Future Of Work: Tech Matters, More Than You Think

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IBM Institute for Business Value recently published the findings of its 2021 Global CEO Study.
  • IBM Institute for Business Value recently published the findings of its 2021 Global CEO Study, which revealed the priorities businesses need to succeed in the future. 
  • Agile ways of working need to be more purposeful. To achieve this, business leaders must rethink traditional work models, along with their entire operational infrastructure. 
  • The top three technologies expected to help deliver results in the future are the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Technology has transformed the nature of work. The COVID-19 pandemic is proof of this; without technology, most businesses would not have been able to continue their operations as lockdowns went into effect.  

For years now, various reports have claimed the importance of technology in business success and continuity. And yet, digital transformation efforts by companies were scant and ineffective.  

Then 2020 happened.  

IBM Institute for Business Value recently published the findings of its 2021 Global CEO Study. One of the key findings in the report is that technology matters, and it matters more than we think.  

IBV’s report identified three essential priorities for businesses to succeed in the future: 

  1. Purposeful agility 
  2. Make tech matter more 
  3. Embrace emerging regulations.  

Purposeful Agility 

“After the uncertainty of the past year, CEOs stress organizational agility—the capability of an organization to respond quickly and pivot without losing momentum—as a top priority for leaders to an unprecedented degree.” 

According to the survey, 56% of CEOs have emphasized the need to aggressively pursue operational agility and flexibility. To do this, they believe that agile ways of working need to be more purposeful.  

How can business agility be more purposeful? 

According to IBM Institute for Business Value, agile ways of working “should include a clear focus on business outcomes and guidelines that indicate where innovation will lead to essential next-level advantages—so that agile initiatives result in material, valuable changes and real-world impact.” 

When the pandemic struck, agile ways of working implemented by businesses were reactive; there was only one thing to do, and it was to send workers home with whatever technology was available.  

In the future, this approach won’t work. Organizations need to start thinking proactively about how they will enable agility with a remote workforce. This requires that they rethink traditional work models and leadership methods, as well as their entire operational infrastructure.  

This is where technology comes in.  

Make Tech Matter More 

“The 3,000 CEOs surveyed cite technological factors as the number one most important external force that will impact their enterprises over the next two to three years.” 

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This isn’t too surprising, considering that digital maturity is significantly correlated with financial performance, according to IBV’s “Digital Acceleration” report. This claim was confirmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, where tech-savvy organizations outperformed less tech-savvy peers on revenue growth by an average of 6 percentage points.  

Why? 

Because technology lies at the core of business agility and flexibility. Without technology, there would be no hybrid workforce, no business continuity in the face of unprecedented events, and no customer engagement during situations like the one created by the coronavirus pandemic.  

“As we learned during 2020, sometimes the hard way, having capability in place beforehand matters.”  

However, not all technology is created equally; and some technologies are more important than others in today’s business world.  

The CEO survey found that the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the top three technologies expected to help deliver results in the future.  

“This trio of capabilities is often linked and self-reinforcing. IoT enables data collection from vehicles, industrial processes, customer interactions, and so forth. This data is then organized and disseminated via interconnected clouds, and often processed and enhanced using AI. Together, IoT, cloud computing, and AI represent where future-focused organizations look to earn an advantage, redefining how work gets done as what we call ‘intelligent workflows’.” 

To succeed in the future, organizations need to prioritize their technology infrastructure. Specifically, they need to prioritize their openness to exponential technologies—like the case of the IoT, AI, and cloud computing.  

These technologies are the ones that not only will enable the hybrid workforce, but also will empower organizational leaders to make informed business decisions based on relevant and updated data.  

However, with more reliance on technology comes more regulatory concern, which brings us to the third essential.  

Embrace Emerging Regulations 

IBV’s survey found that for the first time in 17 years, regulatory concern finished above the fourth position among expected top external forces.  

As companies increasingly adopt new technologies and rely on them to make decisions, privacy and data have become a top concern for CEOs. Protecting workers and the organization at large against cyber risk and data exposure is critical to ensure business success. Any breaches not only destroy the trust of consumers and clients, but also—and more importantly—that of employees.  

Companies aren’t the only ones worried about regulation; it has also become a key government concern. As a result, companies need to start thinking about the following: 

  •  What actions should we take now to prepare for expected changes to the regulatory environment?  
  • How will we redefine or establish new partnerships to manage regulatory changes?  
  • What new opportunities could emerge as the result of new regulations? 
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