Is Your Business Prepared For Today’s Landscape?

The companies that master mobile are creating novel digital experiences that shape customers’ expectations of what brands can and should do for years to come.

Welcome to the Mobile Era, the Era of Big Data, the App Era, the Cloud Era—whichever name you prefer, we can all agree on its chief message…

that the days of “business as usual” are over. Innovation—specifically, continuous innovation—is essential for companies looking to shape their future and forge new paths.

[source: FastCompany] The shift from a physical to a digital economy has rewritten the rules of competition. Today, the rewriting occurs even faster, accelerated by mobility, the cloud, and ever-present security risks. Ask the world’s top executives and IT managers what keeps them up at night, and odds are they’ll describe the paradoxical nature of disruption. Call it the Uber Syndrome.

A new competitor with a new model, they fear, can catch them off guard and upend their entire industry. Uber isn’t the only billion-dollar case study. Look at the impact of Airbnb on hospitality; Netflix and Spotify on entertainment; BuzzFeed on media; Amazon on retail; and Apple on consumer electronics and telecommunications.

At the same time, these very executives and IT managers have the opportunity to carry out the disruption themselves. The same technology that enables a startup empowers existing players to innovate and reinvent their industry. A never-ending wave of new apps allows companies to better understand their customers and partners, and develop groundbreaking products or services faster than ever before.

But nonstop innovation requires its own ethos of motivation and its own set of organizational skills. And, of course, its own tools. In particular, the demands on corporate IT systems have never been greater—or more complex. Businesses need not only more computational, storage, and network capacity, but also more speed and flexibility. Or as Gary Barnett, the chief software analyst for London-based research firm Ovum, says, “Infrastructure capable of allowing companies to evolve different parts of their portfolio at different speeds.”

The Mobile Reimagining

Fueling the upheaval, of course, is the proliferation of mobile devices and apps. Next year, mobile connectivity to the Internet worldwide is projected to surpass fixed-line connectivity for the first time. The economic implications are significant: By 2018, global consumer spending via mobile is estimated to reach $626 billion, according to Goldman Sachs.

From an IT standpoint, mobile growth represents a formidable undertaking: After all, a single transaction, such as changing your airline seat or making a bank-to-bank transfer, instantly generates dozens of interactions with a corporate IT system (from account authentication to fraud analysis). Extrapolate that flurry of activity across a few billion smartphone users the world over and you get a sense of the urgency facing IT executives.

The companies that master mobile are creating novel digital experiences that shape customers’ expectations of what brands can and should do for years to come. “If you use an app on your phone to, say, open your hotel room door, that resets your expectation,” says Nigel Fenwick, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “When you go into another hotel, your perception of value has changed.” The entire concept of a key suddenly becomes antiquated.

To coordinate the interplay between apps and back-end systems, companies are relying more on APIs, the software-based rules that allow applications to share data with each other and with IT systems. Increasingly, this communication is driven by machine processes rather than by a consumer or by a mobile device. “A huge amount of cognitive activity is taking place between businesses without any direct human intervention,” says Jason Gartner, CTO of API Economy at IBM. “The key to that automation is having the processes, tools, and DevOps culture to be agile and responsive.”

The behind-the-curtain technical jujitsu between databases, analytics code, and the cloud services that power such sophisticated automation is one of those feats that wasn’t possible until recently. But in short order, it’s remaking business operations and much of our digital lives.

Just a few years ago, simply having a mobile app set you apart. Soon after, the focus shifted to the best user interface. Now, a company distinguishes itself by the intelligence derived from its mobile data. In the right hands (read: right IT infrastructure), it can enable real-time personalization, the holy grail of digital experiences. The apps on your devices know you, anticipate your needs, and deliver in the moment.

We’re Guardians of Data Now

The snake in this garden of opportunity is the increase of cyberattacks, both in volume and sophistication. The number of new malware threats now exceeds a million a day, according to Symantec. Nearly half target big companies.

Today, a brand’s equity is inextricably tied to the trust a company establishes with data. “The biggest threats to this whole world of datafication are security and privacy,” says Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who worked for 37 years at IBM, much of it identifying emerging technologies. “If people don’t trust that their data will be both protected and properly used, they won’t share it or participate.”

That duality—the thrilling potential and the bracing risk of technology—epitomizes business for today’s IT executives. How do you recognize and seize opportunities in such a dynamic environment? How do you equip your organization to keep evolving? How do you innovate week in and week out?

Find the answers that work for you, and you’ll find yourself and your company on the right side of disruption.


Destructive Impact

Digital and mobile solutions for Baltimore county businesses.

The good, the bad and the ugly of the digital revolution’s destructive impact on jobs

Your great-grandchildren will benefit from today’s upheaval, but many alive today will suffer.

[source: Washington Post] Today we straddle two remarkably different worlds. On one side sits hotels, taxi cabs, newspapers and the dog-eared atlas stuffed in your glove box. On the other side reside Airbnb, Uber, Twitter and Google Maps.

Businesses that ride the tidal wave that is the digital revolution are steadily wiping out those that don’t. This is a dominant theme of our lifetimes, as new jobs are being created and others are being eliminated at a pace humanity hasn’t seen before.

The changes have struck up a whirlwind of conversation about whether technology is a good thing, and what we should do about these changes.

I spoke with two authors of recent books on the subject, Jerry Kaplan (Humans Need Not Apply) and Geoff Colvin (Humans Are Underrated.) They caught my attention because of how thoughtfully they present both the positives and negatives of the seismic changes we’re undergoing.

The good

Countless jobs were eliminated in the past as we transitioned through economic revolutions. And in the long run humanity was better off for it. Most Americans once worked on farms. But even as those jobs disappeared, we found new ones. And the economy and our quality of life kept growing.

“I don’t think of Benjamin Franklin as living in the time of abject poverty,” Kaplan told me. “But the truth is, everyone was poor. The facts are just staggering about how long people lived, what happened, when they stopped working. Food cost more than 50 percent of your income back then. Today it’s less than 10 percent.”

Just as the agrarian and industrial revolutions made us more efficient and created more value, it follows that the digital revolution will do the same.

Colvin believes as the digital revolution wipes out jobs, new jobs will place a premium on our most human traits. These should be more satisfying than being a cog on an assembly line.

“For a long period, really dating to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, our jobs became doing machine-like work, that the machines of the age couldn’t do it. The most obvious example being in factories and assembly-line jobs,” Colvin told me. “We are finally achieving an era in which the machines actually can do the machine-like work. They leave us to do the in-person, face-to-face work.”

Colvin notes the current success of the conference business, which exists despite the ability to recreate it with online video chats.

“The human interactions holds tremendous value for us. We hunger for it and it can’t be duplicated,” Colvin said. “Each experience is unique. A competitor can’t put on a conference that’s precisely the same because it’s a human experience, it’ll be unique. All of these things give it value and that’s only going to increase.

Women are well-positioned to thrive in a digital economy.

“The skills of human interaction are ones that women, to some extent, are hard-wired to do better than men,” Colvin said. “Culture and socialization also contribute to the effect. But when you put it all together this is going to be an important fundamental change. And women are going to be advantaged in the coming economy.”

The bad

Yes, we’ve been through revolutions before, but never one this fast. Computing power doubles every two years. This makes it harder for us to plan out our careers, and identify the skills that can’t be automated. Because these changes are happening so fast, the number of workers whose skills suddenly become worthless will be larger than in past transitions.

Men will especially feel the brunt of the changes.

“Men, again on average, do extremely well with systems, rules, analyzing systems,” Colvin said. “That has in general served them extremely well for hundreds of years as the economy has developed. But those kinds of jobs are exactly the jobs that tech is now displacing.”

The ugly

If self-driving cars and automated drone delivery become a reality, what happens to every delivery driver, truck driver and cab driver? Swaths of the population won’t be able to be retrained with skills needed in the new economy. Inequality will rise.

“One way or another it’s going to be kind of brutal,” Kaplan said. “When you start talking about 30 percent of the U.S. population being on the edge of losing their jobs, it’s not going to be a pleasant life and you’re going to get this enormous disparity between the haves and the have nots.”