The Anatomy of the Modern Enterprise

We still have much to learn, but it is clear that work as we know it will be organized, distributed, and performed in entirely new ways. A fusion of algorithms, automation, machine learning, and the rise of cross industry platforms is skewing business models, customer experiences and cost structures, sector by sector. Many industries are in fact melting and reforming around these new technologies, be they virtual reality, 3D printing or Block chain (trust me, the list goes on). Not a week goes by without learning about some spiky new start-up or innovative technology that looks set accelerate and disrupt in equal measure.

What’s more, the stuff that used to be seen as science fiction is now within our reach. We can now imagine a world where fleets of self-driving cars can be summoned at the touch of button, untethered from the hassle of personal ownership. Or see the incredible advances in healthcare as data begins to supercharge an era of innovation as smart medical devices, intelligent pill bottles, bio-sensors to the digestible chips on pills create a data trail rich with meaning and insight. And in this world of abundant data, why can’t we price our insurance in more equitable ways? Will my Fitbit generate an individual health profile for me, and customize my premium quotes; why can’t the sensors in my car ensure my auto policies are based on actual driving performance? The downside is we begin to judge each other but its cheap right? And as Ryanair knows we all love the cheap...

Survey data for my latest report on the dynamics of workflow and workspace—what we’re calling The Future of Space—shows that leaders are hearing the drumbeat of new technologies and rising customer expectations every single day. And it’s getting louder and louder. At their root however, what these technologies do is enable the “new.” New business models, new revenue streams, new types of customer relationships, and radical new cost structures. The big WIM (Forrester Research parlance for what it means) is that the modern company must pivot on software, open it up, partner with it, and co-create with it because surviving the impending tech disruption depends upon it. How well one company marshals data around its value-chain (i.e. pivots on software) versus its competitors will determine its long-term profitability and longevity. Listening to the industry chatter surrounding the recent Frankfurt Motor Show a couple of weeks ago is a case in point.

The buzz it seems is no longer about the sleek new model like the plug-in BMW i8 hybrid, but more about the software and business model pivot that technology enables. The advances in driverless navigation and battery power dominated the news emanating from the Frankfurt Motor Show (even EasyJet got in on the act and floated the idea of battery powered jets that would fly us around Europe). According to industry insiders, by the time the Paris Olympics hit Europe in 2024, the car industry will look very different—more of a blend between software, big finance and the car manufactures. You might have seen Uber’s travails in London (N7 night bus anyone?) but right now the competition within the brutal ride hailing race gives a glimpse into the future of city travel. The consensus at Frankfurt is the winner won’t be Uber, Lyft or Gett but will feature big finance somewhere along the line. Chatter at the show focused on the rise of new consortia within the driverless car industry, operating app controlled fleets of self-driving cars that patrol our cities and transporting us here, there and everywhere. The owners/lessors of the fleets could well feature BMW or Daimler and an Uber in there but most likely will feature an industry tie-up with banks or financial investors as the switch in business model from personal car ownership to rental disrupts the auto manufacturer’s revenue flow and cost structure. Heady stuff.

And you can see the disruption playing out today. Cars are beginning to trigger an industry mashup way beyond the disputed entertainment interface between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay—perhaps the first “platform war” of its kind) An instrumented car provides a platform for innovation and opportunity because it’s capturing what we want to listen to while driving and how safely we drive and beaming the data back to dynamically price our car insurance; our cars will soon collect road status data and use it to improve traffic flow around our cities. No wonder car makers are in a race to build the eco-systems in support—check out how Audi, BMW and Daimler acquired “Here” from Nokia to develop a platform for connected mobility services. The plans include some natty industry plays for utilities for example, to measure overhead power lines, or for local authorities to use the software and assess potholes and the state of our pavements.

My take is the modern enterprise has to speed up innovation, experimentation and collaboration with proprietary and 3rd party data inside, outside and across its industry. Mastery with data will offer incredible opportunities for companies to renew mandates, co-create and grow engagement across a value chain. But the modern firm must go beyond that. The modern enterprise must rethink work from the top down, how it looks and where it happens, what people get from it. Within the past 10 years, business ecosystems have dramatically switched, and so has the talent pool, the customer base, not to mention the technologies employees use to perform daily functions at work. Work is changing. Very fast.