Aug 312016
 
Can overinflated job titles affect a business

Are senior executives lost when discussing their company’s digital strategy?

At the Huawei Connect conference this morning in Shanghai, Nigel Fenwick, a Vice President and principle analyst of Forrester Consulting, released his company’s study titled Business and Technology Leadership in a Post Digital Era.

Forrester surveyed 212 IT and business managers across selected markets in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific for the survey and found only four percent of business leaders were confident they understood their companies’ digital strategy.

Even more worryingly less than ten percent of business IT leaders claimed they understood their organisation’s digital strategies.

The reason for this, Fenwick believes, is the pace of change in the technology sector as managers struggle to put digital innovations into the context of the business.

Exacerbating this lack of understanding is how companies are ‘bolting on’ digital strategies to their existing business models rather than thinking about how their industries, products and markets are being transformed, Fenwick says.

There’s little new or surprising in Forrester’s report and the small and selective data set doesn’t inspire confidence in the survey’s results. It is however a good reminder of the challenges facing today’s boards and executives in understanding the consequences of a rapidly changing economy on their businesses.

Aug 092016
 
how modern society deals with the roulette wheel of risk

“How are you going to manage, not stop, risk?” Asked John Suffolk, the Global Cyber Security & Privacy Officer of Huawei Technologies at the company’s ICT roadshow in Sydney today.

Suffolk’s message is one that should be heeded by all business owners, managers and executives in areas more than just IT security.

One of the conceits of the late Twentieth Century management philosophies is that risk could be managed out of business, partly through technology but mainly through legalisms that attempted to push liabilities onto suppliers, contractors, resellers and customers.

That philosophy still holds true in many organisations today, particularly government agencies, and it costs them dearly.

In truth, business is risky and trying to eliminate risk is a fool’s errand. How it’s managed is the real test for leaders.

Jun 282016
 
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“If you’re digital now, you’ll be cognitive tomorrow” says Ginni Rometti, the head of IBM.

Rometti was talking at the Sydney IBM Think forum today where she laid out the vision of IBM’s role in the data rich organisation of the future,

IBM’s pitch is that services like their Watson artificial intelligence platform is a key part of business as companies try to differentiate themselves in the new economy.

While Rometti’s view is correct, the question is whether IBM are the company to do this. The audience in Sydney were largely incumbent corporations and government agencies, it was almost sad that some of the panelists citing their digital smarts were from Australian businesses that have been tragically leaden in responding to changes to their markets over the last two decades.

In the first panel Rometti was joined by Andrew Thorburn and Richard Umbers the respective CEOs of the National Australia Bank and the Myer department store chain.

Thornburn’s comments about NAB being an agile fintech company were somewhat at odds with the reality of Australia’s housing addicted banking sector but Umbers’ view that Myer is leading the way in customer experience is almost laughable given how his company has missed almost every development in retail over the past twenty years.

Leaden corporations are Rometti’s core customers however – it still remains true that no-one at companies like Myer and NAB gets sacked for buying IBM.

“We’ve been part of your past, and I hope we can be part of your future” was Rometti’s conclusion of her keynote. It remains to be seen whether her customers are part of the future.

Jun 212016
 
Microsoft-HoloLens-MixedWorld-RGB

What are the technologies that will change business over the coming years? During Gartner’s Business Transformation & Process Management Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, we had the opportunity to talk to Brian Blau, the company’s Vice President of Research, about what he sees as the five technologies that are most likely to change business.

Brian himself brings a lot of experience with emerging technologies, while he’s currently Gartner’s leading Apple analyst and specialises in consumer and mobile & Wireless technologies he spent the previous twenty years working in the virtual reality field which gives him an informed perspective on the many of the current popular tech buzzwords.

Talking to Blau in the busy analysts room at the Sydney Hilton, he kept reaching into his bad to show off his collection of the latest gizmos ranging from VR headsets through to smartwatches and fitness trackers, showing his enthusiasm for the field he covers.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

“It’s been a long time coming, I had twenty years in AR/VR and I’ve been an analyst for six and I’m glad I have that background,” says Blau.

Blau sees augmented and virtual reality tools altering the workplace dramatically as they change the experience for workers. The industries he sees being affected in the near future are sectors like field service, training and design.

Wearables

“Wearables are interesting devices,” Blau says. “You can almost think about them as transitory technologies so today there may be lightweight analytics about what employees do at work or what consumers do in public is kind of a stepping stone. If that device has a screen or some sort of interface on it, it becomes interactive.”

Blau cautions though that much of the data gathered from consumer wearable devices is far from reliable and while the quality of information improves there is still a way to go until we can depend upon these devices for life or mission critical tasks.

Virtual Personal Assistants

“These are combinations of hardware and software – Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana or Amazon Alexa,” Blau states. “These Virtual Personal Assistants are having a big transformation, today they answer simple questions based on rules but in the future they are going to be hyper-smart.”

“Facebook, Apple and the rest of them have opened up their platforms to developers, we think this has applicability to all sorts of consumers and in the business domain we’re going to see these devices used in workplaces.”

Cameras and computer vision devices

“There are two advances that are happening, there are multi lens camera devices and the algorithms behind them are starting to decode what’s behind the image,” says Blau. “I think this is exciting technology as it’s an input that’s never been digital before.”

Blau sees the increasing sophistication of cameras and the software processing the images as finding important applications within the workplace, “there’s a lot of tasks around vision that are manually processed at the moment and computer vision is going to automate those.”

Personal IoT devices

“These are more about the workforce, the sensors that are in the work environment are those that people could bring to work, it overlaps with wearables.” Blau says, “the next generation of IoT devices are going to be much more personal.”

“Almost every business I talk to is very interested in virtual reality and wearables,” states Blau. “There is a high amount of interest because there’s a firm belief these devices will change workplace and consumer behaviours.”

For these devices to be adopted on a large scale, they will have to become more reliable Blau believes with the barriers currently being that most devices and their software are still at Minimum Viable Product stage.

Tips for the future

Blau advises businesses looking at these technologies should start with a basic belief that the specific technology will benefit their business, then they have to experiment and identify what the return on investment will be. “My main advice is to experiment with the technology, run a series of pilot programs, make sure you’re diverse in what you are looking and keep an open mind,” he says.

“The goal with these devices is to change behaviour,” Blau states. “The real challenge will be to get it right over time. You’ll have to reiterate time upon time.”

With these new technologies entering the business world, companies are going to face changes both within their workforces and in their markets. Being across the potential of these technologies is going to be essential for managers.

Jun 182016
 
fluid_education_muru-d

17 year old Giorgio Doueihi had a problem, his school had just rolled out a student diary app that was unusable. So Doueihi, who’d started coding at 13, decided he’d write a new one.

“I’d been dabbling with a bunch of projects at high school and I’d taught myself how to code,” Giorgio told Decoding the New Economy at Telstra’s Sydney Muru-D incubator.

That app was quickly adopted by his high school which had spent $100,000 developing the unusable system. Giorgio finished school, started university and Backpack, as his app became known, was accepted into Sydney University’s student INCUBATE startup program.

“I found out about INCUBATE and thought ‘I might just pitch this idea I had at high school’ then it kind of took a turn.”

Backpack became Fluid Education and Giorgio was accepted onto the Muru-D program, the product was doing well in the market and gaining customers when he decided to shut it down and move to a new product.

“Sales cycle was a large part of the pivot,” he explains. “Another part was that it had changed from a student orientated app to something more enterprise focused, something we were uncomfortable doing.”

So Fluid Education pivoted and is now a service for matching tutors to students and managing their appointment with the new platform about to come out of beta, “We’ve gone back to our roots,” Giorgio explains.

In many ways Giorgio Doueihi story is straight out of the startup textbook, he’s passionate, has identified a problem to solve and was agile enough to change the business’ course when he was unhappy with the direction.

Fluid education and Giorgio will be a very interesting story to follow over the next few years.

Jun 162016
 
how much money can we save on cloud computing

With the global Zero Interest Rate Policy experiment failing, we’re now entering the era of negative interest rates with a quarter of the world’s central banks charging savers.

The world is flooded with money, but we also have surpluses in manufacturing, a surplus in most commodities, of energy and an increasing surplus of labor.

From Shanghai to Barcelona, the surplus of labor is beginning to be felt as industries become increasingly mechanised and the consequences of short sighted economic policies over the last thirty years begins to be felt.

That labor surplus is also driving the political shifts in Europe and North America as workforces are finding their living standards being pressured and their economic prospects dwindling. As a consequence, voters are looking for scapegoats – immigrants in Europe, the EU in Britain and Mexicans in the US.

Regardless of which scapegoat you choose to blame for the global economy’s uncertainty, the fact remains we are in a time where scarcity can’t be assumed.

This means business models that are based upon restricted supply are, in most sectors, under threat. The whole economics of scarcity becomes irrelevant when there are no shortage of suppliers around the globe.

In some fields, such as energy, technological change is seeing the dominant positions of oil companies, electricity generators and distributors being challenged in ways that wouldn’t have been thought possible a few years ago.

Even regulated industries where government licenses artificially controlled supply – like taxis, broadcasting and telecommunications – increasingly new distribution methods are changing the economics of those industries. No longer is buying a government license a sure fire way to big profits.

Right now, the imperative for businesses to find the areas where there is scarcity and supply constraints. For many industries that may be too difficult a transition.

Negative interest rates though take us into uncharted territory. How the global economy responds to virtually free and unlimited money is going to be an interesting experiment.

Jun 152016
 
adrian-dimarco-technology-one-ceo

Two years ago I interviewed Technology One founder and CEO Adrian DiMarco about his company’s pivot to the cloud and the gold rush among consultants and services providers looking at making money out of cloud computing services.

DiMarco’s founded Technology One in 1987 to compete in the enterprise software space with the likes of SAS and Oracle. At the peak of the dot com boom in 1999, DiMarco listed the company on the Australian stock exchange where it is one of the few genuine tech stocks on the nation’s finance and mining dominated bourse.

Given the focus on listed companies at the moment, DiMarco’s views are worth noting. “if I were to do it again, I’d don’t think I’d go that path,” he says about listing the business. “I have a real issue with how public companies run in Australia.”

DiMarco’s view is at odds with Netsuite’s Zach Nelson who told Decoding the New Economy last month how being on the stock exchange forces management to focus. “Managing a public company is a great discipline and in some ways gives us an advantage over non-public company who don’t have to have discipline and make good investments,” Nelson said.

In DiMarco’s opinion, the regulatory and ‘box ticketing’ requirements of a listed company don’t reflect the true performance of a corporation’s management. “There are mediocre CEOs walking away with millions,” he says.

While listing made sense for Technology One in 1999 those looking at starting a business today shouldn’t necessarily follow his path warns DiMarco, “tor startups these days, don’t follow up normal route.,” he says.

“I think the world’s your oyster to do want you want. Don’t let anyone talk you out of anything,” DiMarco says. “When we started out we were told ‘don’t build enterprise software’. We did and we succeeded.”

“Don’t be scared,” he advices. “It really is a great time to startup a business. The technology is redefining business. It’s a good time.”