What are some emerging technology trends that will change and reform businesses and the economy?
This article from McKinsey Quarterly discusses eight trends can be categorized into three subcategories: Managing Business Relationships; Managing Capital and Assets; and Leveraging information in new ways.
The next four trends are categorized under the “Managing Business Relationships” heading.
The first is Distributing Cocreation – This is when suppliers, customers and contractors can aid in product/service development. By shifting more power and ultimately more autonomy to outsiders that work together, costs and lead times can be reduced by getting different insights during the development process and forgoing some of the bottlenecks associated with having total control of the innovation process. The notion of a open-source innovation was discussed in this earlier post.
Companies will need to compete with each other in order to attract the best and most innovative contributors.
The second trend is “Using Consumers as Innovators,” and is facilitated by the growth of the web 2.0. Customers are looking to be engaged with one another or with an organization. Customers are increasingly being engaged by the their involvement in the development, testing and marketing (viral marketing) of products or services. An example of is Wikipedia. The accuracy of this online encyclopedia is almost as accurate as Britannica’s.
With this trend, development cycles and costs can be reduced, while understanding the customer’s behavior and wants can be easier. The cost to attract customers is lower, and retaining customer loyalty becomes easier. Companies also need to be aware that the customers that would be involved in the development of their product or service is a small segment of the overall market, therefore, the developers’ needs and wants maybe different than the overall market. Often customers’ needs and wants are immediate and not long term.
The third trend is “Tapping into a world of talent”, as the internet is becoming more interactive with new communication and collaborative tools, outsourcing some functions of a business to specialists, talent networks, and freelancers is increasingly more viable from a cost and functional aspect. As I had alluded to in yesterday’s post, some advertising agencies have outsourced their creative, account management and media buying departments. Many companies would focus on their core competencies and not have the burden of being tied down to those other functions.
The main task is being able to harness the global talent pool, managing the existing workforce and being able to integrate the work in a cohesive manner.
The fourth trend is “Extracting more value from interactions”, that is interactions between different types of work and enabling the workforce to function more effectively and efficiently.
The first type of work is Transformational, usually work that is involved in the production of goods or in the extraction of raw materials; the second type of work is Transactional, usually work that is clerical or simple-rule based such as a call center operations or someone involved with data entry; finally, the last type of work is Tacit, which primarily deals with knowledge, judgment and collaboration with multiple interactions with multiple stakeholders. For example, a sales person would engage in tacit work, by interacting with the marketing, product development, H/R, logistics and after sales departments to maximize sales, while engaging and interacting with multiple parties through collaboration.
There are systems that can maximize the efficiency of both transformational and transactional work such as assembly line work. However, with tacit work, there is no such a rule or process. Maximizing the effectiveness of this work is accomplished by focusing them on interactions that create value. Companies must enable these workers with greater decision making ability, bring down barriers, increase the availability of resources/information and facilitate collaboration. New and current technology is facilitating this trend and enabling tacit workers to become more effective by having wikis, blogs, emails, text messages, and feeds to make communication and collaboration easier.
The next two trends are categorized under the “Managing Capital and Assets” heading.
The fifth trend is “Expanding the Frontiers of Automation,” companies will continue and expand their automation ability for tasks and processes that are repetitive. For example, Fed-Ex and UPS have enabled users to track their packages online. A major benefit would be to lower costs and help users get the information they need effortlessly in a timely manner.
The sixth trend is “Unbundling Production from Delivery,” uses existing business structures of large businesses (e.g. supply chain management, computing power, etc.) and rents this to other businesses. From a supply side, this technology would attract asset-intensive businesses (e.g. factories, office buildings, etc.) to raise their utilization rates and therefore, their return on invested capital. From a demand side, this technology would attract businesses that do not possess the economies of scale and scope to achieve competitive marginal costs.
Unbundling also offers businesses quick and easy access to assets; that minimizes impact on their balance sheets; and makes their income statements more favorable. For the businesses that offer unbundling, it decreases their marginal operational costs because of greater utilization of resources, and greater economies of scale and scope. Companies need to manage possible supply and demand conflicts. Examples have included the mobile phone networks and Amazon.com.
Here is another example in this article that discusses the growth of APIs across many existing web platforms using existing computing power of large companies. (e.g. eBay, Amazon, etc.)
The last two trends are categorized under the “Leveraging information in new ways” heading.
The seventh trend is “Putting more science into management,” companies are using statistics and other data to use internally and externally. For an internal example, automotive companies will typically spend more on sales incentives and on advertising campaigns based on seasonality of sales and possible product lifecycle changes. For an external example, Listen.fm and Amazon.com both use customer segmentation systems that utilize recommendation engines that suggest certain items based on the user’s past history, and on other users’ preferences.
As mentioned in an earlier post, the costs for computing power and storage capacity will continue to fall; and the quality and quantity of information that will become available will rise. The increase in information will empower organizations, as it becomes becomes transparent to employees and suppliers, and the access to it becomes broadened.
The eighth and final trend is “Making Business from information,” as now increasingly more data is captured by businesses and from varieties of sources; this could be beneficial for an information-based business opportunity. Intermediary businesses that have access to greater quality and quantity of information can charge a premium for the aggregation and analysis of this data. An example of this could be a security firm selling its video footage of a retail store to a market research firm studying retail consumer buying behavior.
These aggregators need to be cautious, because they could be aggregated themselves. Their business model can continue to flourish in business to consumer shopping sites and business to business directories.
Companies need to be cognizant of these eight emerging trends. Rather than reacting to it, companies can now use these trends to catalyze change and create opportunities as a result of this.