When we think of technology, we mostly think of the most visible, in your face, technology – like computers or mobile phones. Or we might think of the changes that have occurred due to the digitization of business or our personal lives. But it’s not just in the obvious places that technology is having an impact – and in the world of business, that means opportunity.
As I suggested recently, CIOs are being called upon to deliver more innovation and corporate impact. Likewise, the chief technology officer (CTO) is being challenged – not just around the notion of technology, but in the way that technology is transforming the business landscape. Let’s take a look at one small example – wearable tech.
Once upon a time, business people would wear pagers on their belts. They would carry BlackBerrys in their pockets. And this would provide them with connectedness – with email and business applications wherever they may be. This meant that the time between client meetings could be productive. It meant that business travel didn’t separate business leaders from the running of the organization.We could not only make calls to prospects, check in on our teams and so on, we could make decisions, email colleagues and act on the information that we received. But wearable technology was still clumsy and simplistic in its impact.
Over the last five years, technology has improved and become smaller. We know from Moore’s Law that computing power doubles approximately every two years, and at the same time, that technology shrinks. The average smart phone now carries more processing power than was used to put man on the moon. With each passing year, we are able to pack more power into ever smaller devices. And it is this transformation that fascinates me – and a great example is the Nike Fuel Band. If you have yet to experience it, take a quick look at the video below.
This kind of wearable technology taps into a movement known as the quantified self – where individuals can use devices and technology to capture data about our personal experiences. We may, for example, count the number of steps we take each day, monitor our heart rate, food intake and sleep patterns. All this information is then relayed to software applications that allow us to report on, track and analyse our personal data much in the same way that business leaders monitor and analyze business data. We effectively become CEO of our quantifiable lives, using real, live data to make decisions.
But what does this mean for business?
As technology futurist, Daniel Burrus, suggests, it’s difficult to plan for the future when the power of technology is progressing at an accelerate rate. But new markets are there for the making – and even the largest corporates are seeing success – driven largely by CTO innovation. Burrus explains:
IBM executives recently shared with me that over 40 percent of their profits are now coming from products and services that were impossible just a few short years ago.
Tapping into these trends and consumer behaviors requires a breadth of vision from business leaders. It means that technology must be absolutely core to our innovation and product development processes. It means that data and software is designed in such a way that it works flawlessly and seamlessly with our real world products. And it means that our business imaginations can be applied to the processes that drive our companies forward. This means that CTOs become less about technology and more about the transformation that technology is enabling.
And just as CIOs are shifting their focus from information to impact, CTOs are transitioning at the same time. The challenge for us all is to make sure that we do so in lock-step. It’s only by collaborating across our leadership teams that we will be able to reap the benefits of all this innovation while continuing to surprise, delight and inspire our customers.