Let's face the facts: change isn't easy, especially for businesses. A fast and accelerating pipeline of new technologies has left many businesses struggling to keep up. Legacy operating models and business processes are strained as they encounter everything from AI to VR and blockchain.
However, a growing number of businesses have found a way to successfully adapt to change. In part, their success is a result of putting in place more flexible and scalable IT infrastructure and adaptable operational systems that ensure they can continually pivot their organisations.
But just as importantly, they have come to a new understanding of technology-one that sets them apart from businesses in the previous decades. For these organisations, technology must adapt to humans rather than the other way around.
Technology has traditionally been designed such that we humans have to learn its 'language'. To use a computer, for example, we must use keyboards and monitors and operating systems that are all technology-centric. However, the winning 'Future Systems' of tomorrow will be radically human. They will adapt to us and will be able to talk, listen, see and understand just like we do.
One driver behind this change is the emergence of technologies such as natural language processing, computer vision, voice recognition, and machine learning. These technologies will allow us to interact with smart devices just as we interact with human colleagues - by talking to them.
Future Systems will by nature be far less artificial and more intelligent than anything we are used to today. This will make them easier to interact with and more efficient - even as the underlying technology becomes exponentially more complex.
More human, more collaborative
The effects of this change will be significant. Designing radically human systems breaks down organisational barriers between the IT department and the business and forces organisations to master human-centric development. And by democratising technology and making it truly intuitive, businesses will be able to build highly effective cross-functional teams that are better equipped to devise innovative customer-centric solutions.
On their part, business leaders will need to make sure that employees feel free to experiment and present 'blue sky' ideas, as emerging humanised technologies such as AR, VR and voice require experimentation to master. 'Fast fail' concepts can be applied broadly to get people up to speed with the full potential of the systems that are redefining their workplaces.
The retraining requirement
This is a fact that businesses are increasingly aware of. According to a recent research, business leaders believe that without some retraining, more than half of their IT workforce's skills and almost half of their non-IT workforce's skills will be obsolete in three years.
To mitigate this risk, leading companies are looking at new ways of training their workforce. A big part of this is the use of experiential learning - learning by doing - which is often more effective than theoretical learning in helping people get to grips with new technologies.
Technology itself will also help upskill the workforce. AI and advanced analytics can be used to personalise learning, predict skilling needs and match workers' skill requirements with appropriate training modules. Extended Reality (e.g. VR or AR) will also be important, as it will help people explore new technologies and processes in a safe environment.
In summary, if you want to become a truly innovative business that's ready for the future, you need to address three areas:
1. Master human-centric development. Humans must be at the center of your design process. Data and technology alone won't be enough.
2. Reduce organisational and cultural barriers. Barriers that slow down collaboration and innovation should be removed or reduced, without impacting accountability. This is particularly true of the boundary between IT and the business.
3. Start experimenting now. Early experimentation will get your employees on board with change early and allow you to start reimagining what your business is capable of.
Almost counterintuitively, technology has the potential to make businesses more human. Companies that get this change right will be able to innovate better and faster than competitors. They will also benefit from a workforce that's more engaged and empowered to realise their full potential.(The author is Group Chief Executive, Accenture Technology Services)