Managers must learn to relinquish control in the face of an emerging anarchic business model thrown up by information technology, according to Martin Butler, founder of the Butler Group research firm.
Speaking to an audience of hardware and software suppliers last week, Butler identified six key "megatrends" which will shape the world of business over the next decade.
He said there will be ever greater distribution of power, meaning managers will no longer be able to exercise their traditional control.
Networks, argued Butler, by their very nature cannot be controlled from a single point of reference. They are democratic and anarchic. "They are also inefficient," Butler added. "That's something managers don't like, but they'll have to get used to it."
The growth of networks will lead to a whole new way of working, he predicted. The improved speed of communications will spawn the growth of a real-time model for businesses. "Any notion of planning will go out the window," declared Butler. "This will be an economy on-the-fly. There will be no future and no past in business, only the present." This will be particularly difficult for UK businesses to cope with, he claimed. "The British are addicted to planning."
This trend will require a greater degree of flexibility in business than everbefore. "Engineering cannot be applied in these circumstances, because things will be moving too fast," Butler explained. "Businesses will need to apply new goal-seeking methods around which to structure their business processes."
In the future, there will be no useful distinction between tools and solutions, he predicted. The business world will also witness the start-up of new industries, centring on education, entertainment and services.
Butler also forecast a consumer explosion in IT, with the popularisation of technology accelerating the convergence of TV, telephone and the computer.
Butler ended his speech by addressing the "Final Frontier". Inevitably, he said, we will see biotechnology and IT merge and this will lead to human machine integration. "I just hope I'm not around when it happens," he joked.
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