The coupling of smaller and more powerful technology with human imagination is likely to have an even more profound impact on our lives in the immediate future, and you can read about nine transformative technologies in this article for CPA Australia’s INTHEBLACK website.
I’ve been watching the impact of digital services on traditional businesses for what seems like a long now, but that doesn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to do it again. In the latest edition of the Australian Institute of Management magazine I get to talk about digital disruption and its impact on all sectors (not just taxis and accommodation).
The main point that I make in the article is that disruption is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ – and even if your own business has yet to face a disruptive competitor, their very existence is changing the expectations of the customers you service. You can check out a PDF of the magazine by clicking here – at least until they change the edition over (my article starts on page 21).
It used to be said (with thanks to Rita Mae Brown) that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In the age of disruption, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to stay the same.
At first glance, 3D printing really does look to be the stuff of magic, with the ability to create solid objects seemingly out of thin air being one of the best examples of technology crossing the boundaries into sorcery. But despite its coolness, the 3D printing is yet to move beyond novelty value for the average consumer, in part due to the limited range of materials that can be printed at an affordable cost.
But as the cost of printers continues to fall, the range of printable materials will increase, and it is most only a matter of years (not decades) before high quality metal parts can be printed by the average business. When that happens, the impact on the logistics industry is likely to be significant, as the old model of shipping and stocking parts gives way to manufacturing on demand.
For the moment however 3D printing is a developing opportunity, with unknown upside for those companies that dive in.
In this feature for CRN magazine I explore the growth in 3D printing from the perspective of the companies that are selling the machinery, and look at the next steps the industry will take on its road to mainstream adoption.
In the early days of ecommerce it made sense to treat online retailing as something new and different, and for that reason many traditional retailers started their online venture in a separate group – and sometimes under a separate brand. But as consumers have adapted to ecommerce, they are starting to question why the experience they receive through one channels is different to that which they receive through another. After all, it’s all still the same brand, isn’t it?
In this feature for CMO I look at how some retailers are working to bring their channels together. Could it be that the current discussion around omni-channel retail is really just a transition to a more unified experience – one that might be better described as uni-channel?
It’s never easy trying to determine who the most influential people are in Australia’s IT industry, but that doesn’t seem to stop me doing so year after year. There can be little denying that this year’s list of Australia’s 10 most influential people in tech for SmartCompany are people whom others listen to. Whether they are the most influential – well, I look forward to seeing your feedback
For a while now I’ve been chairing meetings of senior CIOs around Australia, with skills a central point of discussion – more specifically, the difficult that many are finding in recruiting the skills they need to manage a modern IT function and engage strategically within their organisation. While there are no easy solutions to the skills shortage, it also seems no one else is as motivated or well-positioned to fix the problem as the people who are experiencing it first hand … as I discuss in this piece for The Australian/Business Spectator.
Startups scare the daylights out of many execs from traditional businesses. Its common to hear them speak of their fear of some business currently being incubated in its CEO’s mother’s garage that one day will emerge and steal a large or lucrative slice of their business.
Why? Because it happens – Uber and Airbnb are cited so often as proof of this that they have become a conference cliche. But they are not alone, and the low barriers to entry into numerous markets for startups means there will be many more to come. There is always a margin to be taken somewhere, and a market to be disrupted in doing so.
What a lot of execs in traditional businesses fail to realise however is that all of the tools and processes that startups wield with such effectiveness, such as lean and agile product development methodologies, are also available to them. All they need to do is master them.
Of course mastery takes time, and these tools can be harder to wield in an environment that already includes significant legacy tools and processes. But that shouldn’t stop them from trying. The transformation taking place within organisations such as Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank is proof of that, with their new systems and processes owing much to methods refined in the startup sector. And if it can work in those organisations, there is no reason that it can’t work in any other, given the right stimulous.
I’ve been fascinated with startups for most of the 20 or so years that I’ve been writing. My first book, Innovation and Emerging Markets, published way back in 2004, was all about Australia’s indigenous startup talent and their path to death or glory (mostly death, unfortunately). What I know for certain is that we need both more startups, and startup-enabled traditional businesses, if this country is to maintain its economic status.
Technology has ensured that we can live in an always-connected world. It has also ensured that we can live in a world where we are always distracted, our minds able to wander to places far distant from that which we actually inhabit. We can choose to ignore the moment in which we live.
Perhaps we have always found ways to do this – people daydreamed long before they hung out on Facebook – but the lure of technology and digital media is making it all the more compelling for us to allow our attention to be taken away from that which is right in front of us.
So perhaps it is not surprising that one of the most talked-about concepts in marketing (and business circles) this year is one that advocates living in the moment, and gives us tools for ensuring that we can. Mindfulness is itself centuries old, but perhaps in 2015 its time has come, as the antidote to the always-connected, never-present world.
For more on mindfulness and its application in business, check out my latest article for CMO.
A couple of weeks ago I compiled SmartCompany’s annual listing of the 12 most influential people in the Australian technology industry. It’s a difficult task, and regardless of the criteria set, leads to agonising decisions as to who makes it on, and who doesn’t. As such, you can only be certain that the people who are happy with it are the 12 that make it on.
It was also noted fairly quickly however by Angela Priestley from Women’s Agenda that as a representation of Australian technology influencers, it was heavily weighted in favour of men, with only one woman, Telstra’s Catherine Livingstone, making the cut. This was an issue that I grappled with while compiling the list, and there were many female contenders who for one reason or another were eliminated. Suffice it to say, leaders such as Microsoft Australia’s Pip Marlow and Intel Australia’s Kate Burleigh were high in the list of contenders, but didn’t make the final 12. Angela has since compiled a comprehensive list of influential women in IT, which you can read by clicking here.
The lack of women in positions of influence in the Australian tech industry is – sadly – nothing new. And it is possibly getting worse. While it is great to see women running four of the local branches of powerful multinationals (Burleigh at Intel, Marlow at Microsoft, Angela Fox at Dell and Maile Carnegie at Google Australia) there are few running locally-domiciled tech companies. The start-up scene is also bereft of female leaders, and with the retirement of AMP CIO Lee Barnett, we lose one of the few remaining women in senior leadership roles in the user community.
The issue has also been thrust back into the spotlight recently thanks to several stories detailing the discrepancy between the pay earned by men and women in the industry for performing equivalent tasks – something that needs immediate correction.
The sad fact is that young women are simply not choosing technology-oriented degrees to the same extent as young men, and the result is a technical cadre which is heavily biased towards men. Thankfully the team at Digital Careers have taken up the challenge of trying to bring more women into IT, as part of their overall mission to raise student uptake of technology degrees. It is also true that many technology leaders have come into the industry from non-technical backgrounds, with finance being a common qualification amongst modern CIOs.
But the truth is, until we see greater representation of women in IT, we are never going to have an IT industry that is as strong as it should be.
Technology is a rich and rewarding industry to work in. It is fast paced, pays comparatively well, and provides a wealth of opportunity for personal and professional development. And with technology so thoroughly embedded into our lives, its importance within society is surely only going to rise.
The importance of the technology industry to Australia is also hard to dispute. Which should be a worry to us all, when as an industry we are barely tapping into more than half the available talent.
For the past couple of months I’ve had the pleasure editing and writing a set of pages for Business Spectator under the theme of Paths to Advantage. While the pages are sponsored by IBM, I’ve had free reign to speak to anyone, about anything, provided it is in relation to the concept of business transformation.
My view is that transformation is essential within Australian businesses if they wish to still be around in 2050. Its is fairly evident that the way many businesses operate and the services/products they offer will look very different by then, and it may take more than just gradual change to get them there – especially when the likes of an Amazon or Uber pops up to disrupt their market.
But where do they start?
So when kicking the series off, I had the chance to dive into one of the topics I’m most fascinated by – business culture – and the extent to which it drives or retards business transformation.
Peter Drucker nailed it when he wrote ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. What became clear in speaking to people for this article was that if the culture is wrong, it doesn’t matter how good the strategy is – the right people won’t get behind it, and it won’t happen. Its like the mission statement that everyone recites and no one believes.
Hence in writing this story, I examined the cultural factors that can lead to a successful business transformation. You can read the results by clicking here, but based on the many conversations required to research this story, my summary is this:
It all starts with a goal. That goal need only be partly defined – being too prescriptive upfront limits the eventual possibilities.
Strategy is important, but can only succeed if the culture is right. The best cultures emphasise cross-functional collaboration.
Culture is the product of behaviour. If management wishes to influence culture, it must behave in accordance with the culture it is trying to create.
Behaviour is driven by incentive. Rewarding people for the wrong behaviour will generate the wrong culture. This usually means rewarding people against new metrics such as customer satisfaction, rather than just sales growth.
Incentive is set through management. Therefor management must understand what behaviours to reward in accordance with its goal.
Get all of those things right, and transformation just might be possible.