled us to connect to anything and everything. And the smartphone made it easy to take a computer and access the internet wherever we went. .

With IoT, we’re equipping machines to be our eyes and ears. With AI, we’re teaching software to do some of our thinking. And with blockchain, we’ve created a powerful new trust mechanism that can verify important information.

Next, figure out how those developments might change the way you and your company do business. If you can’t come up with at least three big ideas, keep trying.

Consider assembling a tiger team to experiment with some of those ideas. Why? It’s pretty hard to be innovative when your day job demands your full attention. Give the members of that team the time and resources to fail, and encourage them to fail fast. The cloud, by virtue of its on-demand compute, database, software development, and other IT resources, can help here. The goal should be accelerated learning in your specific context.

When things start to look promising — and they will — shift your attention to the process and organisational change required to exploit the new way of doing things. Transformational technologies demand business transformation — that’s what makes them different. They change the way you do business. You can’t separate one from the other.

Your path in this new, emerging world may be different. As long as we all acknowledge that when the rules change, it’s an entirely new game. So, are you ready to make transformational technology work for your business?

Sinha is Chief Digital Officer, Bajaj Electricals, and Gawde is Head-Solution Consulting, Oracle India.

Published on July 04, 2018
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