Is change the new normal?


We live in a constant state of flux. Practically everything we know and use in the advanced world changes so quickly that it is a huge challenge to plan with any degree of certainty.

A confluence of factors – economic, digital and social – has combined to create this age of transformation. The 2008 economic downturn destablised traditional economic models and led to the demise of well-established financial institutions and high street brands.

Entrepreneurs quickly used digital technologies to develop new business models. IT-enabled innovations – that had already upset the conventional hierarchy in the media sector, such as in the case of newspapers and music – spread to other industries.

Companies like Uber and Airbnb used innovative software platforms to deliver high quality experiences to customers. The valuations of such firms soared, despite neither business owning traditional physical assets, such as a fleet of cars or a global hotel chain.

Even the technology industry itself changed. Rather than having to work with a small number of suppliers across long-term outsourcing contracts, CIOs could start using a multi-sourced approach to IT procurement that drew on a range of smaller, cloud-based providers.

What emerged – from a period of tumultuous economical and technological transition – is a world of business where change is the new normal. The barrier to entry has been reduced to such a level that no industry is immune from sudden transformation. This notion puts pressure on IT leaders to be more vigilant to new trends and opportunities and respond in a much smaller timescale than ever before.

It is not easy to develop a strategy to deal with the constant state of flux. Leading executives must act in a lithe manner, simultaneously looking over their shoulders to ensure that new operators are not stealing a march, while also continuing to look forward in an attempt to create a competitive advantage.

Rather than focusing on the demands of the internal end user, executives will track and trace the opinions of customers. They will recognise that we are entering – as researcher Forrester suggests – an age of the customer, where clients have heightened expectations around service and experience.

Research from Forrester, on behalf of Canon, suggests leading firms are waking up to the importance of customer experience as a key differentiator. Fifty-one per cent of business leaders cite customer satisfaction as a top metric when building a business case for emerging communications channels and technologies, but most companies believe internal business limitations are holding them back.

Business leaders must create a coping mechanism for constant transformation. Forrester suggests structures, partnerships and business models will continue to change as companies develop and grow. To systematically improve customer experience, the researcher suggests executives must learn to control a complex ecosystem of partners, both internally and externally.

It will be a challenging task to successfully lead the organisation through change. However, it is a test that senior executives must embrace. When it comes to digital transformation, the genie is now well and truly out of the battle – and business leaders must learn to expect the unexpected.