This impact, and the evolution of technology, is profound, perhaps more so than any change that has taken place before. The World Economic Forum has labelled this the “fourth industrial revolution” and it is transforming our business environment beyond all recognition. Even now, the iPhone is celebrating only its 10th anniversary. Technology that many of us could not have comprehended even five years before it was released is now something that most 12-year-olds will take to school each day.
The impact of these changes is significant; however, I don’t think the gravity of it has dawned on most of us yet. The World Economic Forum predicts that the transforming labour markets will lead to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major economies by 2020. That’s only 2 ½ years away! Although jobs will be created in specialised areas that relate to the development and implementation of new technology, these will be dwarfed by the jobs lost through redundancy and automation.
And we circle back to the closure of Holden’s manufacturing plant last week. Car manufacturing, once entirely manual, is now almost fully automated. The business environment in Australia could not make the ongoing manufacture of cars in this country viable, and a staple of our manufacturing industry (and some say our national identity!) is lost.
The challenge for us as business owners is how we respond and adapt to these changes. This was once a train we could hear in the distance, then something we could only see approaching us, but is now bearing down on us and is unstoppable.
So how do we respond?
As I see it, businesses (including professional services firms) have a few choices:
- We can stick to the same path and simply look at maintaining or improving the processes we have always used. A risky option, but some would say there is merit in staying connected with what has worked in the past.
- The second option takes you down the pure technology path (e.g. online service providers). The client becomes a “do-it-yourselfer” and relies purely on automated systems to provide services. You could argue this is the way society will function in the future, but it’s difficult to envisage a world where there is no human touch.
- Road three – which is the path Redchip is pursuing – is a combination of the best practices from both approaches. We are automating processes that are driving operational efficiencies and improving client service, but overlaying that with deep business expertise and strong relationships with our clients and broader networks.
Personal interaction remains a cornerstone of how Redchip delivers our services. While computers and robots can do great things, they are built on a binary code to follow instructions and process data. They don’t yet have the ability to “think outside the square” as only a human brain can, or to look for the hidden opportunity and balance both risk and reward.
Ultimately, I believe technology will augment (not replace) professional service providers. The key is how the strategies we adopt work in partnership with emerging technologies.
We have a deep interest in understanding and navigating the intersection of technology and business, the opportunities and challenges it presents, as well as the overarching application of the law and regulation.