I was honored to be nominated to speak about digital transformation and the era of disruption at Microsoft Dubai. I wanted to share my thoughts about the new revolution upon us, and how this will change everything.
Albert Einstein said that “I never think about the future, it comes soon enough”, and he was right of course. So today I am here to ask you to think how the future is happening now.
If you look at the past 200 years, you can see that the world has been through two major waves of innovation. The first of course is the Industrial Revolution that changed everything. Things like factories, electricity, air travel and cars. Our lives have never been the same after that.
Then the Internet Revolution [a.k.a Digital Revolution] brought us computer power and unprecedented access to information and communication. Our lives have never been the same after that.
Now we are experiencing another major revolution, called the Industrial Internet. It brings together intelligent machines, advanced analytics and the creativity of people at work. There are three reasons why this revolution is not considered an extension of the previous digital revolution, but rather the arrival of a new one: velocity, scope and systems impact.
The speed of the new revolution has no historical precedent when compared to previous ones. We are talking about exponential rather than a linear pace. The scope is also different, as this revolution is disrupting almost every industry and business in every country. Impact is also huge due to the depth and breadth of these changes.
Some people say that the first industrial revolution is in fact two, one that is powered by water and steam power to mechanize production, while the second used electric power to create production. Therefore, you might sometime hear people referring to the current revolution as the Fourth Revolution.
It is the marriage of minds and machines. Our lives have never been the same after that. History showed us that if you do not catch the train of evolution, you will be left behind and be disrupted.
This new innovation is changing the way we work, communicate, and consume services. People are feeling afraid of losing their jobs, especially that the unemployment rates are already high. There were always fear that any revolution will destroy jobs and that innovation is disruptive.
If we think about it for a minute, we will quickly realize that innovation is all about growth. It makes products more affordable, thus creating new demand and new jobs.
But with the new industrial internet revolution, people are afraid that soon, there will only be place for engineers, data scientist, and other high specialized workers. While this might sound right, think about it for a minute. Just as a child can easily figure out how to use an IPAD, so a new generation of mobile and intuitive industrial applications will make life easier for workers of all skills. The worker of the future will be more like Iron Man!
We are already seeing Uber disrupting the taxi business, Amazon disrupting retail, and Netflix disrupting the way we watch movies. Disruption is happening all around us, and it is affecting our lives already.
A new interesting technology that people are watching closely is the Blockchain technology, that is expected to disrupt a lot of industries. Bitcoin, or the new digital dollar, is one of the most popular implementations of blockchain. While Bitcoins are all about moving money over a trusted and transparent platform (the blockchain), Ethereum is all about moving self-extracted piece of software in the form of smart contracts. People are saying that the Ethereum Project might be disrupting the $36.4 Trillion Pension Market, and this is just the start.
It is a matter of survival
Businesses and organizations that do not take actions will soon be disrupted like what happened to Nokia, when Apple launched their first iPhone.
Even big companies are facing the same challenge. Facebook said, “If we do not invent the next thing that will kill Facebook, other people will do”.
There is no exception for any type of business. I mean, who can imagine the McDonald’s has a digital transformation officer with a team of 200! Sephora, BMW, and even the White House, they all have some sort of digital transformation team.
Even FedEx, the giant courier delivery, started a big digital refresh project. Their founder and CEO Fred Smith said, “The information about the package is as important as the package itself”. This established a culture where technology functions as the central nervous system behind every single business process at the company. You can read more about it here.
Enough Disruption, Time for Transformation
Being inspired by all these stories, is not enough. The relationship between disruption and digital transformation is interesting. While disruption create fear and motivation, digital transformation gives you the direction and the way to go.
Digital transformation represents the quest to understand how disruptive technology affects the digital customer experience. it is not an end goal, but a continues journey.
There are a lot of information out there about how to do digital transformation and how to understand it well. However, I like this one the most: “Digital transformation is about reimagining how you bring together people, data, and processes to create value for your customers and maintain a competitive advantage in a digital-first world.”
Finding your “Purpose”
While it is hard to describe the whole concept of digital transformation here, I want to share one important point. You have as a business or an enterprise to find your purpose, and make sure everyone in your company is aware of that purpose.
My favorite example of purpose is this. During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”
“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
Purpose gives you meaning and direction. If your business is about delivering shipments, then who cares if you have the best email system in the world. After all, customers don’t see departments, they only see one brand.
I always emphasis on this point “Stop spending time and effort on things that do not differentiate your business, and pay someone else to do it for you”.
A good and a simple example of that, is adopting a SaaS (Software as a Service) model, where you can consume email services, and a lot more from a cloud provider, like Microsoft or Google, and let them handle that for you. This will give you more space and focus to re-think about your purpose and digital customer experience.
We are living in a revolutionary era, and we are just at the beginning of this new transformation. You could agree with me that there will be barriers to break, obstacles to overcome, and a need for new way of thinking. Changing culture is the hardest part I believe inside big organizations, and we definitely need to adapt new organizational and managerial practices and invest in new technologies.
In top of that, we need a solid cyber-security approach to safe-guard critical infrastructure in which a trusted platform can be established. Sensitive information and intellectual property should be protected from cyber-attacks.
The whole education system need to be involved to ensure students are equipped with the right skills to be involved in this revolution. It is not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it.
The new revolution is upon us all, so think about the future. It will be here soon enough!