Between now and 2020, businesses will have nowhere to hide from the disrupting yet energising effects of technology change. Those with flexible processes, structures and culture will be able to adjust quickly and will find technology-led change invigorating and laden with opportunity. Innovative working processes are arguably more vital to business model changes than innovation in technology.
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Business leaders are expecting wrenching change to their industry sectors in the future due to the impacts of technology, according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Ricoh.
The research reveals that business leaders expect their customers to be the main source of new product or service ideas by 2020. They see a shift towards decentralised business structures and more virtual working environments. Respondents also believe many of the industries in which they operate will be significantly altered between now and 2020, bearing little similarity to today.
By 2020, new technology in the workplace will force businesses into a new era of decentralisation. 63 per cent of business leaders surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit predict a shift towards a more decentralised business model, with responsibility for business decision making moving from centralised management boards towards individual employees.
The new era will not be typical of the decentralisation structures of the past which were generally criticised for their inefficiency, duplication and lack of consistent strategic direction. Instead, businesses will take a process orientated approach. Critical information will be centralised so that data can be more easily received, stored and retrieved by employees. This will ensure that their processes are more streamlined and efficient than ever before, and will in turn give employees greater authority to find the data they need to collaborate directly with customers and make important business decisions, without delay.
As the methods to gather customer insight for research and development evolve, the CIO will play a key role in helping the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and the company move even closer to its customers.
Traditionally, customer opinion was gained through activities such as focus groups, feedback forms and telephone interviews, and was viewed strictly as a marketing discipline. Today, ideas for future products and services can be gained in huge volumes through online communities, social networks, loyalty schemes and personalised marketing.
Such changes are being driven by customers and employees who are more empowered than ever before by technology. By 2020, customers will be the main source of new product or service ideas, with online communities in second and R&D in third place. That is according to 30 per cent of business leaders across Financial Services, Education, Public Sector, IT and Manufacturing industries, interviewed by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
According to recent research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, almost one third (31 per cent) of business leaders worry that new technologies, and not business needs, will dictate the future direction of their company and how it will be managed. More than one third (37 per cent) believe that by 2020 their organisation will be unable to keep up with technology and they will lose their competitive edge. They need to be prepared with the right tools and expertise to ensure that they are maximising technology and implementing innovative business processes for the future.
There is no doubt that technology will be a key source of change for the workplace of the future, but business leaders do not need to be held to ransom by it. It is essential that businesses information processes are led by business needs, instead of by technology alone.
Advances in information and communications technologies have wrought enormous change in the past two decades in how markets and organisations operate. Between now and 2020, global business leaders believe there will be no end to such technology-related disruption and companies will have to adapt quickly and efficiently. One third of IT industry leaders believe their businesses will disappear altogether, while six out of ten survey respondents believe the markets where they operate will be significantly altered between now and 2020, bearing little similarity to today.