The future of business


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This is a presentation given Pittwater Business Limited, a business networking group based on Sydney's Northern Beaches in June, 2011.

The presentation looked at some of the current trends and opportunities developing for businesses over the next two decades as well as a whimsical look at the past thirty years.

Some of the issues discussed were how social media, cloud computing and collaboration tools are evolving as well as the opportunities in the mobile web, 3D printers and nano technologies.

Published in: Business, Technology
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  • We’re in a time of great change, while this presentation looks at technology we should keep in mind that the changes are part of a bigger picture. In the early industrial revolution we saw the US and French Revolutions and this is not a co-incidence. We should keep in mind that many organisations, businesses and people are not coping well with change. Those who are will benefit from the opportunities will be those who are prepared to understand what is happening and how to benefit. This presentation aims to look at some of the trends that will affect you as business person, as an investor and as member of the community. To understand what the trends are, it’s first worthwhile starting with the past.
  • This is the Narrabeen High Year 12 in 1981. Hopefully we’ve learned about bad haircuts. In 1981 business was analogue. International trade was done by Telex, phone lines were expensive and mobile was unknown. Our offices ran on electric typewriters and carbon paper. Only large organisations had computers and access to them was restricted and rationed. University students at the time would be allowed half an hour a week for their Fortran or COBOL assignments. There were massive changes afoot, globalisation was just starting to take off, markets were beginning to be deregulated and the world order that had been reasonably stable since World War II was about to change dramatically. If anyone in that picture, or their parents, had said that by the end of the decade Japan would be entering a quarter century of stagnation, China would be becoming an economic powerhouse, the Iron Curtain had fallen and the Soviet Union would disintegrate would have been called crazy. Yet that is what happened. In our businesses, a little revolution was about to unleashed.
  • The arrival of the personal computer changed business dramatically. Suddenly small businesses could do many of the things big business could. As these computers became more sophisticated we saw printing, graphic design and architecture move onto the desktop. Productivity gains were massive through the 1990s as office workers could do more with a lot, lot less. In bigger organisations, an interesting battle was happening. Computer departments tried to stop employees using personal computers citing security and productivity reasons. Exactly the same reasoning we’re seeing today with organisations prohibiting social media and cloud computing applications. Miniaturization was underway; Adam Osborne wanted a portable computer that would fit under an airline seat and he succeeded, although the thing weighed 14kg and had a screen the size of a modern smartphone. But it was portable and soon we found a way to overcome using the 5 1/4” floppies required to share documents from these systems. In 1993 we saw the release of Mac OS7 and Windows For Workgroups and personal computers could be connected together just like a large corporation. Suddenly we were able to share information easily around the office. But the real sharing of information was just beginning.
  • At the end of 1994, Tim Bernes-Lee at the CERN research facility on the French-Swiss border proposed a new way of sharing information on the then little used Internet, he called it HyperText Markup Language. He built the first web site at the beginning of 1995 and things rapidly grew from there. At the same time we were seeing the Internet break away from the control of academic institutions with Internet Service Providers coming onto the market offering reasonably priced accessible services. The web rapidly changed the way we did business, suddenly we could read the news in New York, compare the prices of shoes in London, check hotels in Hong Kong and find suppliers anywhere in the world. As the 1990s continued we saw the dot coms rise as a new mania, similar to the railway mania of the late 19th Century, grabbed the investment community. Then with the dot com bubble popping we saw a lot of new business fold and the assumptions they were based on challenged. Out of the ruins of the tech wreck new businesses were developed and built; we saw survivors like eBay, PayPal, Amazon and Google get smarter and bigger. As the tools developed we found new business opportunities with social media and cloud computing along with crowdsourcing and e-commerce.
  • Today we aren’t dealing particularly well with change. Our reatailers, who did very nicely out of the rise of cheap labour markets in China and financial deregulation, now want protectionism re-instated. Our politicians are struggling with what the Internet means to their laws, bureaucracy and their careers. Many of them are making mistakes online like Antony Weiner. Businesses are extremely challenged as we see with the recent security hacks on Sony, Citibank and dozens of other organisations. Established businesses are finding the barriers for entry into their markets are being eroded and new, more flexible entrants are taking their markets. The managers of these incumbent businesses are struggling as collaborative and social tools are dismantling the silos and organisation structures their careers depend upon. What are these factors?
  • With the use of social media tools we’re seeing trends, criticism and ideas spreading fast. An idea someone tweets or posts in Saigon could create massive change in Bucharest later that day. These tools are as accessible to start up businesses in remote locations as they are for big corporations in London, New York or Shanghai. Your next competitor could be these kids in Bhutan. It means ideas can spread quickly. If your business has an innovation it has to move fast to put it in place as being small or poor is now no barrier to getting products to market. rise of new economies Contract manufacturing and outsourced labour is changing the way our industries work and no longer are these the province of big business.
  • The economy is becoming more globalised New tools are changing the way we work Teams are becoming more important Managers have to be real leaders We have to trust our workforces
  • Mobile is changing everything about our businesses; more smartphones are now being sold than personal computers. Our customers, staff and competitors are all going mobile. It means businesses have to be where the customers are and our staff need access to our key data while they are on the road. The days of getting back to the office and sending quotes are over. If your business is in hospitality or retail you have to be on the mobile platforms right now. Our customers are there and they are checking you out. Even if you don’t run a surf shop, café or a B and B, the mobile tools are changing the way we do business. Recognition and price shopping tools mean customers can scan items in our shop windows and find competitors prices and stock levels. What’s more, they are using their mobiles to log into services like Eatability, Trip Advisor and increasing Facebook to find out what their friends are saying about your business.
  • The social web is changing the way we work and play. It’s tempting to think social media is just about giggling teenagers sharing photos of cute cats. It’s not. Customers trust the recommendations of their friends over your advertising while prospective staff are finding out about what you’re like to work for. Suppliers and bureaucrats are looking up your LinkedIn profile to figure out if they should give you a line of credit, enter a business partnership or give you a grant. The social web is fundamentally changing the basis of how we did business in the 20th Century.
  • One of the effects of the social, mobile web is business is going back to the local, town square way of doing business. Before the arrival of the telephone and the associated directories, along with the rise of broadcast media such as clasified ads and radio, most businesses were found through word of mouth in the town square or village taverns. We’re returning to that way of doing business, although “local” in the web context is as much about the convergence of interests rather than
  • Spiro Agnew was Richard Nixon’s Vice President who was forced to resign when indicted for fraud. His great talent as a politician was his putting down opponents with smart alliterations. “ The Nattering Nabobs of Negativity” was one of his gems. Today there is a lot of negativity from people being affected by change and they hate it. That’s why they are negative. One of the greatest negative forces are the mass media, and that’s not surprising given all the changes described in this presentation affect their craft. We have to look past the negativity to see where the opportunities lie.
  • In many ways, our current business environment is like surfing. There are massive waves of change in our economy, in technology and society coming through steadily. If we think we’re taking no risks by standing knee deep on a sandbar we’re actually in the riskiest place of all as we’re buffeted by the waves and the sand could collapse under us any time. We have to swim through the waves and into the clear water behind so we can see the waves coming and choose which one is right for us. That is the challenge and the opportunity that presents all businesses in the future.
  • The future of business

    1. 1. Where are we going? The Future of Business
    2. 2. 1981
    3. 3. The PC revolution
    4. 4. The rise fo the web
    5. 5. How are we dealing with change
    6. 6. the global connected economy flickr/laihiu
    7. 7. collaboration
    8. 8. mobile
    9. 9. Social
    10. 10. Local
    11. 11. Nattering Nabobs of Negativity
    12. 12. Wave
    13. 13. Paul Wallbank <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @paulwallbank </li></ul>