Dealing with digital dilemmas

Disruptive technologies are blurring the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. This means we need to re-evaluate digital technologies and their adoption, says Yannick Tabanon, CEO of Atos SA.

Johannesburg, 12 Dec 2018
Read time 3min 40sec

There's no doubt the digital revolution that has already begun transforming consumers' lives has also begun to deeply affect the business world in all sectors. However, the resulting impact will be greater on organisations, simply because it affects the very nature of business processes that have been used for decades.

At the same time, significant breakthroughs over the past couple of years in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IOT), edge computing, additive manufacturing and quantum computing will present significant opportunity choices to businesses by 2022.

Yannick Tabanon, CEO, Atos South Africa.
Yannick Tabanon, CEO, Atos South Africa.

However, explains Yannick Tabanon, CEO, Atos South Africa, the relentless waves of change, and the sometimes divergent choices they present, are introducing unanticipated complications and uncertainties for businesses. These can be referred to as 'digital dilemmas'.

"At a time when 'wait and see' is simply not a viable option for digital transformation, it has become vitally important to understand the implications of rapidly developing business and technology environments. This requires enterprises to identify their digital dilemmas and resolve them in ways that ensure that appropriate decisions are made," says Tabanon.

"As the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds become increasingly blurred, it is imperative to rethink the ways that we perceive and interact with evolving and emerging technologies, such as edge and swarm computing, next-generation architectures, quantum computing, perceptive media and, of course, cyber security."

The essence of digital dilemma resolution, continues Tabanon, can be summed up with two simple questions: 'could we?' and 'should we?' After all, the theoretical possibilities of what can be achieved with the application of digital technologies simply has to be reconciled with an ideals-driven perspective regarding what is appropriate for real-world implementation.

"Ultimately, the failure to recognise or respect the need to balance the real-world versus digital-world tensions will lead to undesirable business outcomes. For example, business models that should be value-creating are instead considered to be invasive, or rather than being positively disruptive, they become exploitative. In a similar way, real-world innovations in digital technology that fail to deliver against expectations often end up being viewed as over-hyped.

"Moreover, as billions of objects and people connect to the IOT, a new paradigm of computing systems will emerge that will lead to the creation of an intelligent and collaborative computing continuum. This new paradigm will present serious challenges for organisations, and the only viable way to effectively manage edge and swarm environments will be through high levels of automation and trust, along with more efficient operational models."

By 2022, Tabanon says, certain elements of computing will already have made the transition from classical to quantum, presenting a whole new range of possibilities and challenges. In the 'could we, should we' scenario, this is a completely unpredictable unknown, so we have to ask whether we should dare to boldly go where no computer has gone before?

"Another digital dilemma is the fact that the hyper-connected society we will have by 2022 will also drastically impact the risk and security landscape. This will demand a cognitive cyber security approach to protect individuals, businesses and critical infrastructure."

It is clear, continues Tabanon, that the speed and scale of impact that digital technologies will have on business and society in the next few years will demand a new level of corporate responsibility, one that anticipates both the long- and short-term implications of their enterprise strategies.

"Potentially the best way of overcoming these dilemmas is for businesses to realise that they cannot think in terms of a 'one-shot' digital transformation; instead, these companies will need to operate in a state of constant flux, innovation and reinvention."

"In the end, with technology driving disruptive change at breakneck speed, adaptability and ethics become the essence of survival. To remain competitive, employees, organisations and society need to learn to adapt quickly to new models, tools, processes and organisational structures, and equally, to use these ethically," concludes Tabanon.

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