Business growth and innovation are tightly linked in today’s market. The changing tech landscape has transformed efficiencies in research, development, operations and delivery.
Technology allows businesses to transform, innovate, change and redefine their business models with tools that in turn generate their own dynamic. And while it may open the doors to new competitors, it also provides new mechanisms for handling today’s increasingly disruptive markets.
However, technology has also created complex legal and regulatory issues for both companies and regulators at national, regional and international levels, and challenged our understanding of the world of work.
In what is an incredibly competitive marketplace, companies across all sectors globally need to frame their client relationships around the essential qualities of dynamism, energy and imagination.
>See also: Technology and the workplace of the future
Those who employ a client-centric approach are able to secure innovation and technological advances at the centre of their corporate strategy, something which benefits not only that firm and their clients but the respective industry of which they are a part.
Of course this is not limited to those corporates with billions of pounds at their disposal – the power of transformative technology and innovation-led strategies are just as important to smaller companies and the relationships they hold with their clients.
Understanding the direction of markets, assessing the viability of new business models and balancing alternative paths to growth are an ongoing challenge. Each of these forces that meet on the commercial landscape heighten the need for agility, flexibility and foresight.
At an operational level, technology has enabled the creation of new businesses – such as Virgin’s space and satellite launch business, which it thinks is the largest growing part of that market, and OneWeb business that will create a mobile backwall in space.
At the other end of the spectrum, technology provides a platform for transforming the service model of existing businesses into which Virgin may be a late but transformative entrant.
Similarly, in addition to the data analysis that Schroders uses, it has technology literally ripped from the cutting edge of engineering to give it the edge in reading the data on which effective (and competitive) interpretive market analysis depends.
Here we see two companies – Schroders and Virgin – on the surface so very different, with foundations literally a century and half apart, having a common understanding of how vital and central technology is to their futures.
For today’s businesses, disruption – from competitors, new entrants, market developments and political events – is a constant reality. The company that can best mitigate or even leverage advantage from such disruption is likely to most succeed, and a firm grasp of data and technology and the legal framework in which they must operate is a critical responsibility of GCs and CTOs alike.
In the European context, this includes understanding the growing regulatory implications of EU policy on data privacy and data protection, which are likely to be increasingly influential as technology advances.
The macro level disruptions that dominate the headlines – and there are certainly many of them today – are often events over which even national actors have little control, let alone individual companies.
For business, though, it is often the shifts at the micro level – including shifts in public or governmental attitudes to privacy and alterations in financial regulations – that affect decision taking.
Schroders has to deal with the unknowns while leading its clients towards the successful protection and growth of their assets in markets that occasionally descend to mayhem.
But while we are living in uncertainty today, previous decades were far more disruptive – from the advent of the electric light to the automobile to almost any aspect of the industrial revolution.
What is different this time around is the pace at which change is happening – a pace that is, of course, technology-enabled.
You could invest in a hotel chain and Airbnb comes along, a taxi firm and find Uber on your doorstep, or a cleaning service and Handy appears. It is not disruption, but the pace of disruption and scalability that technology enables that is disorienting in the market and places a premium on businesses with the ability (and flexibility) to react well.
The scale and pace at which new business ideas can be implemented really does change things, and it is incumbent upon the legal and regulatory framework in which technology evolves to keep pace.
Is the sharing economy that transformational as an idea? Not really, some form of barter has been going on forever – it’s just that with a technology platform, all of this has happened seemingly in the blink of an eye. And the next time, that eye will probably belong to a robot that knows your name.
Sourced from Ronan O’Sullivan, chair of the London office, Paul Hastings