Fail Fast but have an exit plan just in case you don’t

In our data and regulatory driven world Innovation may be an essential element to disrupt the marketplace however how many failures should you expect before you find that unicorn and how do you account for these failures?

As more and more products migrate to the internet with SAAS and Cloud offerings becoming the fastest way to Innovate and “test and learn” one of the most important considerations in addition to does the proposition “work” is how do you exit (even if it is a success). As most Cloud offerings use proprietary software its not always in the interest of the supplier to make the breakup easy with the hope that you persist with the trial and continue your adoption however depending on your industry the extraction and preservation of the data or transactions history is probably the biggest consideration to a swift exit.

Therefore in addition to considering your success criteria in 2017 why not add another step and plan your exit from day 1. Most products allow you to extract a certain level of data however if your usage exceeds the basic; a retrospective archive is extremely problematic once you pass this threshold. Knowing how you will exit will not only help you if you “fail fast” but it will help drive your operational support procedures if the Innovation is a success as you will always have the sufficient level of data to exit in the future.

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Digital Convergence is key but where is all our Data?

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Since the inception of the internet back in 1991 we have all been on a journey to digitise our lives. In the early days (Dial up started in 1992 in the UK) you could go off and make a cup of tea whilst your email downloaded however the transition from paper had started. Things got a lot faster in 2000 when broadband arrived however you were still very constrained by how much you could afford to spend on a PC and your knowledge of the Internet. Everything changed however over the next decade as numerous products launched e.g. iTunes, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Instagram to name but a few; hardware became immensely cheaper and thoughts of cybercrime didn’t even enter our minds. In the 15 years since it is unbelievable to think how far we have come and of course where it will go, however just a scary thought can you even count have many sites have you signed up for with a handful of email addresses and provided all of your personal details? (Hopefully you don’t use the same passwords for your Banking as you do on social sites). As technology both in the enterprise and the consumer space becomes cheaper and everything moves to the cloud it is extremely important to think about your data (especially what you are giving out, to whom and how you will get it deleted). As a greater number of the established players buy up competitors it does mean you are required to sign up for less to get greater coverage however that does mean they will all have more visibility of your data. Apart from the normal considerations when you sign up for a Cloud Service i.e. Usability, Security, Jurisdiction etc., I bet the one thing you do not consider is how can I leave (This is naturally what they hope for too as the more cloud services are used the harder it is to leave unless you have a plan from day 1 as the data becomes too intertwined to extract).
I have had a few instances recently where it has taken months to exit cloud providers due to data removal, plus some recent cyber events like the hacking of Ashley Madison have highlighted that even companies who charge to remove your data sometimes still don’t actually remove it. Therefore as we all move more and more of our data to the cloud don’t forget to keep your eye on your data so as “Digital Convergence” becomes the next buzz word you will know where everything is and have suitable plans to ensure you can close everything down before you migrate to bigger and better things. Your reputation may just depend on it.

What is your limit with regards to sharing information on line?

HeartBeatOver the last few years we have all embraced the World Wide Web and in turn had to change our engrained beliefs about sharing our personal information.  At first it was just your name, address and email details to enable you to buy things, then with the advent of Social we all started to share a bit more of our soul (hopefully only to select groups) with pictures and views.  Even though in the back of everyone’s mind still lurked security concerns due to the long list  of hacking scandals, the hope that from going from simple short passwords to longer complex ones would secure your data effectively.  However at the end of the day if you were compromised, usually updating your password and getting a new credit card would suffice.

With recent advances in technology though and the constant need to digitise is this all about to change?

In the last month alone we have seen Barclays launching a Cloud Based Document Management System so you can store copies of all your important documents like your driving licence and passport.  Apple released the iPhone 5S with a fingerprint scanner and a new start-up called Nymi announced an authentication device which uses your own unique cardiac rhythm.  Even Nissan announced it was working on a smart watch that monitors you and the car and would eventually capture your heartbeat and brainwaves.  In addition to these Microsoft has also launched a Healthvault to enable you to organise your family’s health information.

What is wrong with this you may ask? 

Although all of these technologies sound fantastic and I myself would love to use them all, the big question is how much do you trust the supplier?  Do you know them, do they run their own computers or outsource everything, what happened if they were compromised and your information got out? Up to now if your password was compromised you could just choose another one, but what would happen if Information like your fingerprints or cardiac rhythm which is unique to you was compromised? We worry now about having someone stealing our identity by using basic information, what would happen if they had information so personal that it would never change during your whole lifetime, once your extremely personal information is out there it can’t be altered, it is 100% you and someone else may have it? 

I am sure most companies will stay ahead of the game and ensure everyone’s data is secure, however how much of your personal information would you trust with a stranger?  Would you choose to be an early adopter or laggard with these advances?

Think Local, Act Global

Think Local, Act GlobalEvery year a number of buzz words and catchphrases do the rounds and most make you cringe when you hear them however “Think Local, Act Global” really resonates as one which not only is sensible it also addresses some of the issues being faced by the enterprise in these austere times.

Over the last few years most companies have reviewed their loss making divisions and have started to address or devolve.  However there will come a time in the future when expansion will once again become the norm so ensuring that all decisions now “Think Local, Act Global” is essential. 

 Every organisation must ensure that every decision made suits the immediate need but will also be acceptable financially and culturally if it is rolled out globally.  In the IT space Cloud technologies are becoming more acceptable however user based pricing is becoming the norm rather than processor.  This is great at a local level however at scale the costs may become unacceptable.  Therefore all strategic functions must not only decide on the domains for the organisation but now be more aware of global implications of selection.

 By adopting “Think Local, Act Global” not only will be decisions be made that are acceptable to the users it will also ensure that organisations are fit for the future.

Innovation should not only disrupt but also challenge current beliefs

Innovation is an interesting field as it encompasses “change” in all areas, albeit most people only sight “disruption” as its main component. It would be nice to think that every person involved in Innovation only dealt with creating the latest new craze however for most incremental change is their bread and butter.

From a business as usual perspective one of the most important elements to understand when embarking on change is the cultural beliefs and expectations both from within the organisation and of the consumers, as these tend to change over the years and should encourage product updates. One product line which should have changed as cultural expectations shifted over the years is the personal computing market.

One of the biggest drivers which have changed the consumer’s personal computing needs is the advent of “cloud app stores” and the belief that the internet is now a safer place to transact where downloading applications and making purchases is acceptable. Prior to this most consumers needed to have a Laptop or Desktop “fully loaded” with a minimum spec of software so that they could complete a full range of activities from surfing the web to creating documents and any further software would need to be purchased and loaded by the user.

With the advent of the “cloud app stores” many entry level devices have launched onto the market with basic computing features which can be updated with paid apps to bring the user towards the previous “fully loaded” computer. In this decade “Less is Certainly More”. 

One thing that still surprises me is that even though the personal computing market is offering services which most casual Internet users no longer need most reporters continue to focus on its demise. Should we not be reporting that PC sales have only plunged 14%?

“Personal computer sales plunged 14 percent in the first three months of the year, the biggest decline in two decades of keeping records, as tablets continue to gain in popularity and buyers appear to be avoiding Microsoft Corp’s new Windows 8 system, according to a leading tech tracking firm”

The Personal Computing market is no different from any other Product Line which at first offered a product in which “one size had to fit all” however those days are gone and personalisation is the key. Real innovators recognise Cultural changes in society and introduce or update products that may cannibalise existing lines but still retain customer spend.

It is better to innovate a product line than loose it to your competitors.

The importance of choices in a “new object culture”

Over the last decade there seems to have been an accepted shift from product longevity to one of desirability. I remember when growing up that electrical goods seemed to last a lifetime and if they ever broke you would certainly try to fix them first rather than discarding with a wry smile knowing that you could buy another. You also knew that purchases would outlive their warranties by years rather than the current ones that seem to limp across the line and malfunction one or two days after the expiry.

This apparent culture swing clearly has been driven by economies of scale as the price of consumer goods continues to reduce or at least flat line once the early adopter price has been reduced through mass market adoption. Today most products are refreshed every 12 months and the manufacturers expect consumers to replace existing products every 24 months (This is the reason why mobile operators offer 18 or 24 Month contracts). Even in the current times of austerity there is no shortage of consumers ready to buy the next shiny iPad, iPhone, 3D TV, Kindle etc.

There is however a trend emerging from this behaviour which will lock consumers into their choices for years whether they like future products or not. In the digital space if you realise it or not you are being asked to make a choice, join a team and this choice could limit some of your choices in the future.

In the digital space your hardware and software choices may seem endless when you consider buying products from Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Samsung etc however are they really? Everything is now being backed up into the respective clouds but by the time you reach a critical mass or fall out of love with their product strategy, shape, colour etc will you be able to migrate that easily? Over the next few years each provider will need to open up their environments to the software which works best for the consumer however at the moment most are proprietary to one of the platforms. Look at iTunes for example, this was originally the music player for Apple but quickly became the chosen player for most using the MP4 format and is now available for Windows and can be accessed through many different devices and platforms. How would you feel if you had a Microsoft Zune player and can spent hours copying all your music to MP3 and it was withdrawn? What about you‘re precious Photos? Most people are accumulating Gigabytes of photos on their PCs and probably backing up to a Cloud for safety but what if your photography software was only available from one manufacturer and you then wanted to buy a product from something else, could you undo this? Would you bother? These are the questions everyone should be asking themselves, it‘s not only businesses that need a digital strategy consumers do too.

So what is the answer? At the moment the problem for the average consumer is manageable as the amount of data stored is minimal (compared to how much you will accumulate over a lifetime). Choose products which are platform agnostic or the storage resides on your own PC. Try not to convert assets into unknown formats unless it‘s easy to convert back plus ensure that if you are backing up to a cloud you are backing up at the same quality rather than a lower resolution copy which is the usual setting for pictures. The choices you make now will last for a long, long time, so when you want the next shiny toy, don‘t forget to think about your future not just the manufacturers.

Will Cloud Computing become as pervasive as Electricity?

Electrification was once called “the most important engineering achievement of the 20th century” by the National Academy of Engineering, and following a number of commercial uses all with different technologies and standards the technology converged and became commonplace in households (In large cities to begin with) during the 1920s.

In my view this evolution is not that dissimilar from the adoption of Cloud Services; before the inception of Broadband most institutions had little option but to build and run their own systems or get a partners to host. But post Broadband the ability to transmit data at fast speeds has seen the emergence of SAAS, PAAS, IAAS etc. which is evolving how enterprises procure technology and fix costs.

Even in the consumer space the use of the cloud is becoming more and more popular, especially if we think the new Apple operating system IOS5 includes iCloud and in the first 3 days of launching the Apple iPhone 4s 4million units were sold.

So if the enterprise and consumer are drifting into more and more cloud solutions could cloud Computing become a utility (Like Electricity) which we all subscribe to and get a monthly bill for usage??