Consumer Technology enables SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION

Consumers enable SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION in Technology. As I walked around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I could see how the technology will “bubble up” into business and into enterprises quickly. Initially, technology came from business to consumers – think PCs. The sheer size of consumer market, hunger for new functionality, and its willingness to put up with beta releases makes the consumer world the ideal proving ground for the less fault tolerant enterprise world. Companies that span both world can leverage the consumer world for its SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION and bubble those innovations into the enterprise world for higher profits.

Drones are an example of bubbling up. While they started in the military, they are now a big segment of the consumer market. Drones or autonomous flying vehicles have been improving including automated stabilization, 4K cameras, enhanced flying times, etc. Many of them have dozens of computers on board and some rather impressive programming to make them simple to use. First it was movies, then multi-million dollar homes and now you see mid-market homes with drone footage. It has become a toy for teenagers, too.

Due to the wide-spread usage of drones in the consumer market, they are vastly improved and far less expensive. One of the leader’s in the industry (Drone Market Map)( https://www.droneii.com/top20-drone-company-ranking-q3-2016)), DJI’s basic drone is just under $500, flys for ~25 mins, includes GPS tracking, tracks subjects based photo recognition using a 1080 camera for photos and stills. Lots of knock offs are even cheaper.  “Toy Drones” are just $50! Five years ago, the DJI basic drone would have been a top of the line $5K drone, if even available.

Part of the attractiveness of the consumer world is scale. The other factor is that the consumer world is filled with willing beta testers and relatively low liability costs. The consumer world is an agile one where cycles occur very quickly. A typical enterprise development cycle is 18 months. In the same time in the consumer world, you’d see a major hardware, firmware, and at least 30+ releases of software.

The demand for new and the tolerance for risk is high in the consumer market. Recent releases of drones from reputable consumer companies come with lots of complaints on the internal boards of them not flying well, not following waypoints, and simply flying away. In the business world, failure to perform would be a breach of contract and might result in loss of property or life. In the consumer world, the drone manufacturer can just send a firmware update, a letter, a coupon, award you status on their web site as hero or pioneer, or at worst – replace the drone. It’s a trivial price enabling those dipping into the consumer world to advance faster than those in the business world.

While scale makes the money, it is the willing beta tester that enables advancement. Haven’t you signed up to be a beta or an alpha tester. I know I am for many of IBM’s early release programs. We have marvelous internal site called “Technology Adoption Program” where individuals submit their software inventions. Many have become key enablers of IBM’s business. They grew up fast by being adopted and depended on by IBM’s business.

What else might bubble up? Virtual Reality has real possibilities for training. Augmented Reality with heads up displays and glasses will be welcomed the field. Giving schematics, UV and Infrared vision, and more to workers. What will make it become easily affordable and useful – another Pokemon Go that plays with glasses pushing it onto millions of users’ foreheads.

3D printing is coming of age, but I can see point where 25% of households have plastics printer and your hardware store has a metal one. No inventory of 500K parts – just print it. Lots more like LED lights, Home Automation, Sports Fitness, etc. will bubble up.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be the biggest winner from the bubble up effect of the consumer. The key to AI is having huge knowledge base or corpus and lots of training. Where better than the consumer market with a potential of 7 billion users – the population of the world – to train your AI. Whether it is Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Watson, or Google, these companies’ AI programs will benefit from the consumer training it. You get a voice interface and they get you to train their AI.

What do you think will be the next big bubble up technology from the consumer world to the enterprise world?

 

 

Saving $1.8T but at what cost? and do we have a choice?

We continue to automate and improve business systems. I’ve spent my whole career improving business efficiency. Each time we do so, we mostly disrupt lower level service jobs and now some medium level professional jobs. We do this because making a business more efficient, effective, and cost competitive keeps that business ahead of its competition.

The recent article by CIO Insight “How Repetitive Tasks Waste $1.8 Trillion” made me consider the consequences, both bad and good. That $1.8 Trillion amounts to a lot of people’s jobs. The downside is elimination will be the elimination of jobs. I once recall discussing how we were going to put in telephonic automation for the service desk when someone said “you know, we just fired 300+ people.” We observed about 30 seconds of silence, swallowed hard, and then finished our task of designing the solution. It was going to happen regardless as most of their competitors had already eliminated large human level 1 service desks. Now we are observing the impact of readily available cloud wiping out many small and medium data center and application support people’s jobs. I’m certainly not against cloud solutions. IoT, Mobile, and SaaS solutions all stem from basic cloud capability and are creating NEW job markets and careers.

Jobs are both a way wage along with an identity for most of us, so I take it personally and seriously. I’ve done both the laying off of people and been laid off. Neither is fun. After I had to lay off my staff, I was physically ill and just thinking about it gives me the chills. I was able to get the best of them lined up with new job opportunities. No one wants to be told they are no longer needed and can be discarded.

To the positive, people can be moved to new jobs. The best companies work with their people to find them jobs that can help the company grow. As individuals, we all need to be on the look out for the possibility we’ll be disrupted by new technologies. There is no job that is immune entirely. Hands on trades people are probably the least susceptible, but even they must learn new skills constantly to stay employed. If you are in job that can be digitized, you need to start planning how to adapt. Your job will be under threat inevitably.

Companies are not social employment agencies and I don’t advocate socialism. I think it is in their best interest to be part of the community, since ultimately it is the community who consumes from them and makes them successful. Companies in capitalistic market that must out compete each other and to do so must make money for the owners / stockholders. In addition, if a company does not continue to move forward ahead of its competition, it will fail and NO ONE will be working for that company.

In the end, the march of improvement and technology is inevitable part of human history. Stopping progress is neither possible or wise. We can and should think about how to do it humanely by recognizing the impact and helping those impacted find ways to be productive members of society. We can use it wisely to improve our conditions as a planet and as human beings.

 

Consultant ≠ Insect

A Heinlein classic.

Looking for inspiration for slogging through a bunch of methodology reviews on gray, wet day, I went and found my favorite definition of consulting that doesn’t even use bullet points. It was originally from Robert A. Heinlein, so I updated it with great reverence and caution trying to stay close to the original idea, style, and cadence years ago. I also provided the original for fairness.

A Consultant should be able to: Care for clients, take over an account, review employees, rent a car, design an architecture, write a SOW, submit expenses, build a firewall, CPR, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, collaborate, act independently, solve equations, analyze a new problem, SALES, program a computer, order a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. (adopted from Robert A. Heinlein).

The original is below.

A Consultant should be able to: Change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.  (Robert A. Heinlein)

I was honestly pleased when I read this quote that Mr. Heinlein had moved us consultants up the classification schema and above the insects. I hope I can keep his good faith. Of course the world can’t exist without insects, but it would probably make it without consultants.

Oracle & SAP: Please focus on innovation, please, please!

Boxing DogI’m glad to see the SAP, TomorrowNow, Oracle debacle drawing to a close as reported in Forbes.  While we all want to be fairly paid for our innovations and no one wants to be ripped off, we don’t need individuals, leaders, and whole companies spending all their efforts and focus on  suing, counter-suing and legal maneuvers.   I’ve always believed that as soon as you start involving lawyers, you are already losing or at least skimming off your capability.  It is pretty clear to me that TomorrowNow was wrong and SAP owned them, so I’m not arguing the verdict at all, but the huge waste of energy, focus, and innovation.

The recent announcement on the settlement seems reasonable in that it compensates Oracle for damages plus penalties. Forbes reported ‘A three-judge federal bench upheld the judge’s ruling and awarded approximately $357 million in damages, with about $121 million in lost profits for Oracle and $236 million in infringement profit for SAP, stating the previous award was “based on undue speculation.”‘  This is long way from the $1.3B initial reward which was headline worthy.  It also seems large enough to discourage bad behavior and compensates Oracle, or at least their lawyers, fairly.

Putting aside the huge dollars here, can you imagine how much of the Oracle and SAP teams’ energies went into this lawsuit?  What if both companies just focused on building better databases? tools? products? ERP systems? clouds?  It seems when companies get sucked into these types of legal battles, the only winners possible are weaker competitors who can focus on innovation and clients while the big guys “duke it out” in the courts. 

Can SAP and Oracle just go back to creating great products because while you were filing legal briefs, you competition didn’t rest.  Ultimately, the real loser was the consumer who is paying for all the legal overhead and distractions when they buy your products.  So please, please, please, go back to building better mouse traps.  I got lots of mice.

Imagination: The missing 4th dimension of leadership

I’ve noted that there are 4 critical dimensions of leaders: 1) knowledge, 2) communication, 3) execution, and 4) imagination.  While a great deal of emphasis is placed on the first 3, I don’t see enough on imagination.  Imagination is what happens in the space between activities of fact based thought, communicating, and executing plans.  Imagination is our minds running non-linear paths making inconceivable connections conceivable.

Knowledge is fundamental.  It is not just book smarts and subject smarts, but the ability to understand people and organizations.  No business, not even the most technical, is void of people.  Understanding what makes them tick is critical. Certainly you need to know your subject.  There is nothing worse than having a CEO stand up and talk about some new technology and know he doesn’t have clue what he’s talking about.  This is TV anchorman syndrome – Ron Burgundy – “Stay classy” – meaningless drivel.

Communication is critical.  A leader has to be able to convince others in small, medium, and large groups, the population at large that their direction is correct, and even (gulp!) Wall Street.  Today with so many forms of communication and so much of instant, it is a difficult to space to be consistent in your delivery and not get caught off-camera with some inappropriate remark.  How many politicians have been zapped by off-camera, but not off cell phone camera, recording, etc.  Communications becomes a 24 x 7 job.  It is no wonder it often forces leaders to use easily recalled and repeatable sound bites and never stray from the message.  The consequences of “being real” can be grave.

Execution is often considered the most important dimension.  If you can only think and talk about an idea, but can’t make it happen; can’t change the world; can’t line up the troops and take the hill; you will never be a leader.  Unfortunately, I think we often over emphasis execution, especially short term execution, to point the other dimensions falter and more importantly overall effectiveness of the organization fails over time.  It is trying to run a marathon as series of sprints.  In the end, even an average marathon runner will beat a world class sprinter.

Imagination often gets obscured by Execution.  Execution is the rigorous, efficient use  of time.  If we allow our obsession with execution to overwhelm our imagination, how will we have time for the inefficient use of time spent imagining things being different?  Even Edison, who believed in hard work and disciplined execution boarding on fanaticism allowed for imagination.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -Thomas A. Edison

I’m not asking for nation of lost day dreamers, but I’m asking our leaders to believe in those flights of fancy into the fantastic and turn them into reality.  In 2013, the coolest car I saw was a Tesla.  The largest recent impact to the modern  world is the Smartphone, basically born in 2007 with the iPhone.   These are two examples where Imagination followed by brilliant knowledge, execution, and communication has changed our world; however, it all started with imagination.

As we end 2013, what can you imagine different, better, or into existence in 2014?

Sharing the Righteousness of 4th of July

Happy 4th of July or American Independence Day to everyone.  Most of us reading this blog have a lot in comparison to the world or even in comparison to others in the USA.  Since I know more than a few of you personally, I know you are generous.  If you are going to share, be sure it counts.  Please take the time to understand where your generosity goes so that the righteousness you give goes to the people in need.  Unfortunately, some of the worst organizations profess to give to veterans who defend out shores, police who defend our streets, and firefighters who defend our homes, and even the defenseless like children.  

Please use site like Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/) to evaluate your choices.  At least ask what percent goes to overhead and fund raising.  The best organizations will easily give you a figure.  The worst are taking 99% of your money to pay themselves.  While I’m sure these people will rot in the afterlife, let’s deprive them in this life.

Give generously, but make it count.  Again, Happy 4th of July.

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Mary Meeker Report

Mary Meeker Report

What is going to happen in the future?  Honestly, no one knows which is what makes it exciting, but a lot of us try to look at current trends and project the future.  It is not a crystal ball.  One of the best for politics is Nate Silver (http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nate-silver/) from the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com).  His recent predications on the elections have been spot on.  In his book, Signal to Noise (http://www.amazon.com/dp/159420411X), he looks at how people ignore the data based on their own bias.

The Mary Meeker report really doesn’t draw any conclusions.  It offers more of pure data view, but you get the picture of where it is pointing.  You certainly can see the new expanding power base in China and India.  It warns us to learn from our past, which is why we all need to study some history.  I encourage you to spend some time with it and put aside your biases so you see the “signal” and can shut out the “noise”.  It is a fun filled 110+ page ride.  

Let me know what you see in the data.