Some people claim that business and society has been undergoing a significant transformation for the last 10 years. Others claim that this is always ongoing, mostly in small steps which we adjust to without much fuzz. Regardless, it is relevant to ask ourselves how companies will operate in the future. Are we at the beginning of the end of companies as we know them?
In my mind, it is not really a question about companies as a legal entity, but rather one about the organisation. A company can be organised in many different ways, so the question becomes what a company will look like on the inside in the future. Until today, and probably for some time to come, the departmentalised structure is prevailing. Different competence areas support each other to generate the efficiency and effectiveness needed to stay competitive.
There are two movements that can challenge this existing paradigm of companies—people and technology. But what factors within these two areas are likely to drive a possible change? Let’s take a closer look.
They are sometimes called generation Z or post-millennials. Note that it is not about age but rather about behaviour. This is the generation that had access to the internet from early childhood. Within this group, you can find lots of sub-groups, e.g. gamers—which define the characteristics of this generation. Characteristics that will have an impact on organisations could be:
Photo by Gavin Whitner
This suggests that they have a great acceptance for working together in virtual networks with people from different backgrounds and from different cultures. Today’s processes in companies are not designed for their way of working. Traditional hierarchical management applied to this generation could be devastating.
It is called the Cloud. Back to the future. Big data centers serving users, remotely located. The real benefit will come with artificial intelligence and robots. No humans will be needed in the operation of a hyperscale datacenter. Infrastructure will be software defined. Functions will be dynamically created and launched. Some of the characteristics:
This suggests that there will be no need for internal IS/IT departments owning a lot of hardware and software which requires a lot of maintenance and upgrading. The ROI calculation is not too complex. Just pick a cloud service with a full-service offering and you can shut down your own support efforts. Focus on your business and not on the tools.
Now, what if we combine these two dimensions, people and technology? Generation Z suggests that existing organisations and processes will not work. Technology suggests there is an alternative. What if the company becomes a competence defined infrastructure in parallel with the software defined infrastructure that constitutes IS/IT? It will enable disconnecting departmental functions from each other. Organisational functions can then be dynamically and freely connected to each other outside limiting legal boundaries. Today’s inside becomes tomorrow’s outside.
If the main parameter, guiding new connections to be established, is ‘served value to an audience’, we have established a fast system with a clear business focus. A clear reason to exist. And, since generation Z is pro using consumption as a driver for influence we might actually find sound businesses that actively work for the greater good.
Wouldn’t that be nice?