I remember traveling through Poland in 1996 and witnessing the gray “after effects” of communism; antiquated cars, building, and roads. I stared into the empty eyes on the wrinkled faces of the elderly who had struggled through wars and several eras where the country had been on the brink of economic and/or civic decline.
But there was also exuberance and excitement in the air with the fall of the Berlin wall, the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, and the domino effect of unleashing democracy in many of its satellite countries. It was as if black and white Poland was being revolutionized through Technicolor.
In some ways, it’s a metaphor for our world today. Though most of us haven’t struggled through oppressive dictatorships and economic effects of communism, we’re all still emerging from an era of physical limits and perpetual boundaries of physical scarcity—a gray world where producing anything new required huge amounts of capital and effort. But now, a springtime of unprecedented possibility is emerging.
Growth and Progress
Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, peer-to-peer networks, autonomous cars, crypto currencies, neuromedicine, robotics, and drones are pioneering new opportunities for growth and progress. The bridge between imagination and bringing something to fruition is getting shorter and easier to cross.
While it’s easy (and often wise) for CIOs (and the rest of the C-Suite) to ignore “distractions” and focus on the task at hand, the stories of organizations falling prey to a changing landscape around them continue to mount. We read the cautionary tales of Kodak, Borders, Blockbuster, Nokia, Rim, Compaq, and others, and try and position our organizations against emerging threats.
Conversely, the stories of Uber, AirBnB, Netflix, Amazon, WhatsApp, and SnapChat amaze and inspire us with their rapid growth due to innovative ways of leveraging emerging technology to create new platforms of value exchange.
The diminishing cycle times—by which the rise and fall of organizations happens—places a value premium on the discernment required to identify which technologies are just shiny new objects, and which have the power to create new markets and destroy old ones.
A Significantly Different Outlook
There are plenty of critical things to solve today: security, system consolidation, and building out a more agile cloud infrastructure to name a few. As we connect people and things to the Internet, the mushrooming data sets will offer new challenges and possibilities and the world in 5 years will look significantly different.
- How will future organizations manage and capitalize on these increasingly large unstructured datasets?
- How will they use this data to create a differentiated experience for their customers?
As I write this, I’m looking out the window of the Steamboat Grand Resort at a beautiful winter wonderland and the world-renowned slopes descending from the clouds into the foreground. While legacy snow resorts will offer an experience largely based on snow conditions of the past several decades, next generation resorts will try to augment it with emerging technology. Take Vail Resorts for example. They manage 10 resorts across CO and CA, and boast the tagline “The Experience of a Lifetime”. In order to live up to their promise, they now outfit lift tickets with RFID chips, coupled with the Epic Mix app that allows visitors to track vertical feet, communicate, compete, and share photos with their friends.
More Initiatives Are On The Horizon.
OTT (over the top) service providers are estimated to take a predicted $386 Billion in revenue away from traditional telecom providers over the next several years. The widespread increase of smart mobile devices and cheaper broadband availability is having a profound impact on an industry that has existed in virtually the same way, over the last several decades.
The Healthcare World
The mapping of the human genome, and now even the human epigenome (which maps the dynamic switching on and off of cell traits) is opening up previously impossible insights to how genetic mutations cause disease and traits—all being made possible by the exponential drop in the cost of computing power. The era of personalized medicine will make today’s medical standards as obsolete as the telegraph. Health systems, physicians, and much of the associated commercial interests will undergo transformative change in the coming decade.
The Financial Transaction World
The creation of Bitcoin has not only opened up large questions that have caused governments and financial institutions to ask about the future of money, but it’s underlying technology—the blockchain—has opened possibilities for a new technological framework for the next generation of the Internet.
- Square and Stripe set out to revolutionize payments and seize some control and power of the large credit card providers.
- ApplePay and SamsungPay are aiming to reduce friction during the consumer transaction process.
- AndroidPay has opened an api layer; allowing anyone to innovate.
- PayPal just acquired Paydiant.
- Bitcoin and a host of other P2P virtual currencies are hoping to upend them all.
These changes threaten the powerful incumbents that have ruled the financial transaction world for quite some time; Visa, Mastercard, American Express and the entire industry of merchant account providers. Simple is hoping to disrupt the entire retail banking experience. Technology continues to take the assumed and threaten to relegate it to obsolete. The most shocking part is that much of the assumed status quo has been in existence for decades, and in some cases centuries.
Education, transportation, manufacturing are all experiencing similar threats and changes.
Increase Opportunities, Influence And Value
The growing ubiquity of the Internet and new emerging technologies is continuously threatening our perceived understanding of how the world works, how our industries work, who our organizations are, and what our roles within those organizations require.
The ability to spot threats and opportunities has gotten more complex as the pace of technology continues to outpace most leaders’ ability to understand it. Looking at the existing competitive landscape may not be the most critical area of focus.
Today’s CIO is uniquely positioned to understand emerging technologies and decipher potential implications—charting the path of technology and spotting the greenfields of opportunity ahead is their biggest challenge and opportunity. Shifting alignment from today’s mandates towards tomorrow’s opportunities will help CIO’s to increase overall their influence and value.