Three Newsletters for Digital Leaders

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As much as we write about the end of this or the end of that, one consistent form of communication that refuses to die, is email. Love it or hate it, newsletters and the like continue to go from strength to strength.

And there is nothing more telling about the role of email than when some of the most innovative digital thinkers start their own newsletters. Over the last few months, newsletters, not blogs or podcasts, have been started by at least three digital leaders that should be on your must-read list (or at least in your “Primary” Gmail tab). These are:

  • Rosie & Faris’ Strands of Genius: Part business diary, part link collection, this newsletter by Rosie Yakob and Faris Yakob has a particular advertising and innovation focus that is hard to find. It is peppered with the dynamic duos’ personal sayings, interesting perspectives, and content that favours insight over statistics (though there are plenty of both).
  • Kris Hoet’s Warped: A weekly curated email featuring the best ideas, trends and awesomeness from the previous seven days. Kris keeps an eye on innovation and trends emanating from Europe.
  • Dave Phillip’s Work Study Dad: Short and sharp – Dave’s Five Things newsletter focuses on social media marketing and culture and contains only five links to items worth reading.
  • Natural Disruption: The newsletter from our Disruptor’s Handbook team keeping you up-tod-ate with disruptive trends, technology and ideas.

And yes, I know that makes four. Make some room in your inbox for all of them ;)

Oracle and the Future of Enterprise Software

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Constellation Research’s annual customer conference, Connected Enterprise is like no other conference you’ll have the pleasure of attending. It is two intense days of keynotes, forums and meetups. But it’s also immensely collegiate. Anyone you meet in the audience at this conference could have been presenting on the stage. In between sessions you will rub shoulders with startup innovators, enterprise CEOs, analysts, inventors and even artists.

But if you were unable to make this year’s conference, some of the sessions are now available online. In this interview, R “Ray” Wang, founder of Constellation Research, speaks with Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle. They discuss the future of enterprise software and delve into the disruption that large scale businesses will face in the coming years.

It is a rare opportunity to hear directly from Oracle’s new CEO. Some of the standout topics include:

  • The challenge of the next generation of leaders and how Gen Y will change the way we consume software in the enterprise
  • Oracle’s clear strategy around “The Cloud” (“best of breed in applications, segment by segment … AND suite”)
  • The flexibility of integrated SaaS and PaaS and the challenge this presents for system integrators.

This also means that Oracle will be well positioned to tackle the challenging mid-tier and small business end of the market. And that will make it interesting for the startups who survive on servicing smaller customers. What’s that? More acquisition targets for Oracle?

Igniting Marketing Ideas at Firebrand

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Over the last couple of years, Carolyn Hyams has been building out the Firebrand Ideas Ignition blog as part of her role as Marketing Director for Aquent, Firebrand Talent and Vitamin T in Australia. With posts from the Firebrand team and a host of guest bloggers, it has become a great place to get the latest insight on topics from digital through to communications and marketing, with a touch of business and personal branding thrown in for good measure.

Some of the best recent topics include:

I have also contributed a few posts, including:

Be sure to check out these topics and more.

Content Marketing in Australia 2015 – Are you creating content worth sharing?

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At a recent event hosted by Livefyre, Neal Mann, digital strategist for News Corp Australia posed a challenging question – would you share the last piece of content that you created? Answering his own question, Neal revealed the single largest challenge facing Australian brands and marketers using content marketing as part of their strategy:

Most people don’t say yes. They don’t. Because they’ve not actually created [content] to engage an audience, they’ve created it to get it out the door … It’s worth highlighting engagement on Facebook and marketing. There’s a big difference between paying for engagement which is kind of the initial stages of what happened with social. Now, if you look at the US brands in particular that are notoriously in news, they’re creating content that’s cool.

The Pepsi Max test drive pranks, for example, saw widespread engagement, with some of the videos – like the one below – delivering over 40 million views (and counting). And the Pepsi YouTube channel has also grown as a branded media channel with over 729,000 subscribers.

But this kind of content is rarely being produced here in Australia. There is sill a focus on buying engagement rather than producing engaging content – material and media that are worth sharing.

The release of the Content Marketing Institute – ADMA benchmark report for 2015, seems to provide at least some of the answers to why this might be the case. Presenting the findings from over 250 Australian marketers, the report shows:

  • Content marketing effectiveness is lagging: Only 29% of marketers consider their companies effective at content marketing – though this extends to 44% where there is a documented content marketing strategy in place
  • Marketers need to commit and plan content marketing: Only 37% of the respondents indicated that they have documented content marketing strategies in place. A further 46% indicated that there is an undocumented strategy
  • A disconnect between demand generation and marketing: With 60% of marketers indicating that web traffic is a measure of success for content marketing, sales lead quality languishes at 29% with customer renewal rates at 19%.

Interestingly, the report also reveals that 63% of marketers intend to increase their content marketing budget in 2015. And with this in mind there are some key activities that marketers can work immediately:

  • Develop and document a content marketing strategy: Unless a strategy is clear in the minds of the marketers, agencies and suppliers – as well as the business management – it’s almost impossible to track effectiveness. For assistance in developing your content marketing strategy, reach out to us here
  • Measure and innovate to improve effectiveness: Once you have a strategy, you need to stick to it. Simple frameworks and dashboards can help you measure what works, change what doesn’t and consistently improve over time
  • Commit to creating content worth sharing: Almost every business has employees who are also customers. If you can’t encourage your own employees to share your content with their friends, family and business networks, then you need to reassess your creative approach. It’s time to invest in creative rather than paid media.

As Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute says:

There are two critical factors that differentiate effective content marketers over the rest of the pack – having a documented content marketing strategy and following it very closely. Those two things make all the difference.

And with budgets under scrutiny and competition fierce, it may be time to reach out for assistance. After all, isn’t it time that you started making content that you are proud of? You know it is.

#Digitalks: Digital Disruption – how to thrive through change

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Each quarter, Firebrand host a lunch time seminar for the Sydney marketing community. This quarter, hosted by Adobe, I presented on the topic of digital disruption – and how marketers and innovators can apply the principles of the lean startup to transform their businesses.

We covered the three things you’ll need to pay attention to in order to build your business:

  • Marketing innovation: How to think and act like a marketing-led startup to innovate your way to profitability
  • Metrics: The key metrics that give you insight, focus, and control
  • Momentum: How focused action yields data and drives outcomes

You can:

 

Disrupting Banking? It happened in a snap

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When we think of banking, as consumers we rarely think of the complex mechanisms behind the scenes. We just think of our financial institutions as very large, powerful brands – rather than individual businesses that focus on deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, payments and clearing, risk management and insurance, broking etc. But the reality is far more complicated.

Even within one area – like payments and clearing for example – there are several different dedicated systems. From cash to cheques, direct entry and EFTPOS to BPAY and credit cards and beyond, these systems ensure that our economy ticks over day-in, day-out. And while the banking system – especially in Australia – is highly regulated, we have seen a great deal of disruptive activity taking place over the last couple of years. Innovators like eBay and its flagship PayPal have had their eye on the lucrative payments prize for some time. And with the iPhone 6, Apple is moving into the space with its Pay product.

And now, Snapchat – the massive online messaging service that turned down Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer – has stepped into the contest, partnering with payments innovator, Square, allowing Snapchat members to pay another member by sending a message with a dollar amount (eg $19.50). Called Snapcash it takes online payments to a whole new level, bypassing banks altogether.

Currently only open to Snapchatters in the USA, it requires that the member have a debit card and be over 18 years of age.

It’s an audacious move. And one that is bound to be rolled out to other countries in the near term.

But more than that – its a warning to all slow-acting executives – especially in countries like Australia where the pace of digital transformation has been abysmally slow. A recent report by Frost and Sullivan calls out Australian executives as some of the most digitally complacent in the world, leaving plenty of opportunity for smaller, more nimble innovators to sweep up market share faster than you can say Bankcard.

Looking more closely at the financial services sector, however, I see a much graver issue. Take a look at the launch announcement. Look at how it was amplified. Look at the production and messaging. And then think about who it targets and where their financial allegiances lie.

If the Boards of Australian banks are not rethinking their strategies, then the problem runs far deeper – and change will come faster than we (or they) could possibly imagine. In fact, it could happen in a snap.

Disrupting Work: 2015 is here. Are you ready?

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Some years ago, while working at SAP, I was involved in a global workforce enablement program. Our challenge was to look ahead to 2015 (yes, we are now almost there), model the future demand for software, services and skills and put in place programs that would ensure there were enough skilled and experienced SAP practitioners available to deliver to the expected demands of our customers.

What we realised was that learning could no longer be seen as a single event. It was not good enough to rely on a stream of barely qualified candidates streaming out of universities. To achieve sustainable, professional outcomes for customers we needed to encourage life long learning and professional employee development. Moreover, we needed to be flexible enough in our thinking and education delivery to create competencies which were not yet in demand. So this meant innovation in education delivery – so we designed our programs with formal courses and partnerships with universities, put in pace informal mentoring and collaborative systems and ensured that self-directed learning was available as broadly as possible.

Some of the areas of expertise we focused on included Analytics, Cloud and Mobility, and social media.

In a recently released study, Oxford Economics, sponsored by SAP, reveals that this challenge continues. Looking ahead again, out towards 2018, there are skill predictions including:

  • Analytics – a current skill gap of 21% will grow by 131% over the next three years
  • Cloud – currently experiencing a 15% gap, this will almost double to 30% by 2018
  • Mobile – the skill gap is expected to grow from 16% to 27%
  • Social media – already at 24%, this is expected to reach 38% in three years time.

How is your company preparing your workforce for the future?

We are already facing a skills shortfall. And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to move into retirement, we will face not just a skills challenge but an experience crisis. How well is your company prepared for this challenge? How will you thrive through change?

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The Amazing Case of the Disappearing Technology

BranFerren

BranFerren

Technology is stuff that doesn’t work yet.

— Bran Ferren

Bran Ferren’s words echo across the wifi to us like a premonition. The former President of R&D at Walt Disney Imagineering’s deep understanding of the way people use and engage with technology is only starting to play out in the devices that we so readily take for granted. The fact that we can call a piece of technology, a “device” at all shows how far we have come; after all, a device is something personal, knowable, intimate. And it was only twenty-odd years ago that carrying a “mobile phone” could put your back out. Personal technology is shrinking at a considerable rate.

Big Machines, Small Data

For decades, technology has driven business innovation, resulting in the rise of professional services firms, technology companies and most recently, software platforms. Until the early 90s, we designed systems around single business functions – like purchasing or order management. While this was a huge improvement on previous systems, it entrenched departmental silos and required duplication of work – put simply, the same information had to be entered into completely separate systems. Occasionally, the IT teams were able to integrate systems – connecting some pieces of data together, but this also required governance, standards and compliance – which added cost and complexity to already complex systems.

At the centre of this data frontier were the CIOs – vital drivers of innovation and productivity in almost every business. And held tightly in their grasp was information.

We realised that the faster we could crunch business information, the faster we could make decisions. Accordingly we built electronic supply chains, implemented ERP systems and automated what we could. We brought disparate systems together with a single package providing a reliable flow of data from one department to another. We had massive computers pumping relatively small amounts of data through relatively small, connected pipes. In some cases, remote controllers would be hooked up to servers via dial-up connections – and these ran multinational businesses!

The focus for all this innovation was the “back office” – far away from the prying eyes of the customer.

The Rise of the Front of House

While ERP innovation was driving efficiencies within the hardened arteries of businesses, the sales and marketing folks were still working from the same trusty rolodex and dog-eared business cards they had used since the Great Depression. But Tom Siebel had other ideas. His company was to do to customer relationships what SAP had done to finance and enterprise resource planning. The vision was – as it remains today – a single view of the customer. Like many grand visions, the reality remains tantalisingly out of reach.

But this focus on customer facing business functions, brought sales and marketing into the connected enterprise. Customer billing systems, processing, pipeline and opportunity management and a range of other functions were all digitised – and the field of business re-engineering flourished. Consultants had learned through the ERP years that return on investment lies in business users actually using these systems – and that meant customisation, training and change management. In large enterprises, this task was enormous – but was largely contained by the limits of the business. The focus was on engineering the business not extending beyond the safety of the firewall.

After all, even the top of the range, slimline laptops were clunky, heavy and slow in performance. And the business systems were ugly, hard to use and the data networks were notoriously unreliable. It appeared that innovation was always going to stop at the dizzy limit of a thin blue ethernet chord. And everything from the design of the software and hardware through to the challenges of remote access served to remind us that we were always operating out of our comfort zones – that we were dealing with technology that could both help and hinder us.

Outside-In Innovation and the Crowd

While most businesses were licking their wounds after the dotcom bomb, a new generation of tech entrepreneurs flew below the radar to create a whole new way of connecting the dots around businesses. These emerging social networks skipped the B2B market and launched direct to consumers, corralling vast swathes of the population into tightly bunched, loosely connected groups.

Similar to the way that dolphins collaborate to feast on an abundance of school fish, fast moving digital platforms like Google, Facebook and Yahoo skirted around our flanks and drove us together. Overwhelmed by the speed but excited by the possibilities, we willingly handed over our privacy, location and even identity in order to join with others who were “just like me”.

These platforms, working at warp speed, innovated at the speed of customer experience. They were unencumbered by years of process, archaic business systems and entrenched ways of working. They pushed out new features to the delight or disgust of their members, changed as necessary and moved on.

Sensing a fickleness in the consumer landscape, these fast growing startup enterprises blitzed past the “sense-and-respond” mantra proffered by management consultants the world over and created “lean” businesses that responded to changing conditions through automation, strategic outsourcing and peer-oriented customer service. The suggestions of the crowd – the paying customer – drove changes in business models, product features and even business strategy.

And all this outside-in innovation was happening from the comfort of our homes, with the convenience of technology we could hold in our hands.

The Internet of Things Gives Way to the Internet of Me

The real revolution in all this is three-fold:

  1. Consumers have built their own ecosystems around the experience that they want to create and curate for themselves
  2. “Technology” is disappearing from our lives, shrinking to a size that can be incorporated into our daily fashions
  3. Data is proliferating and permeating devices, systems and everywhere in-between

At the moment we are seeing the Internet of Things gaining traction in our homes, workplaces and public spaces. Connected by low bandwidth protocols like bluetooth, devices like Withings weight scales function like an analogue machine, displaying your weight – but add an additional dimension powered by the web and big data. Not only is your weight captured, your profile is queried in real time, and your height details are returned. Then your BMI is displayed while your latest reading is transmitted back to the cloud.

In some retail stores, sensors like iBeacons track your movement and signal your identity based on the apps running on your phone. Store assistants are proactively updated on your current status, interests and so on, and are ready to more readily assist you. Sound creepy? It’s already happening.

This is no longer the internet of things, but the internet of me. We are creating personal versions of the same kind of ERP networks that were developed in the 90s – linking our payment systems (banks) to our supply chains (shops) through sensors, apps, profiles and devices that we carry or wear at all times. And all of this is happening largely out of our view. It’s invisible. And once it becomes invisible it becomes “the way of life”.

No Left v Right Brain – And Other Mythconceptions

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I love this infographic on various urban myths that permeate our modern existence. By author, David McCandless, it visualises some of the most Googled myths and misconceptions – with larger bubbles indicating that it is a common search term. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • That you SHOULD wake sleepwalkers
  • That bats are NOT blind
  • There is no solid division between the LEFT and RIGHT hemispheres of the brain.

What surprises you?

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Who Needs Another Day in Password Land?

Only1u

I have a sneaking suspicion that the most successful call to action in the world is Forgot Password?. That small link that sits below a password field is my friend. After all, I have passwords for every blog, social media site, news sites, business sites, bank, retailer and online tool or cloud provider that I use. The use of passwords is, in itself, a personal big data challenge that I have yet to solve.

I have a password manager on my phone, some of which is current. Some outdated, and some automated. I have a list which I keep which is slightly unreliable – mostly because I fail to manage it scrupulously. I have randomly scrawled password scattered through notebooks I can no longer find. There is encryption for the cloud (which also requires some kind of key) and there is even fingerprint identification that works with iPhone 5 (which is actually pretty convenient – even if slightly scary in terms of identity management/theft/security/tracking).

So I was interested to check out the new password manager from There’s Only 1 U. Actually, it was the video that tipped me over. Produced with a great sense of self-deprecation, it captures the frustration that many of us feel when it comes to password management and online security. To be honest, it’s a scene too long, but it did the trick.

Is it useful? I’ll let you know after some hands on use.

First indications are positive

Like most password managers, there’s some pain up-front to set up your sites and accesses, but the long term gain is what is on offer.

The UI and step-by-step setup is relatively straight forward, though very wordy. I was able to easily use the phone’s camera to scan my face and setup the security. There is something reassuring about scanning your own face as a secondary form of authentication. And so far, I have not been able to trick the scanner by using a photo.

There is a good selection of websites, apps etc that can be easily and quickly configured for access. And it’s relatively easy to add your own custom sites using the same process. Of course, you can still use Touch ID or you can use the facial recognition engine.

But the question is traction. Will I use it again? Will I uninstall? Will I just forget about it? Ask me again in a week. In the meantime, register for the app here or get more information about it here on their website.