When looking at the future of technology, it’s essential to have perspective. In other words, the past is prologue. Previous technology inflection points include electricity, which changed the world, and the development of the internet. No one was using the internet 35 years ago, and now there are 4 billion people on the planet and most of them use it.
“Everything we do is impacted by the internet,” said Larry Irving, president and CEO of the Irving Group, a technology-focused consulting firm in DC. And there’s also the virtual internet. Think: video conferencing, distance education, wearable devices to deliver healthcare—it’s all real now, and over the next 20 to 25 years, even more so. “It’ll be ubiquitous, more powerful, more sensitive, and know more about all of us,” said Irving, a keynote speaker at the ASAE Technology Exploration Conference on Tuesday, December 14, at 10 a.m.
A lot of the assumptions about where we need to be, how to run our lives, what our customers want, and how we can better serve them will be upended. Add to that, another generation is coming of age and one of their biggest concerns is saving the planet.
“The ability to be in a virtual space instead of having to be in a physical space is going to be a fundamental change in how we do so much of what we do,” Irving said. There will always be a need for human beings to interact with each other physically, but if you can do that virtually, it creates all kinds of new opportunities.
“What’s going to happen over the next 25 years will be both more powerful and more empowering than the internet was,” Irving said. Because so many people all over the world understand technology, that means an exponentially larger number of people will be involved in the creation of its next iteration. “The next 10 years will dwarf the last 25 in terms of change,” Irving said.
The Customer’s Always First
Most of the world will be connected over the next 20 years as this next evolution of technology happens. “If you’re an association, you’re going to have to make bigger bets on technology, understand it more, and have the capacity to not only interact with people, but know what those interactions mean, and how to respond to them,” Irving said.
That means understanding the customer in unprecedented ways. The competition is more intense, but technology provides the tools that help us know the customer 24/7/365. “It’s a more intimate relationship than it’s ever been before, and it is technology-enabled,” Irving said.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. Beyond understanding the customer, organizations must protect and respect that trust. “Not only do you have to know the customer and have a full understanding of what she wants, you have to make sure you don’t breach her trust in fulfilling your obligation,” Irving said. These days, cybersecurity is mandatory. “If a customer feels like their information isn’t private, you lose that customer,” he said.