At this time of year, there are all kinds of top 10 prediction lists highlighting the trends shaping the 12 months ahead. As I’ve done every year since 2014, rather than compiling a list, I’m making a single half-baked prediction of what will dominate the enterprise tech scene.
For the coming year, 2022, the key trend will be “hybrid”. it means hybrid all — cloud engagements, workplace amenities, workforce, vehicles, databases, education, commerce, and conferences. The hybridization of our world has been bubbling for years, but the Covid crisis has aggressively pushed everything to the digital side of the column. But there’s still a lot of energy in the analog or physical side of things, and we’ll see more of that as the Covid situation recedes.
More importantly, we are seeing the emergence of the hybrid leader – seeing people and organizations through digital transformation, while helping colleagues learn, grow and thrive. The hybrid leader knows how to look inward as well as outward, being almost obsessed with delivering a superior customer experience. Technology professionals and leaders learn and adapt to speak the language of business, while business professionals and leaders learn and adapt to understand the power of technology.
We are becoming a hybrid world, not just out of necessity, but also as a reflection of the choices available to us. It’s about options, and it’s about expanding its offerings – and its horizons – to meet the needs of people and organizations in a polymorphic world. The key to moving forward in the coming year is to be a hybrid leader – with knowledge in a professional or technical area, as well as broader skills such as teamwork and empathy.
Let’s break down some of the things being hybridized:
- Work places: Work from anywhere (not just home), whenever you want.
- Workforce: Diversity will increase as global working becomes the norm. Additionally, organizations will operate on hybrid teams of contractors, freelancers, and consultants.
- The partners: Companies will rely on confederations of entrepreneurs for services and supplies rendered, as well as innovators connected through platforms, adding value to products and services brought to market.
- Job: With the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, there will be more sharing of tasks between humans and machines. AI, robots and machines will take care of the tedious, high-volume work, while the human work will be higher and higher as innovators and team.
- Clients: Customers will increasingly use multiple channels and make product or service choices through more immersive experiences such as augmented reality. In addition, customers represent many different cultures and regions of the world.
- Systems: The cloud has been part of information technology for quite some time now, it will only accelerate. At the same time, there are many “legacy” systems, loaded with full programming logic, which still work fine, thank you.
- Devices: From traditional PCs and terminals (yes, they’re still in use) to tablets and mobile phones, employees do their jobs on a range of devices, and even switch between devices.
- Conferences and events: It started in earnest in 2021 – the coming year will be defined by hybrid experiences, with both in-person participation and opening up to global audiences to view streaming presentations.
- Education and formation: Learning opportunities are offered virtually, either through corporate training services, third-party training companies, educational institutions, or web-based offerings. Managers and professionals will build their portfolios through a hybrid learning experience that can include a college degree with follow-up coursework, over their lifetime, from many sources.
What does it take to be a hybrid leader for the coming hybrid era? To manage and succeed in the emerging hybrid world of 2022, executives and professionals must keep their eyes and minds open for new opportunities. Today’s leaders must be facilitators, collaborators and coaches. They must be comfortable with technology, both for their personal productivity and for the advancement of the business.
For more perspective on the leadership style emerging in 2022, we asked Manish Sharma, Group Managing Director, Accenture Operations, for his perspective:
Think big: “One of my favorite ambitious quotes says, “The great danger for most of us is not in setting our goal too high and failing; but too low and on track to achieve our goal,” says Sharma. “Stretching our imagination and the limits of what we can achieve is the only way to discover what might be possible. More than ever, this is what differentiates today’s leaders and preparing an organization for the future.
Keep the human touch in technology: “When done right, technology empowers people and improves experiences – a service feels simple, we have access at our fingertips, interactions are consistent across every touchpoint,” says Sharma. “It starts with transforming the way work is done between people, processes and technology, so that we augment people more effectively.”
Keep thinking critically: Effective application of critical thinking and problem-solving skills “rely on having access to the right information at the right time,” says Sharma. “Think of the current supply chain disruption: carefully choreographed for efficiency, but shuts down when it exceeds capacity, especially with no visibility into the state of affairs or what lies ahead.”
Recognize the power of diversity: “Every leader’s goal should be to create a system that works for everyone – and to reach out to uplift those around us who go unnoticed,” Sharma insists. “Leaders need to create a culture where everyone feels they can speak up if they see shortcomings or if we haven’t done the right thing. In my experience, this only happens when a person feels comfortable and believes in the leader’s ability to make the necessary adjustments.