In the previous century, every major technology evolution had a huge impact on the business world, an impact that lasted for several decades. Nowadays, we are facing something similar; we have moved into a new technology era, the so-called cognitive era, and we cannot even guess yet what its impact will be on the future of our business environment. Today we cannot be sure about the skills and competencies that could help us in the near future, or what jobs will become obsolete in the upcoming years. Only one thing is certain: the emerging technologies will reshape every segment of the business world and data will become the new driving force.
Yet there is no need to be afraid that these driving forces are continuously changing: a knight in the 14th century experienced less data in his whole life than we do now in a single day. What was the main driving force during the Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453)? The answer is very simple: goose feathers. To be more precise, the six flight feathers of each bird were the most valuable assets for any king. By having lots of feathers, they could make lots of arrows, and in having lots of arrows they could win battles and ultimately wars. Back then, the goose feather was also introduced as a tax element; no matter how much gold a king had, he could buy no more feathers with it since arrows were limited by the number of geese.
According to Stephen Tempest, a member of Quora who has done some research into this topic, centralized state-controlled manufacturing was an important innovation of the 14th century. The Tower of London was used as a main warehouse for arrows; in 1360 more than 500,000 of them were stored here. As a consequence new jobs appeared: apart from the thousands of Nils Holgerssons (the 1900s fictional naughty Swedish boy who befriended geese), many people were responsible for salvaging arrows from the battlefields, to name one example.
Every era has its own driving force and there is no doubt that data drives the cognitive era. Emerging technologies like cloud computing, social and mobile technologies and analytical and cognitive abilities will force the revitalization of the enterprise architecture and its IT systems. As of today, most organizations are only imitating the use of emerging technologies, and have at most implemented them in a satellite mode around existing core system. Unfortunately, because of this risk-averse approach, companies are not able to exploit the synergies of the technologies and cannot leverage the combined impact to the business of something that could accelerate their future results exponentially.
The pioneers of the future, the so-called Generation D enterprises, will operate in a data and analytically driven mode. They will still need to record facts in their records in order to keep evidence of business results, but new systems will ensure the analytical and cognitive capabilities in order to better understand results and, by having better insights, companies will be able to react quicker and even predict the impact of their decisions.
Future strategic decisions will not be taken based only on stored data, but based on information coming from multiple internal and external sources, using structured and unstructured data, and by running complex analytics with the help of systems that can learn. The companies of the future will not be afraid to run their complex analytics in the cloud and engage with their customers by using social media channels and mobile technology, asking them for their opinion and immediately reacting to their exact needs.
Many people believe that taking small steps now will be enough to keep pace with innovation. In my opinion, we are now facing a huge change in how we run our businesses. Simple evolution will not be enough; we need to initiate revolutions in how we use technology, and this is the easiest part of the digital transformation. Every change will require a cultural change as well; we need to develop new skills and competencies and be ready to sacrifice some of our existing ones, but it is very hard to tell who will be the Nils Holgerssons of the future.
This column is part of a continuing series of opinion pieces from experts at the CEU Business School in Budapest. The opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of the Budapest Business Journal.
The article was first published in Budapest Business Journal | September 2 – September 15, 2016 (here)
You can read the original printed version (here)