A generation ago, CEOs and executives planned an organization's entire roadmap. Sensitive data were stored in file cabinets and vulnerable servers. Lifelong employees calculated nest eggs that were tucked away in company-funded retirement accounts.

Things have changed in the world's most dynamic and innovative economy.

Companies are empowering front-line managers and workers who deal directly with customers and suppliers. Second, a globally-connected internet puts data at risk, which requires better security. And more people than ever are joining the gig economy, which requires an entrepreneurial spirit, flexibility, and telecommuting.

Today's business practices are therefore more fluid. Here are three macro trends that are shaping the business world.

1. Data Privacy and Security

What people are now realizing is that what they shared or published on the web has been gathered, and can potentially be used against them.

Today's businesses must adapt to consumers' preference for data privacy and security: 81% say they've become more concerned about how companies use their data, and 75% say they've become less likely to trust companies with personal info, according to a Feb. 2019 survey by IBM's Institute for Business Value.

There are two key trends. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, and secondly, regulators are doing more to ensure that Facebook, Google, and other platforms protect people's information.

However, data security is only as good as an organization's ability to identify and solve emerging threats. That gives blockchain another use-case: It's extremely difficult for hackers to manipulate or alter records via a 51% attack on the network.

2. Decentralization

The 2008 Financial Crisis evaporated trust in government and too-big-to-fail institutions. Only 17% of Americans trust Washington D.C., according to an April 2019 survey by Pew Research.

Decentralization is an antidote to system-wide failure because it reduces or eliminates reliance on central authorities and third parties.

Take an approach like Algorand's. It's a high-throughput blockchain whose transaction volume can match large payment processors. But unlike Visa or MasterCard, it's all decentralized which means individual nodes validate a transaction and irreversibly record it on the blockchain.

The decentralized infrastructure is carving impossible-to-ignore inroads in the worlds of finance, real estate, and more. As a high-throughput network, Algorand can support mass adoption, enterprise use-cases, large-scale payment processing, and borderless settlements. All without relying on massive institutions capable of making economy-level blunders.

3. Gig Workers

In the old days, employees worked their whole life for a major company, and accumulated a comfortable pension and/or nest egg. But globalization has forced enterprises to lower cost structures. Thus, companies have had to hire a more agile workforce.

Agility doesn't necessarily mean more job security or financial stability. With pressures from cheap labor, as well as inflation, the result has been to slow the pace of real wage growth.

So how big is the gig economy?

Thirty-six percent (36%) of U.S. workers, or 57 million people, are gig workers, according to an Aug. 2016 survey by Gallup. The trend is also taking place abroad: Gig platforms have grown over 30% in emerging markets.

A gig worker is a freelancer. As independent contractors, they use their own overhead and supplies (e.g. work spaces, equipment, etc.) to deliver work to enterprises. They benefit by creating their own schedules, and by deducting business expenses for tax purposes.

Companies save money by hiring temp or contract workers without the long-term commitment of an employer-employee arrangement. And without the expensive costs of health coverage, payroll taxes, retirement plans, and traditional job benefits.

Change requires flexibility and new game plans. Consumers have less faith in centralized institutions, and also want to protect sensitive data. Moreover, companies are tapping into the gig labor pool to have an agile, cost-effective workforce that can compete in the global marketplace.

Published on: Oct 4, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.