The last few years have seen huge amounts of hype around technologies such as blockchain, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. A recent study by INSEAD suggests that the technology having the biggest impact on the workplace is data however.
The study reveals that big data analytics has had a profound impact upon practically all areas of the business, from improving operational efficiency to creating new revenue streams. The report suggests that this initial success with data will eventually be built upon by a growing wave of machine learning technologies.
The executives believe that big data and AI collectively have the most potential for disruption, but skills shortages are holding them back. They are tackling this in three main ways:
- Building competencies internally
- Forming alliances and partnerships with others
- Buying startups who have the skills and technologies they need
To date, just 1 in 3 companies are going it alone, with more than 70% forming alliances and joint ventures to spread the risk of new technologies. This seems to be the preferred strategy for gaining the skills required, with acquisitions very low down the agenda of driving digital transformation.
The traditional view is that senior leaders are more of a barrier to innovation than a boon, but the study suggests this might not be entirely fair. Roughly a third of respondents reported that their executives were strongly encouraged to pursue risky ventures that could transform the business. In some cases, these executives are the one driving the change and suggesting potential alliance partners. Some even revealed that their CEO took their board on ‘tech discovery safaris’ to help educate them on what’s out there.
A more common strategy however was to work with a start-up accelerator. Around 40% of companies were partnering with such an accelerator, but the returns were not always evident. The process of working with a start-up is often a fraught one, and failure rates are high.
Companies that reported the most success generally had an individual who was dedicated to managing the relationship. Their role was purely to act as the interface between the start-ups and the rest of the firm. This individual helped with the execution of projects, as well as spreading any learning from the start-up to the corporate.
The researchers plan to repeat the survey at regular intervals to monitor how the situation changes over time, both in terms of the technologies that are driving change, and the strategies for integrating them into business as usual.