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Business leaders differ in vision of future, study says

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As machines and automation become more widespread in the world, opinions are divided over their impact on humans, said a study commissioned by Dell Technologies.

More than half (58%) of 3,800 global business leaders surveyed from Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) forecast that automated systems will free up their time, while the remainder believe otherwise. Similarly, 48% believe they will have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading tasks to machines, while the others disagree.

The study found more APJ leaders predicting this impact on their work and business compared to their global counterparts but APJ businesses appear less prepared and more concerned about how to compete.

The research, conducted by Vanson Bourne, was part of Dell Technologies’ vision into the future, Realising 2030: The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships. It forecast by 2030, emerging technologies will forge human partnerships with machines that are richer and more immersive than ever before, that helps humans surpass their limitations.

Most business leaders (80%) in the region expect humans and machines to work as integrated teams within their organisation inside of five years. However, their views were divided over whether this represents an opportunity or a threat:

  • 52% said the more we depend on technology, the more we will have to lose in the event of a cyber attack; 48% are not concerned;
  • 53% of business leaders called for clear protocols in the event that autonomous machines fail; almost half abstained;
  • 49% said computers will need to decipher between good and bad commands; 51% do not see a need.

“You can understand why the business community is so polarised,” said Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer, Dell Technologies. “There tends to be two extreme perspectives about the future: the anxiety-driven issue of human obsolescence or the optimistic view that technology will solve our greatest social problems.

“There differing viewpoints could make it difficult for organisations to prepare for a future that is in flux and would hamper leaders’ efforts to push through necessary change,” he said.

While organisations across APJ are transforming their IT to enable future innovation and the best possible customer experience, business leaders need to address cultural barriers, too. “Organisations have to build the right culture to collaborate, embrace change, and align on how best to prepare and succeed,” said David Webster, president, APJ enterprise, Dell EMC.

“APJ is the epicentre for innovation in AI and IoT,” said Amit Midha, president, APJ commercial, Dell EMC. “There is a significant expectation riding on the positive impact emerging technology can bring, particularly to the region’s cities. Despite the business leaders’ perceived lack of readiness, technology and innovation leadership will be integral to overcoming the transformational challenges ahead.”

61% of respondents speculated that schools will need to teach how to learn rather than what to learn, to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist. This corroborates IFTF’s forecast that 85% of jobs in 2030 have not been invented yet.

Many businesses are not moving fast enough and going deep enough to overcome common barriers to operating as a successful digital business. Only 25% of businesses believe they are leading the way; 44% do not know if they can compete over the next decade. A majority (63%) are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

The main barriers to becoming a successful digital business in 2030 and beyond in APJ are:

  • Lack of digital vision and strategy (66%)
  • Lack of workforce readiness (63%)
  • Technology constraints (50%)
  • Time and money constraints (37%)
  • Law and regulations (20%)

The study also the respondents united in the need to transform. A vast majority said they are well on their way to transforming within five years in the following areas:

  • Have effective cybersecurity defences in place (93%)
  • Deliver their product offering as a service (90%)
  • Complete their transition to a software-defined business (89%)
  • R&D to drive their organisation forward (83%)
  • Delivering hyper-connected customer experiences with virtual reality (82%)
  • Using AI to pre-empt customer demands (82%)

“Based on the many conversations I have with customers, I believe we’re reaching a pivotal moment in time,” said Burton. “Businesses can either grasp the mantle, transform their IT, workforce and security and play a defining role in the future or be left behind.”

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