According to the pioneering science fiction author William Gibson, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
The opening of the new 55-kilometre Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge might change that. It has certainly made distributing opportunities and enabling forward-looking businesses to integrate and accelerate a lot easier.
That interconnected future received a further boost with the Central Government’s announcement of its Greater Bay Area (GBA) blueprint, which encourages Hong Kong to to “seize new areas of economic growth and improve living standards.”
However, some Hong Kong professionals and businesspeople felt that the blueprint was big on ideas but a little light on specifics about how to achieve them.
There was talk of a push to strengthen the city’s research and development capabilities, and enabling local institutes to enjoy the same level of funding as mainland ones. There will also be help for start-ups.
But, if you ask me for one idea that would make a massive difference for Hong Kong businesses and, ultimately, for the entire GBA, it would have to be intelligence. Or, more accurately, the Intelligent Enterprise.
Intelligent technologies will drive tomorrow’s economy
The Intelligent Enterprise was one of the most talked about topics at last year’s SAP SAPPHIRE NOW conference. And for good reason. For a start, advances in machine learning are enabling algorithms to become highly accurate at understanding natural language and in image and speech recognition.
That may sound a bit “Star Trek,” but I can assure you there are genuine practical benefits. Businesses can use these sophisticated capabilities to drive intelligent business-processes automation to an entirely new level and actually do what technology has been promising for decades – eliminate repetitive manual tasks.
That’s the theory. And, until recently, that kind of innovation was an expensive and difficult proposition. Not anymore. It can now be implemented far more cost-effectively, because it is embedded more and more within business processes.
All of which means that employees – which are usually an enterprise’s most expensive valuable asset – will no longer be bogged down in minutiae. Instead, they’ll be freed up to focus on high-value activities like customer success, strategic planning, and innovation.
More than the sum of its parts
That’s isn’t the end of the Intelligent Enterprise story. Not by a long chalk.
Ubiquitous connectivity and edge computing are creating a step-change in business productivity. Coupled with artificial intelligence and machine learning, it can be used to analyse petabytes of data and affect real business outcomes.
IoT can connect the entire value chain, from design to production to supply chain, and data-driven insights of customer preferences can inspire better design, lower material costs, and reduce risk.
And real-time analysis of machines can predict even maintenance needs, identify potential quality problems in manufacturing processes before they occur, and reduce asset downtime by as much as 50%.
Adding it all up
That all sounds great. But, in the great scheme of things, why does it matter? The simple answer is economics.
The global growth we’ve seen over the last decade has been powered largely by technology. Record corporate profits and new business models can all be tied directly to technology-driven innovation.
You can actually see it happening in real-time. Just look at the S&P 500 list, where on average one company being replaced every two weeks. This “tumble rate” is accelerating. The difference the between winners and losers essentially boils down to one thing – their ability to effectively embrace digital technologies.
Focussed on the future
It’s too early to tell if the GBA blueprint will be the success everyone is hoping for. But one thing is certain – it will create a shift in market dynamics, which will require the new skills and capabilities.
Intelligent Enterprises already have those, enabling them to take full advantage of opportunities in and outside the GBA, and stay ahead of the game in a world where constant disruption is the status quo.
As William Gibson might say, Intelligent enterprises are not yet evenly distributed. But, for Hong Kong, the rest of the GBA, and the world, they are definitely the future!