On the evening of Wednesday 7th October, with autumn approaching, EEMA’s third London Fireside Chat brought together an enthusiastic crowd to debate re-inventing business through digital transformation. Jon Shamah, Chairman of EEMA, opened the meeting, expressing his anticipation of an energetic discussion – which is certainly what ensued.
David Dinsdale of Atos, the host and moderator for the evening, kicked off the debate by discussing the attributes needed for successful businesses in the future. Key themes included employees thinking like shareholders; aligning the whole company to respond to (indeed anticipate) consumers’ needs; enabling your supply chain; empowering your employees; new ways of working; and uniting the digital enterprise with Cloud, Data, Mobility and Apps.
He then demonstrated how a retail experience as seemingly conventional as buying a pair of football boots can be re-invented with technology (using what looked like an enormous, person-sized iPad!) – although, through the evening, purchasing trousers seemed to become the recurring retail example.
He was followed by Tony Fish, serial entrepreneur, business provocateur and disruptive technology enthusiast, who painted a picture of how current business models will be challenged by new, technology-enabled models. Tony’s theme was “digital fabrication as the new normal,” discussing software that writes software, hardware that builds hardware, crowdfunding that transforms financing, and the move to remote design and local manufacturing. He concluded that the large corporate is utterly dead and the world is transforming into something completely different. As you can imagine, that got the crowd talking!
The discussion started from the way our lives are being transformed by technology, which led to a debate on how this will transform businesses. But rather than trying to summarise the wide ranging discussions, I asked some of those present for they key ideas they heard discussed during the evening:
“The Digital Revolution is enabling new companies to get their innovations to market quickly and cheaply and to see if they fly. Incumbents have to be agile to retain their market position and it is accelerating the ‘hollowing out of those in the middle’, particularly in retail.” – Louise Bennett.
“In the future companies will moving to outsourcing for many services, such as creating spare parts, HR and marketing, but there will always be a need for design and creativity – which will become much more important.” – Lorraine Spector.
“The network boundary has moved out to include all aspects of the user’s life. Trusted delivery of goods and services both local and remote, will be tailored to individual and community needs. Businesses must transform to accommodate this model.” – Rick Chandler.
“Identity, Information Security and Trust are now transcending mere technology, and are penetrating the very foundations of our socio-economic environment.” – Jon Shamah.
“Our future economy involves many more products and services provided by smaller local organisations. Within larger organisations there is also a trend towards smaller, with more flexible employment models being created. These changes, enabled by developments in technology, will empower people to work in new ways that will hopefully be better for both the individual and society.” – David Dinsdale.
“A great stimulating debate – Much of the change today is as a result of technological advances but there is a lot of change for change sake, transformation can only happen when you take people on the journey with you. People are and should always be the most important thing.” – Carolyn Harrison.
My own reflections pick up on the theme of the last two: Technology might enable business transformation, but it’s people that do it. Because technology enables a diversity of approaches and solutions, there isn’t one answer: it’s up to your employees to find the right Digital Transformation for you. Businesses need to understand their values and purpose, and then empower their people to figure out how to use new technology in that context. However they cannot necessarily transform by themselves: they have to evolve with their ecosystem.
However let us end with Tony Fish’s comments, which are almost poetic:
We love normal and stable
But we have to change
Change is about iteration
Iteration creates a new normal
The past is always more stable than the future
We hold on to what we have as the model we understand
We find it difficult to get the new model
– without reference to the old model
We prefer keeping aspects of the old
– so it appears like not that much has changed
We love normal and stable
It was a fantastic evening, so mark Tuesday 1st December in your calendar to come along to the next London fireside chat and discuss how you can protect your digital reputation and brand.