The key to longevity in the business world is the ability to adapt. Show me a company that has been in business for decades, and I’ll show you a company that has reinvented its processes, strategy, management heirarchy and many other things about itself, many times over. So, how will the successful business have to adapt in the near future? Today we look at 3 major changes that are coming to the way that companies operate — the move to, and exploitation of, video/integrated video, new methods of collaboration, and the empowerment of younger workers.

Move to video/integrated video

Think back over a decade ago, back to a time when the internet was in its infancy, a time when a 5,200 bps telephone connection was lightning fast! Remember what the web was like back then? Let me remind you. A photograph could take minutes to appear, streaming music an exercise in frustration, and video — well video was a pipe dream several years off.

Now fast forward to the present, where internet video is ubiquitous and is now being used to literally transform businesses. In a recent Financial Times article, AT&T vice-president of global marketing LLoyd Salvage offered up an unbelievable statistic. 40% of all ATT&T’s network traffic is now composed of video. Much of this is probably downloading and streaming of films, video games, and other such fare, but a large portion of it is coming from companies that are using video (both stand alone and integrated) to transform their companies. Mr. Salvage illustrated his point with a first hand example. He recently decided that a meeting of his global marketing team (naturally located all over the world) would make more sense using the company’s video conferencing technology. Holding the meeting using the video conferencing system saved ATT&T $17,841.00 in travel expenses. Just a few years ago, the video conference would have been the more expensive option. As broadband becomes faster, cheaper and more common, this trend will continue, perhaps supplanting the business trip all together.

Collaboration

Big change number 2. Business relationships take on a new meaning when stakeholders can actively engage one another. Social networking is transforming society (if you are the parent of a teenager, you already know this), and business networking will be (and already is) changing the way businesses function. And this collaboration is not limited to just inside the company. The successful corporation of the future will take advantage of collaboration among its own subsidiaries, departments and employees. But inter-company collaboration is just one part of the equation. Networks will also provide opportunities for company-supplier, company-partner, company-customer, and even company-competitor give-and-take.

Empowerment of youth

Who is most comfortable with the new technologies that faster connections and social networking have spawned? Probably not a CEO in his sixties, nor even a manager in his forties. No, the biggest winners in the future will be those corporations that accept that the younger generation understands these things better than their elders. Young people are much more likely to trust (and use) networks and are much more open to collaboration than their elders. Corporations that understand and harness this potential will have a distinct advantage over competitors with the business-as-usual attitude. Don Tapscott, author of the book Grown up Digital, boldly advises companies to “Listen to young people. Put them in the driver’s seat alongside you when designing work spaces, processes, management systems and collaborative working models.” Know any executives ready to heed that advice?

Pitfalls and pratfalls

But with all this opportunity comes danger. What if the client prefers a handshake and a business dinner to the impersonal video conference? Collaboration can work both ways. In order to cooperate, information must be shared, and not all collaboration is good (take a look at some of the more disasterous online marketing campaigns that utilized user-generated content). And younger workers may be more able to use new technologies to the advantage of the company, however, their carefree attitude towards information could turn into a big liability if not held in check.

I’d like to know:

(1) Have you ever attended a company meeting using internet video? Tell us about your experience.

(2) Does your company use social networking tools for collaborative projects? Which ones and how effective are they?

(3) Do you believe older executives will be able to accept the empowering of the “Net Generation”?