The next big thing is here even if it is hard to see. It’s Internet again, this time with the real world added to people and organisations already in place. That process is often called Internet of Things – IoT where the “T” refers to the physical world. And this time the impact on society, organisations and people will be even bigger than what Internet had last time since the real world most often is missing from the processes we try to digitalise today. The stock exchanges went through its digital transformation years ago since documents traded was digitalised, brokers on the floor was replaced by systems and money flows freely in cyber space. The remaining connection to the real world includes the companies themselves and some individuals still trading as well as the distance between the computers with the trading systems and the robot trader agents.
We started digitalise in the fifties but it is only when a process is fully digital the benefits appear. And most processes touch the real world why IoT is required to complete most of the digital transformation. When a process is digital, end to end, we can harvest, but more importantly we can add turbo functionality like artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision to them and make many times better gains in speed, cost, efficiency and quality. The impact of that can easily be a drastic change in an entire industry (like when selling books left the book store era) and will for sure eliminate a lot of white and blue-collar jobs.
We are just in the beginning of this fundamental change of rules and games which probably will go on for the next 20 years or so. And who the winners will be on the other side is hard to tell but I believe there are some things that will characterise the good candidates:
• Entrepreneurs with open minds, good ideas and fantastic ability to execute together with the resources needed can build from a clean piece of paper and skip all legacy related challenges. Most will fail but some of the winners will absolutely come from this category either on their own but more often as part of a bigger organisation. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
• Financial muscles enables clever investments and some of the winners will be clever and lucky enough to buy themselves a winner’s position. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
• Some organisations of today will master this entire race – yes it’s like 10 marathon races back to back and even if you are in the lead after race number eight you can easily fail completely. Think Netscape… Ability to change is always a matter of people and processes. A winner in this long race will have to secure solid processes and a well unified and motivated team throughout the entire race even though the distance and where the goal is remain unclear. Constantly changing processes and people during the race, in worst case even bringing in external leaders and people, will not create the ability required. No, a well working team with solid leadership and the core competences over time can make it. Such team can react to news, changes, threats and opportunities in a much better way than others. And they will learn while going thus know things others don’t know. Systematic innovation is an organisational ability required to tackle very complex challenges. Motivation, inspiration, engagement, care, love, trust, health, experience, ethics, well-being and fighting spirit are things that will be found in the companies that made the digital transformation successfully. And they will have strong brands with attributes that todays youngsters will appreciate.
Established organisations who want to master the digital transformation well has to start their journey immediately and rapidly get beyond strategies, plans, innovation managers, Powerpoint and Excel. Among the first things I suggest needs to be in place are very strong support from executive management, activities to inspire, engage and include staff, rapid prototyping capabilities in place and establishment of new relationships with a host of new companies and people who each master something that might be of great importance onwards.
It is already difficult for companies to master their own domains these days and with challenges coming from everywhere, a much wider view is required. And even more challenging: the golden rule of “asking the customers” – the outside-in approach – becomes obsolete when technology provides completely new opportunities. Like when internet came last time we’re now entering yet another era where inside-out is the name of the game.