The Internet of Things? No, the Internet of Experience…

In the not so distant future, my average workday will be different.

The smart watch on my nightstand will wake me and provide an overview of the day’s tasks. A quick glance at my aerobic activity will remind me to do a bit more walking today.

Coffee is automatically brewing as I enter the kitchen, and the refrigerator’s screen, synced with data from my watch, will recommend meals based upon my body needs. As I leave the house, my car’s computer sends a message to my smart thermostat that I am no longer home, which turns AC levels down to an optimally economical temperature.

Syncing with crowd-sourced traffic data, my car’s GPS re-routes me around a major accident, and I arrive at the office with just enough time to grab breakfast – which the diner has prepared to order, based on my projected arrival time and eating parameters, and which is automatically pre-paid with my smartwatch.

The point of all this? Interconnectivity is how the future will define us.

Our physical world is coming online via the Internet of Things. Our phones, tablets, computers, sensors, appliances, vehicles, homes, hospitals, offices and schools are all becoming digitally connected. The ensuing efficiencies, conveniences, services, functionalities, innovations and opportunities, carry the baggage of security risks, privacy concerns, and vulnerabilities.

The highest level of a given technology’s advancement and adoption is when it becomes so ubiquitous it is invisible. How often do you notice a light switch? What about a television? A Google search? All of these advances faded into the background. My future workday will be underpinned by thousands of interconnecting machines, which, when running smoothly, become undetectable. The Internet of Things will become the nuts and bolts that facilitate our daily experiences.

Yet, I believe the ‘Internet of Things’ is misnamed. The most important part of my futuristic workday is my experience, not my things.

The Internet of Experience is about creating products, as Ben Barone-Nugent writes in The Guardian, “where hardware, human habits, and physical spaces intertwine.” Developers should strive for consumer-centric invisibility, creating products that allow us to more seamlessly and efficiently exist.

Nike and their Nike+ integrated products are shining examples of this subtle yet central integration. A range of Nike+ apps allows for different experiences for walkers and runners, from GPS-tracking your run to viewing stats about the intensity of your physical activity on your smartphone. Nike’s well-earned success is derived from its focus on providing completely unique experiences instead of the tech specs that are peripheral to consumers.

As the Internet of Things revolution moves forward, it is important to remember that the consumer is the most important piece of the equation. Any company can create a “thing”, but few can claim to create an experience worth repeating.

Agile isn’t just for software development…

Agile methodology has become the go-to method of software development. Formally born in 2001, Agile is a management framework designed to accommodate the unpredictable and empirical world of software development with adaptive planning, self-propelled teams, and continuous improvement. Though strictly speaking Agile was created for software development, I count myself and my team amongst a growing movement of people who are using the Agile methodology in all sorts of business settings…and here’s why:

Agile is able to respond to changes, not just stick to a plan…
More traditional project management techniques follow a ‘waterfall’ approach. From research to planning through implementation, a project moves incrementally downward through different teams much like an assembly line. The big flaw with this ‘waterfall’ method is that knowledge and insight that is accrued along the way cannot alter the trajectory or goals of the project. Obviously, your teams will develop a more nuanced view of a given project as their work advances, perhaps even large chunks of the plan turn out to be redundant or impossible, this valuable acquired knowledge is often squandered or kicked back up to the top of the waterfall.

Agile methodology is designed specifically to adjust to change by acknowledging that valuable and key information is acquired along the way. Agile segments the work and it’s done in short sprints, the methodology relies upon the constant evaluation of these small chunks of work, reviewing results and deciding business value along the way. Agile’s leveled hierarchies and workflows also lead to increased efficiency and flexibility, two things that are extremely important in today’s warp-speed digital economy.

Agile demands constant collaboration and measurable progress
In the Agile manifesto, it states that individuals and interactions must be valued over processes and tools. Agile framework demands regular face-to-face meetings to track progress and consistently realign. This facilitates self-organizing teams which are truly collaborative. Furthermore, collaboration means team members have a real stake in company success, engaged and collaborative workers equals high moral and quality work.

Agile is great for tracking progress with its continuous smaller steps. Each step is a measurable step forward and is a piece of the whole project. Running a marathon is not one leap, it is roughly 40,000 strides, or may just short of 2,000 strides per mile. In Agile you measure the velocity, similar to pace per mile, and you connect the velocity to frequent milestones.

Agile demands constant reality checks…
Projects and products often fail because of a lack of perspective. Managers and teams can’t see the forest for trees, misunderstanding or miscommunication builds up, teams begin to work at cross purposes, etc. Agile’s collaboration model and consistent meetings reduces the chances for a cancerous project to develop. Individuals and teams are constantly required to check each other, pushback is encouraged. Agile doesn’t allow team members to work in a vacuum, to turn a blind a blind eye, or too deliberately slow down progress.

Agile was born in the digital economy and it shows.
Agile development represents something of a revelation for the fast paced digital economy. The constant reassessment and navigation adjustments allows even very large companies to be uncharacteristically nimble and quick, shaking off some of their weight and swatting start-ups away. One project earlier in my career, a multi-year and multi-million dollar investment, was not run as Agile at first, and after 9 months we found that we could not truly measure progress. We switched to Agile, which was a short delay at first, but the visibility in the progress made it
worth it.

Go forth!
Taken all together, the measurability, continuous engagement across stakeholders, team environment, short sprints to accomplish goals is a huge asset for business, and is producing great results at our clients. The new digital economy demands nimbleness and Agile delivers it.

Wait, Wait…Before you start a Digital Transformation!

Wait, Wait_WPDigital transformation is the realignment of business models, processes, and technology to engage digital customers. For many, transformation has become an absolute business imperative as the information age permanently alters consumer behavior. How does one take stock before embarking on a transformation? Which questions do you need to ask about your company or organization? How can you evaluate your current standing in order to best see the path forward?

Here’s my quick guide to a digital transformation discovery process.

Step #1
Customers, Products, Markets, & Competitors
Digital transformation is a business imperative because your customer’s behaviors and needs are changing, the information age has permanently altered their relationship with the economy. This means that, understanding your current and future customers must be the cornerstone of every digital transformation discovery process.

Who are they? What do they do? How do they interact with your business or organization? These are the most important questions in any digital transformation discovery. Only after you understand your customers can you begin to view their relationship with your products, digital or otherwise, with fresh eyes.

The discovery process then continues to break down the strengths and weaknesses of your products, your markets, and competitors with whom you share the market. Grasping your customers, products, markets and competitors is always the first step…

Step #2
Mobile, Social, eCommerce, & Content
The next step in a digital transformation discovery process is taking stock of your current digital standing. Are your websites and microsites mobile optimized? Is your social media activity reinforcing your brand and products while engaging with customers or prospects? Is your website, eCommerce, or otherwise, successful? What kind of content are you producing, is it consistent with your brand, and is it helping to drive your business?

This all amounts to the fortitude and effectiveness of your digital presence. This type of digital strategy varies wildly depending on your industry but digital presence isalways the key to growth in the digital economy.

Step #3
Operations, Systems, Data, & Security
Lastly, a digital transformation discovery process must examine the logistical and technical guts of your operation. Which systems is your business relying upon? Which technical systems enable your employees to be better connected and efficient? How are managing your data? How secure are your systems? Which technologies have you invested in over the last five-years and over the past decade? Which technologies should you invest in next?

This is area of the digital transformation discovery process which requires strong technical knowledge, not simply business strategy. This is the area which requires the close scrutiny of technologists. A well-designed technology strategy gives your company or organization the raw capabilities to thrive.

I say it to both clients and peers everyday, digital transformation is the most important business imperative of the next decade and the first step is rigorous and honest look at where you are now. Every aspect of your digital transformation is easier if the first step is done right…change is inevitable, survival is not!

Why Digital Strategy Comes First…

digital_strat_WPIt happens often and always catches my attention that someone well-placed or high up in their company conflates digital strategy and technology strategy, or worse yet reverses the terms flat out. It’s a misnomer worth correcting because, with a turbulent decade of digital change ahead, every business leader needs to understand both how to leverage technology and hone their digital business strategy. Correcting the confusion between technology and digital has particular relevance in digital transformation where it is a common mistake to believe that simply upgrading your technology amounts to a transformation, this is very much not the case.

Here’s a quick guide to how business leaders should understand the difference between digital and tech strategy.

All digital is technology but not all technology is digital…
In a business setting, when you hear the term technology you should immediately think about leveraging raw capabilities. What pieces of technology can be used to strengthen your business? Which systems will increase efficiency or improve your bottom line? Technology is the enabler, when we speak about a tech strategy or tech solutions we are asking which tools fit your specific needs. For example, the tech strategy of a large eCommerce business must include, (to name a few): a robust online content management system, shipping solutions, and a customer service system. Yet none of this will guarantee success in the digital economy, for that you also need a sound digital strategy.

Digital and digital business strategy refers to something very different, sometime much more social or organic. Digital refers to the swirling world of interconnected digital businesses and destinations and our relationship to it. Digital is how we all exist within this space; how we seek information, how we communicate, how we are creative, how we are consumers, and more. Your digital strategy is how you chose to place your company in the digital ecosystem; how have you designed your digital customer experience, what data you are collecting and how you are interpreting it, which markets should you pursue, how are your acquiring new customers, etc. So, a large eCommerce digital strategy must include (to name a few): a well-designed user experience, consistent social media updates keeping your customers informed and engaged, analytics tracking how customers use your website and interact with your products, and constant revaluation to make sure you’re positioned correctly in the developing digital world.

Your technology strategy is what tools you are using and your digital strategy is how you’re using technology to achieve a business result.

Digital Transformation Strategy
Digital transformation is the most important investment any enterprise sized business can make in the next decade it is about mastering your tech strategy and your digital strategy. It’s about understanding the digital economy to make your company more connected, productive, and innovative. CEOs don’t need to be technologist or data analytics experts, but C-suite executives do need to dive in and understand the constant churn and opportunities of the digital economy. The next decade of digital transformation will change the dynamics of every business; — technology and digital are firmly rooted in the business vocabulary of the future— don’t get them confused.

5 Skills Every Chief Digital Officer Needs…


The rise of the Chief Digital Officer is here. By 2016, around half of Fortune 500 companies will have CDOs navigating the waves of digital innovation and disruption in their businesses. It’s a progressive position, taking pressure off both overburdened CIOs and CMOs while helping to bridge IT with business strategy. That being said, it can be a little difficult to speak about what unites CDOs specifically as their roles vary from industry to industry: the big data strategy in banking is wildly different from the big data strategy in publishing. We can talk about what skills CDOs do need to succeed in this transitional role, what skills do CDOs need to thrive in the next decade of digital transformation.

Skill #1: Storytelling
Future technological innovation will bring big opportunities and success will come to those who remain consumer focused. No matter how complex and shiny their product is, CDOs must remember that digital technology at its best allows for personal experiences. Great digital storytelling and user experience are the underpinnings for nearly every digital transformation.

So far, the trend is that CDOs generally come from PR, Marketing or Communications backgrounds and this is a good thing. A great CDO should be a former technology outsider, someone who knows where technology innovation is best served and how to tell that story. A person who knows what it takes to create a sensory and potentially emotional experience for customers with a product or service.

Skill #2: Innovation
As mentioned, many CDOs are from PR, Marketing or Communications backgrounds. Ironically, this puts them in an ideal position to drive technological innovation because of their dual focus. By straddling technology and business, CDOs will have both the vantage point and the executive power to drive digital innovation. CDOs must have a strong sense of the zeitgeist in order to see potential and push towards it.

CDOs must also understand business model innovation. This means understanding both product innovation and process innovation which enables a company to arrive at a fresh and innovative new business model. Winning CDOs will push their companies to use digital technology to bring fresh ideas into the marketplace.

Skill #3: Understand new trends and products in technology
As a CEO recently told me, “We don’t need more technology executives, we need more executives who get technology.” CDOs must have a deep understanding of technology and the potential futures of technology, always remaining up-to-date on new digital trends and products. Success depends upon having a strong knowledge of what’s out there, what’s on the way, and the market trends governing both. CDOs must push their companies and fellow executives to maintain extreme awareness of what is current and what’s on the horizon, missing a single key product or trend could sink even the biggest company.

Skill #4: Execution
The greatest challenges facing CDOs will always be the execution of their digital transformations and digital strategies. The reason behind this is the fluid nature of the digital world, a digital transformation could change the entirety of your business model…obviously a dangerous proposition. Execution requires not just deep technical knowledge and great project management but the ability to navigate executive politics and cut through resistance to change. Resistance to change is perhaps the largest hurdle as it grows exponentially with the number of management layers. Winning CDOs will minimize this resistance by getting to know employees, understanding the management layers and using resistance busting methods like Agile.

Skill #5: Be Influential
As this list shows, CDOs must possess a diverse and powerful group of skills. CDOs exist to navigate a revolutionary change in how the world works and how business is conducted. Being at the forefront of this revolution means that CDOs must guide, must be pioneering, and must be influential. Being influential allows companies to gain momentum with their digital transformation and this is one of the greatest gifts a CDO can bestow. CDOs must positively influence other executives, the board of directors, staff, vendors, the competition, industry leaders and more. It is not a position for the meek…it is a position for forward looking, well-rounded, strategic thinkers ready to change how the world works.

Digital Transformation in 2015: Here’s Who to Watch…

2015 will be a major year for digital transformation as more companies wake up to the new digital business reality. Here’s who to watch in 2015, here are three leading organizations undergoing big digital changes in 2015 and beyond. These transformations have the ability to set the precedent for entire sectors with innovative new business models while giving us insight into the minds of market leading executives.

Real Madrid
The big one for me is Real Madrid’s four-year partnership with Microsoft. Real Madrid, in case you forgot, is the world’s most valuable football club. While the deal has a relatively small dollar amount attached to it, a mere $30 million, it is a deal which will give insight into digital technology’s future relationship with sports. Remember that the live nature of sports has allowed it to retain value on television in the face of the internet, unlike nearly every other piece of programming. That is to say, there is no Netflix for sports, the old model has not been overturned and the digital future of live sports is yet to be written.

I am extremely interested to see what sort of digital platform Microsoft comes up with in the next few years. Microsoft VP said, “Powered by Microsoft’s cloud solutions, we will offer fans exclusive, personalized and customized content and digital services…fans will be able to choose not only what content they want to access but also create their own customized versions of an experience whenever, however, and from wherever.” It all sounds promising to me.

This year Lufthansa and IBM announced a seven year, €1 billion digital transformation partnership. The early goals of the deal are to deliver a new digital infrastructure which are estimated to save Lufthansa an annual €70 million. The long term goals are to develop and launch advanced, “business analytics, mobile computing and social business.”

Much like the Real Madrid partnership, this is a partnership that has potential to set a precedent for an entire industry. The airline industry is severely margin sensitive and constantly struggling to cope with unexpected fluctuations. Profitability relies upon getting the ratio of premium to economy seats just right, something which is damn near impossible with most airline’s current legacy ticketing systems. All that, coupled with pressure from increasingly savvy third-party ticket resellers means that the situation is ripe for a digital change.

I look forward to seeing what IBM can do to help transform this nearly broken business model. Airlines need real-time systems to dramatically increase their capacity to monitor and quickly adjust to fluctuations affecting efficiency. Real-time analytics which allow airlines to quickly and smartly respond to cancellations, delays, weather, aircraft choice, etc. Airlines also need to recapture control over the relationship with their customers away from third-party sellers and this can only be done by becoming much more savvy with their collection, understanding and use of data.

In the past year or so, McDonalds has hired around two-dozen extremely tech savvy executives from places like PayPal, Yahoo, and Ticketmaster. The team is led by former Amazon executive Atif Rafiq in a shiny new San Francisco office. Rafiq’s plan is to pivot McDonalds towards resembling an ecommerce company via mobile technology. So far, this has manifested in a big partnership with Apple to bring Apple Pay to McDonald’s 14,000 restaurants.

Rafiq says that this is just the start of McDonald’s digital transformation and I look forward to seeing what his team are able to achieve. McDonald’s is playing catch-up with other big guns who are much more digitally integrated, like Starbucks or Subway. What captures my attention is precisely the fact that they are playing catch-up, will the McDigital team be able to build upon and outdo the digital successes of Starbucks? Will they be able to institute digital transformation on a massive scale? Succeed or fail, there will be tons to learn in the coming years from their work.

The 3 Things 2014 taught us about Digital Business Transformation…


2014 has been a major year for digital transformation, we’ve seen a slew of investment into digital and some innovative digital business models hit the market. So, what lessons has this year taught us? What did we learn from digital transformation in 2014? How has digital innovation affected the world? Here are three key insights from a fruitful and progressive year…

What’s your plan?
A few surveys in 2014 all showed that the vast majority of companies are undergoing some form of digital transformation. I’ve seen that number reported as high as 88%, clearly executives are waking up to the new digital world and new digital opportunities. This should be great news but it might not be. In the same surveys, few companies report having done research into understanding their customer’s digital experience or the future of that digital experience. That is to say, most companies know they must change but lack a clear vision of where they’re going or what to work towards.

Success in digital transformation comes from the marriage of social anthropology and technology. With ever increasing raw technical capability it takes research, vision, and great judgment to best utilize technology in improving your business. It also takes creative innovation, specifically in using digital technology to develop new and more efficient business models. The big digital winners in digital transformation are businesses like Uber, who use digital technology to power innovative new business models. It is very alarming that many companies are flying blind, a lack of customer understanding and creativity will lead many businesses down a digital transformation dead end.

Here is what’s necessary before any company should embark on a digital transformation:

  1. A clear understanding of how your current customer interacts with you.
  2. An honest evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of that digital experience.
  3. A clear view of how your digital transformation will optimize the customer experience.
  4. A clear roadmap on how to get there.

Technology Companies are investing in digital…you should too.
The folks investing in digital are going to be the big winners in the next decade or two. IBM’s investments in cloud computing are a fantastic and telling example. Over the past decade, IBM has made large investments into cloud computing particularly since the trend towards subscription models for software has forced them to shift their business model. IBM is now doing a complete rework of their enterprise software to fit the contemporary cloud design. Thanks to twenty years of intelligent digital investment, IBM is extremely well positioned to make this pivot. Intelligent digital investments like their work on point-to-point integration in the 1990s, their work on Service-Oriented Architecture in the 2000s, and the last 10 years of code work beneath their core systems means this 100+ year old company will be at the forefront of another digital revolution.

Obviously, not everyone is IBM but the lesson here is to invest in digital now. The next decade of digital transformation is going to be turbulent, we might see some big businesses tumble. What is certain is those who invested in their digital transformation early are going to be the ones in the best position to win big. The future is digital.

Data is useless without interpretation
Lastly, I think the most important insight from 2014 is that data always requires a human touch. There is a very good reason why quantitative analysts are in such high demand, the huge amount of data we are able to review is useless unless it is properly interpreted. The actions we take based upon this data require creative problem solving and initiative…a human touch.

This is well illustrated by the now famous example of the US Spanish-language Television network Univision and their use of social analytics. Univision has the challenge of producing content which must appeal to a diverse audience with varied cultural backgrounds. Univision successfully uses social analytics to gain major insights into how sub-sections of their audience react and then how to best encourage engagement. The big example being spikes of engagement when Univision television characters or personalities refer to their Mexican heritage, their Chilean heritage, etc. Engagement spikes came from those with a similar cultural heritage.

The social media team have used analytics to gain a deep understanding of the subtleties of what this varied engagement means. They now are able to react extremely quickly with digital content designed to appeal to specific sections of their audience. They use the data to find what is working and to develop variants. Famously, Univision achieved at 13% engagement rate on a Facebook post … that’s 13% of their nearly 3 million Facebook followers. That’s a huge percentage and it happened because of consistent and intelligent human interpretation of analytics which informs action.

It takes a human touch. You must remember that beneath all the data is a beehive of real life human activity in all its variations. Like Univision, if you are able to intelligently interpret and quickly react you will achieve successes.

There is a plenty to juggle during a digital transformation. The ground is shifting quickly but it is revealing powerful opportunities. This year has taught us about the future shape of digital transformation, about the link between humans and technology, the necessity of creative innovation and vision, and the need for prompt investment.

See you all in 2015!

The Necessity of Digital Business Transformation

Even the stodgiest of old-school companies are facing the fact that a digital presence is now a vital part of any successful commercial strategy. Digital transformation is not about putting an online wrapper around the existing product suite; it’s about fundamentally rethinking the company, from customer acquisition and retention, to market expansion and product innovation. It also requires a clear understanding of the business impact of digital tools and technologies. Got right, it multiplies the profits and valuation of a company; ignored or dismissed, it has the potential to rapidly sink it.

The downside of de-prioritizing digital transformation is legend. Communities dotted with shuttered Blockbusters and Borders are reminders of how ill-considered or non-existent digital strategies can quickly lay low industry leaders. Despite this realization, many companies still view their digital presence as akin to a mail-order catalog – a mechanism for customers to browse and hopefully order online. This approach can be fatal, usually resulting in escalating costs and falling revenues. Read More

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Digital Transformation – The advantage for legacy companies

Most consider startup companies to be the innovators in digital transformation. Legacy companies have a great advantage to these startups that, when used correctly, can be used to great success.

Startup companies are nimble, and focused on a particular innovation, and these are typically the hurdles for a legacy company. So the solution is to remove the hurdles and to deploy the core assets of a company in a different way.

#1 – Focus on the strategic opportunity in the digital economy
Considering the assets and strength of the company, what are the possibilities to enhance and grow customer value, what markets can be opened up or market share can be improved, what products can be changed, improved or added?

#2 – Innovate to find the best path to capture the strategic opportunity
Business model innovation is more effective compared to product or process innovation, the most impact is derived from all three in tandem. Using innovation tools and processes, find solutions and options that get to the core of the strategy. Compare examples of successful innovation from other industries with the strategic opportunities, consider risk and implementation efforts, and focus clearly on the few best.

#3 – Implement with rigor
People, process and technology. Organize to implement using the agile methodology, apply organizational change management, and clearly focus efforts on accomplishing strategic priorities. Technology implementations should be cloud based and proven solutions that are easy to implement and use.

The right path isn't always obvious
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The founding of Digital Prism Advisors (dprism)

When I had the opportunity earlier this year to take the next step in my career, I decided to start a consulting business to help legacy successful companies with digital transformation. Many have asked why I have made this choice, and having considered many opportunities with other organizations large and small; here are my reasons:

  • I have a passion for digital transformation. The business potential is huge when considering the opportunities presented to a company in the digital economy, especially with legacy successful companies.
  • As a consultant I can stay focused on the subject and do not have to worry (as much) about the administrative and other distractions that come with an executive’s responsibilities in a large company.
  • The work is fun! We are eight people strong, and we like the work.
  • Starting a business is time consuming, but also very satisfying.

It is wonderful to have the opportunity to do what I have a passion for, to enjoy doing it, and to work with a great group of colleagues serving our clients.