Ten Tech-Enabled Business Trends to Watch

Advancing technologies and their swift adoption are upending traditional business models. Senior executives need to think strategically about how to prepare their organizations for the challenging new environment.


Two-and-a-half years ago, we described eight technology-enabled business trends that were profoundly reshaping strategy across a wide swath of industries.1 We showed how the combined effects of emerging Internet technologies, increased computing power, and fast, pervasive digital communications were spawning new ways to manage talent and assets as well as new thinking about organizational structures.
Since then, the technology landscape has continued to evolve rapidly. Facebook, in just over two short years, has quintupled in size to a network that touches more than 500 million users. More than 4 billion people around the world now use cell phones, and for 450 million of those people the Web is a fully mobile experience. The ways information technologies are deployed are changing too, as new developments such as virtualization and cloud computing reallocate technology costs and usage patterns while creating new ways for individuals to consume goods and services and for entrepreneurs and enterprises to dream up viable business models. The dizzying pace of change has affected our original eight trends, which have continued to spread (though often at a more rapid pace than we anticipated), morph in unexpected ways, and grow in number to an even ten.2
The rapidly shifting technology environment raises serious questions for executives about how to help their companies capitalize on the transformation under way. Exploiting these trends typically doesn’t fall to any one executive—and as change accelerates, the odds of missing a beat rise significantly. For senior executives, therefore, merely understanding the ten trends outlined here isn’t enough. They also need to think strategically about how to adapt management and organizational structures to meet these new demands.
For the first six trends, which can be applied across an enterprise, it will be important to assign the responsibility for identifying the specific implications of each issue to functional groups and business units. The impact of these six trends—distributed cocreation, networks as organizations, deeper collaboration, the Internet of Things, experimentation with big data, and wiring for a sustainable world—often will vary considerably in different parts of the organization and should be managed accordingly. But local accountability won’t be sufficient. Because some of the most powerful applications of these trends will cut across traditional organizational boundaries, senior leaders should catalyze regular collisions among teams in different corners of the company that are wrestling with similar issues.
Three of the trends—anything-as-a-service, multisided business models, and innovation from the bottom of the pyramid—augur far-reaching changes in the business environment that could require radical shifts in strategy. CEOs and their immediate senior teams need to grapple with these issues; otherwise it will be too difficult to generate the interdisciplinary, enterprise-wide insights needed to exploit these trends fully. Once opportunities start emerging, senior executives also need to turn their organizations into laboratories capable of quickly testing and learning on a small scale and then expand successes quickly. And finally the tenth trend, using technology to improve communities and generate societal benefits by linking citizens, requires action by not just senior business executives but also leaders in government, nongovernmental organizations, and citizens.
Across the board, the stakes are high. Consider the results of a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey of global executives on the impact of participatory Web 2.0 technologies (such as social networks, wikis, and microblogs) on management and performance. The survey found that deploying these technologies to create networked organizations that foster innovative collaboration among employees, customers, and business partners is highly correlated with market share gains. That’s just one example of how these trends transcend technology and provide a map of the terrain for creating value and competing effectively in these challenging and uncertain times.
from the McKinsey Quarterly written by  Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and James Manyika

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