BT predicting future trends to ensure business success and a responsible business agenda

With the development of innovative technologies, the emergence of the Digital Age has created new possibilities for businesses, enabling them to work in very different and advanced ways.

However, what businesses shouldn’t do is simply translate what has traditionally been carried out in the analogue world into the digital era. Businesses have the opportunity to rethink the ways in which they do things to ensure the most effective results for both staff and their clients.

The digital developments that companies implement can imply a lot of change, and staff can be resistant to change. In a world where future business success is defined by a responsible business agenda, it is important that companies communicate these changes with their staff in an effective way to ensure that they feel comfortable and informed about the changes within their organisations. Ultimately, this change starts with responsible digital leadership, which should originate from strong management and direction.

As a futurologist at BT, it is my role to predict future trends and how these can impact upon both SMEs and large corporate organisations. It is crucial that business leaders are aware of the 6 ‘D’s that are shaping the future of work, so that they can adapt their business agendas and can prepare staff in a responsible way.

First, we have the rise of Diversity. An increasingly diverse workforce is desirable because diverse ideas are more likely to generate innovative solutions for businesses. It also means that one size does not fit all anymore, and this trend challenges everything from work patterns to management styles and technology choices.

In addition to this, people tend to want to do things their own way, and this means that saying “no” (a.k.a. the death of Dr No) is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses. This starts with trends such as staff using their own devices and apps in work or even wearing their own devices in the office. The challenge for businesses is making sure that staff are educated in the use of technologies, so that security cannot be breached and so that technology results in unification rather than fragmentation of staff.

Businesses will also have the death of Dolly, which is something that many companies are already experiencing. Essentially, 9am to 5pm business hours will no longer be applicable, as our devices allow us to be ‘always on’. The challenge businesses are beginning to face is actually switching them off to achieve a greater work-life balance.

The death of Dilbert will also be more apparent. As we become untethered from our desks, do we need an office anymore? Are offices becoming key collaboration tools, where we come together and socialise about work? Are our offices designed for that purpose, though, or are they one-size-fits-all environments that fit nobody?

In addition to this is the fact that staff are increasingly working with people they don’t know and never actually meet within their businesses. Therefore, is Distance now dead? When people are strangers, have spent little or no time with each other and have very little in common beyond their ability to connect, can a combination of culture and technology help businesses to create “fast trust” with colleagues?

Finally, we have the much-hyped rise of the Droid. In the future, we may have to consider that our jobs may be taken over by robots. The other school of thought is that perhaps robots are going to make us less like machines and more human.

At BT, I always describe future trend watching as a compass rather than a road map. In other words, the trends that I have outlined should give businesses a general direction rather than an exact path.

Rather than crystal ball gazing, my role at BT is about doing research, exploring possibilities and experimenting to see what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. Making innovation real is the easiest way to bring people along with you in business. Failure, to some degree, is almost inevitable, so failing fast and learning from that failure is vitally important in order to move forward and to get things right to secure the success of businesses in the increasingly digital age.

Dr Nicola Millard from BT will be a guest speaker at the upcoming Responsible Business Awards on 5 October.