When we started this year, it was full of optimism for growth and success, but each passing day we witness our optimism is being tampered by the news of impact of current pandemic, economic slowdown or even recent warning by UN officials Rosemary DiCarolo & Mark Lowcock of impeding human rights violation and conflicts. We have evidence of stalling economies, anemic productivity growths, online fraud & Security breaches and feel of major trends working against the mankind. To add to it all newspapers headlines talk about jobless nightmares of people or companies which are out of business and Times for the 2nd time in history put black border – “a wake up call for those who numbed to this catastrophe”. We have learned the hard way that the basic needs of humans requiring attention, like health, food safety and social inclusiveness. Going digital offers lot of promise.

I remember the episode 1 from Star Trek Serial from year 1968, when Captain Pike is held prisoner by aliens and tests his power to life like situation. The alien assimilates the data from the cruise ship and comments that customs of humans shows unique hatred and prefer death but has great adaptability. We can build a great digital future or let the world into a risk of violent and divided future. I thought the positive comments is what makes sense in the current situation, taking the organizations to great future. The question posed by my daughter comes to fore. How would the future look like? What is the future of our children and grandchildren. It is clear that old ways of working are no longer apply, we need realign ourselves as well to suit to the situation. How would we go about achieving the same, do we have a playbook on digital which can show us how to achieve business objectives and remain without hurting others i.e., going digital with a purpose?  

When my daughter asked me what would be the future of digital? What would be the areas which would be in great demand? It made me think of possibilities of digital transformation, the way the technologies are going to impact – if all the things are going to be handled by automation and digital technologies what would be our children do in future? Do we have an answer for such questions? When we look from the perspective of introduction of new technologies and how it impacts the GDP, we can investigate the past industrial revolutions and see how the introduction of new technologies impacted the economy. There are examples of how 80% of agriculture workers reduced to mere 2% today for example in America and similar change in world. But the transition did not happen overnight, and as it takes a well-established “S” curve which at times takes 35 years to reach to its peak. The curve of innovation, stall, rapid expansion, and maturity is what happens whenever a new industrial revolution happens. The industrial revolution brought with it the new ways of living, changed the lives and we can expect similar changes, more positive changes however still it’s a debatable questions on what is actually look to become going digital with a purpose?. Based on techno-economists like Carlota Perez whose presentation on Our Digital Future – a golden age of opportunity; after every recession, comes a Victorian Boom, the one which we might witness right after the epidemic. More and more technologies embedded into everything we purchase, a change in business models and processes and technologies.

Many authors advocate that the future of digital is understating how to leverage long standing industrial knowledge with the power of new machines. The mere access to digital technologies will not make an organization great. Rather it is a how we make use of our long-standing strategic knowledge gathered over the years and converting that to digital technologies; that defines our success. It is not about creating new applications rather it is how best to use those apps with organizational know – how is what mattes. You lose edge if you solely focus on creating a new business process following the software, without taking into consideration your long-standing strategic intelligence build over last several years. Those who likely win the current turmoil are not those who create new IT landscapes from scratch but are those who figure out what to do with their existing data and strategic knowledge with right mix of digital technologies.

What if we can reduce the number of car accidents by automating driverless cars, proper medical diagnosis by scanning ER, suggestion of suitable crop based on weather prediction, meteorological data and soil characteristics, warehouse management by automated BOTS or even management of food waste by proper storage and online collection systems and sharing with people in need or transformation of our education systems given the current scenario we are in. The list can go on with examples from varied sectors even from sustainability or Circularity examples. It is the responsibility of businesses and governments to identify the socially responsible synergistic digital future to usher into golden age of win-win situation. We need businesses with collective faith of making world a great place, with a shift in values and goals. These can happen via product to services or other digital transformation journeys explained by varied authors with technological options and societal selections of the solutions. One thing is clear the; blue ocean strategies should be adopted for going digital, the age-old red ocean way of competing with digital might not help in the long run.   

If you look the going digital from the perspective of industries it offers a lot of changes right from harnessing customer networks, building platforms not products, turning data into assets etc. Though it results in what we can quote as industries vision, it also impacts the work force, which might result in people being displaced. The pace of such technological changes on economy are well quoted by many authors to take around many years. With rapid changes in the business processes, infrastructure changes and changes in the IT infrastructures, it is the right to be in the business.

To conclude, we might witness a pattern where jobs will be automated with self-learning, changes in the learning /training curves, Process changes likely be more of adoptive and data driven and there can be a disappearance of jobs and appearance of new profiles. It may sound unbelievable but that is already been witnessed in other sectors like Trillion-dollar Real Estate sector which is significantly impacted by the change in working pattern of white-collar jobs. Recognizing collective goals and values is important to overcome structural unemployment, risk of deskilling and inequality. It is also time for organizations to act upon most socially cohesive paths. Following are some of the areas in Environment, Health and safety and Sustainability which offer possibility for massive innovation and employment include i. Circular Economy ii. Renewable Energy iii. Carbon and GHG management iv. Sustainable agriculture v. Sustainable architecture vi. Pollution Prevention vii. Resource recovery and reuse and viii. Health.

Given the above challenging scenario, how you go about realigning yourself for the future. Do you see yourself as a dystopian or Utopian or pragmatist? Given the limited time to go digital to thrive, what you think is the right play book to come out victorious. Do you find yourself or your organization debating on this? What should be the right mix of human – machine automation that you believe is ripe for your organization? Are you spending efforts to create future workforce by providing reskilling, redeploying your top employees to organization structure which will withstand digitalization? Are you considering human factor while designing your future digital processes and work force?

We humans are not designed to live with problems but are made to circumvent the problems and come out with life changing solutions. If you look into the history of mankind, year 536 is labelled as the worst year. It impacted humans via reduced food produce, natural calamities, diseases etc., and finally man came out victorious. So, here is your enterprise is star ship and you are captain Kirk and you need to move forward with right warp speed to the right destination so that our children and grandchildren live with one filled with optimism and confidence!

Thanks
Jayakumar   

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