Surviving a new era

Surviving a new era

We are moving into another world of emerging technologies and there are many reasons to feel excited about the future.

Revolutionary mobile devices, phones, touch-screen PCs, and ultra-portables have recently created a huge stir among consumers. High-tech devices are rapidly growing smarter. The success factor is quickly shifting into new branding, product and brand identity, and brand loyalty models. Devices and services have to be far more realistic and a lot more useful than last year's models.

We are clearly moving into another world of emerging technologies and there are many reasons to feel excited about the future. This next phase offers opportunities to companies that can take advantage, but there is a significant downside for those that cannot keep up.

We are moving from a PC-centric world to a network-centric world filled with millions of devices of every shape and form. But we must realise that many of the breathless announcements we've been hearing and reading are basically conjectures, regardless of the air of confidence or the noise level of the various pundits.

Sure the Internet and the World Wide Web have changed our society more profoundly than any other technology that has ever appeared before. We readily acknowledge -- well most of us do -- that we are living in the age of technology, but most would admit that the human response to it has been slower than the growth of technological innovation (that word again). The human impact of technological change can be positive. But in all too many cases it is negative, because we do not anticipate the human response.

Some of the industry giants have now formed a non-profit group to fight information overload. The group aims to study the problem, publicise it, and devise ways to help users -- theirs and others -- to cope with the digital deluge. Their effort comes as there is mounting statistical and anecdotal evidence that the same tools that have led to improvements in productivity can now be counterproductive if overused.

To me, all of the technological evolution of the past couple of decades has been leading up to the e-business revolution, improving the efficiency of internal processes, procurement processes, supply chain processes, customer interaction processes, and creating a huge opportunity for enabling technologies and products to achieve these ends. The repetitive word is 'processes'. That means it's not just about technology, but also about people, methods and procedures, ecosystems and other societal factors.

The focus will not be just on the Web but on how the Web influences values, beliefs, social and economic structures, politics, our view of the world, and the way we think and behave. This wave means new ways of working, living and competing. It will produce new economic structures, new politics, new security issues, and new ways of thinking and decision-making.

There's always a pronounced tendency for people to overreact to technology events, to think that a deviation in one direction or the other represents some kind of permanent fundamental change in the business world or the economy. Change is being driven by the dramatically falling cost of telecommunications and computing power and the networks to transmit information anywhere in the world.

The downside of the new era is upheaval across almost every industry. In coming years, many employees could find their jobs turned upside down as human tasks are taken over by the one-to-one buyer-to-seller nature of the Internet. There are many challenges to be faced and in general, the companies that prosper will be those that are aware of the implication of the new era and adapt appropriately.

Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report

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