There are lots of reasons why executives get fired. Shall we count the ways? I will let your imaginations run wild for a moment while I explain what I have in mind here. Ready? Executives who miss truly disruptive business-technology trends get fired. As CBInsights put it, they get “personally disrupted” because they miss some major strategic shifts in their industries.
Now that I have your attention, let’s look at just five of the disruptive business-technology trends that – if missed or mishandled – may well – perhaps should – get CEOs fired.
Everything Will Be Automated
For whatever reasons, and in spite of almost weekly reports of another manual process that’s been replaced by an automated application, some companies – and CEOs – still believe the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML) will be slow. They are wrong, because AI/ML is the perfect solution: it’s tireless, cheap, require no benefits or vacations, and faster to develop than ever before. But if employees believe they might be replaced, they will slow or overtly derail the adoption process. Remember that bureaucratic empires consist of people and budgets. Efforts to reduce either source of power challenge the very definition of corporate survival. Most companies also lack AI/ML expertise or even the ability to mine the processes ripest for automation, and it doesn’t help that most executives have only a rudimentary understanding of AI/ML.
Supervised and unsupervised learning algorithms will power all flavors of automation. Robotic process automation (RPA) itself will become automated, where smart applications will mine processes and develop applications to improve or eliminate inefficient processes – without development intervention. We will interact with applications simply by talking with them exactly the same way we talk to the smartest people in the room. But unlike today, where “experts” are challenged every step of the way, tomorrow’s applications will be empowered to make faster, better and more explainable decisions on our behalf. All of this – and much more – is coming. CEOs and their teams better prepare for this disruption – and watch for derailments.
Buying Everything Will Change
Why are there insurance agents, tax preparers, bankers, real estate agents or car salespersons? Why do we “pay” for things almost exclusively with government-backed, bank-sanct-ioned currency? Why does “cash” even exist? As most professionals in these industries understand, they are unnecessary transaction layers that rob consumers of time, money, convenience and patience. All of these processes can – and will – be automated. Already we’re seeing disintermediation in these industries though by and large consumers are still unfortunately fighting with insurance agents, tax preparers, bankers, real estate agents and car salespersons every day.
Os must anticipate these changes. Those in these industries should start disintermediating themselves, though that’s a huge ask given the revenue generated by industry trans-actions. The tax preparation business is a case in point. According to IBISWorld, the industry generates $11bn annually, has over 125,000 businesses and employs more than 250,000 professionals. What would happen if this business was fully automated? Resistance to this inevitable would be fierce. The same is true of other industries. Nevertheless, change will happen. CEOs should be exploring hybrid buying and delivery models beyond what the pandemic required them to adopt and in sopite of what their “teams” want.
Marketing Goes Totally Digital
The concepts of “marketing” and “branding” are changing – permanently. They will be mobile, proactive, reactive, segmented, personalized, experiential and immersive, among other features. It’s important to note that all this change is enabled by location-based technologies, interaction technologies (like augmented and virtual reality), social media and real-time analytics. Does next generation marketing cross the privacy line? Obviously, but Americans are not – with the exception of Californians and the citizens of a few other states – all that interested in protecting their privacy.
Tracking customers’ locations, knowing their buying histories, and integrating their needs proactively – they know where you just bought a house … where you live … where you work – makes marketing relatively easy. Personalized marketing is the future. As the number of connected targets increases, so too do the prospects for location-based marketing. Add emotionally inspired experiential marketing and they have a winning combination of digital strategy and tactics. Who can resist?
Companies must invest in the technologies that enable all this, specifically location-based and analytics technologies. Since automation will be ubiquitous, AI/ML should also be on the short list. Data scientists, machine learning experts, algorithm aficionados and many other profess-sionals with weird titles should be pursued. CEOs need to find these people – now.
Healthcare Will Be Automated & Personalized
The healthcare industry is a mess. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed even more cracks in the system across the globe. The Delta variant – with — given the US’s poor overall vaccination rate — more variants to come – has overwhelmed the “system” for the second time in a year. Going forward, records will finally be integrated and accessible to individuals and caregivers from distributed clouds. Treatment programs and specific therapies will follow remote, automated diagnoses which will also be accessible to everyone. Pharmacies will be automated. These are just of few of the changes to the healthcare industry we can predict. Companies in the industry should prepare now – or they will be disrupted by new entrants (which will anger their Directors).
Education & Training Will Offer Alternative Learning Models
The entire education industry will change over the next ten years. Do those at all levels in the education business fully understand the kinds of changes happening? Are they planning for the changes the pandemic accelerated? Are they thinking about how to exploit – or lead – the changes? Are they thinking about disrupting their current revenue streams? Mobile, virtual, on-demand, experiential, immersive and entertaining content will rule. Do they see it? Do they want to see it? Many of the same technologies that will automate buying and revolution-ize healthcare – AI/ML, augmented and virtual reality and block—chain – will impact education. Why listen when you can do? How long does the “sage on the stage” have to live?
So what should education do? Pilot, pilot and pilot some more. Faculty and administrators should be rewarded to think outside the traditional pedagogical box. Educators should also partner with the renegades. There are well-funded aggressive challengers to the education market emboldened by their success during the pandemic. CEOs better play with them.
There are other trends that should scare CEOs, such as how the entire entertainment world is changing and how manufacturing will be impacted by automated supply chains and 3D manufacturing. These trends, and the trends discussed here – are inevitable, though their arrival time is still debatable. So what’s a CEO to do? Change is always a challenge, especially when financial vested interests are threatened. Much of the “encouragement” to change should come from Boards of Directors. In public companies, some will come from the analysts who cover a company’s stock, especially in industries – like technology – where growth is rewarded more than quarterly performance. Some will come from disruptive leaders, which are often the product of failed prior executive performance. Look, for example, at the recent changes that occurred at Microsoft and IBM after new CEOs arrived. While the timing around business technology disruption can be tricky, if CEOs miss these trends, they may well get fired. So, if you’re a CEO, “be careful out there.”