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25 years on: the evolution of transformative tech

25 years on: the evolution of transformative tech

4032024 1 - Business ExpressBy Stuart Barker, Senior Director at global business & technology consultancy, Slalom, explores the evolution of innovative technologies over the course of his 25-year career, and the transformative impact they’ve had for businesses.

Most of the technology we use today is a result of the internet, a singularity that transformed the world as we know it. The advent of the internet opened a whole host of opportunities for a range of users, from large organisations to small businesses, right down to each individual.  That, alongside mobile applications, has since propelled demand and expectations from consumers, which has been the driving force behind much of the innovation we see today.

Cloud technology is a great example of this. As Amazon transitioned across from its internet commerce technology and leased it out to businesses, this generated what we know as cloud technology today. Much of this technology has revolved around creating efficiencies for businesses and improving customer experience. However, it has also impacted employee expectations too.

As technology becomes more advanced and sophisticated, employee expectations grow alongside that of consumers, meaning businesses have been facing pressures both internally and externally to continue innovating and provide seamless experiences.

Fast forward to now, the past year has seen the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) which could arguably be considered another singularity, a point in history similar to the introduction of the internet. This has introduced a whole new set of capabilities and is a big disruptor in the way we see and interact with technology.

So, what does the past 25 years look like when it comes to innovative technology and the developments we’ve made, and how does it impact our lives today?

Evolution and impact of innovative technologies

Credit has to be given to the retail industry for being the starting point and a catalyst for the internet revolution. Having seen the opportunities created by this technology, the retail sector was a trailblazer, offering a whole new customer experience, with the banking and financial services shortly following suit as they utilised internet technology to bolster online offerings. The effects of this have continued to deepen over many years, as we now see many mainstream banks are closing the doors to their physical branches and moving, in some cases, almost solely online.

Beyond the disruption of internet technologies, we then moved into another phase, where many people were looking to externalise their digital footprint. This meant creating open application programming interfaces (API) that allow them to do business electronically. Rather than innovation being a constant internal cost for businesses, APIs allowed them to democratise access to their business models and allow them to innovate with third parties. This then quickly became known as the API economy, which was an important catalyst for inspiring collaboration and innovation.

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Over the years we’ve had a number of movements such as distributed computing, the development of service orientated architecture (SOA), the MACH approach, and concepts around composable businesses. All of these moments of technological innovation have contributed to driving organisational change and the agility of businesses. Those ideas, the early movement of agile and extreme programming for small groups of developers, are now more mainstream, with whole organisations talking about agility and how they can maximise it in their organisation.

Coming up to present day, this past year the tech world has been all-consumed by AI, with CEOs ensuring its adoption is high on the agenda. This technology is evolving at a rapid pace and has no signs of slowing down. The current challenge we’re seeing with AI however is avoiding another NFT or blockchain moment; a technology that feels more like a solution looking for a problem. The key for generative AI’s success in particular is securing the business case and value that it can provide.

Businesses need to ask themselves how they can maximise AI and the value it can bring, while making sure they have the robust data sets and infrastructure they need to leverage it effectively. This is why here at Slalom, a lot of the work that we’re doing is very much around the optimisation of that data to ensure it’s in a strong place for businesses to access its full potential, as well as wrapping it with appropriate governance to ensure its use is secure, responsible and representative.

What’s next?

As AI continues to rank high on the agenda of businesses, we’ll no doubt see continued innovation in this space. Much like the internet, which in many cases we’re still managing the impacts of today, AI will be evolving for decades, as we continue to unlock its capabilities and grasp its challenges too. As issues around governance, ethics and data privacy remain a concern, there’s much to still figure out about AI and how we can use it responsibly.

However, once we’re in a position where there’s a very clear direction and advice around all of those areas, the next step is discovering its abilities to accelerate businesses within those guiderails. As regulation continues to develop in this space, we must not stifle innovation in the process, ensuring we strike an appropriate balance. If that balance is not found, we are in danger of innovation happening behind closed doors and as a result, pulling in favour of big tech.

Quantum technology is also on the horizon, another important piece of innovation that has the power to unlock a whole new potential in our computing power, particularly when it comes to AI, a combination that could prove extremely powerful. Unlocking this extra computing power will play a key role in the speed at which AI can process vast quantities of data. Already we’re seeing cloud vendors have a huge uptick in revenue as a result of businesses waking up to generative AI possibilities and looking to get their data in order.

Final thoughts

Over the past 25 years there has been an array of technological innovations that have transformed not only businesses but wider society too. As we see newer innovations such as AI and quantum computing continue to grow and develop, we need to ensure we’re not stifling innovation, but instead, encouraging collaboration while learning from our previous mistakes to ensure we’re using this technology and future technologies to create better tomorrows for all.

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