Our Chief Executive Officer and Institute of Directors Fellow, Scott McGlinchey, tells industry commentator Bill Magee that companies must be aware of technological change that arises gradually - rather than suddenly - and what this can mean to their trading environment. Also, to beware the boiling frog!

It was predicted in the late ‘90s that the advent of e-commerce and the internet would revolutionise the retail market. Bricks and mortar would no longer be the asset they once were and consumers would switch their buying habits away from the high street and onto the emerging retail platforms available on the web.

Convenience, the ability to shop at any time from any place (and globally too)  would reduce the traditional market share of high street brands and local traders. One of the first such platforms was Amazon and it’s fair to say it has revolutionised the retail market.

Notably, Amazon is now also a world leader offering Cloud-based digital services across the globe – it has exploited its own technology capability for others to take advantage off. It’s fair to say, as the years passed, most people probably felt that there were a good mix of high street shops and internet-based retail shops.

However, in the last five years, with the soaring costs of maintaining a presence on the high street, the reality of internet shopping slowly eroding high street trading is finally hitting home. The High Street, as we know it, is dying – or at least radically changing.

Perhaps this is some 15 years later than first predicted but many retailers now are struggling from this vastly increased internet-based trade and the change in consumer buying which also reflects today’s social trends. So, can we draw a lesson from this change catalysed by large technology change?

I think we can. My prediction is that we are in an era where new transformational technologies such as Voice, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Agile Software Development and Cloud based technologies will have a major impact on businesses over the next 5-10 years similar to that impact experienced by retailers now, but quicker.

This change will extend beyond retailers to banks, health services, utility providers and many other commercial enterprises.

In fact, there are not many areas that will not be impacted. My advice is to ensure that your business does not become the boiling frog that Charles Handy featured in the book The Age of Unreason.

His premise being that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked, slowly. So be aware of technology change that arises gradually rather than suddenly – be aware of the change in your trading environment and above all, don’t be a boiled frog!

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