2015: the year of technology-driven business change

By Adam Tinworth

09/01/2015 | 2015 is well underway. 2014 is vanishing the the rear view mirror. Here at NEXT, we’re always interested in what comes next, not what has been, so no reviews of the year or the like from us.

Instead, I’m going to do that very stupid thing of trying to predict what’s going to happen this year. As the famous quote from Steve Ballmer at the head of the post shows, you can make a big fool of yourself by making predictions.

So, am I being brave? Well, let’s be honest here: like all such predictions, all I’m actually doing is extrapolating the trends I see happening already. So, yes, I’m playing it safe. I don’t have any great insights into the unexpected to share - but that’s not bad thing. Most change is incremental, and too many people miss that. Incremental change is good - in that you have time to prepare and adapt to it, if you’re looking for it.

So, here’s my somewhat safe set of predictions for 2015, which you can mock me for in about 12 months…

The Internet of Things gets serious

For too long, the internet of things has been mired in toys and luxury items. Clever little printers, remote lights and their ilk are fun, but they’re not going to change anybody’s lives. There’s so much potential in connecting up the objects around us - but we’re still lurking in the shallows, hoping for a consumer-driven hit. Anyone watching CES this week will see plenty of devices emerging that allow us to turn on lights with our mobile phones, which are nice things to have. But it’s not where the real transformation will come.

Imagine a world with connected cars, connected lorries and connected wind turbines. Where information flows about the infrastructure that comntrols our goods, light, heat and water is fast, cheap and instantaneous. Where older iterations of the mobile phone network switch from consumer use to distributing data from the millions of objects that support our daily lives - and enable the standard of living we enjoy.

The last decade has seen us get ubiquitous screens - most of us have one with us at all times, thanks to the smartphone. The real revolution of the next few years will be utterly changing the sorts of information - and control - we get through those screens. There won’t be one, big, transformative device. But lots of little improvements across the whole of our urban infrastructure could fundementally reshape the way we live in a very few years.

The rebirth of social business

In many ways, 2014 marked the nadir of social business (or enterprise 2.0) as we called it back in the day. The bargain basement sale of the Dachis Group to Sprinklr marked the end of the big attempt to corportise social media-based business transformation. From the outside, it looked like social media marketing was all that was left standing.

But there’s more to it than that. In the UK, we’ve seen the birth of new social business-focussed offerings like Post*Shift and Agile Elephant, that take a more serious and research-based approach to business transformation. There’s an interesting point of intersection between the historic research and development of alternative company structures and working methods - and the new technologies supporting them. That’s what these news businesses are bringing to the table - hard research and experience, mised with new innovations.

It’s a much deeper - and harder - approach than just installing an enterprise social network, but it’s likely to yield more dramatic results, given time.

A quiet year on consumer tech

The Apple Watch will launch in March - and it’ll be a hit. But not a massive one. It’s an add-on device to a phone right now, and the early adopters and Apple fans will buy one and play with it. I know I will. But the real test will be how many other people will buy them based on the experiences of that first group - and how many of those early adopters will buy a second or third one? That scenario will take years to play out.

Most of the big consumer tech hits of the last few years have been about putting another smart screen into our lives. We’re beginning to run out of the “big” wins there. New devices are about expanding and rounding out the ecosystem. So, I don’t expect any product this year to have the same sort of impact that the arrival of the iPhone and the smartphones that followed it had.

More focus on privacy

If all the above come true, we’ll be thinking much harder about exactly what data is collected about us - and what we find it acceptable for individuals, companies and governments to do. People are already starting to think about the implications of, say, the data that Uber is collecting about your car journeys. And that starts making you think about what your SatNav app might be recording…

These concerns are only going to spread as more objects get connected, and more sensors surround us. And it’s a subject we need to be having a mature discussion about as a society.

So…

Have I missed anything? Have I get anything wrong? Care to make your own predictions?