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BW Businessworld

Creating New Order In The Face Of Endless Disruption

To remain relevant, organizations will need to evolve. But the question is how? How can enterprises create a new order out of the endless disruption given the unpredictable nature of today’s technology?

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By 2030, every organization will go digital and new technology will reshape lives. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality and cloud computing, will transform our lives and how we work over the next decade. Disruption is inevitable, and already underway. We are seeing business models being disrupted, and long standing blue chip companies grappling with change. The “list mortality” of Fortune 500 companies is the highest ever. The global top 10 companies by market capitalization is dominated by tech Goliaths.

To remain relevant, organizations will need to evolve. But the question is how? How can enterprises create a new order out of the endless disruption given the unpredictable nature of today’s technology? Yes, leveraging digital transformation and focusing on customer experience can help enterprises pave a path to success, but is that it? Is digital disruption only about customers?

Customers stand at one end of the disruption trail, while the other end is tied to the workforce. Sadly, lately, the story of digital transformation has tended to focus on the story of replacing human labor. While it’s not entirely wrong to say that about specific roles, it isn’t completely true either. To take disruption head on and survive, companies will need to shift their focus on working ‘with’ the technology and not against it. Often, companies have to have a digital business strategy, running in parallel to, or replacing a traditional brick and mortar, or click and brick strategy.

According to a study from Ifop, a French Market research firm, 87 percent employees understand the impact of digital disruption on their jobs, but 64% of them also feel their organization doesn’t support them enough to use new technologies. So, to respond to the digital disruption, organizations must continue to fill the talent gap. They’ll need to enhance the capabilities of their workforce and prepare them to add value in the volatile digital environment. Industry forerunners have already embarked on the path. Employees and recent graduates have also started their strife. According to the recent Talent Blueprint 2017 report, working people in many countries are enrolling in online courses to pick up specific skills including AI, Robotics, Machine Learning, and Big Data. Bottomline? While disruption continues to introduce path-breaking innovations, it’s imperative to have the right arsenal in your kitty, the right talent to back you. This includes not only people who understand change, but ones who can create change. It also required leaders to move beyond casual appreciation of technology to thinking through disruptive elements and factors.

But disruption doesn’t work in a linear fashion, so you can’t just pick a handful of employees and train them and hope to solve the problem. It’s a full circle event that impacts all levels of the organization, every department. Thus, it becomes imperative for companies to promote integration and break the silo mentality that still exists in the workplaces. One way of acting upon this, in the words of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is to appoint “someone to look out for what is coming, for what might disrupt your own business”. At a Gartner event, he urged businesses to consider implementing a Chief Disruption Officer, because while technology plays a critical role, it can’t fuel disruption all by itself.

As people are empowered to act, and as companies successfully adopt technology, there will be a significant enhancement in performance. Digitization has the potential to enhance productivity, raise throughput, improve predictions, outcomes, accuracy, and optimization. In fact, some organizations are already reaping the benefits - Google reportedly cut down its energy consumption by applying artificial intelligence from its DeepMind machine learning to its own data centers. However, there shouldn’t be a rush to respond to digitization. In his recent commentary for Harvard Business Review, Freek Vermeulen, Associate Professor of Strategic and International Management, London Business School makes a valid point, “Sometimes it is better to deal with contextual change and uncertainty by not changing at all – at least not immediately – but by giving things time to play out. If your company is in an environment in which new technologies come and go quickly, you may need to slow down rather than speed up.”

Digital disruption is impacting every industry, but in different capacities and speeds. It is important to carefully study one’s own specific situation and craft a response that integrates changes to people, process and technology all at once.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Arjun Shankar

The author is Chief Corporate Management Services Officer, NIIT Limited

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