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Digital disruption of companies is happening every day as new technologies are introduced, and this was the theme of the 2016 Fujitsu customer forum.
The rise of digital has forced the UK to adapt as a nation, and to prepare the next generation of youngsters to fill future digital jobs, computing is now a compulsory part of the UK’s educational curriculum.
But Regina Moran, Fujitsu’s vice-president, head of industries EMEAI, questioned whether the UK curriculum was teaching children the right technology concepts.
“I don’t think the education system has quite got this right yet, because technical skills will always change,” she said.
Moran said her background was in technical engineering, but as the industry’s landscape changed, she adapted to suit the jobs that were available and had performed a variety of roles.
What children should be taught in schools was being able to adapt to new environments and problem-solving skills, said Moran, because the technical skills needed now would not necessarily be the same as those needed in the future.
“We will never be able to train people with the right skills at the right time – that is impossible,” she said.
“Giving people change resilience means they will be able to move with the times, either within an organisation or from organisation to organisation.”
Adapt well to change
Quoting Charles Darwin, Moran said the individuals in a species that survive through change are not always the strongest or most intelligent, but those that adapt well to change – something Moran has witnessed during her tech career.
“The people that are most successful over time are those that are the most resilient to change,” she said.
But digital transformation is having a huge impact on both business and society, in many cases causing redundancies or breaching boundaries between organisations and sectors.
Moran said it was important to assess not just whether a change can be made, but whether it is necessary, and what the human impact will be.
“It is very important to think about the societal impact,” she said. “Just because you can put a sensor on everything doesn’t make it relevant to people. Everything in this room could be digitised. One of the benefits of digital is that the human being spends their time doing the human aspect of the job.”
Digitally enabled jobs
The introduction of easily accessible technology and the proliferation of social media had made it easier for entrepreneurs to set up model-breaking businesses that cross industry boundaries, said Moran.
Using the example of Airbnb – a model enabling people to collect revenue from assets more easily – Moran described how digital technologies had allowed more and more groups to create new businesses and revenue models.
This has allowed a “decentralisation” of job opportunities as technology enables people in remote areas to start up global businesses and redistribute growth to their local area.
But large businesses are also seeing a shift, with the CIO’s role changing as employees use their own devices to bypass the IT team, and often an employee’s personal tech is better than that available in their office.
Mike Sewart, director of digital for Fujitsu EMEIA, said the current tech infrastructure had accelerated the pace of change in digital in all aspects of life.
Digital change in a changing world
Macro global changes, such as climate change, an ageing workforce, a rising population and a tense political landscape were being shaped rapidly by digital shifts in social platforms, mobile technologies, analytics and the cloud, said Sewart.
“Humans are there to solve problems and I think what digital has brought is a toolset to allow people to solve problems in a more creative way,” he said.
But Sewart questioned how the future workforce would be structured, with technology allowing greater flexibility and less need for regular office hours.
“Organisations need to be experimenting a lot more,” he said. “By and large, all organisations should be experimenting more in order to grow successfully.”
Paul Richardson, managing director of specialist services at DHL Supply Chain, highlighted Uber as an example of this shift in how companies will function in the future – creating new jobs and disrupting an existing industry through the use of technology.
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“Suddenly you have a whole bunch of people employed as taxi drivers because the digital revolution has made it easier and cheaper to travel that way,” he said.
Richardson believes that in the future, people will work flexibly on a freelance basis for several companies at once, forcing firms to use digital to cater to employee needs in order to compete for skilled workers.
“The employer will have the challenge of keeping the employees it wants because the employee will have more power,” he said.
Richardson described how DHL had used digital to make its employees more comfortable, and had helped its customers to implement digital technology to increase efficiency and save money.
For some of its airline customers, DHL has applied analytics to each of its food items to see how long they spend on board before they are consumed.
Airlines can use these stats, alongside customer data, to ensure the right amount and type of food is loaded onto their aircraft before flights.
“If you can get a better profile of the product on board, then you can see that there is a significant impact on cost and the environment,” said Richardson.