In this era of lightning fast technological change there is really no longer any difference between business and IT. The old lines of separation are now blended together in a way that has compelled (or forced in many cases) businesses to become technological in focus and outlook. Technological innovation is indeed a major differentiator today and those who can keep up will win; those who get left behind will lose. It’s that simple!
Disruption is happening so fast that what is relevant today may be outdated in 6 months. Mobile technology, cloud computing, and Big Data are generating new lines of business, new industries, and transforming our very notions of work, life, and progress. In the midst of all this rapid change, professionals are expected to keep up with the “digital workforce” and the implications for the future of business.
Closely aligned with the trends towards digitization, other technological forces are changing the very nature of work. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation, and smart machines are making certain jobs obsolete. In fact, one study suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs may be automated in the next 20 years. Research shows as well that many CEOs are underestimating the systemic and deep impact that smart machines will have through 2020, as well as the potential for them to replace millions of middle-class jobs in the decades to come.
What this all means in essence is the need to keep your technology skills relevant. Have you thought about a plan to keep updated in the age of digitization, smart machines, robots, and other forms of job-outsourcing automation? In what follows, we discuss 3 critical technology skills that entrepreneurs, IT professionals, and business people could stand to benefit from right now.
1. Learn to Code
2. Understand Big Data
Big Data has been huge in recent years but it’s only going to get bigger as we see more and more of Internet of Things arrive on the scene. As one source describes, “It is taking internet to another level: connecting things and making sense of the data coming in, while sending actions back out to optimize things.” With more and more devices going online, businesses today will truly have a flood of data to access and try to use to maximize their bottom line. Companies of all shapes and sizes really need to gain mastery of how to collect, prepare, analyze, and visualize various types of data (structured, semi-structured, and unstructured).
What this means for the everyday business professional is the need to understand something about Big Data and how it works. It doesn’t mean becoming a data scientist, but if that interests you the opportunities are readily available. The technology revolution in mobile, cloud, collaboration, and Big Data in recent years has extended to education, and thanks to MOOC platforms like Udacity and their new Nanodegree option, anyone with the discipline and determination can train to become a junior Data Analyst in less than 12 months.
3. Develop facility with Machine Learning and AI
Some of the biggest disruptions in the world of technology to impact our lives in the coming decades will come from applications in machine learning. Machine learning is a practical form of artificial intelligence (AI) and represents the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. The field of machine learning has gained momentum in recent years through the confluence of new open source and cross-collaboration capabilities, along with the commoditization of new digital technologies.
When we think of modern applications, consider intelligent personal assistants like Google Now and Apple Siri; smart advisors like IBM Watson; and autonomous vehicles like driverless cars and Amazon’s fleet of delivery drones called Prime Air. All of these are essentially forms of “smart machines” that will dramatically disrupt businesses and society in the years ahead. In fact, Gartner is even saying that “the smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT.” Again, MOOCs like Coursera and Udacity offer introductory courses in machine learning and artificial intelligence that are great and low cost ways to help interested individuals to get introduced to these fascinating and impactful technologies.
Understanding and leveraging digital technology is a new business imperative today. It’s not an option or a nice-to-have. The convergence over the last 5 years of mobile, cloud, and collaboration has led to new types of customer engagements, new ways of using technology to meet customers where they are, and new business models. The impacts on the jobs of the future will be staggering and business professionals today need to be prepared as things continue to change rapidly.
As businesses of all stripes become increasingly technological in scope and outlook, professionals also need to keep their technology skills updated and relevant. We’ve outlined 3 critical areas that are in high demand today and that can make a difference in your own professional trajectory in the years ahead. This doesn’t mean you have to stage a major career change, but just recognize there are ample resources available for learning and growing in your present situation.
And, of course, if you happen to be near the Bay Area, you can always drop by the Silicon Valley Innovation Center and participate in any number of lectures or executive education programs in such cutting-edge topics as technology and business innovations, design thinking, digital marketing, startups funding, and lots more.