For one thing, most of today's businesses won't be around in 2020 -- 71% of them will fail within 10 years, according to Statistic Brain. To survive, all businesses will need to be highly agile and collaborative; in other words, they will all need to be social.
Today, social companies are aggressively outsourcing every function that's not strategic or mission critical. Forrester Research predicts that most central IT departments will disappear by 2020 as IT functions move into other business departments, while Dick Csaplar of Aberdeen predicts the end of data centers. (VMware CEO Paul Gelsinger begs to differ, arguing that "people who say put everything into the cloud have never met a highly regulated customer.") Software-as-a-service has already begun eliminating the traditional role of IT: For example, professionals now turn directly to the cloud for applications such as email, CRM, backup and even system management.
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CIOs, meantime, will survive this revolution but take on vastly different roles. "The CIO will play the role of orchestrator and integrator of external services and service providers instead of internally building and owning such applications directly, while at the same time directing more front-end, customer-facing work," says Forrester Research Director Christopher Mines. In general, effective CIOs will take responsibility for turning innovation into business value.
CIOs won't be the only ones adjusting to new responsibilities. By the year 2020, the entire notion of a company employee will change. Google CEO Eric Schmidt thinks that within five years, computers might be able to pass the Turing test, indicating that a machine's intelligence is indistinguishable from a human's. Computers, some predict, will be powerful enough to simulate the human brain. Optimistically, these new levels of computing power will augment the insight and creativity of employees rather than replace them.
Because successful businesses will depend more than ever on the quality of their employees, the HR department will be pivotal. Recruiters are already looking at potential employees' social media presence and Google search results rather than just traditional resumes. By 2020, employees will rely on continually available, real-time performance feedback using gamification concepts such as badge incentives rather than just the dreaded annual performance review. Professional development will make increasing use of interactive training and massive open online courses.