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Information is indeed the lifeblood of every organization, along with the people who retain and transmit that information. We have established that information is an asset and should be managed as such in every enterprise. At the heart of digital disruption and digital transformation is the fact that everything has become information-enabled.
We need look no further than the current crop of startup enterprises, such as Waze, Uber, and Airbnb, as a sign of this trend. Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn also illustrate the power of harnessing information for business success. It is information, not their physical infrastructure per se, that is both the catalyst and reason for their success.
Waze, for example, has leveraged people with mobile devices to become literal sensors, delivering accurate GPS and traffic information for drivers. Information allows Uber drivers and passengers to connect without Uber itself having any physical infrastructure or a fleet of cars at their disposal. Every industry is being disrupted by enabling information of all kinds.
Access to information
Access to a plethora of information is now democratized. Consumers have access to brands and information about these brands in a way that is unparalleled. Socially, consumers can connect with their peers and share feedback about any company, brand, or product. This access to information has empowered consumers in a way we have not seen before to influence brands and their messaging. However, not all companies "get it," which leads to the current disruption.
I spoke with a business leader in consumer marketing at a large consumer packaged goods (CPG) company, who lamented that her organization has not reacted well to this trend but has done absolutely nothing worthwhile to address consumers and consumer behaviors effectively. In her words, "The company is still trying the same cookie-cutter approach that is just not working." For example, a huge gap exposed was how far behind the company was in understanding consumer behavior among Latino, Hispanic, and African American customers. We see what this lack of understanding about our consumers has done in the case of Uber and the disruption to the taxi or transportation industry. Without owning any physical hotels, Airbnb has more rooms than large, traditional hotel brands. The evidence is startling.
"I believe enterprises will shift their attention from traditionally focusing on infrastructure to harnessing information."
Impact on the workplace
Now, what does this mean for the workplace and the future of work? Work environments have evolved from the "me, my job, my boss, my team" way of thinking! There is now an extended workforce that spans contractors, partners, and suppliers. Information sharing is the connective tissue linking all these constituents. Contextual collaboration with real-time access to information and people is a requirement.
Every business or work process now has to be information-enabled or face becoming stuck and, at best, linear in scope. The massive amounts and abundance of data and information flowing through organizations need to be harnessed to reap the enormous benefits. For example, in human resources (HR), there is information about people and their performance that needs to be harnessed for better talent and people management processes. You can’t understand employee needs or increase engagement without the right information. You can’t acquire the right talent without the right information either.
Information will feed artificial intelligence (AI), machine, and deep learning algorithms to enable better business decision-making. Harnessing the power of information with the necessary AI algorithms will exponentially scale organizations beyond the traditional approach of focusing only on infrastructure. Waze, Uber, Facebook, and LinkedIn have scaled enormously based on the power of information. I believe enterprises will shift their attention from traditionally focusing on infrastructure to harnessing information.
I’ve gone this far without saying the term "Big Data" (well, until now), but at the heart of what I’m saying is to constantly look for new sources of information and turn it into business opportunities in every domain and process. The insights from information will enable business leaders to see things in different ways and move away from the limited scope of traditional business approaches.
David Mario Smith is Founder and Principal Analyst at InFlow Analysis. Mr. Smith is a Gartner veteran of over 16 years and an IT industry professional with 20 years of experience in the collaboration and workplace technology markets. For more information, visit http://inflowanalysis.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.