WEF 2016 Takeaway — Move faster to benefit from Digitalization!

At this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, the notion of a fourth industrial revolution set halls abuzz. In digital realms, digitalization and its impacts on every aspect of our world is not hot news, however. What is newsworthy is that the world’s economic leaders at Davos have taken note of it. It’s an “authenticity” stamp that turns a theoretical future into an inevitability. Some leaders may be feeling apprehensive.

Let’s set the scene. The first industrial revolution was steam-powered mechanisation, the second was the era of mass production enabled by Mr Edison and crew, and the third was about the automation and access to information that digital facilitated. The fourth is all about digitalization, the deep tech soak that has been applied to everything. It brought us AI, 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and biotechnology — tech that is fundamentally changing how we do things.

The pace of change is fast, faster than ever before. We’re used to that. What seems to have startled global leaders as they peer through the dust raised by a whirlwind of digital disruption in all industries and sectors of society, is the impact this revolution will have on the global economy.

For businesses, governments, and individuals, the writing is on the wall: change won’t wait. To participate in this revolution, you need to recognize how change will impact you, and adapt.

What’s changing?

Business models. To move forward, leaders must re-imagine the business (are they ready for it?), fundamentally questioning how they do things, re-architecting processes and functions and getting to grips with how they can create customer value as a digital business — and with a degree of speed. If leaders can find the courage to set up their businesses differently, the skills they need will emerge. By moving forward and remaining agile, businesses can elevate the entire economy. Government can help by removing barriers, modernising platforms to facilitate non-traditional business models.(Also read: Business leaders want to go digital, but can they handle it?)

How people work and the skills they need. Leaders must rally their people to raise their game, and move people away from traditional and siloed thinking. Resistance to change will hamstring industry, GDP, and employees. To remain competitive, industry will adapt; workers must embrace job pivots or be left behind! The means for individuals to grow digital skills (for free online) are now available. Take some initiative.

How businesses competes. Today, no business is too big to fail. Disruptive start-ups and ecosystem partnering are turning sectors on their heads. For businesses, success will no longer be about changing strategies more often, but having the agility to execute multiple strategies concurrently.

What’s clear is that digitalization will topple traditional structures. It introduces a whole new set of variables that change how you build a business, how you staff it, how you build a value chain, how you define products, how you interact with customers and how you position your company or country to compete.

The winners in the Age of Digitalization will be those that embrace the new and adapt. Everyone, including world leaders, need to move faster to participate in this revolution if they hope to remain competitive. What will you be doing?

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About Lee Naik

Lee Naik is the Managing Director of Accenture Digital in South Africa. Lee has a deep understanding and appreciation of the transformative role that technology and digital can play, and works with organisations to transform their businesses to remain competitive in an ever-changing and increasingly digital world.

Lee was named one of Top Voices of LinkedIn for 2015.

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