The days of mass marketing and prepackaged products and services are numbered. Today’s customers increasingly reject one-size-fits-all business models in favor of their unique requirements. They expect everything to be tailored to their individual needs and will quickly go elsewhere when it is not. The future will be one of hyper personalized, make-for-me products and services.
A walk down any aisle of an electronics store reveals customers sampling products on shelves while comparing, discussing, and purchasing them on mobile devices. More products will be smart; that is, they will remember how, how often, and where they are used, offering massive amounts of information to their producers and customers alike. Using big data analytics, businesses can uncover unseen opportunities, even predict their customers’ next moves, to delight in ways never possible before.
With the increased adoption of cloud and mobile technologies, we have reached a tipping point where customers can, and in fact demand, to be active contributors in the value chain. For example, consumer product companies are crowd sourcing new product designs from their consumers. Even advertisers are increasingly turning to the public to help them create their next big hit commercials.
If click and mortar offered consumers the first glimpse into a converging physical and online world, the next wave of technology innovations, such as embedded sensors or Google Glass, promise to merge the two worlds into one. Consumers in Seoul, for example, can now use their mobile phones to shop for groceries from virtual stands at subway stations and have the physical goods delivered directly to their homes. Technology innovation is opening the door for businesses to invent entirely new experiences that allow their customers to seamlessly traverse the online, mobile, and physical worlds.
Waiting for schools and universities to produce individuals with the right skills for today’s market is not enough. Full-time employees will be a smaller part of an organization; the majority will be freelancers, partners, and other third parties, flexibly reconfiguring to fit the needs of the moment. At the same time, companies must take a more active role in working with schools and universities and empowering individuals to find practical education with a faster return on investment in a more practical approach.
While the first steps that governments take toward openness will be citizen self-service and the sharing of relevant information, such as road conditions and parking availability, this trend will lead to a future of a much stronger engagement of citizens in their cities and neighborhoods. In the future, services will be broadened beyond those that are purely government driven and will include many third-party services that support a richer community life. Increasingly, that community life will converge in urban centers. As cities compete for people and business, services will become a competitive advantage.
Predictably, businesses face low levels of employee loyalty and must often spend large sums to replace skilled people, if they can find them at all. Meanwhile, these same forces have enabled the rise of freelancers, who are using technology to build their skills, identities, and support networks. This self-organizing ecosystem will interact with companies in a more flexible, project-oriented, and demand-driven way. Models of engagement between employees and employers will emphasize creativity and individual empowerment on the employee side over command and control on the employer side. As a result, companies must come up with ways to predict what skills will be needed and redefine the leadership, management, and systems required to shape and empower their workforces. Done well, not only will companies be more competitive and agile but the workforce will be more motivated and highly trained.
Manufacturers will experience dramatic increases in raw materials volatility. Advanced analytics will help predict supply shortages, providing insight into when, where, and how to instantaneously reduce risk in supply chains. Utilities and governments will partner to better manage critical resources, like water and electricity, using sensing and metering technologies to build real-time predictive models.
Individuals and companies will engage in collaborative resource consumption, where privately owned but underused assets can be rented to others precisely when needed, yielding increased revenue for the owner, less expense for the renter (compared to owning the asset), and more efficient resource utilization overall.
Smart production processes will create products that will remember, and instantly transmit, information about their components, production methods, and usage, increasing the viability of resource recycling and reuse. Advancements in monitoring will provide real-time visibility into the integrity of pipelines and other remote structures, reducing the loss of valuable or dangerous resources.
RAs technology atomizes value chains into digital pieces that can be quickly recombined into disruptive innovations, organizations will be able to act with the speed and direction required to be competitive. Companies will use business networks to quickly discover and on board partners and suppliers with the resources they require, find and transact with customers to build new markets, and collaborate with and gain insights from community interactions.
Just as a social graph maps one’s personal network of friends and peers, business network participants will be able to create their own commerce graph a visual analysis of the unique connections and information flows between the array of business partners required to run and grow their business. Using cloud-enabled big data analytics, businesses will extract new insights from these connections to better coordinate processes across their entire value chains, maximize sales, hold down costs, and optimize cash flow.
In today’s global, networked economy, companies must connect with complex and ever-increasing webs of partners, from customers and suppliers to employees and business partners. Building on the early days of trading networks in the late 1990s, when the promised benefits were primarily discovery and efficiency, social and mobile technologies are enabling new levels of engagement, transparency, collaboration, and trust. These developments are attracting more and more businesses, accelerating the network effect of ever-increasing value as the number of participants rise.