The Slow March of Digital Disruption

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The editing work that started my career was laboriously done with pen and paper. Each day, I would literally cut and paste strips of text from one printed book over a new version, proofread and check the flow of the text, package it up in a large yellow envelope and send it “downstairs” for typesetting. That’s where the magic happened.

The typesetters, using specially-designed keyboards (not qwerty mind you), they would enter the changes into the publishing database and spit out “proofs” for proofreading. Those yellow envelopes would be sent back upstairs and, after another round of checking, I’d approve them and request “camera ready art”. I can still remember the smell and fell of those warm, thick, slightly sticky pages that would be carted off for photographing and printing.

Even in my earliest years, however, I could see the massive opportunities offered by what we now call “digital disruption”. I helped my company lead the digital charge – moving my products out of the production line and into online coding. This meant coding up changes on floppy disks and sending the disks down in the yellow envelopes.

From there, I pushed into desktop publishing, tapping directly into the data warehouse to edit and produce the proofs for printing. These changes produced massive changes in a highly competitive business. Our publishing cycles improved by 66%. Costs fell dramatically.

By 1995 I was hand-coding websites for clients. I had fallen in love with the speed of digital and the ease of online publishing. Sure it was still technical, but it was also democratising an ancient process that had been slow to change.

But that was 1995. Twenty years later, the forces of digital disruption are still playing out in the publishing and media industries, and it is not over yet.

Often when we talk about digital disruption, we do so from a point of fear. We fear for our jobs and our careers. We fear for the changes that we expect will overwhelm us.

But in reality, these massive changes take time to work through an economy. They take time to reach mainstream acceptance. And they take time for the legal system to catch, hold and support them.

Digital disruption is coming, but it’s a slow march for most of us. The question is, can you hear the drums?

Beyond Innovation Bingo: Doing Business with Government in the Digital Age

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We have been living in the 21st Century for almost 15 years, and at last it seems, that governments at all levels in Australia have finally got the carrier pigeon. With Primer Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s very public recalibration of the business conversation towards “innovation”, there has been a remarkable level of energy and dynamism pumped into the the business world. From Wyatt Roy’s PolicyHack to the Telstra Digital Summit, and from the SydStart startup conference to the opening of the Australian Digital Transformation Office, it feels like we are constantly playing innovation bingo.

Will all this talk result in action? And will that action result in anything like lasting change? More importantly, will the benefits of this innovation – the digital transformation programs – actually deliver value and opportunity for anyone other than the big end of town?

On Thursday, 5 November 2015, InnovationAus.com is hosting an Open Opportunity Forum to address these questions. This breakfast event at the offices of Swaab Attorneys, aims to “provide the highest level briefing of digital engagement – to give [mid-tier technology companies] a practical guide to meeting public sector demand.”

Speakers* confirmed include:

  • The Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science, Australian Government
  • Professor Roy Green, Dean Business School, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
  • Martin Hoffman, Secretary, NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation
  • Adrian Turner, CEO, Data61
  • Patricia Kelly, Director General, IP Australia
  • Audrey Lobo-Pulo, Data Scientist, Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Latika Bourke, Press Gallery Political Reporter, Sydney Morning Herald (Event MC)

In addition, Wyatt Roy MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation will kick off the breakfast with a live cross from Israel. Rounding out the event, I will share some practical tips on what businesses can do today to make a difference tomorrow. It promises to be informative and perfectly timed to help us all make sense of the newly emerging innovation landscape.

Hope to see you there!

Digital and the Future of Marketing

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When we think of the future of marketing, we often think of our customers. What trends are they adopting? Which devices? Where are they and how can I reach them? But there’s a double-sided impact to the future of marketing – and that is to do with the future of marketers.

There have been some massive improvements in the world of technology – with automated content and engagement platforms seeming to do amazing work. Just look at the journalism robots created by Associated Press that now publish around 3000 stories every quarter. This is journalism content “without a human byline”. It is a cocktail of 1 part excitement, 1 part absolute dread. After all, what happens when those “journo bots” turn their attention to marketing?

It’s time for us to grapple with the future of marketing

I recently spoke at the Marketo MarketingNation roadshow – and discussed our marketing-technology future. I will leave you to watch the video in your own good time, but I will also raise a couple of points:

  • Data is not your only answer – you need to work with the PANDA principles to deliver broad and deep value as a marketer
  • You need to create not inherit the future – what is the future you’d like to see? If you have a vision for a creative and vibrant marketing career, it’s time for you to step forward and voice those ideas
  • Time to skill up – if you don’t have any tech skills, it’s time to work on that. As we rush towards an increasingly connected customer experience model, technology will feature more and more. It’s essential you at least have the foundations (this is covered in the presentation)
  • Get some digital muscle on your Board – the same principles apply to Boards. Without the digital expertise available at a strategic level, you’re business longevity will decline. It’s time to bring diversity and divergent thinking onto your Board.

Google Goes Back to the Garage with Alphabet

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When a company the size of Google makes a massive change in their structure and the way that they do business, it’s big news. Today, Google announced the formation of Alphabet, a holding company that will stable the portfolio of companies formerly known as “Google” – giving the organisation potentially a new lease on life and a new direction – or series of directions.

Constellation Research’s R ‘Ray’ Wang provides a laser sharp analysis of what the announcement means in the following video.

Given that so many organisations grow to a size which prohibits innovation, this restructuring offers an amazing live case study of an attempt to avoid the “Kodak moment”. The new, low carb version of Google – which generates the vast majority of revenues – will look vastly different and more tightly focused on digital and internet properties:

  • Search
  • Advertising
  • Maps
  • Apps
  • YouTube
  • Android

This structure effectively hives off the “business as usual”, high velocity, transactional revenue streams into a separate unit which will continue to be called “Google”. The new CEO, Sundar Pichai will be able to keep that digital focus while continuing the optimisation and incremental improvements that keep Google at the centre of our online lives.

The high potential, future-oriented remaining businesses will become separate businesses under Alphabet. Taking a portfolio investment approach to innovation, Alphabet’s stable features near and far term innovation ventures that are:

  • Inside us: Life sciences – biotech research through new company, Calico
  • Around us: Consumer home technology – internet of things hardware for the smart home through Nest
  • Connecting us: High speed internet service through Fiber
  • Moving us: X-lab – the incubator charged with developing self-driving cars and drone technology

And Google Ventures will continue its investments in early and growth stage ventures.

While the business implications for this restructure are significant – the most interesting impact is likely to be felt at the level of culture. Creating a culture of innovation – and maintaining it over the long term is extremely difficult. This is a bold move that brings Google back into the garage from where it came from. It sets a new model for tech sector innovation and has the potential to re-invigorate Google’s innovation agenda.

Who will be the fast follower – or copycat – to Google’s lead? Time will tell.

Surprising differences between B2B and B2C marketing

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The Econsultancy and Adobe report on  “B2B Digital Trends 2015” is based on a survey of more than 800 global B2B digital marketing professionals. Seeking to understand the key priorities, trends and challenges for B2B digital marketing, it contrasts the B2C focus to reveal  similar priorities – but with a couple of key differences.

First up, the “no surprises”:

  • B2B marketers focusing on content marketing and customer experience
  • B2C marketers are excited by mobile (at 16% they’re way ahead of their B2C counterparts at 7%)
  • Personalisation and big data battling it out for 3rd spot.

There are, however, some interesting aspects relating to B2C content marketing and mobile:

  • B2C marketing differentiates experience through personalisation not content. With a limited focus on the customer journey, B2C marketers are choosing personalisation and big data to differentiate their offerings from their competitors. In my view, B2C content marketing still provides great value but needs to be rethought and reimagined (ie it’s simply not good enough to “digitise” media).
  • Mobile is hot for B2C. Not unexpected. BUT just as B2C marketers need to improve their understanding of content marketing, B2B marketers could learn a great deal from B2C mobile strategy. “Future ways of working” initiatives are transforming today’s businesses. Built on a platform of social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), mobility is obviously a key pillar of this transformation. Expect to see more traction than the research would suggest.

Finally, some surprises:

  • B2C need greater focus on marketing automation: These days, marketing at scale requires automation. It also requires strong analytics and customer journey mapping. Not paying attention to these areas actually opens the door to market disruption by faster moving competitors.
  • Location based services scrapes the bottom of the barrel. In last place, I wonder whether marketers simply don’t understand the promise and opportunity of location based services. Considering customer experience ranks as the second most important category, there appears to be a disconnect between what customer experience can be and its method of delivery. Location services bring these together via a range of devices including smartphones, beacons, wifi and analytics. As marketers build more practical digital experience, I expect to see these figures improve.

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Retail Disrupted-Consumers Get Smarter says IBM Study

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I have a love-hate relationship with shopping. Actually, when I think about it, I quite like shopping as an experience. What I don’t like the way retail transforms that experience. You see, retail shopping is filled with frustration:

  • There’s no or limited stock
  • Loyalty programs are more of a burden than a benefit
  • The digital experience is out-of-kilter with the in-store experience
  • Customer service is an after thought.

And it seems I am not alone. The 2015 IBM Smarter Consumer Study: Shoppers Disrupted gauged global sentiment about consumers’ shopping behaviour. The extensive survey of 28,500 online respondents across 15 countries saw more than 1,800 Australians respond to the survey.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Australian shoppers are less loyal than ever – 10% act as advocates while 37% act as antagonists
  • 38% of 20-39 year olds prefer to shop online
  • Online shopping is up across all categories (esp consumer electronics)
  • Shoppers prefer to be in control – and that means a mobile experience.

You can register and download the full report here.

Now, much of this is not new. I have been analysing the structural, technological and strategic problems with retail for years. But Australian retail, in particular, has been slow to respond to the challenges (and opportunities) of digital disruption. And when they do respond, they often do so with the blinkered vision of incumbency. Does this leave the door open for nimble competition or does is just breed consumer mistrust and apathy? I’d love your thoughts.

The big question, of course, is when will retailers fix these problems? Those that do will reap the reward of an increasingly digitally-savvy customer base. Those that twiddle their thumbs will see their customers switch allegiances – or worse – become antagonists.

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Qantas Hackathon: Feels Like Innovation

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After a busy first day of briefings and coding, the stage was set for the last, desperate rush to the midday deadline. Pitches were scheduled and rehearsed, last minute bug fixes were released and some even found time for a relaxing morning tea. But what, really could be created in a mere 24 hours. Would it be useful? Interesting? Would there be true innovation found amongst the lines of code and discarded lolly wrappers? Only time would tell. And time was the one thing that really was in short supply.

Here’s how Day 2 of the Qantas Hackathon played out.

The Inaugural Qantas Hackathon

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Held over the weekend of 30-31 May, we’ve been working with Qantas to host a hackathon that brings together teams of developers from across the country. How will these innovations play out? What will the teams deliver? Only time – 24 hours to be exact – will tell. Here’s the wrap of the first day.

Why Digital Marketing Transformation is Important

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I recently spent time with IBM travelling as part of their IBM Connect conference series in Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne. At each location, I hosted a panel discussion that centred on the “voice of the customer” – drawing out the experience and knowledge of panels that included ADMA’s CEO, Jodie Sangster, CIO of Tennis Australia, Samir Mahir, City of Melbourne’s Executive Manager, Commercial and Marketing, Lucan Creamer, Think Global Research’s Mark Tyler, and Twitter’s Head of Data Sales, Fred Funke.

I spent a few minutes with the IBM team to share my thoughts on why digital marketing transformation is important – and how you can use the “Marketing PANDA” to focus your efforts around customer centricity.

Social: The Present is Mobile. The Future is Wearable

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There was a time when the battle for social media was simply one of recognition. For some time, brands and businesses held out. Restricting firewall access to social networks. Directing marketing spend to broadcast. Ignoring the trending shift to digital across a range of categories – from marketing to HR, supply chain to finance.

Now, this pent up force has been loosed and it is transforming the way that we work, why we work and how we work faster than we could have anticipated. As a result, we are seeing disruption almost everywhere we look:

  • Who – this is not just about “digital natives” or “digital immigrants”. We now have no choice but to adopt a “digital nomad” perspective. We need to move with the digital times, building and refining skills, networks, and connections. It’s touching every one of us in profound ways.
  • What – we used to be able to cordon off “home” and “work”. These days, there is only what Nina Simosko calls a life continuum. What we consider work is no longer restricted to what we do and is becoming more closely aligned to “what and who we are”. This is having an enormous impact on the nature of work, the workplace and what it means to have “purposeful work”.
  • Where – the disruption began at home, in our palms and quickly spread through the networks.  But as we know, culture eats location, and that means our “where of working” is infinitely more mobile, flexible and time-shifted. This is challenging workplace structure, services and cohesion.
  • Why – We are paid to work but businesses continue to struggle with motivation, morale, and engagement. As our Baby Boomer generations retire, we will be left with a massive experience and capability gap within our organisations. To attract the best talent, we’ll need a much better understanding of the needs and expectations of our employees.
  • How – this is where the most obvious disruption and transformation is taking place. The “tools of our trades” are increasingly digital, data driven and mobile.

Kate Carruthers brings this together elegantly in this presentation made at the recent CeBIT conference in Sydney. She makes the point that we need to keep looking towards the horizon – for while the present of social is mobile. The future is wearable and the internet of things. And that future is not far away. In fact, it’s already in your pocket.