Will We Become Obsolete?

Digital Leaders

Next week, in Abu Dhabi, we will be launching our new ‘Digital Leaders’ elective class on the Strathclyde Business School MBA programme. A key focus of the class is Digital Darwinism defined by Brian Solis as a situation where technology and society evolve faster than our ability to adapt. There are already a large number of organisations who have become, or are becoming, digital dinosaurs due to their failure to adapt to emerging technologies.

Two recent blog articles serve as a timely reminder that individuals, as well as organisations, run the risk of becoming digital dinosaurs.

Paul Demery, in a post on the Internet Retailer Portal summarising a recent Forrester report entitled ‘Death of a (B2B) Salesman’, argues that a million sales reps in the US, 22% of the total, could lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020.

The main reason for this is changing buyer behaviour with 75% of B2B buyers stating that buying from an e-commerce site is more convenient that buying from a sales rep; 93% stated that their preference is to buy online.

Most of the lost jobs, according to the report, will be among sales reps involved in basic order processing. Reps offering higher-end services to help buyers in large corporations order complex products and systems will fare better.  Estimated job losses for four main types of rep are as shown below:

  • Order takers – who generally process orders that customers could easily place through online self-service. Job loss: 33%, or close to 550,000 out of 1.6 million jobs.
  • Explainers – who provide buyers with more information about complex products. Job loss: 25%, or close to 400,000 out of 1.5 million jobs.
  • Navigators – who help buyers understand what their own companies need to purchase. Job loss: 15%, or close to 150,000 out of 900,000 jobs.
  • Consultants – who have extensive knowledge about the buyer’s company to help the buyer understand what her company needs to purchase. Job gain: 10%, to 550,000 from 500,000.

While the report is based on US data, we are likely to see similar trends in other developed nations.

You can read the full article here.

In a second article, published by the Huffington Post, Josh Bersin, from Deloitte, discusses a new SAP/Oxford Economics report which shows that the number one issue we face as employees is obsolescence of our own skills. Half of all respondents stated that the skills they have now are not what will be needed in three years time.

According to the author, a non-exhaustive list of skills becoming obsolete would include the following:

  • Software engineering: New tools like Hack or Swift, R, and Hadoop didn’t even exist five years ago. The skills of many data processing professionals, Cobol programmers etc have become dated.
  • Marketing: An understanding of digital presence, social media, persona analysis, and analytics are now essential for marketing professionals. Today if you don’t know Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Analytics, Pinterest, and Facebook you really don’t know how to market your company anymore, according to the author.
  • Engineering: If you work in product design, you have to understand micro-engineering, robotics, software, and the ever-increasing role of mobile, gigahertz RF products, and battery technology.
  • Sales: Where an understanding of mobile tools, CRM, and other technology trends is now essential.
  • Teaching and education: Where technology is disrupting the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ pedagogy (my comment, not the author’s)
  • HR: Where the issues facing HR people today include digital technology, globalization, Millennials, engagement, retention, social learning, social recruiting and so on.

The remainder of the article provides very good advice on how to continuously reinvent yourself.

You can find the full article here.

As usual, all comments and feedback are very welcome.

Are you or your job going to become obsolete?  Do you have the ability and motivation to reinvent?

We look forward to meeting everyone attending the three one day workshops in Abu Dhabi next week. Become a ‘Future Digital Leader’.

Take care.

Jim H

Dr. Jim Hamill

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