Are you an anywhere leader?
The latest wave of technology change coming at business leaders is the emergence of ubiquitous connectivity. That's when all of us, as well as the things we care about, will be interconnected by a seamless global network fabric that is high in capacity, security, and intelligence. I call this future Anywhere, since it will change the meaning of location in our lives. A pervasive global communications infrastructure will make location less important, because we can do what want from anywhere. Can you lead your business to reap the rewards?
The powerful economics of wireless networks, coupled with steady increases in network capacity and utility, are rapidly connecting more of the world. And just as today's Internet-connected population will surge towards 6 billion people by 2015 through ever-smarter mobile devices, the same economics are driving the addition of connectivity to more of our things. In the wake of this shift, some firms -- and possibly entire industries - will be left behind, while others will capitalize on this new platform to reap the benefits.
The Anywhere Enterprise
Smart businesses constantly seek leverage in their operations - where a small application of effort or funds can create an outsized impact. And telecommunications has already proven itself a critical source of business leverage: first through telegrams and voice services, later through e-commerce and online trading, videoconferencing, and more.
But many more things in our firms will benefit from connectivity's leverage than those that have been touched by the network so far. Firms that completely exploit that leverage will become Anywhere Enterprises - able to manage their people and other assets from anywhere in the world.
Sadly, technology alone doesn't transform a business. Its greatest assets - people - are indispensable. And as a leader in your firm, you'll have to do more than run the meetings and write the checks. You must help your organization seek the best opportunities for connectivity transformation and master its application. An Anywhere leader needs to do at least three things to help his or her business become an Anywhere Enterprise.
1. Play with new toys. Does hearing about whizzy new technology make you feel old and tired? Don't roll your eyes; instead crack your fingers and try it out. The consumer electronics world is blooming with new connected products. Give out wireless digital picture frames as awards; buy some iPads for your teams and ask them how to put them to work on the shop floor, in the warehouse, on the road. Showing your team you see what's happening in connectivity suggests that you'll listen when they come up with inventive ways to expand its leverage in the business.
2.Put on some new glasses. Leaders climb the organizational ladder by amassing experience and turning it into certain truths about the business - how best to set up and run a factory, where to find customers and how best to win them. But an increasingly affordable, pervasive network is dating many of those lessons. Anywhere Leaders look at the world with connectivity lenses to question old assumptions.
A restaurant chain owner realized that, while the industry typically loses 25% of the beer in any keg to waste, it doesn't have to be that way. Adding wireless sensors to his beer taps lets him account for every ounce that flows through the taps. Customers can buy by the ounce, but bartenders can't give away freebies on the side. Result? Keg waste dropped to 5 percent, the connectivity technology paid for itself in 6 months, and customers love the novelty of sampling beer by the ounce.
3.Boil your data. Connecting assets in your business creates tremendous opportunities to know everything about those things in real time: are they en route or lost, full or empty, broken or repaired? The value of that information, delivered straight from the asset wherever it is to whoever needs it wherever they are, is the secret sauce of an Anywhere Enterprise.
But swimming in too much data can drown early Anywhere transformation efforts. One team pioneering the addition of connectivity to lab equipment planned to wirelessly capture everything about the status of the complex units. But figuring out what to do with the data tsunami that resulted almost swamped the project.
Finally the team leader stepped in to say, "Just give us metrics we'd need to send a service team to the lab just before the unit breaks down." A vision for the value of real-time data, coupled with the ability to boil it down to just what's needed to act efficiently - might be the most essential component to Anywhere leadership.
The emergence of ubiquitous connectivity will be the largest technology revolution of our lifetimes. Anywhere Enterprises will drive connectivity to all of their assets, wringing economic and social benefits from the expanding wired and wireless web. But it won't happen without you.
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