Ray Kurzweil said in his 1999 book on the future of human existence The Age of Spiritual Machines that as order exponentially increases, time exponentially speeds up. Technological advances and human knowledge snowball – as with Moore’s Law – and change gathers pace.
Eventually, the exponential curve becomes near-vertical – the singularity -- beyond which it becomes virtually impossible for humans to predict what might happen next, because there is so much going on, all at once. According to Kurzweil, we may be nearing that point today.
Patrick Dixon [pictured], business consultant and chair of trends forecasting firm Global Change, told 150 attendees at a global press event in London sponsored by Ricoh that business, accordingly, is under intensifying pressure.
Doing even more with less
Ever more sprawling and diverse organisations must do even more with less, yet compete aggressively on multiple fronts. Meanwhile, the related information capital is also snowballing and becoming ever harder to manage in an agile, productive and efficient way, he said.
“We need to connect what we know with other things that we also know. The world changes faster than you can call a board meeting,” Dixon said.
Convergence, communication, cloud, and cost are all drivers. Cloud, for example, is already enabling crowd-sourcing – giving the ability to source information from many people and places incredibly quickly, using social networking tools such as Twitter.
“The debate is not about what is going to happen; the debate is only about the timing. And timing is everything when it comes to business success,” Dixon said.
Addressing these trends is going to be key not only for successful business transformation but for the IT providers that serve those organisations. Of course, that includes the channel, he said.
CIOs need to respond, Dixon said. They need to focus on solving complex problems whose answers will make business processes better, organisations more agile, and employees more productive. This means adapting to and benefiting from more of the information capital created, stored, disseminated and managed that could potentially help that business.
In practical terms, all the systems, technologies and processes of an organisation must be integrated together to eliminate redundancy, and latency, he said. At a very basic level, that might mean having accurate and easily updated, real-time customer databases that correspond with customer information held in other IT systems in the organisation.
Innovation in IT (and other departments) is needed for this to happen, Dixon added, but it is not enough. Any innovation needs also to offer people something they actually want, if progress is to be made.
“If something does not connect with the emotions, passions and actual lifestyle needs of individuals, I promise you, it will sell very badly,” Dixon warned.
Angèle Boyd [pictured], group vice president at IDC and a specialist researcher into document solutions and SMB markets, has looked at the challenges of managing information and business processes for productivity and efficiency. She told the conference that controlling the information costs of businesses today and tomorrow is going to continue to be a major challenge.
Primary forces shaping business and customer impacts are the overall information explosion and changes to workforces – reduction of human resources, coupled with increased mobility and remote working, she said.
This means more information is being disseminated, created and stored in more different places than ever before, and security has reinstated itself as a real bugbear.
“A huge opportunity is being created by a lot of those forces that Dixon talked about,” she said. “Workers are relying on many forms of information to conduct their jobs: email, paper documents, paper forms, voice calls and voice mail, digital documents, website information, digital database records, digital forms, digital pictures, and instant messages.”
Meanwhile, mobile and remote working would go on increasing, from 29 per cent of the overall global workforce in 2008 to 35 per cent by 2013. Sixty per cent of the total are mobile office workers, and working from home is the fastest growing category, she said.
Boyd’s figures are from research done for Ricoh into the potential for managed document services, which Boyd said represents an example of how to address the opportunity.
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