I’ve been watching the ‘smart cities’ movement for a while now, as town planners have grappled with the question of how to use technology to make our cities better places to live. Often the discussion has taken a very technical turn, and got caught up in discussions around the deployments of Wi-Fi networks and sensors.
Cities are inherently human places however, so it is refreshing to see Adelaide City Council put its people at the heart of its smart city strategy. Technology does not usually form a major part of destination marketing (at least beyond the media used for its dissemination), but you can read more about how Adelaide is using technology attract and retain citizens in this story for CMO.com.au.
Taking money is ultimately the most important part of the sales & marketing cycle for for-profit businesses. So with consumer expectations of customer service continuing to rise, its no surprise that many companies are now turning their focus onto smoothing and improving this vital process. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are showing the way in terms of making the transaction process all-but-invisible, and new tools and services are extending that capability to an increasing variety of transactions. You can read more about trends in payments in this article for CMO Australia.
It doesn’t seem so long ago that some of products and technologies that are commonplace today were still resident in the realm of science fiction.
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).
It was also a great excuse to talk to one of my favourite thinkers on this subject, Vaporized! author Robert Tercek, who also made a great contribution to my own book A Faster Future some years ago.
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 written a few articles on what existing businesses can learn from startups this year, but probably the most comprehensive is this one for SmartCompany.
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.