We've always had significant challenges, from the moment we crawled out of the ocean. As humans, we've conquered early climate change, continental drift and the development of new species. We've used tools, our resources and ingenuity to reduce risk and survive – which is what businesses continue to strive for today.
Everything is under constant change and constant challenge, and that's no different in today's business environment than it was in primitive times. The focus for leaders now is to identify their biggest challenges, prioritise them, and use our intelligence and resources to overcome them.
We recently caught up with James Price, Managing Director at Experience Matters, to see what's concerning today's organisations and figure out ways to manage and effectively evolve beyond their biggest challenges.
1) Big data
The term big data is known by all business leaders. It's causing excitement throughout the business world, with the ability to use vast swathes of information to make accurate and fast decisions something no organisation can pass up.
Market predictions only help to fan the flames of hype, with big-data-enabled businesses expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 23 per cent by 2019, according to one study by Research and Markets.
Big-data-enabled businesses are expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 23 per cent by 2019
James says the reasons why we're energised by big data is simple: "The innovation is being driven by technology and the newfound ability to do more stuff."
"What we're doing now is collecting a whole swag of information from sources we previously had no access to. Retail stores can quickly gain insight into markets all over the world and alter their pricing, stock levels and overall strategies accordingly."
Most executives will see this and say to their IT departments: "Big data? We want some of that," before leaving them to it. However, IT departments are not equipped to do that. They don't have the authority or the accountability to manage information effectively or correctly, so a big data project led in this way is doomed to failure.
That's why big data is a challenge – we're throwing money at it and hoping at least some of it sticks. The solution is to be smarter with our money and handle information as a business problem, not an IT one.
"At the end of the second world war, when reconstruction began in Japan with the help of the US, what the Japanese population did is take some of the ideas that they saw and adapted them into their culture," James begins.
"Without today's technology, we wouldn't be able to collaborate"
"Years later, Japanese automotive manufacturers then entered North America with a competitive advantage, and it nearly destroyed the US car-making industry. Japanese companies were making cars that were far better than those seen on the local market, which led the US to develop total quality management and reduce the amount of defects in their vehicles."
"If we look at the reasons why we have disciplines like total quality management, those methodologies are all about global business challenge."
This early example of globalisation shows that in terms of improving society, the risk is one worth taking – though for business owners, it may not be too favourable if they're on the wrong end of the chain with a competitive disadvantage.
With globalisation, the world is on our doorstep, and that's certainly not always a bad thing. It also opens the door to greater communication with others around the globe.
James has seen first-hand how information management has evolved with technology. "Without today's technology, we wouldn't be able to collaborate, and that's the same allowance provided to all businesses – operating quickly on a global stage," James explains.
3) The cloud
"Businesses are becoming increasingly information savvy," James observes. In terms of cloud storage methods, the statistics certainly back up this point.
One in every five Australian organisations is paying for the use of cloud storage
Just look at Australian Bureau of Statistics findings from June 2015. Around one in every five Australian organisations is paying for the use of cloud storage, while others use free public cloud offerings from the likes of Google. It makes sense, as the cloud has been around for decades in various forms (first as a bureau, then outsourcing then SaaS now Cloud), though is only now coming to the fore as both a business tool and a significant organisational challenge.
"We've had the cloud for 40 years or so, with the technology allowing businesses to do everything in real time instead of waiting for a piece of paper to make its way to a person," James continues.
"At Experience Matters, for example, we've not had a server infrastructure for four years or so – we've been on the cloud for a long time. It helps us be more flexible and scalable with our IT infrastructure."
However, it's important to remember that the cloud is only a tool. The challenge is breaking the mindset that information can be automatically managed on the platform, when it's simply a way to store and access data.
Again, the solution is to approach the cloud like any other new technology: by placing smart business governance around its usage that lets people use their Information Assets effectively, wherever they are in the world.
"Organisations will say 'I want better information to make better decisions in an increasingly competitive world'," James says. The modern world has clearly provided the means to do that. Making the most of their information to drive an advantage – and evolve beyond their inherent challenges – that is the job of business leaders, and it's time they woke up to that fact.