Ground Breaking – Understanding the Digital Shockwaves

Posted on: December 7, 2016 by Hubert Tardieu

The digital revolution has the power to change everything. Sending out wave after wave of transformative disruption from its epicentre, businesses can expect to be impacted in every aspect: from strategy models through to organizational structure; operational processes to employee interactions. These shockwaves will intensify competition in all industries, require new employee skills, and often cause worker displacements.

Crucially, we believe there are four key sources of digital disruption: firstly, Ways of Working: the process through which people will collaborate with others, with machines and with virtual ‘beings’ in entirely new ways. Secondly, Business Models: how companies are taking advantage of digital technologies to exploit new markets, operating models and revenue streams. Thirdly, Disruptive Technologies and how certain specific technologies may single-handedly create notable societal and economic disruptions. And finally, Evolving Challenges, focusing on perennial topics such as security which will require radical re-examination.

Over the course of this article we will look at each of the areas in greater detail…

Ways of Working

As you might expect, the growth of the internet economy, and access to ever-growing collaboration tools, has irreversibly changed the way employees operate. More recently, the concept of automation has jumped up the CIO’s agenda, combining with data analytics to offer predictive and prescriptive actions and outcomes.

Presenting the potential for a whole new era of intelligent systems that will perform increasingly complex tasks – aiding and abetting humans. For example, the use of augmented reality could help global colleagues surpass language barriers through automated translation services.

Of course, the advances do raise further questions about our relationship with machines. If robots play increasingly important roles, where does that leave us humans? How can wellbeing at work be ensured? What will be the impact of such shifts on motivation, autonomy and teamwork? Education and training will be of paramount importance to meet changing skill requirements. A solid background in key areas – like computing – will help people to continuously learn and adapt.

Business Models

With organizations now able to leverage digital technologies, we will see several new approaches to finding and entering new markets, building operational models, and creating alternative revenue streams.

The value of data is growing continuously – a recent study found that nearly 90 per cent of businesses felt that access to data was critical to being competitive in their industry. Enterprises will increasingly build business models around Industrial Data Platforms (of which I’ll talk more in my next post). Most excitingly, we will see supply chain ecosystems established around Common Industrial Data Platforms where participants will share specific data sets relating to design, production, operations and markets. By moving the value out of the raw data, and into the mining and analytical thinking applied to them, companies will be able to generate superior products and services by responding to clear customer desires and market conditions.

These Industrial Data Platforms will become the catalyst to exploit inter-enterprise collaboration and co-innovation created by enterprise partnerships while protecting IP and sensitive performance data. Just as we’ve seen with Multi-Sided Markets emerge in the B2C world, Common Industrial Data Platforms will drive network effects in the B2B world.

Disruptive Technologies

At the core of the computing world, the trend is toward fewer and more powerful technology centers. At the perimeter, it is towards more powerful and numerous devices: smartphones, tablets, wearables and other connected ‘things’.

Everything is going digital – from currency (£1bn of the Royal Mint’s gold will soon be on the blockchain) through to healthcare.

And as our lives are increasingly played out in cyberspace, we will need higher levels of compute capacity and connectivity. Once again, automation is critical: we need tools that can enable connected objects to self-organize and configure around the changing needs of the users. This is what we call Swarm Computing.

Autonomous vehicles are an example of Swarm Computing. They can act independently, interact with surrounding connected objects and feed information to central control centers to optimize traffic flow and improve overall road safety. Swarm Computing will also give rise to the Social Machines phenomenon. These connected smart systems can share information, autonomously regulate their performance in a group effort, and ultimately optimize outcomes, solve problems, and mitigate detected risks. The implications for city management, environmental conservation efforts, and government services are staggering.

Evolving Challenges

As technology changes, a new set of challenges will arise. It’s almost impossible to say exactly where each problem will come from – many are unforeseeable – however, we predict that over the next few years, we will need to address the following areas:

  • Privacy and Personal Data Protection: Debates will continue about the evolving needs, wishes and expectations of stakeholders, like citizens, governments and businesses.
  • Major cyberattacks: Already a serious concern for any organization, as our reliance on technology becomes more central to our lives, the risk continues to increase. Worryingly, a new study by the University of Newcastle found that smart cyber thieves who query lots of websites at once can guess credit card numbers in a few seconds. Businesses must react quickly to the ever-changing threat landscape.
  • Responsibility for automated decision-making: As machines become capable of making decisions on their own, it will raise interesting questions over the nature of agency, consequence and liability. If, for example, a driverless car’s decision causes an accident, who will be held responsible? The passenger? The car manufacturer? The software company? The full legal and insurance implications are yet to be resolved.

Ultimately, we are only at the beginning in a period of immense change. And while some of the changes will excite us, others may scare us. Being prepared, open to adaption and seizing opportunities as they present themselves will be essential to the survival of any business.

In my next post I will be looking at the role Industrial Data Platforms will play in future business models.

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About Hubert Tardieu

Advisor of Atos CEO, leader of the Atos Scientific Community
After 27 years in Sema then SchlumbergerSema then Atos in various positions including Global Telecom, Global Finance, Global Systems Integration and Global Consulting, I am today the advisor of Atos CEO helping him to form the vision of what will be our world in 5 years from now. To help me in this task we have formed the Scientific Community in June 2009. This global community comprises now 160 of the top scientists, engineers and forward thinkers from across the Group, with a rich mix of skills and backgrounds. Their latest main publication, a future vision report, is entitled “Journey 2024 - Redefining Enterprise Purpose”. They also produce other publications including whitepapers and blogs and participate in innovation workshops and proof-of-concepts. 

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