By the end of the decade, every company will be a software company, predicts Robert Tercek, business futurist and digital media pioneer. We’re entering a new era defined by data and information. It’s catalyzing an evolution of the workforce. Entire business models and processes are changing, blown wide open by the forces of the internet. And most of us aren’t prepared for the impact.
Tercek – who has worked at the forefront of this change for more than 20 years helping big, global corporations and small bleeding-edge startups master the transition – believes “we are moving toward a more flexible, evolving, editable, participatory, responsive and inclusive digital economy. Those are the attributes of software, and increasingly, the attributes of organizations defined by software.”
Until now, we’ve tended to treat IT companies as distinct and disparate from the more traditional companies – those that make, manufacture, distribute and sell things. But the boundaries are blurring. IT firms, with their specialties in software and data, are pervading other industries, reshaping not just businesses, but also governments, civic institutions, education systems and even national economies.
As Tercek points out, there are signs of transformation across every sector (Google’s self-driving car is one example). It’s what he calls “vaporization” – a concept he dissects in his book, “Vaporized: Solid Strategies of Success in a Dematerialized World” (TreeLife Media, 2015) and discusses in a recent Forbes interview and podcast.
The idea is simple: we’re increasingly replacing “things” with information. Consider the music business. By and large, consumers fell out of the habit of buying CDs; physical music has been replaced by digital versions of songs. Same goes for maps, board games, and video cameras and voice recorders. But the process of turning things into software isn’t limited to products we can buy.
“There’s no upper limit on what can be replaced and reimagined by software,” explains Tercek in an article featured in Leader to Leader magazine. “Every part of the business process is up for grabs. Software visionaries have proposed the replacement of entire corporations with cloud-based robotic software programs, and have already unleashed competition for universities in the form of online learning programs. Next up: software substitutes for stock markets, contracts, notarized documents, and regulations.”
Simply put, software is shaping the future of business. No industry or job is exempt from the transformation. Today, business leaders must view the entire economy as a canvas for reinvention, in which products and process can be redesigned and reprogrammed as software. It’s contentious; the challenges and opportunities are equally incredible. But they’re also urgent, warns Tercek. The “invisible economy” of software is growing twice as fast.
His best advice for leaders: “Take action now. Become well-versed in digital change. Don’t relegate it to a separate department or throw it over the fence for others to solve. You must master it.”