Step Quickly! The Future Has Already Arrived

Step Quickly! The Future Has Already ArrivedThe end of the year is a natural time to consider where we are and what the immediate future holds. The pandemic era has been difficult, to say the least. We face a world that has changed in several fundamental ways, presenting us with new challenges and opportunities. I.T. professionals should stay aware of the following factors to guide them through what comes next.

Labor markets have changed in striking ways. Some economists describe these changes as the greatest since the respective ends of the World Wars in the 20th century. 1919 and 1946 may offer some sense of perspective for the seismic shifts we now see, and which will inform 2022. “The Great Resignation” is real and sweeping. Building new, resilient employee and employer relationships is possible and the source of future competitive advantage.

Demographic changes are sweeping and unbending. The youngest baby boomers will reach retirement eligibility this decade. Organizations will need to transition their institutional memory and knowledge to new generations with different perspectives on career development and durability. The oldest Gen-Xer is also approaching retirement eligibility. Millennials came of age during the days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Gen-Z is coming online with COVID-19 as a backdrop. They all have different runways into the future. Knowledge management and transition support will be far more dynamic going forward. Once again, there are potential competitive advantages for those who do it well.

Digital strategies are vital for the future. Aite-Novarica estimated at the beginning of the pandemic that we would see five years’ worth of advancement in six months. We were likely conservative in that estimate, and the pace of change continues unabated. There are many aspects to building an effective business model; the ability to operate in our digitized and virtualized world is table-stakes. Making the correct investments now can again create a key form of competitive positioning. Sustaining that positioning, however, will require treating the resulting business model as a continuum of investment since “done” has likely become a foreign concept.

Shrinking window of investment usefulness. Oddly, some very old technologies could persist long into the future—and some could outlast the things organizations are implementing now. Navigating this duality will reward those organizations that effectively manage their technology portfolios. Agility will depend on making the right decisions in an increasingly complex three-dimensional chess game.

We are starting down the long road to the end of the pandemic; new variants of concern might prolong the trip. We’ve suffered tragic losses and built remarkable new operational muscle and organizational capabilities. Customer preferences have changed, distribution capabilities have morphed, capital has been invested, and new opportunities have emerged in invigorating and surprising places. Budgets for 2022 are now largely secured; it is a great time to step back, enjoy the year-end holidays, and prepare for what comes next.

The great American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.” We are here now. We are no more going back to 2019 than we are to 1969. What comes next may have notable challenges, but it should also bring significant opportunities to excel. Bring on the New Year!

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