The Internet of Things – The Tipping Point

The Internet of Things (IoT) is predicted to reach a tipping point in 2013. Mobile, Cloud, Big Data and Social are converging to enable countless applications of IoT in the future – and of all the disruptors in play today, IoT could very well be the biggest. With IoT, objects use tiny devices to make them identifiable by their own unique IP address. These devices can then autonomously communicate with one another. In evaluating the many IoT applications, I have categorized the path forward into four buckets: Smart Products, Smart Optimization, Smart Automation, and Smart Decisions. Here are examples across each category. 

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Geoffrey Moore: The Tide has Turned

In a recent Blog post as part of the LinkedIn thought leadership series, Geoffrey Moore states that The Tide has Turned. He sees signals that the consumer IT boom has peaked and the focus will shift to the enterprise. Here is a quote from his post – including a very powerful line – which I underlined:

“2013, in my view, will be the first of five to seven very productive years for IT vendors serving the enterprise, as sector after sector in our economy and around the world capitulates to digital transformation.”

I think he’s right about 2013, and I outlined my Thoughts at the end of 2012. Mr. Moore uses the word capitulate – and I believe he chose the perfect word. To capitulate means to give up resistance, and that implies that digital transformation is a foregone conclusion. To resist is futile – yet through 2012, so many companies continued to do just that. Now that we are almost through January, I’m seeing signs of the tide turning. There is a fundamental shift in the way companies are looking at digital. For although digital is the underlying cause of disruption across sectors; it is also the enabler of next generation enterprises. When viewed through that lens, the need to transform becomes much more apparent. Many more discussions must start with digital disruption as the business driver, and then shift to digital as the enabler. We could be moving in this direction – as isolated conversations about Social, Mobile, Big Data, and Cloud, shift to a business conversation where the convergence of these innovations plays a vital role.

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LinkedIn: The Biggest Ideas of 2013

In the latter months of 2012, LinkedIn launched a Blogging platform for some of the world’s best known thought leaders. As part of that series, 50 posts were gathered to provide a perspective on the biggest ideas for 2013. I have categorized each of the posts and have provided a link below. There are great perspectives provided in some far reaching categories – including my favorite topic: Digital Enterprise.

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Thoughts on 2013

Another year is coming to a close, and that means it’s time for 2013 predictions. Blog posts and articles will focus on the possibilities that lie ahead in the coming year. With so much uncertainty in the global community, people predict at their own peril. So this year, I am focusing my thoughts on the journey that I believe will dominate the rest of the decade. That journey will span three very broad categories: the accelerated movement towards systems of engagement, operating model change, and Digital innovation.

So here it goes – my thoughts for 2013:

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Operating Models will Change

The stars are aligning in a way that promises to drive change to long standing operating models. Why? The Venture community speaks of forcing functions that drive adoption of new innovation. Let’s analyze the forcing functions that likely drive change to industrial age processes and organizational structures:

  • Consumerization
  • The far reaching implications of Mobile, Social, Cloud, and Big Data convergence
  • The blurring boundaries  between personal and business computing, industries, and enterprise functions
  • The emergence of the engagement era and the associated adoption of systems of engagement
  • Hitting the efficiency wall

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The Value Ecosystem: A Telco Example

In our transformational march towards the Digital Enterprise – the Value Ecosystem grows in importance. Fueled by the increasing importance of relationships to value propositions, the Digital Enterprise adds relationship management to its list of critical core competencies. This point was underscored at a Telecommunication Innovation Forum held by TCS in London last week. Perhaps no industry finds itself in the same place as this industry – both an enabler and victim of the digital world. As expressed by Keith Willetts, Chairman of TM Forum, this is truly a digital paradox. TM Forum is a global, non-profit industry association focused on enabling service provider agility and innovation. At the TCS event, Mr. Willetts described the various challenges faced by companies in this Industry:

  • Extreme  pressure on cost management and exploiting  economies of scale
  • IP networks dramatically reduce the barriers to entry for services, so core voice and messaging services are under attack
  • The phone number does not equal the customer, and therefore brand loyalty is shifting

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IBM Big Data Study

The IBM Institute for Business Value recently completed Big Data research and released a report titled Analytics: The real-world use of Big Data. As the report states, companies have been dealing with large volumes of data for years (think billions of call center records collected by Telecommunication companies). But the report also identifies the two trends that make this era of big data different:

  • The digitization of virtually “everything” now creates new types of large and real-time data across a broad range of industries. Much of this is non-standard data: for example, streaming, geospatial or sensor-generated data that does not fit neatly into traditional, structured, relational warehouses.
  • Today’s advanced analytics technologies and techniques enable organizations to extract insights from data with previously unachievable levels of sophistication, speed and accuracy.

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The Social Ecosystem

I recently viewed a video titled The Future of Social Inside the Enterprise, a thought leadership presentation from the recent Dreamforce 2012 conference. The presentation is delivered by Dion Hinchcliffe of the Dachis Group, and Alan Lepofsky at Constellation Research. This is a fifty minute journey through the past, present and future of social business. You’ll find some content on the business value associated with social, and some good examples of how social is evolving to support the way we work.

You can start to see how systems of record may integrate with systems of engagement. Two examples are given by Mr. Lepofsky. The first describes a stream level integration, which allows system of record events to be broadcast into the activity stream. This stream level interface is envisioned to be the place where people spend time doing their jobs. It is pointed out however that stream level integration has its issues, the biggest in my mind being the loss of context. Comments made in the activity stream do not work their way back to the system of record, so context is lost. The other critical issue is the noise level associated with these streams. Without robust intelligent filtering, these streams become worse than email. This filtering – finding the actionable insight among the noise – is critical to the effectiveness envisioned by future systems of engagement. I had a discussion this week with senior executives from a large Financial Services firm, and the general belief is that this critical filtering will take years to develop and optimize. It took IBM four years to tune IBM Watson to compete in the Jeopardy challenge. This is not simply a sentiment analysis exercise.

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Blurring the Boundaries

Webster’s dictionary defines the term “blurring” as something vaguely or indistinctly perceived. This term – a term I have heard often in the last couple of months, seems like a good way to describe the dynamics of our world today. The lines are blurring, the boundaries are blurring – pick your phrase – I find it really fits. For example, one of the key drivers of change is the blurring boundaries between industries:

  • Insurance: Gartner predicted that at least one social network will become an insurance sales channel by the end of 2014. The rationale is linked to Facebook’s timeline feature, which documents all the crucial events in a person’s life from getting married to having a child to retiring. The personal information controlled by players like Facebook and Google could fuel their desire to take on today’s insurance giants
  • CPG: manufacturers will increasingly encroach upon the Retail Industry as they pursue Direct-to-Consumer models. The number of companies selling products directly to consumers is expected to increase from 24 percent to 41 percent over the next 12 months.
  • Publishing: By facilitating publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others are eroding the position of the publisher in the ecosystem in much the same way Apple eroded the gate-keeping role of the carriers when it introduced the app store.
  • Entertainment: The borders between Entertainment, Communication, and Information are blurring, and service innovators like hulu and Sling are establishing their role in the ecosystem
  • Telecommunications: Competition from content and “over-the-top” companies (Facebook, Google, Apple, Skype, Amazon, etc.) are taking market share and dismantling long-standing Industry value chains
  • Financial Services: Companies like PayPal, Amazon, Zynga, Google, and Facebook are encroaching on their territory, and payment is the battlefield. Banks will need to experiment with new business models and digital disruptions of their own to fight back. The balance of power could shift from banks and credit card companies to innovative companies that provide the best digital wallets

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Big Data and the Emerging Era of Engagement

I often tell the IBM Watson story as a way of describing the future of analytics. Watson – with a large quantity of Big Data behind it – beat the two biggest Jeopardy winners of all time. Although that became the story, the bigger story for me was the business application of what I had just witnessed. Watson showed us how analytics will mature from descriptive to prescriptive. Most companies I talk to are still in the descriptive stage – reporting on that which has happened.

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How Would you Fill in the Blank: ____ Enterprise?

“This is the dawn of the mobile enterprise and as a result, digital strategists must think beyond the idea of a social business”. That’s a quote from a recent post titled Investing in the Mobile Enterprise, written by Brian Solis, a Principal at Altimeter Group. Mobile, much like social, is clearly a critical element of the future enterprise; but so are Big Data, Cloud Computing, and who knows what else in the coming years. One thing is clear: the future Enterprise will not resemble the current Enterprise, as we enter a very transformative period that promises to impact the very structure of our organizations.

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The Early Stages of the Digital Enterprise Journey

I have had the pleasure of attending and presenting at several CIO forums in the past couple months –and with all the talk of their future demise and the changes ahead for Enterprise IT, it’s good to get a view from the CIO themselves. They all seem very interested in the dialog around their role changing in the next 3 to 5 years, and the panel sessions on the topic are mobbed. But I don’t see this group buying into the notion that their role will change – aside from the more progressive CIOs. Actually, at a recent event, it felt like very little was changing – as I sat through presentations that could have easily been given in 1998. Some of the same challenges that traditionally drain the resources of an IT organization are still front and center. 

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From an Extended Enterprise to a Digital Enterprise

I find myself reflecting on a common phrase as I watch the digital enterprise unfold: “history is repeating itself”. So much of what is happening today, feels like a second and more attainable version of what was happening about eleven years ago. Back then, I remember developing a framework for the extended enterprise – a popular way to describe the inclusion of other value chain members in end-to-end business process. The Internet was going to change the game by providing the infrastructure required to extend a company’s inward-focused business processes to the value chain. It was to become the catalyst for value chain optimization.

I thought back then about the delivery of innovative product and services comprised of differentiated internal services and value-added external services. The Enterprise would in effect be a functional specialist within their value chain, focused on connecting with partners to gain access to information and services. There would be a divestment of assets, as companies focused on their core competency, making external optimization, synchronization and integration critical success factors. Companies would realize that the ability to adapt to market change was inversely proportional to investment in fixed assets.

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Is Data and Insight a New Source of Revenue?

In this world of Big Data and advanced analytics, many companies are starting to wonder about the revenue potential of their data. An opportunity to create new revenue streams is an attractive scenario – if data assets can become information products. Although not new, the number of companies that pursue information related products could grow considerably. Most companies upon inward reflection will find that the analytic core competence required to deliver insight – the higher end of the monetization scale – does not exist internally.

This introduces some interesting scenarios that underscore the market need for analytic outsourcing and the establishment of analytic centers of excellence. The evaluation process for this opportunity involves a market analysis that identifies the value-added information products for the target market. Understanding the business outcomes enabled by insight is a critical step in determining which products make sense. In addition, the data required to enable these products must be clearly understood, available, and clean enough to deliver the required insight. The process is then enabled by the appropriate analytic methods, taking advantage of advances in computing power and in-memory capabilities. The ability to include insight from unstructured data through the use of text mining expands the opportunity for value creation.

I envision a number of relationships emerging between technology companies and value chain players. These relationships enable new, more insightful information products by combining traditional data related skills with deep analytic and domain expertise. Companies will look to supplement existing offerings with analytic oriented products and services, or pursue new innovative offerings altogether. Insight as a driver of business and decision processes will be enabled in the future by internal movement towards analytic excellence, the use of external information products and services, or some combination of both. This is a natural response to the “Big Data” phenomena and the need to improve the speed and quality of decision making. It introduces a new era of information brokers that deliver new innovative products and services enabled by business analytics.

Systems of Engagement

Geoffrey Moore, Managing Director, TCG Advisors recently authored a white paper titled: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT. Mr. Moore – and more recently Forrester – has used the phrase “systems of engagement” to capture the shift from a transactional focus to an experiential one. I believe this phrase captures the required response to this phenomenon and addresses what Mr. Moore describes as a shift in the axis of IT innovation from large enterprise to consumers, students, and children. As stated in the paper, systems of record are no longer a source of competitive differentiation for organizations, but a necessary condition of doing business – enterprises are forced to sharpen their competitive advantage or risk being commoditized. 

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Forrester: Mobile Is the New Face of Engagement

Ted Schadler and John McCarthy of Forrester just completed a report titled “Mobile Is the New Face of Engagement”. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion at a TCS Innovation Forum last week, where Ted served as part of the panel. Prior to the panel discussion, Ted used a 45 minute presentation to effectively summarize the content of the new report. He provided a written summary via his Blog yesterday.

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When Innovations Collide

The future of sustained competitive advantage hinges on the ability to effectively manage the collision of disruptive innovations. The digital disruption driven by Mobile, Social, Big Data, Cloud and the Consumerization of IT is impacting every industry. To date, much has been said about these individual areas of innovation. But the areas of intersection – critical to creating value from these innovations – have mostly been ignored. As innovations collide, the intersection must be effectively managed – or the result is distributed chaos. As the digital disruption takes hold across every company, in every industry, the need to transform becomes a business imperative – and future digital strategies will define success or failure.

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Review of 2011 and Thoughts on 2012

2011 in my mind will be viewed as the launching point of a digital revolution. The momentum started in 2010 and kicked into overdrive in 2011. The rapid adoption of tablets and Smartphones fueled an aggressive development of mobile applications, while E-Book sales increased at a remarkable pace. Meanwhile, the world continued to go social in ways that few would have imagined. World leaders felt the power of Social Media, as revolutions expanded through the organizing power of Facebook and Twitter. Business leaders came to grips with the power of social media, as skepticism waned and social business turned the corner. Data continued to grow exponentially, expanding the gulf between available data and meaningful insight. Lastly, 2011 marked the year that cloud computing burst onto the enterprise landscape – In fact, 2011 may eventually be viewed as the year of the Cloud.

These factors combined to drive an aggressive digital expansion that in most cases happened through isolated initiatives driven by marketing. Businesses with indirect channels to market looked towards direct to consumer models. Regulated industries embraced the opportunity of social media, while addressing its risk. Customer experience became the mantra for many businesses, as re-inventing customer relationships topped most priority lists. New digital executive positions were created in response to growing questions about effective governance models. The notion of holistic digital strategies was in fashion again, and innovation and operating dexterity rounded out the top priorities for most executives in 2011.

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Big Data and New Business Models

This recent Big Data Article from the Mckinsey Global Institute focuses on three key themes – some or all of which will impact every company in the future.

  1. Big Data will increasingly form the foundation of competitive advantage for years to come.
  2. Big Data will drive new business models across every industry.
  3. Decision processes will forever be changed.

A company’s use of Big Data will increasingly be driven by competitive pressures from those that effectively leverage its insight. As these companies mature in their use of data, they will shift from competitive response to competitive advantage. Decisions will improve, driven by an ability to simulate and model various scenarios that enable optimal outcomes.

The really interesting aspect of Big Data – and the analytics that help us derive insight – is the potential impact on complete value chains. This article provides some good examples of this phenomenon at work. In essence, data will drive new business models. Members of a value chain that own data may have an ability to monetize it. Those that have a proven ability to deliver insight from this data can monetize a core competence. Some companies may find themselves driving revenue from a business model that was never envisioned.  

Whether it is new business models, better decisions, or enabled actions, the effective use of Big Data requires a level of analytic excellence that few companies have with any level of scale. This Mckinsey article echoes an earlier report that identifies a scarcity of analytic resources as a key obstacle to Big Data success. As I talk to companies about their digital strategies, I continue to focus on Big Data as the centerpiece of the strategy.

It Comes Down to Excellence

As I reflect upon a month full of customer discussion, it becomes clearer that future and sustained competitive advantage hinge on excellence in two critical areas: collaboration and analytics. The need for a relationship-based enterprise becomes more apparent as we look at the critical need to:

  1. Re-invent customer relationships
  2. Leverage the collective knowledge and talent of our organization
  3. Partner to facilitate operating dexterity

This relationship imperative makes collaboration excellence a critical success factor; and a key enabler is social computing. I don’t mean Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube (although they play a role) but rather the use of social technologies to drive effective collaboration and communication. This evolution to social business moves the enterprise up the collaboration axis as described in the diagram below.

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