The future of IT

Wednesday 8th March, Imperial College Business School

By Richard Foulsham

Lem Lasher, as Group President of Global Business Solutions and Chief Innovation Officer of CSC is in a unique position to assess the influences upon and potential future direction of the digital economy, having both the analytical capabilities of a leading edge consultancy and a business that’s involved in the day to deployment of IT around the world within his remit.

During this lecture he shared with us some of the “points of view” that his organisation has developed around “next practice”, likely developments that clever players in the IT market can use to gain an advantage, and identified some of the areas that he thinks will grow and become important as the digital revolution gets underway.

This revolution in technology has been brought about by the growth of the internet. Mr Lasher predicts that we are barely into the foothills of this revolution with another 20 years of change ahead of us. This development will consist of  a relatively predictable advance in the technology, but Mr Lasher sees the real source of disruption being the development in business models that will take place in this new, connected environment.

The drivers of the current market as Mr Lasher sees it are globalisation and everything that overworked word entails – increased competition, the rise of China and India – but more interestingly he also identified a consistently difficult regulatory environment as being something that is affecting companies ability to differentiate their products. One interesting thing to ponder is whether the technological revolution and the  process of globalisation are really parallel or dynamically entwined. It is hard to imagine the economic growth of India without the business space that has been opened up by technology. Equally, the globalised markets that are the bain of many democratic politicians’ existence have grown up around the opportunities offered by a digital market place.

Organisations have responded to these challenges by becoming more complex and adopting a greater variety of forms than has been the case previously. Mr Lasher identifies a process that could be described as a “democratisation of technology” which has affected the way technology advances:  technologies are available at low enough cost and can be operated by non-experts – the iPad and the child are given as an example and anyone whose watched toddlers playing Angry Birds will find it hard to disagree – meaning that public bodies and private corporations cannot dictate to the market, but rather they have to respond to the market in a way that keeps revenue intact and minimises risks from regulation.

These effects are not consistent across sectors, and Mr Lasher then went on to describe a matrix for predicting the degree of business model disruption likely to result from these changes in a particular industry. He identifies two major predicting factors: whether the organisation deals in physical product or data, and the degree of regulation in the industry. This model has a remarkable predictive power which two examples will suffice to illustrate. The music industry – no physical product and little regulation (or at least little ability to enforce what regulation exists) – has gone through an exceptionally torrid time recently, whilst banking, dealing largely in data, but doing so  in a highly regulated environment, has itself suffered little in the way of disruption whilst, ironically, wreaking havoc on the rest of the economy.

Mr Lasher ended his presentation by describing a number of specific areas that he sees as likely to become increasingly important in the future. Some are predictable, others more of a surprise.  There was also a list of things that may prove to be the downside of the bright, shiny digital future that glistens enticingly at us from the cover of a thousand company brochures.  Whatever happens, it’s not going to be boring.

You can access a recording of Mr Lashers presentation here.

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