I was involved in a discussion recently which was questioning whether the internet was promoting an insular rather than social culture. Does the internet encourage us all to rush home and log onto our computers to engage with our friends through mediums like Facebook, Friends Reunited and Webmail rather than picking up the phone or actually meeting people? Also is this exacerbated further as more and more companies block social media sites at their firewalls?
The answer is probably yes, especially as the cost of internet access is becoming virtually free and in some cases Laptops are being given away as part of the deal. In addition to this with the rise of smart devices like the i-phone more and more people are engaged in their own world whilst travelling to work rather than socialising.
In the future however the internet will probably evolve into a medium where you create a roaming avatar based profile (a graphical representation of yourself) rather than a word formatted one, which will allow your presence to be seen by your entire network as you surf the web (A bit like a travelling Instant Messenger). This will allow a more seamless collaboration as you will no longer need to be on specific sites to collaborate with your contacts as whatever site you a viewing if a friend views the same site you will be able to converse. You may even be able to leave messages for each other on sites you know that you friends will visit. In addition to this you could even interact with the roaming avatars offering help and assistance on the websites you are visiting.
Even though technology is evolving at a rapid pace I am still surprised at the lack of collaboration tools which are being adopted by the financial services industry. It is interesting that as an internet user I have a plethora of tools available to me when surfing the net and speaking to friends however when I am looking to purchase services I am still limited to either locating my chosen products on a usually badly constructed website or to fall upon the sword and actually attempt to go into an outlet who naturally are unable to comment on the products available online. Of course I do also have the option to ring a call centre and hang on for ages, spend endless minutes choosing different ACD options or even speaking to an advisor who really doesn’t understand me.
Last week I participated in an online discussion on “Web2.0” tools usage within the Industry and I was surprised the hear all of the blockers being sited as reasons not to use them (fear of Brand damage, security Issues, can we trust our staff) I did raise the point that staff are able to blog etc in the consumer space and we could not stop them there so why try internally.My organisation allows blogging and this encourages Innovation, lets not stifle it.
I was however pleasantly surprised this week when I was listening to an interview with Jean Holme the Chief Knowledge Architect at NASA whose chief responsibility is to organize their knowledge management activities ranging from the internal / external content of their websites, public communications and their engineers collaboration.She explained that their goal is to contribute to peoples day to day lives.They achieve this by addressing their community through, online discussion forums; advanced search tools and an internal version of Facebook for collaboration.In addition to these internal tools they also have an external presence on Facebook and use Second Life for interviews with astronauts and following landings etc.
Therefore isn’t it time that all mediums of customer communication are considered by the financial services industry rather than assuming that the customer is happy with the motto “My way or the highway” as I certainly would then revert back to my favorite brands rather than ones which actually can service my needs on the web.
Unless you have been living on the moon all our daily news has consisted of over the last few months is the credit crunch, credit crunch and more credit crunch. Although the financial services crisis is deep routed in the sub prime markets fiasco, the share prices are rocked mostly by perception (and of course a vast amount of short selling). And this is not helped by the constant battering the press is sending everyone’s way.However a single day does not go past when I hear people saying from various mediums that it is time to batten down the hatches to wait out this financial storm.
As an innovator this is like putting you head in the sand, naturally if you work for an organisation who is on the brink naturally innovation will be the last of your worries however for the rest of the industry this is a time of rest bite which can be used to either take stock or accelerate ones programs to ensure that when some of the big players get back up off their knees that you can slingshot to the forefront rather than being a fast follower.
Invest in innovation now, tomorrows prosperity will rely on it
As the need for power increases due to the explosion in consumption across the planet should we really continue to deplete the planets natural resources until they are gone or should the technology we use evolve so that it is no longer is held ransom to the market forces which control the cost but harnesses the abundant free resources that the planet offers?
Recently Google raised a patent for a water based Data centre at sea which would use Pelamis machines to harness the energy from the waves and use the water to cool the servers. Even though we are probably years away from this and many other carbon neutral advances becoming mainstream the use of the elements should be considered as a sustainable technology choice until at least someone starting trading in the oceans and wind.
Over the past few months I have been using the HTC Touch Diamond Smartphone and although it is a very stylist device and incorporates a 3.2 mega pixel camera with a touch interface, sadly the responsiveness of this interface is very poor compared to Apple range and this really does tarnish the whole experience.
This however did make me think about the whole issue around Innovations. The Apple offerings have all tended to be very disruptive and completely new to the marketplace whilst other fast followers like HTC have tended to be incremental with their product set, i.e. they developed the handset first and are now introducing advanced features like the touch interface etc. Saying that, the whole issue around Brand loyalty also needs to be considered, i.e. if you are a brand follower I am sure the incremental releases HTC are introducing will only enhance the whole experience however when compared to other disruptive innovations the leap may not be as smooth or encourage migration from other device users.
Therefore with the UK’s very price driven culture and multitude of comparison sites should strong brands only focus on incremental innovations with the possibility of actually loosing customer penetration or wait for disruptive advances at the risk of alienating some of their loyal followers?
The answer is both, with only incremental or disruptive advances you will certainly either lag behind or make costly wrong decisions on occasions. To truly innovate a company needs both, incremental innovations should be everyone’s bread and butter and continue the revenue streams whereas the disruptive ones will hopefully enhance the range and attract followers from other brands.
For all you lovers of the HTC however, “geek brief Podcast 429”
announced today information about the forthcoming HTC Touch 3G so you will probably want to wait for this; HTC Update
As Technology continues to develop at a faster pace how many of us rely more on our handheld devices than we do on our laptops? However although the proliferation of these devices through to the mainstream is accelerating especially with Apple’s “Apps” how many organisations are actually raising their game to embrace these?
Even though smart phones and mobile devices have been around for a number of years there are still not that many websites which have actually sized their pages for their use and with the current rise of downloadable Apps this is a golden opportunity for everyone to resize / relaunch their mobile strategies to embrace this growing customer base which now is becoming a Global community.
Therefore if this the dawn of the mobile device, the first organisations who dare to embrace this medium will reap the rewards and market share of this growing Global need, however with the multitude of mobile domains still in use will Apple become the defacto standard?
If like me you work in a large city and use the transport system you cannot have missed the proliferation of free newspapers, ranging from daily news, financial news, sports, cars, lifestyle etc.Even though the advertising model allows for these to be produced free it does make you wonder how many of these papers are actually recycled on a daily basis, especially when upon returning home the streets, stations and trains are littered with hundreds of read free newspapers.
Personally, I now have a number of Podcasts which I download during the week which replace the needless use of natural resources and from a personal perspective I at least feel that I am not adding to the problem of deforestation.In addition to the environmental benefits by listening to Podcasts they also make me more efficient as they ensure that I am only absorbing the news that I require rather than the pages of adverts and gossip which I would usually skip past.
This issue made me question how many other publications do people accept and only give a cursory read to before discarding.As the world becomes more advanced and the need for knowledge increases it is probably time to stop the traditional methods of communication by producing Brochureware and move to more advanced formats like Podcasts and online help.
Even now most websites still offer to send out Brochureware if the subject is too complicated to post online.However with the advances in technology and the younger generation requiring more information immediately maybe it is time to move to a more downloadable culture.This would not only vastly reduce companies printing and postage costs but would also be an easily definable amount of savings which could add to their overall Carbon Reduction programmes.So shouldn’t we all look to add more Podcasts and downloads to our websites rather than continuing to send our Brochureware?