What will the Organisation of the Future Look Like?

Cross posted from the Australian Salesforce blog (hence the UK English spelling of Organization!) – disclosure: Salesforce is a consulting client

Twenty or so years ago I undertook a course looking at organisational management. As part of that course I wrote a paper that gave my vision of what the organisation would look like in the future. Admittedly my view was kind of revolutionary – among other things I predicted the end of the enterprise as we know it. Clearly, decades later and the enterprise still exists – so my predictions haven’t been borne out in totality. But as I spend time talking with enterprises around the world about their technology challenges, I see a glimpse of the future that I predicted back then coming to pass

Of course IT opportunities and challenges aren’t necessarily symptomatic of those facing the business as a whole. But it seems to me that the challenges being faced by IT departments across the globe are symptomatic of those being faced more generally across the organisation – I’ve been invited to write some thought pieces over the next few months that will take what I’m seeing in the technology world, try and extrapolate what it means for the business as a whole and give some guidance as to what organisations should do to plan for their future.

So first some context. Why is this important? Well it’s hard to argue against the contention that the business world is undergoing massive changes as factors, both internal and external, change forever the environment within which organisations operate. These changes, while delivering massive benefits in terms of agility, economics and competitiveness, also require a massive shift in the way the organisations are structured and run and challenge our existing thoughts around what the organisation of the future will look like.

Before diving into more detail – it’s timely to set out exactly why this massive shift is occurring in the world and, in particular, the factors, both internal and external, which are driving organisations to change. So, what are these tectonic changes making such an impact on seemingly immovable enterprises?

  • Economic Constraints – The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was just one symptom of a massive economic change that has been occurring globally over the past decade or so. A move to global production and global markets, a shift of wealth from traditional industries and the rise of a new generation of economic powerhouses means economically the world is a different place from 20 years ago
  • A Demand for Agility – In part as a reaction to the economic changes detailed above, but also because an ever more difficult competitive landscape, organisations are putting extreme levels of agility as a core requirement of what they do. Organisations worldwide are looking at every part of their operation and exploring how it could be made to deliver more, for less, and in far quicker time
  • The Rise of the Millennials – the famed Millennials, those people born around the turn of the Millennium are a new breed of employee – they’re talented, collaborative, unconstrained by the normal organisational cultural parameters and have a high level of expectation about what they can achieve within an organisation and what the organisation needs to do to enable that to occur
  • Technology Democratisation – I’m typing this post using a computer that would have been science fiction only years ago. I’m collaborating on it in the cloud with people all across the world. And I’m a one person operation with a negligible IT spend. Few would argue that technology is cheaper, faster, more accessible and more flexible than ever before in history

These four individual trends, when taken together, have impacts on a massive scale. Over the next few posts I’ll write more about these organisational changes, how that maps to a current technology approach, and suggest ways that organisations can make meaningful changes to both allay the challenges, and leverage the opportunities that this brave new world offers.