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Technology for business leaders: from nice-to-know to need-to-know

Business leaders must embrace technology changes

Yes, technology develops at the speed of light. And yes, business leaders must anticipate change to survive. You must have heard that message hundreds of times. Our advice: don't be a Mr Know-It-All when it comes to emerging technology trends. Focus on what matters most. Let us help you with that.

Curiosity killed the cat. But curiosity is at the same time the most vital attribute to successfully develop and execute a business strategy. This is especially true in a world with an exciting and seemingly never ending series of new technological developments, fuelled by scientific breakthroughs. Digital has become the new normal in this world.

However, the abundant technology implies a problem for business leaders: it feels like an impossible task to keep up. Technological concepts that are cutting edge today may feel hopelessly outdated tomorrow. Moreover, it's hard to differentiate between hollow buzz words and real and impactful developments. And to make the challenge even harder, business leaders must perform a balancing act as digital transformation further unfolds. On the one hand, they must take care of managing and controlling existing business. On the other hand they must innovate to keep customers happy and business models healthy.

This is demanding, to say the least. In proverbial Dutch, one would state that we need a five legged sheep on the position of a business leader: a Mr Know-It-All.

As we all know, sheep rarely have more than four legs. So what can we do?

We believe that business leaders should not even strive to have a comprehensive view on the full technology landscape and the exponential growth that goes with this. Keeping track of all technological developments is simply impossible. What they should do is apply a proper filter that distinguishes nice to know information from need to know information.

Against this background, KPMG developed an Emerging Technology Radar that helps organizations to maintain focus. It plots technologies in a practical manner. One parameter is the time horizon: machine learning may for instance be around the corner for your company, whilst the impact of digital twin may be much further ahead. The same is true for the impact of technologies. Some concepts may be a killer technology affecting the core of an organization while another will only have minor consequences.

Emerging technology radar
Emerging technology radar

Our advice to business leaders is to resist the urge to nervously be on top of all technological trends, but rather calmly reason from a solid vision. In this respect, one can bear in mind what Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon told a reporter some years ago when confronted with the question of what will be the most profound changes. Bezos' answer: “Don't ask yourself what could change in the next ten years. Instead, ask yourself what won't change, and then put all your energy and effort into those things.”

Bezos suggests that it's better to focus on the things you know are stable in time -- i.e.: customers preferring lower prices -- and then investing heavily in improving on these stable things. Choosing the right technology well-informed, based on an adequate technology radar.