Embracing technology advancements in the profession

Jul 03, 2018
Instead of fighting against new disruptive technologies, companies are now taking a ‘symphonic’ approach and fundementally reshaping how work gets done.

By Simon Murphy

The renowned German conductor, Kurt Masur, once noted that an orchestra full of stars can be a disaster. Though we have no reason to believe the maestro was speaking metaphorically, his observation does suggest something more universal: without unity and harmony, discord prevails.

The many companies competing in markets that are being turned upside down by technology innovation are no strangers to discord. Today, digital reality, cognitive technology, and blockchain — stars of the enterprise technology realm — are redefining IT, business, and society in general. In the past, organisations typically responded to such disruptive opportunities by launching transformation initiatives within technology domains. For example, domain-specific cloud, analytics, and big data projects represented bold, if single-minded, embraces of the future. Likewise, C-suite positions such as Chief Digital Officer or Chief Analytics Officer reinforced the primacy of domain thinking.

But it didn’t take long for companies to realise that treating some systems as independent domains is suboptimal at best. Complex predictive analytics capabilities delivered little value without big data. In turn, big data was costly and inefficient without cloud technology. Everything required mobile capabilities. After a decade of domain-specific transformation, one question remains unanswered: how can disruptive technologies work together to achieve larger strategic and operational goals?

We are now seeing some forward-thinking organisations approach change more broadly. They are not returning to ‘sins’ of the past by launching separate, domain-specific initiatives. Instead, they are thinking about exploration, use cases, and deployment more holistically, focusing on how disruptive technologies can complement each other to drive greater value. For example, blockchain can serve as a new foundational protocol for trust throughout the enterprise and beyond. Cognitive technologies make automated response possible across all enterprise domains. Digital reality breaks down geographic barriers between people, and systemic barriers between humans and data. Together, these technologies can fundamentally reshape how work gets done, or set the stage for new products and business models.

Symphonic enterprise

Deloitte’s recent Tech Trends report focuses on the symphonic enterprise, an idea that describes strategy, technology, and operations working together, in harmony, across domains and boundaries by looking at digital reality and the next phase in the augmented reality and virtual reality revolution; the new no-collar workforce that is merging tech and human jobs; and the new core functions of finance and supply.

The below trends could offer opportunities and challenges across industries during the next 18-24 months:
  • No-collar workforce: the rise of automation, artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies will impact jobs and job families. The organisation of the future must rewire talent management for the new hybrid human-machine workforce — simultaneously retraining augmented workers and pioneering new HR processes for managing virtual workers.
  • Blockchain to blockchains: blockchain is moving rapidly from exploration into mission-critical production scenarios. Advanced use cases and increased adoption drives the need to coordinate, integrate and orchestrate multiple blockchain initiatives within a large organisation, potentially across multiple blockchains across a value chain. 
  • Digital reality: in the next phase of augmented reality and virtual reality’s evolution, companies are focusing less on the novelty of devices, and are focusing instead on developing strategies and impactful enterprise use cases. As this trend unfolds, IT leaders will work to tackle persistent challenges in core integration, cloud deployment, connectivity and access. 

A different angle

The message is clear and important:  organisations need to look at emerging technologies from a different angle. When technologies act in unison, we no longer see the enterprise vertically (focused on line of business or isolated industries) or horizontally (focused on business processes or enabling technologies). 
In the symphonic enterprise, the old lines become blurred, creating a diagonal view that illuminates new business opportunities and creative ways of solving problems.

Of course, some domain-specific approaches remain valuable. Core assets still underpin the IT ecosystem. Cyber and risk protocols are as critical as ever. CIO strategies for running “the business of IT” are valuable and timeless. Yet we also recognise a larger trend at work, one that emphasises the unified “orchestra” over individual advances in technology.

“Tech Trends 2018, The Symphonic Enterprise can be read here.

Simon Murphy is Partner and Head of Technology Consulting in Deloitte