diginomica 2016 - Jon's choice

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed December 21, 2016
Jon boils down the event circus into his top themes, from the rise of the bots to how we got tricked into writing about Facebook for the enterprise. He also picks out some classic whiffs - and the piece he didn't write that inspired him the most.

1. The rise of personalization - and the unfulfilled promise of customer experience

Personalization vs relevance vs customization – confusion or opportunity?

Personalization is a confusing swamp of over-used buzzwords. At recent events, I cornered personalization experts in search of sane answers and realistic use cases. Here’s what I’ve learned so far – and why “relevance” is the one buzzword worth fighting for.

Why? Customer experience is still more hype than reality. Smack in the middle is personalization -  a big riddle yet to be solved, outside of a handful of potent e-commerce examples. Even with Amazon's prowess, Alexa only takes me shopping when I don't want to ("Alexa - stop!"). I put some stakes in the conceptual ground above, concluding that relevance - not complete personalization - is the goal worth striving for.

I've had a field day making fun of the jingles of CX vendors and experts. That's why I give huge props to Brian Solis for showing up on a Google Hangout to debate the reality of customer experience and defining over-flogged concepts.

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2. AI and chatbots - probing for viable use cases

Can you recruit for diversity with machine learning? A provocative chat with HiringSolved

I wouldn’t trust an AI provider that didn’t acknowledge their tools are double-edged. They require transparent use – and some type of regulatory oversight. Our legal system is struggling with the latter; see Facebook’s recent about-face on discriminatory capabilities in ad targeting.

Why? A year ago, AI still felt futuristic. But machine learning has arrived and the future is racing straight for us.  My skepticism on bots was tempered by an eye-opening interview with the CEO of GoButler. From there I was inspired by Declara, and their determination to transform education with AI.

We must use caution in how these terms are defined, and how the tech is deployed. The skills/labor consequences are serious - a topic diginomica addressed with vigor. That won't change in 2017.

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3. Security issues heighten in the age of IoT

Internet of Things security – six issues for enterprises to reckon with

Whether they are talking to customers in healthcare or automotive or oil and gas, Gerstenberger acknowledged that all of them are grappling with the many layers of IoT security: the hardware layer, the software layer, as well as securing network connections, data in transit, and application data. Total security is a pipe dream anyhow – “there is no such thing as 100 percent security” – so where should IoT use case designers begin?

Why? Because cybersecurity has now reached board-level priority. My podcast with Giesecke & Devrient revealed an obvious-but-essential principle: design for security from the ground up - for each app/device. That's invaluable when it comes to IoT, and the proliferation of devices.  It's a shame vendors are so afraid to tackle this issue head-on at their events. Worry not, faithful reader - we'll get the story.

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4. Zero paid ads, brand zealotry, and the new media enterprise

The debate over brand zealots – with Joseph Jaffe

Joseph Jaffe gave an electric keynote at Influitive Advocamp about brand zealots, where he invoked some controversial political figures as examples of a “zero paid ad” model. During an on-site podcast, Jaffe and I dug into the implications of his ideas for advocate marketing – and beyond. Here’s some highlights.

Why? Jaffe was in good form in our spicy post-keynote podcast in April.  His example of Trump's social media impact carries weight post-election, with fake news under the scope. We explored the enterprise relevance of "pay zero for advertising" and whether companies really want "brand zealots." And: the hugely underrated concepts of (customer) advocacy marketing.

I notched another shift this fall, with Robert Rose to Hippo Connect attendees: content strategy is “stuck in average”.  It's about changing content strategy to reach audiences of subscribers - not chasing eyeballs.

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5.  Enterprise UX matures - and changes the content game forever

How does UX design fit into an augmented reality and 360 video world?

We know this much about UX design: it’s about engagement. It’s about earning sustained attention. The problem? Enterprise UX is changing faster than our collective design chops. Just when we get a handle on mobile UX, we get a slew of wearables to consider, along with virtual and augmented reality.

Why? Enterprise UX has been a key theme since our launch. Things got a lot more complicated in 2016. New modalities sent designers back to school. Suddenly voice-enabled UX matters. IoT and automation trends remind us: sometimes the best UI is no UI at all. I had to rethink some fundamentals in Why UX has fundamentally changed content’s winners and losers.

Customer use cases are at the core of our diginomica pursuit. It was terrific to share Adobe's UX evolution in Adobe’s Phil Clevenger – the essence of Enterprise UX design is collaboration. We have gobs of use cases around here; check our diginomica use case archive.

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6. Girls Who Code – upping the women in tech numbers

Talking Girls Who Code and women in tech with MongoDB

The first year, I was in a class with tons of people, because it was a requirement. The second year, I was the only girl in a group of boys and they could not stop making fun of me. I could have handled it, I think, but my teacher was so unsupportive. It was a male teacher; he was like, “I don’t know why you’re in this class. You can’t do the problems. You don’t have the mind for this.” Then I stopped. I didn’t take the final year. - Francesca Krihely, Senior Manager, Content Marketing at MongoDB

Why? It would be foolish to proclaim progress for women in tech when there is so much obvious work to be done - and so many persistent pay and advancement barriers. But talking with Meagan Eisenberg, MongoDB CMO and Krihely about MongoDB's involvement in Girls Who Code was a high point. Girls Who Code is addressing the exact type of exclusion that Krihely spoke of, replacing it with opportunities for skills growth and, perhaps, a change in self-perception.

That leads us to one of my fave podcasts of the year, Designing for consent, and AI chatbot myths - live with Caroline Sinders. Sinders is a force to be reckoned with; it was a treat to discuss her views, camped in an empty New Orleans hallway with Collision 2016 on the wind down.

7. Enterprise blockchain shows promise - but big questions remain

Is the blockchain enterprise-ready? Consensus 2016 panelists air it out

Surprisingly, technical challenges such as scalability – a matter of serious debate in the Bitcoin community right now – were not considered the biggest blockers to enterprise adoption. Privacy of data, another obvious roadblock, can be mitigated by private blockchains. So what are the impediments? One biggie: the vagueness and inadequacy of regulations.

Why? Whether blockchain succeeds in the enterprise is still unclear. But the potential of so-called distributed ledgers, which can provide digital verification of everything from identity to physical assets, has drawn the attention of big players - with IBM as the most aggressive.  At Consensus 2016, I picked up a slew of blockchain stories. I later wrote about the Ethereum hard fork.

Those controversies are concerning; Ethereum looked like the leading enterprise blockchain platform; it's now a cautionary tale for the growing pains ahead. Hyperledger, the platform IBM is investing in, now has the mantle as most promising enterprise blockchain platform. I still haven't run into a live enterprise example at scale though.

My fave blockchain stories are either startups or blockchain-in-developing countries (Internet pioneer Nii Quaynor thinks the blockchain can change life in Ghana). As for the enterprise, we'll learn more in 2017 as the blockchain hype cycle edges towards the so-called disillusionment trough.

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8. Workplace by Facebook launches, is no longer possible for enterprises to ignore

Workplace by Facebook launches – collaboration vendors offer rebuttals weak and strong

I don’t know if Workplace by Facebook will become a big collaboration player. It would be foolish to put too much stock in a product that just pulled together a price list and isn’t even generally available yet. But collaboration vendors would be wise to take a break from talking tough, and up their UX and mobile games with urgency. And they need a platform story that includes Workplace by Facebook.

Why? 2016 was the year Facebook became impossible for enterprises to ignore. Facebook's potential to impact elections - fake news or not - shows the power of the Newsfeed, which in turn causes massive headaches as companies struggle to make their content visible. Then there's Facebook's push towards Messenger-embedded services like Uber. Not to mention chatbots. So that's how a Facebook-basher like myself got sucked into writing about Facebook way more than I expected.

The same holds true for the collaboration market, where the "Workplace by Facebook" launch provoked an outcry of criticism from collaboration vendors. That outcry revealed just how threatened they are. Facebook has its work cut out in enterprise collaboration, but the social elephant in the room is getting savvier.

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9. Un-predictions, whiffs, and satirical rants galore

The 2017 enterprise software un-predictions

A  few of the tech un-predictions from myself and my partner-in-miscreation Brian Sommer:

  • Finally, a vendor will get their predictive analytics tools to correctly forecast the Super Bowl winner.
  • Your on-premises vendor will audit you and, surprise surprise, you’ll owe them more money! But by sheer coincidence, you’ll be given the opportunity to roll the balance into a purchase of their  “game changing, next-gen software suite!”
  • Your mother will finally endorse you on LinkedIn.

Why? Rants are good for the enterprise soul. Each week in Enterprise hits and misses, I hit on our industry's biggest whiffs - and this year we had some doozies.

Social media failures are blog cotton candy; the lessons are the kale. And yes, I do call whiffs on our team - and even on myself. I'm sure we won't escape in 2017 either.

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10. Picking what inspired me - raising youth into the workforce

Plugging the tech skills gap by giving disadvantaged young adults a chance - by Derek du Preez.

The solution is quite simple when you think about it. Chertavian was speaking at Pega’s annual user conference in Las Vegas this week, where he explained to delegates that in America right now there are six million young adults that are disconnected from stable career pathways (often because of their socio-economic background, as well as the colour of their skin)

Why? A twist at number ten: pick the piece that inspired me. No easy task - my diginomica colleagues raise the bar constantly. But for one, I'll take Derek's look at how YearUp is giving talented youth a shot they wouldn't have had. See also Derek's powerful follow-on, Jonathan Ruiz tells us how Year Up “saved his life” and got him off the streets of Boston.

Honorable mention to Phil Wainewright, with an incisive job framing a momentous US election in How the Right got its hands on all the best data – and paid Facebook to call the tunes. Phil raises the question of our time:

The power of data is incontrovertible, but it’s unevenly spread and that’s skewing our democracy. Should the outcome of an election depend on who has access to the best data algorithms?

No, I don't have the answer. But I can vow to our readers: I'll spend the next year chasing these types of questions. Thanks as always for your critiques and good words. Now go get your eggnog!