TED: What is the new Democracy Model for the internet age?

I was so pleased to get this article published on the ABC site – and it goes to an issue I really think our politicians should think more carefully about. It really is time we thought about upgrading the way we use technology in our democratic systems…

Right up top, [Pia] hit us with the quite confronting reality that our political system is “nineteenth century-designed and based on technologies of the fifteenth century.” How ridiculous is that? And she is quite right of course. Few feel fully engaged in the process that is articulated using – as Pia put it – language written “by lawyers, for lawyers” (“programmatic specificity” springs to mind!)

You can watch Pia’s whole presentation here:


No matter how you shuffle the IT Vendor deck, the same cards stay up top

As part of an ongoing partnership with the good people at The Rust Report, I had the following article published yesterday – as usual my aim was to question some of those things we take for granted, let me know what you think…

Recently I was reading one of those CXO surveys in ZDnet (http://www.zdnet.com/enterprise-tech-vendors-sizing-up-the-next-gen-field-7000035317/), using it to challenge my view of the IT marketplace.

These articles are often the same. You can take them with a pinch of salt, but there’s always a degree of useful insight. The articles’ main aim is to alarm you. This one was no different: “the most favored vendors are likely to be reshuffled in the next two to three years…IT leaders will have to make bets very carefully.”

However, ultimately I found that my existing view remains unshaken: The Big Four vendors of most relevance in the IT marketplace will continue to be Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and Google for the foreseeable future. Let me explain why…

The principle point of the article was about speed of innovation: “don’t get locked into a vendor that won’t be able to be an innovation partner” warns reputed journalist Larry Dignan. The premise being that the exciting and innovative companies to watch out for – such as Salesforce, Servicenow, Workday etc – could be the new IT giants of the tech world because they are innovating faster and leaving the incumbent players behind. But while this view is exciting and a compelling angle for the media, how realistic is it…really?

The Enterprise IT landscape changes actually quite slowly when you think about it. Salesforce is 15 years old this year and if you take the view that it was its founder Marc Benioff that innovated the cloud, then the process of cloud adoption in the Enterprise has been extremely slow – compared to, say, how quickly the consumer mobile phone market ‘turned on a dime’ in the middle of the last decade. In that time, both Microsoft and Oracle have built impressive cloud offerings that now rival pure-cloud players like Salesforce and Amazon in terms of revenue. While they might innovate slower, that doesn’t mean that The Big Four’s relevance is any less.

This image of CXO views of future vendor relevance is very interesting.

Source: ZDnet

With the exception of VMware and Cisco, the only vendors with a “more important” rating of 30 per cent or more are The Big Four: Oracle, Microsoft, Google and SAP! Furthermore, when you look at reasons for rating these vendors “more important” in the future, ‘dependability’ is second but ‘innovation’ is third at 51 per cent (relevance is first at 70 per cent). That is because IT buyers instinctively know that these players will always add value, even if they don’t yet know what that value will be. To this point, the article makes one solid message: “Think of your large vendors as a series of divisions that aren’t created equal. Some units may be worthwhile even as you resist the cross-sell and lock-in pitches.”

Oracle and Microsoft are excellent examples of this – The Big Four vendors have extremely innovative and nimble business units within them, competing aggressively with their colleagues for customer wallet-share. The large players have deep pockets and can afford to experiment. If they can’t innovate, they can acquire – as the rush of marketing automation software purchases in recent years has shown.

While these business units are less nimble because of horrendous behemoth-bureaucracy, they have two crucial advantages. They are protected from failure far more by cross-subsidies from the more established product lines; and they have access to gold-standard customer focus groups the smaller players can only dream of. Just look at what is happening now. The once nascent SaaS lines within Oracle now define the corporate strategy; HANA is driving much of SAP’s momentum, and Microsoft’s Cloud business has just delivered the new CEO! Moreover, while Google’s Cloud, search and apps products are most prominent, their emerging robotic, wearable and AI divisions will drive the agenda for the next decade.

But as a customer, take heed of Mr Dignan’s advice – your role in the success of these more innovative business units is an important one every time you sit down to renegotiate a deal on your traditional legacy systems and services. The Big Four will perpetually leverage their commercial advantages to stay crucially relevant at the innovative cutting edge; while at the same time continuing to deliver value at the legacy end of the spectrum too.

The 3 Tenets of Design Thinking Culture Change

Earlier this month, I was very pleased to be involved in the Remix Sydney event where I joined a very prestigious panel to discuss one of my favourite topics: Design Thinking.

DT may not be a totally new idea but it is a greatly misunderstood one and one that organisations would do well to pay more attention to. As the world is more rapidly disrupted by new ideas and technologies, business models are coming under increasing stress and pressure; Design Thinking is a methodology that can hold more answers than it is often given credit for.

remixsydneyJoining me on the panel were impressive thinkers from organisations such as IAG, SAP, AMP and Deloitte Digital; all organisations which in my mind that are leaders in this space. IAG in particular is – as an Insurance Company – can perhaps be considered surprising in the adoption of radical ideas but nevertheless is being quite aggressive in the way it is embracing Human (or User) Centre Design into its strategy.

So what is Design Thinking? It is described by one of its pioneers as “matching people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and viable as a business strategy” (Tim Brown, CEO IDEO) and sees the principles of design brought into the wider field of problem solving in business. Principally it involves a blend of empathy, creativity and rationality in innovation. It is particularly useful in solving problems that are more complex, such as “what will my business look like in 3 years” when the answer is impacted by a multitude of variables impossible to predict. These are known as “wicked problems” that are “difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements.”

My recipe for organisations thinking of adopting this approach – as I outlined in the panel discussion – involves the following key elements:

  1. Listening: an organisation is required to be humble as it listens to its employees’ many voices. The kind of hubris where leaders imagine they know more than anyone else is the antithesis of Design Thinking. This kind of open mindedness is key to adaptation.
  2. Customer centricity: true to its origins, Design Thinking must place the customer or end-user at the centre of all creativity – the customer or the user after all knows the most about what they need and this is where innovation must begin.
  3. Agility: Commensurate with the precepts of The Lean Start-up, an organisation must prime itself to “turn on a dime”. As iterative and incremental improvement is becoming a common tennant in business, like sharks you must keep swimming or die. Reacting fast to what Design Thinking throws up is key to harnessing its power.

So this does involve a difficult culture change that will challenge many organisations. Those that do not embed these characteristics into their fabric will struggle to adapt to the new energies it generates. Ultimately, organisations that do not pair cultural change to a change in planning methodology will find only new problems as conflict arises between those practicing Design Thinking and the rest of the organisation.

Ultimately, a departure from the past is what is most important and this is why the young – who are not bound by the legacy of the past – can play such an important part in a Design Thinking revolution: