The continuing and combined impact of five core technology forces is steadily driving business towards a “post-digital era” in which today’s disruptive innovations have shed their apparent novelty and become inherent to the way organisations work.
This is the view of Kamal Ramsingh, Technology Director at Deloitte, the professional services firm. He argues that business still has room to accelerate integration of the rule-driven world of information technology with the explosion in the socially networked way it is actually used.
“Organisations are increasingly confident in welcoming ways of working that are well outside of the traditional departmental and functional structures. All the social networking tools, online collaboration models and broader access to internal information are finally starting to turn the ideals of how people could better work together into reality,” he says.
He was commenting on the publishing of Tech Trends 2012, the latest annual report in which Deloitte examines trends in technology as they are put to practical business use.
Ramsingh says the five technology forces that have influenced business the most in recent years fall under the banners of analytics, mobility, social, cloud and cyber security.
“We can now envisage a time when the technologies paraded under each of these banners are mature, fully implemented and integrated. At that point, all the innovations we previously bolted on will have become ‘baked in’, just part of the way things are.
“That’s the post-digital world, and its impact could be as profound as what we lived through as the world shifted from industrial to post-industrial status,” says Ramsingh.
He believes that it is an uncommon time to have so many emerging forces, all rapidly evolving, technology-centric and each already affecting business so strongly. Even in sectors where managers have not previously thought of their business as inherently digital, the convergence of these forces opens the door to different rules for operations, performance and competition, he says.
Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2012 report assesses a total of 10 trends identified as either disruptors or enablers. The disruptors are technologies that can create sustainable positive disruption in IT capabilities and business operations. Enablers are viewed as more evolutionary technologies in which many firms have already invested, but where there is potential to intensify or adapt how they are used.
Among the disruptors, Ramsingh highlights the emergence of “social business” from the realms of the buzzword to actual business practices that have been implemented.
“This is about so much more than the tools and technology. Businesses are being fundamentally changed as leaders rethink their core processes and capabilities with a social mind-set to find new ways to create more value, faster.
“The balance of power has shifted from the corporation to the individual. Technology has made it easier to discover and participate in social networks, but it has not changed what you need to make it all work. Content, authenticity, integrity, reputation, commitment and follow-through are still the underlying qualities required,” says Ramsingh.
He argues that companies that align the passions of their people with the interests of their customers hold the potential to capture their market place.
Ramsingh also points to a relatively new phenomenon, but one which already has its own buzzword, that is seeing businesses use the dynamics and techniques of computer games to change behaviour and drive productivity.
“Gamifcation” is about taking the essence of games – fun, play and passion – and applying it to real-world non-game situations, he says.
Current applications include wellness programmes, restaurant and other service-driven businesses, and incentivising learning of company systems. The most common applications involve points for completing activities or tasks, rewards and movement up to advanced levels.
“There is a growing base of workers and customers raised under the influence of video games and consumer technology. In addition, we’ve seen a meteoric expansion of mobile, social and cloud technologies across business. On top of that, the business need is to improve processes, service, productivity and so on.
“All that ‘gamification’ looks to do is to embed game attributes in day-to-day business activities. This interacts with the next generation in their native language and taps into many in the older generation that also embrace the ideas around gaming,” says Ramsingh.
“As the bridge to the post-digital era is being built, organisations are making big investments in similar ideas and innovations that do not require massive systems investment, but that still enable them to take advantage of the transformation opportunities.”