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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Jones

Is your digital strategy evolutionary, or revolutionary?

After some 20 years in enterprise IT, I’ve realised something: there’s nothing intrinsically new about today’s disruptive technologies. In fact, most simply represent an evolution of systems or models that have been around for years, or even decades. Cloud computing marks a huge step up from servers and mainframes – but it’s still just a step. You could say the same of analytics or even the Internet of Things – the latest evolution of the humble sensor. The containers and capabilities might change, but the fundamental function remains the same.

That’s not to say that businesses shouldn’t pay attention to these technologies. On the contrary: if you can’t evolve alongside technology, you’ll inevitably struggle to compete. But when we get too caught up with evolutionary technologies as part of digital transformation or other such movements, we can miss the potential of more “revolutionary” changes to how we work, live, and even define who we are.

What does this revolution look like? I would point to AI and automation (Skills Based Automation) as one example. These technologies don’t simply build on past and present: they represent something entirely new. When we talk about AI and personar we often bring up the concept of human to digital personars, AI-driven personars that have been purposely designed to fulfil specific tasks or even roles within organisations. This is much, much more than just a software licence. If you need a legal aide, or a finance reporter, you can now literally download one.

That brings up all sorts of questions which evolutionary technologies rarely do. Where should a business “hire” these digital personar’s for best effect – and where should it continue to retain human talent? How can employees employ their own personars to pursue more productive or meaningful work? What sort of work are we, as humans, meant to do? Answering these questions requires entirely new ways of thinking, about everything from our identity as individuals and within organisations to what truly gives us purpose and meaning in our working lives.

Leading a revolution

I joined after 25 years in “evolutionary” technology for two reasons. First, I see enormous potential to improve not only businesses but also individual lives through AI. When a digital personar can literally save lives – as we’ve seen them do in the medical field – by processing information much faster than a human can, you realise just how much benefit these new technologies might bring to every aspect of society.

The second reason, however, may be more important: I want to ensure that we answer those big questions raised by this technology in the right way. The introduction of AI will free up human employees for other things – but what those things might be, and how businesses support their people in that transition, is a question largely unanswered. My hope is that companies like ours can ensure AI and automation end up being used for good.

Being a part of that can be both intensely daunting and immensely fulfilling.

It’s all too easy to adopt an evolutionary mindset when thinking about these revolutionary technologies. Many businesses still, for example, think of AI and automation solely in terms of cost savings or faster operations. Those improvements, however, only scratch the surface of how these technologies might upend the very nature of work and doing business. It’s only when we ask the deeper questions – like those about human purpose and potential – that true digital transformation begins to happen. A revolutionary digital strategy can’t merely adopt revolutionary technologies; it requires a readiness to transform how we think as well.

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