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The future of work continues to be rewritten

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This post references my recent presentation at Startupfest, Montreal. I’ve been studying the future of work for a number of years and it’s now come full circle in an environment and among business leaders who are more accepting of what’s in store in the coming decades and what they need to do to survive.

Currently, we live in this world of imbalance. Do you remember when business had a strong influence on how the markets behaved? We’ve seen this decline over the past few decades and business is being held hostage by their own doing. These corporations built these infrastructures based on markets that were predictable and environments that were relatively stable. The tables have turned and today markets are moving at a speed where business is struggling to keep pace. I’ve seen firsthand how technology has wielded its way into the marketing and media sector. It changed the way people consumed information, how they interacted with each other and how they bought. At the same time, it has obsoleted the very practices I’ve known be true.

Look at what’s happened in the last year alone: This digital disruption in retail has witnessed at least 21 U.S. retailers filing for bankruptcy protection in 2017 including Toys R Us, The Limited, and Payless. We have seen the demise of Sears in recent months.  The move to digital channels has been steady but incessant. Also, consider the changes within the $7.6 trillion global travel and tourism sector that necessitate continuous iteration of current business models. Because of Airbnb and Uber, which have, respectively, booked on average 100 million room nights per year and 40 million rides per month, pronounced shifts within this industry are happening today. At the heart of all this disruption is the explosion of adoption at the consumer level. The consumer is digital.

The most dangerous phrase … is: “We’ve always done it this way”

The way it was DONE could no longer be the way it WILL Be.

Consider the time it takes for a new product or technology to reach a significant milestone in user acceptance. It took the landline telephone 75 years to hit 50 million users. It took airplanes 68 years, the automobile, 62 years, and television, 22 years. Today, disruption is the new normal. Look at the impact of technology since the year 2000. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter were able to capture 50 million users in four, three and two years, respectively. These are nothing when compared to Angry Birds, which took a mere 35 days to reach 50 million users.

Creative destruction is moving at an accelerating pace. By leveraging the same systems, the same processes, the same best practices from legacy businesses to the predict market behavior, business will continue to chase the market and miss enormous opportunities.
Imagine a world in which the average company lasted just 12 years on the S&P 500.

A gale force warning to leaders: at the current churn rate, about half of S&P 500 companies will be replaced over the next ten years. The 33-year average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 in 1964 narrowed to 24 years by 2016 and is forecast to shrink to just 12 years by 2027.

Over the past five years alone, the companies that have been displaced from the S&P list include many iconic corporations: Yahoo! Staples, Dun & Bradstreet, Safeway, and Dell.

The environment is dictating how businesses organize

We have to consider the trends and what may seem like sustainable developments within the current environment, the interplay of technology and opportunity which will impact the way markets think, the way they behave and what they will expect. Four rising factors that will impact business include:

  1. Urbanization:  Throughout the world, urban populations are growing much faster than rural populations. Today, cities occupy just 2.6% of the earth’s crust, “but are home to more than 50% of the world’s population, generate more than 80% of the world’s GDP and use 75% of the world’s natural resources.” By 2030 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. This will have significant implications on demand for the world’s resources. It will also create an increased service economy and bring with it, more complexity. The growth of cities will mean consumer expectations will not wane. They want things fast, easy, convenient, and affordable
  2. The Gig Economy: By 2030, 43% of the workforce will be freelance. CEOs will need to encourage their organizations to adopt agile workforce strategies to meet the rapidly changing skills market. Increased competition will force companies to lower costs while improving productivity, which will mean they will hire for tasks vs headcount. To remain competitive, this idea of permanent workforce will not prevail. This will come at a time when workers will be interested in adopting more flexible working arrangements because it will grant them greater control, growth and even job security. The “liquid” workforce will also compel employers to continuously train staff and move them around the organization as needed.
  3. Social Responsibility:  Consumers in developed economies are becoming more value conscious and this is putting more pressure on companies to find ways to do more, and to do better. The buying model has shifted. The reputation of a company is now highly correlated with revenue. Employees will also weigh in and their collective voices will be more pronounced. Implications for employee retention will be profound as it is today. A study from Accenture for the World Economic Forum showed when there is a high level of trust in a company, it attracts new customers and strengthens existing ones. A high level of trust also makes employees more committed to staying with the company, and partners, and more willing to collaborate.
  4. Transparency:  If the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data leak taught us anything, consumers are better informed, have higher expectations and demand much more transparency in how their information is being used. Trust becomes an important value in privacy and ethics, especially when data becomes the engine that drives many of tomorrow’s decisions. Mary Meeker references this Paradox of Privacy, where organizations seek to leverage personal information to provide more customization and, at the same time, are increasingly scrutinized in how they use the information. This is the first time the consumer is being given control over their own information. This wild west of rampant experimentation that created opportunism in business and in politics, at the expense of the individual, is over.

As Dave Gray, Author of the Connected Company pointed out,

“Business requires dismantling of its precious infrastructure”

New Mindsets: New Organizational Structure


The way business organizes today is through process and hierarchy. There are only a few people at the top. The work is divided and everyone gets their box in which they work. Rules ensure all decisions are run up the flagpole. The industrial revolution created this structure as well as a system of disseminated accountability. It was easy to hide behind your job description and claim, “It’s not my responsibility”. The division of work created these silos that stifled information sharing and ultimately, the speed of decisions.

Business 3.o must be:

  • ethical
  • empathic
  • nimble

Make no mistake – companies will be judged by their customers, their employees, their partners and their investors. How business innovates around these constituencies will determine their longevity.

Enter “Holacracy” 

What has been around for decades but hasn’t been as pervasive is this notion of self-management or HOLACRACY. This was developed through an agile methodology, which advocated the workflow. This allowed engineers to develop ideas without managerial direction. This “Fractal System is a complex, non-linear, and interactive system” and adapts readily to a changing environment. These systems are characterized by the potential for self-management especially in environments where balance does not exist.

So while the core functions are contained at the center of this org structure, including the policies and standards of the organization, the outer layer contains these pods of excellence, which allow for rapid experimentation, more fluid collaboration and where the members have direct accountabilities to the work unit. The individuals within these independent units are empowered to test, build, deploy, measure and iterate much more quickly than if they worked within today’s hierarchical structure.

Business Must Design for Ambiguity

…where complexity and uncertainty are the rules.  Three strategies that respond to this environment include:

    • The Perpetual Learning Organization – Digital business requires companies to act and respond faster than they ever have before.  While modifying the current communication and decision making structures will enable this, the widening business-to-market gap will mean closing the skills and knowledge gap between employees and a marketplace facing continuous change. This requires organizations to embed learning management systems to bring employees up to speed on market trends, to train and re-skill them on new technology, to encourage participation in new product development, plus modify job roles so they evolve with the new technology.  This will create an expectation of life-long learning within the culture.
    • Design Thinking – This is a strategic practice that radically changes the mindset of an organization from “static to fluid.” At the heart of this approach is to solve problems that are human-centered. In addition, collaboration is required cross-functionally to determine the impacts on all parts of the organization.  Rigorous data collection is required at all stages to ensure thorough identification of impacts to workflow and functional requirements. The focused group is created to speed up the process of innovation, get the required feedback and make autonomous decisions.  This method will discover redundancies in the current systems, but will also allow strengthening collaboration as employees within these groups will be much more energized to collaborate and own their solutions.  Projects will be able to go into production much faster as long as there is accountability and validation at each stage. This methodology fits squarely into the holocratic organizational strategy that ensures functional participation and empowers accountable experimentation and deployment.
    • Privacy by Design –  Data will drive everything in this century. Slowly boundaries are being severed between countries and organizations to contextualize information for the purpose of gaining increasing insight. What is also clear is the rise of the General Data and Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is telling organizations to slow down and put into place, standards and policy for the responsible collection, use and aggregation of information. Privacy by Design was developed by Dr. Ann Cavoukian, a 3-term Privacy Commissioner in Ontario. In the 1990’s, Cavoukian conceived of this idea to address the growing “systemic effects” as communication and information technologies integrated within increasingly networked data systems. When companies in the future are faced with petabytes of data being streamed from multiple feeds, there will be a mandate to explain model outputs. As well, functionally embedding privacy that is fair and moral into each layer of our systems will be required. Defining “fair” and “moral” needs to be functionally explicit. Continuous audits for fairness within systems and practices will also be required. The patterns that algorithms will detect will create opportunistic tendencies. This quote from an executive at Salesforce at a recent conference summed up nicely how business should respond: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. As we marshall into more disruptive technology using data, business will need to understand the long-term implications for the society at large.

This is the future of the “long-lived” company:

Connected companies learn and move faster, seize opportunities and link to a network of possibilities to spread their influence. ~Dave Gray

The future of work means destruction of silos. The panacea is a more fluid organization where decisions are made at the edges, where the business is in sync with its market, and where business perpetuates a value system that keeps it humming nicely.

Please reference the presentation here.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.

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New research predicts six key trends in the consumer IoT market

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Smart home IoT company Viomi Technology and the International Data Corporation have jointly issued a white paper that identifies key consumer trends for the Internet of Things and the smart home.

With the smart home, connected services and the Internet of Things overall gaining greater acceptance it is important for businesses to understand where the technology is heading next. Focusing on the home market, smart home Internet of Things company Viomi Technology, in collaboration with the market intelligence company International Data Corporation (IDC), has issued a white paper that signals the key consumer trends that are set to shape the home IoT market over the next few years.

The new paper is called “Consumer IoT Outlook 2025“, and as the title suggests it forecasts the primary trends in the consumer IoT market from now through to 2025. These trends are:

  • Computing capabilities of consumer IoT devices will increase rapidly. For this, artificial intelligence is vital to the future development of consumer IoT. The main developments will be with sensing technology, data acquisition capability and decision-making intelligence.
  • Different network protocols will work together as a hybrid network. The aim here is to provide consumers with stable and fast connection anywhere and anytime. This will be enhanced by 5G, and increased consumer expectations for connection anywhere and anytime.
  • Edge computing and local storage will be widely used on smart devices. This move will improve computing efficiency and personal privacy.
  • Consumer IoT devices will have more open integration in terms of technology. Interoperability should be achieved by breaking the boundaries between products, platforms, and applications.
  • Human-device interaction will be more user-friendly and feel more natural. This will be seen with applications like voice-, image-, face-, and touch-based interaction.
  • Smart devices will soon move into the stage of proliferation. The main growth area, the report suggests, will probably be in China.

The research will be presented by Viomi at the Appliances & Electronics World Expo in Shanghai, China on March 13, 2019.

At the same time, a separate report from market research firm Grand View Research predicts that the global smart home automation market will hit $130 billion by 2025, compared to $46.15 billion in 2016.

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The cloud strategy that Microsoft is leading and that Google and Amazon are betting on is growing, report says

Business Insider

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Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. - Photo by LeWeb
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  • According to Flexera’s RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report, the amount of large companies with a hybrid cloud strategy, or combining public clouds and data centers to store workloads, has risen from 51% to 58%.
  • Microsoft is the leader in hybrid cloud, as it introduced its hybrid cloud Azure Stack in 2017.
  • Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services have also announced hybrid cloud offerings in the past year.

For a long time, Microsoft has been touting hybrid cloud, or a mix of on-premises and public cloud services.

And in the past year, both Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud have followed suit, making major announcements around hybrid cloud. Companies often choose to keep some of their work on data centers due to regulations, especially in industries like health or finance, and analysts say this will not change anytime soon.

Indeed, 58% of companies with more than 1,000 employees are now pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy, up from 51% last year, Flexera’s RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report says.

What’s more, 84% of those companies have a multi-cloud strategy, which means that they store workloads on multiple public clouds, hybrid clouds or data centers. This rose from 81% last year.

Microsoft launched its hybrid cloud Azure Stack in 2017, and currently, Microsoft is the only company out of the top three cloud providers that has a generally available hybrid cloud.

Last November, Amazon announced a hybrid cloud offering calledAWS Outposts, and it will be available later this year. And in February, Google Cloud announced that it will make its hybrid cloud offering Cloud Services Platform available as a beta for customers, a move that company officials say is a part of its strategy to attract more enterprise customers.

In addition, IBM is betting on its upcoming acquisition of Red Hat to help it become a top hybrid cloud player.

Now, 45% of enterprises see hybrid cloud or a balanced approach being using public clouds and data centers as their top priority in their cloud strategy, the survey found. In comparison, 31% of enterprises see public cloud as their biggest focus.

The Flexera RightScale survey polled 786 respondents, 58% of which were large, 1,000+ employee corporations and 42% of which were small businesses.

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2019.

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Who will control the data from autonomous vehicles?

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Self-driving cars, like many inventions of the data-driven age, collect huge volumes of data, relating to the performance of the car and geospatial information. Who will, and who should, own this data? A new study assesses the importance.

Researchers from Dartmouth College have questioned the ownership of data in relation to autonomous vehicle technology. As self-driving cars advance, there will be a vast quantity of data amassed from navigational technologies. This leads to important questions that need to be asked about data privacy, ownership, cybersecurity and public safety. This is in the context of the mapping data being collected and analysed by the companies that manufacture the navigation technology.

One use that companies will make of the collected geospatial data is to develop and design new maps. These are produced through sophisticated and proprietary combinations of sensing and mapping technologies. These technologies feature continuous, multimodal and extensive data collection and processing.

Such maps will be able to identify the spaces within which people live and travel. While this can help to promote technological innovation, it raises privacy questions. The researchers are calling on the developers of the ‘black boxes’ that will be integral to autonomous cars to be more open as to what happens with the data and for the navigation devices themselves to have greater transparency.

According to lead researcher Professor Luis F. Alvarez León:

“Self-driving cars have the potential to transform our transportation network and society at large. This carries enormous consequences given that the data and technology are likely to fundamentally reshape the way our cities and communities operate.”

The new research paper proposes that governments should enact legislation that allows future autonomous cars users to unlock the ‘black box’ and understand what data is being used for and why. As León states: “oversight of the self-driving car industry cannot be left to the manufacturers themselves.” The paper also calls for developers to use open-source software, which will enable an understanding of what is happening with the data.

There is also a call for greater understanding of security risks and the extent that data can be taken from car navigation systems.

The discussion has been developed in a paper published in the journal Cartographic Perspectives. The research paper is titled “Counter-Mapping the Spaces of Autonomous Driving.”

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