Embrace technology or be left behind

Technology is at work in almost every aspect of the office. How we work has been fundamentally reshaped by the technologies that emerged since the explosive growth of the Internet in the first wave (1996–2006).

JLL’s report, Workspace Reworked, illustrates we’re currently in the third wave of technological advances, propelled by a digital ecosystem comprising exponential advances in computing power, billions of connected devices, ubiquitous connectivity and vast quantities of data. Eventually, this ecosystem will infiltrate and disrupt all industries, transforming businesses and upending long-standing approaches to the way companies work.

How can you prepare your business for the future? Start by:

Embracing technology and start innovating

The digital ecosystem is made up of both hardware and software, with the latter (such as laptops, tablets and smart phones) being the building blocks driving the transformation of industries over the past two decades. Take Amazon for instance—by leveraging software to digitize the practice of selling books, Amazon was able to expand into new areas and revolutionize the world of retailing. The same goes with Netflix: the company transformed the media business by providing customers with a library of licensed and original content through its online video streaming software.

Changes in the current digital environment are allowing software to permeate into new areas, thereby redefining how we create value for our customers. The JLL report also shares this view, stating that software will be a core part of the operation of all businesses in the future. Essentially, what this means is that every company needs to become a technology company—it will have to adapt or face elimination.

One way to navigate through the changes is by creating a dedicated innovation team, which can lead the innovation movement and help build and nurture a culture of innovation within your organization. If a senior stakeholder is dictating and appointing individuals to be part of this team, this strategy will unlikely work since the best employees are almost always busy working on other projects. Inevitably, innovation teams are sometimes made up of mediocre performers and unwilling participants. Matthew Griffin, author and founder of nonprofit innovation consultancy, points out in his article How to Build a Lean High Performance Innovation Team: “Innovation teams must be made up of insanely curious, empathetic, committed, passionate people who lead by example.”

Creating new products at a faster pace

Do not let your organization fall behind. Create out-of-the-box solutions to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Many companies, such as Goldman Sachs, Predix and Ford, have started innovating and are already utilizing advanced technology to streamline processes, make improved decisions, and drive value for their clients. For example, Goldman Sachs recently revealed SETcoin—a digital currency the company developed based on Bitcoin’s block-chain architecture—which is aimed at upending trading practices by offering near-instant execution and settlement of trades.

As more products become effectively “software-defined,” product lifecycles are shortening and adoption curves are accelerating. Previously, product lifecycles were marked by physical obsolescence; now they are marked by the length of time between software updates. For example, when premium electric sedan manufacturer Tesla realized its cars had problems with uphill starts, it resolved the issue by not replacing cars, but, instead, updating the cars’ operating system. With the accelerating pace of change, a premium is now placed on flexibility and the speed at which companies can move to realize new sources of growth.

Reorganizing your workforce

The pressure to innovate amid unrelenting technological progress poses an opportunity for all of us to rethink the work we do and the way we do it. How you organize your workforce can give your organization a competitive edge.

The company of the future is expected to be leaner and more agile, and able to focus better on core competencies to compete in an ever-changing and fast-moving corporate environment. The workforce will be split into three key categories: the core workforce (employees), the contingent workforce and the autonomous workforce. While the employees will continue to work on tasks that are core to your organization’s business, noncore tasks will be increasingly outsourced as businesses will increasingly turn to a more liquid workforce of freelancers and specialist providers sourced via talent platforms. Autonomous workers, on the other hand, will take over the more process-driven elements of work—almost half of all existing jobs will be automated within the next 20 years, while artificial intelligence and robotics will become more commonplace.