Microsoft’s recent Future Decoded event in London gave more insights into why IT leadership needs to keep thinking broadly about what future IT capabilities are provided and how. At the event, I could see how IT will need to support the new social values we’re coming to expect, whether as employees, consumers or individuals, for example the expectation that we’re all allowed to give an opinion on anything and the ease that we’re able to share it with the much wider world.
What the key note speakers told us
Microsoft had a very compelling set of key note speakers including Jeremy Paxman, Dame Stella Rimington and Sir Bob Geldof. They each gave their view on how different parts of our lives need to adapt for the future, which for those three speakers were individualisation, leadership and education. It was no coincidence that they said nothing specific about IT never mind about Microsoft. Instead, their themes re-iterated what the wider world will be expecting the IT of the future to provide for and accommodate.
Paxman – The expectations of individuals
Paxman reminded us how the Internet has given everyone the expectation they can be accepted as an individual and have their say regardless of what it is they have to say. The universal appeal of Twitter – from business to social audiences and from the old to the young – shows how easy it is for someone to give their point of view – even if they don’t know, or probably even care, whether or not they’re being listened to.
If we apply those same principles to today’s technology, we need to think about how our own IT systems give everyone the right to be heard – whether they’re the public, customers, junior employees or senior directors. We then need to think about the tangible value we can get from their contributions. Collecting a virtual pat on the back is all well and good for making us feel great when we’re sat on our laurels but we can’t afford to sit still any more.
Think big data, think sentiment analysis – think about how future IT systems can make giving each of your customers a bespoke but affordable service.
Geldof – The route to developing countries
Sir Bob Geldof was passionate in describing what he’s now best known for – helping to solve the worst problems that the world’s poorest continent has been unlucky enough to face. He then went one step further and made us realise that the problem Africa had in the 80s wasn’t a lack of grain to feed people it was that the people there couldn’t afford to buy it. People in Africa died from poverty, not malnutrition, and it’s the same problem that’s killing people there now from Ebola.
His speech wasn’t all negative. He also spoke about the improvements in educational happening in some of Africa’s poorest countries. Showing how people in developing countries are as ready to learn and contribute to the world as much as any of us in the developed world – they just lack the access and resources to do it.
For me, that means we need to think about how IT can help us reach the academic geniuses and social communities in the developing world. In the words of Sir Bob we can’t wait for them to get broadband, smartphones or desktop PCs – they may never get them. Instead as text message based banking in Africa is showing, IT needs to adapt to provide high levels of functionality when only simple technologies are available. It means thinking outside the box – think of Google’s blimps that provide free wi-fi access across Africa – so a lack of advanced technology doesn’t stop our ever increasing efforts to blur the boundaries between the developed and developing worlds .
What does this all mean?
The impact of these two specific speakers as well as the broader themes they talk about should help us comprehend the scale of the tasks we have ahead if IT is to be effective in the future world.
These two speakers gave me some very clear and specific examples of how IT needs to continue to innovate to support our personal expectations of the future. I hope they help shape your future decisions.