The concept of exponential growth is fascinating, desirable, and intimidating — all at the same time.
Take the exponential growth of technological singularity, for instance.
Singularity is the tipping point where computing intelligence outpaces the human brain. Computers and applications are already unbelievably fast, but they’re not yet cognitive. They don’t have the ability to “learn” fast and wide enough to become aware in the same vein as human consciousness.
But they’re getting pretty close.
Technological advances in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are soon going to take computers from linear growth to exponential growth, and this has serious implications for business.
Our past (and current) models of business and governance will need to adapt to deal with the new levels of productivity, efficiency, and growth.
Technological singularity might very well bring economic singularity along with it.
So, from a technological standpoint, what’s a business to do rightnow? How can we adopt new modes of working to deal with the impending foundational shifts to work as we know it?
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at technology ecosystems — providing examples of existing systems, how tech leaders need to adapt their leadership, and how businesses can implement them to allow their employees to get more done and keep up with the rise of singularity.
The Downside of Singularity
It had to be said — the downside of exponential growth in the capabilities of technology is somewhat ominous.
From a dystopian point of view, if otherworldly efficiency and productivity outpace demand, we could end up with more stuff than is actually possible to consume or buy.
Or, the capabilities of computers could truly replace human workers. Work and compensation are foundational elements to our society, and without purpose or purchasing power, humans could be left in the lurch.
Combine these two scenarios and you have a very bleak outlook.
Is it likely to happen overnight? Absolutely not. Even with recent advances in quantum computing, molecular manufacturing, and AI; we’re not in danger of being replaced by machines anytime soon.
Could it happen eventually? Who knows? It’s difficult to accurately model something like this with so many unknowns.
But, here’s the real question for businesses: Should we sit around and wait for technological singularity to eventually disrupt our work and our way of life? Of course not, and there are things we can do now to increase our chances of adapting to these changes and positively influencing our outcome.
Let’s talk about technology ecosystems.
Implementing an Ecosystem View of Technology
When you think about the traditional role of IT for a business, it’s mostly thought of as a way to protect and maintain systems. Firewalls keep bad actors out of your system and support tickets keep things humming.
Everything inside that little bubble is fine, until it’s not.
One cause of friction within an organization is the interoperability of the tech stacks between departments. Sales has one center (that IT protects and maintains), operations has another, and customer service has yet another. There are some obvious benefits to the appropriate levels of access between these departments, but siloed legacy technology systems can cause issues and impede workflows.
Transitioning from “protected bubbles” of technology to interconnected ecosystems can reduce friction and empower employees to get more done.
What Is a Tech Ecosystem?
A tech ecosystem enables an organization’s ability to take advantage of emerging opportunities. One of the great strengths of a tech ecosystem is its ability to interact with other ecosystems. Take the Internet of Things (IoT) for example. It wouldn’t have any function if it wasn’t able to network between devices.
In business architecture, technology leaders will need to balance the need to pull in emerging external tech while maintaining security. While difficult, it’s necessary to foster innovation and maintain growth.
Why Look at Tech Ecosystems Now?
There are a few key reasons CIOs are evaluating the ecosystem approach more seriously now.
First off is the incredible growth of cloud-based platforms.
The global public cloud services market grew 17.5% in 2019 to total $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018. In the past, it would be far too hardware-intensive to set up multiple ecosystems, network them, and even find space to store them. With cloud infrastructure, CIOs can spin up and scale technology ecosystems rapidly just by paying a bit more per month to their cloud vendor.
Additionally, the rise of software and technology with native application programming interface (API) technology has allowed much easier integration from one ecosystem to the next.
How Do Tech Leaders Move Forward With This Ecosystem Approach?
The proper mindset is key to embracing an ecosystem approach. Tech leaders should be looking for ways to open up IT to external sources via secure integrations. As we’ve written before, the “walled garden” approach to technology creates friction as employees jump around from different applications and environments trying to get their work done, which costs the organization time and money.
CIOs will also need to prioritize innovation (along with security) to ensure they’re able to provide modern environments for their employees to operate in. This means allocating time and resources for experimentation and testing, which can be internal “labs” or outsourced to technology and innovation specialists. Some degree of trial and error is to be expected, but if it’s in the name of innovation, it’s justified.
Security is, and always will be, a primary focus of IT. But as advances bring us closer to technological singularity — and all the changes that will come with it — we must be prepared to adopt new models of IT to survive.
Interested in reading more about digital transformation, efficiency at work, and enterprise technology? Check out our Intelligent Business tag on the Dropbox Sign blog.