Change: The Only Constant?

How can businesses stay ahead with the rising pace of change?

It’s often been said that the only things we can be certain of in life are death and taxes. When it comes to business, the only constant is change.

Now digital disruption has quickened the pace of that change, bringing in new technologies and business models that have completely transformed how organisations operate. The nature of threat has changed, with competition coming potentially from anywhere, not just those operating in your market. Customer expectations have changed, as have the methods used to meet them. Instead of building linear products and services based largely on guesswork, businesses can use new digital platforms and technologies to become more customer centric. Direct feedback loops mean that every subtle alteration in preferences and habits can be tracked and accommodated for.

Businesses have also begun to interact with other companies in a different way. Traditional views of competition have made way for the need to collaborate, cooperate, and share valuable data. Another important development is industry convergence. Regardless of sector, change is inevitable.

“The only certainty is that change is going to be quicker tomorrow than it is today,” says Rob Prevett, CEO of D/SRUPTION. “There are some really exciting technologies coming down the line that will totally transform business.”

So, what are they?

Technology fuelling change

In the digital world where data is everything, the smarter things get, the more data they produce. The Internet of Things is expected to include 21 billion connected devices by 2025… One day, it’s possible that almost everything will be ‘smart’. The growth of the IoT is critical for businesses fuelled by data.

Through the use of innovative technologies like machine learning, organisations are uncovering the value of data and making better products, services, or platforms for their customers. When looking at their own operations, companies are using advanced software and hardware to automate tasks that take up unnecessary time and effort. They can optimise their business processes with more efficient data storage and analysis. They can experiment with novel materials and designs with affordable 3D printers, and they can predict how decisions will affect supply chains with a toolkit of supply chain management (SCM) tools. Some of these technologies aren’t new – but the sheer amount of data now available has made them far more powerful.

With great data comes great connectivity. Technological change is still hindered by limited network capabilities. The coming 5G revolution will unlock more possibilities than ever before for tech driven enterprise and society. But, as ever, there is scepticism surrounding the true extent of just how much change 5G will bring. It’s a common theme – organisations know change is coming, but they don’t always grasp the extent of its impact.

Preparing for change

In fast moving markets and industries, not everyone can keep up. Older, larger organisations that were established in a very different world are harder to move and may be more risk averse and therefore struggle with change. Until very recently, businesses could rely on incremental improvement. However, changes in technology and business models have opened the floodgates for innovative startups to compete with corporate heavyweights.

Instead of simply doing ‘better’, organisations must do more. At Brompton Bicycle, new and novel ideas are a fundamental part of innovation. To encourage experimentation, CEO Will Butler-Adams set up the ‘Fuck It Fund’, which dedicates a small amount of investment purely for exploring different ideas. By empowering employees to question established processes, the business itself becomes a driver for change.

“You’ve got to keep burning your fingers, poking holes,” explains Butler-Adams, who will deliver a keynote at this year’s Disruption Summit Europe on September 10th. The challenge, of course, is working out just how long to hover over the flame.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes brought about by the digital, data driven world is the increased power of consumers. Customers understand how valuable their data is, and have begun to vote with their feet. A desire for the best experience has replaced customer loyalty – if customer centric startup or scale up can provide a better product or service then customers will migrate from better known brands. Placing the customer at the centre of business is a new challenge for big legacy organisations, pushing them to get closer to consumers. This means gathering data, and more importantly understanding how it can deliver competitive advantage.

The problem is that as data builds up in various digital locations, it becomes harder to protect. There is value in that data, and the nature of crime has changed as a result. Cybercrime is on the rise, with a stream of new methods to target unsuspecting (and indeed, suspecting) victims. Being aware of these changing tactics is crucial to handling them if and when they occur.

One way hackers can infiltrate organisations is through email phishing, in which malicious links are sent to users to gather personal data. At this year’s Disruption Summit, ethical hacker Glenn Wilkinson and investigative journalist Geoff White will host a live hacking demonstration to show exactly how phishing works.

Don’t be afraid of change

No-one has a crystal ball, but what organisations do have is a wealth of historic and real time data that indicates certain trends. Knowing what is happening in the consumer market, the regulatory space and the wider socio-economy is key. This function is often referred to as horizon scanning, and should be carried out every company with an eye on the future.

Much like Brompton Bicycle, organisations can build up their ability to pre-empt and handle change by adopting an experimental mindset. This means trying out new strategies and techniques while they are still novel, and encouraging a culture that allows for new ideas. Organisations can also join collaborative networks, where they can learn from those who have successfully ridden the wave of change and share their experiences.

From a business perspective, change cannot be ignored. Fortunately, many of the drivers of change can be identified, which is the first step to coming up with an effective response. Although it’s impossible to tell exactly what’s around the corner, it is possible to create a culture that embraces change. When organisations are afraid of changing, it’s a much bigger challenge. But, if they accept the inevitable and adapt, change can become synonymous with gain.

Interested in change?

Attend the Change Track at Disruption Summit Europe on the 10th of September to learn how industry leaders handle change management.

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