Enterprise hits and misses - big tech heads to Washington to repent, the systemic risk of cloud dependency, and the future of manufacturing work

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez August 3, 2020
This week - The CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are grilled by US legislators, but grandstanding and avoidance tactics meant very few moments of reckoning. Plus: ‘too big to fail’ economics makes its way to the cloud market. Whiffs include more WFH nonsense and a tone deaf Domino’s campaign.


As Jon Reed has a break from his colleagues a well earned week away, switches off his work notifications and recoups from the madness of 2020, I have the privilege of pulling together this week's Enterprise Hits and Misses. Enjoy.

Lead story - Tech giants leaves Washington largely unscathed after a grilling from US legislators

MyPOV: As was expected, the showdown between the so-called ‘Robber Barons' of the 21st Century and US politicians last week was less of a hauling over the coals and more of a grandstanding opportunity for legislators to show they ‘get tech'. Opportunities were missed to get a deeper understanding of the implications of centralised power online from the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google, with Democrats and Republicans alike straying towards partisan topics of interest. Stuart's scathing write up -Big Tech goes to Washington: Big tech goes home untroubled - but what did anyone expect?- captures the mood nicely:

...the tension between the purpose of the session and the compulsion of politicians in such circumstances to posture, revel in their ‘Perry Mason moment' and act up for the cameras as the Grand Inquisitor that most of them think they are, but emphatically are not. It's been seen time and again, both in the US and other political fora around the world, that the only way to get ‘good' results from such sessions is to ask a series of short, to-the-point, simple questions that demand straight answers and provide no room for equivocation.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that proceedings were carried out virtually, which brought its own unique problems. However, the tech titans largely came away unscathed, with the CEOs listening to their PR Chiefs and giving answers that were non-committal at best, avoidant at worst. But the entire event was overshadowed by President Trump taking to Twitter (the irony) to declare that he will take actions into his own hands if "Congress doesn't bring fairness to Big Tech".

Until next time though, Silicon Valley can largely sleep easy. Stuart:

I went in with low expectations so I emerged without disappointment. To be fair, there was some indication that more research had been done on this occasion by some of the sub-committee members - or their interns - with emails and past comments thrown in the face of the CEOs, particularly Zuckerberg.

But no blows landed and no serious damage was done. If looked at in a ‘bread and circuses' sort of way, there wasn't even the sight of any of the titans losing his cool under pressure.

On this side of the Atlantic, British politicians were also dwelling on the the impact of digital business on the broader economy (or so the headlines would have you believe). The mainstream media caused some hysteria, claiming that the government would be slapping a new ‘tax' on online sales in order to level the playing field for bricks-and-mortar businesses and help raise £2 billion a year. The truth? Stuart explains why that's not quite the case...:

What is happening is that the UK Government, looking ahead to the 2023 re-evaluation of business rates, has issued a Call for Evidence consultation document to invite comments from interested parties- including Amazon et al - on whether there's a better way of doing things. Feedback will then be scoped into a review in 2021 - after the ‘No Deal' Brexit deadline has passed and when who knows what will be happening COVID-wise.

So, online tax to save the economy? No. £2 billion a year from making the Amazons of the world pay their due? No. Nice bit of hyperbole to froth up the right wing mainstream media? Job done!

diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style

Use cases galore -They're the bread and butter of diginomica content and this week we saw a swathe of use cases come in, tackling a variety of change issues.

Derek's grab bag -With all the fear mongering concern around the rise of the robots and a future that will see us ruled by AI overlords, it was refreshing to see Neil drill down this week on why Artificial Intelligence will not resemble human intelligence. However, there will be AI that is extremely useful. Neil notes:

We are not close to "situational awareness." I see no path to an AGI that is a duplicate (and superior one) to human intelligence. Our current efforts are not much more than point solutions. Nor do I see the need. Airplanes don't flap their wings, they fly higher and faster than birds.

What I do see, however, is a third thing - an artificial intelligence that is different and superior to human intelligence. We will have the technology for this in this century. While the relentless push to AGI raises serious ethical questions, they will not moderate progress.

It's worth checking out Jerry's view on whether California's CPRA will become the standard for national consumer privacy legislation. His take: the current system puts too much burden on users to understand and manage personal data themselves and nowhere near enough on the companies that collect and use data. And finally it wouldn't be a Hits and Misses without a bit of retail analysis from Stuart - this week he takes a look at John Lewis's post-pandemic ambitions, where the UK household name is set to put digital front and centre of its plans.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

Lead story - External consultants can't fill the gap in the digital enterprise

My POV: A piece appeared this week from Steve Andriole, a Professor at Villanova University, which argues the case for internal consulting teams for digital transformation and boldly tells McKinsey, Accenture and Cap Gemini to step aside!

Adriole's take is that external consultants are not only expensive but that they can't get to the heart of an organisation that is having to grapple with wide ranging complexity in the digital age. Instead internal capability must be built - you can't outsource your knowledge. A message I can fully get behind. He says:

Digital transformation requires an integrated understanding of a company's strategic strengths, weaknesses and intentions, and an understanding of the technologies necessary for it to win. Digital transformation also requires an intimate understanding of a company's language, ways of working, culture and the politics that explains what's possible. External consultants simply cannot know these things unless they move in and stay for a long while. More broadly - and this is the key point - "digital" is now the primary competitive advantage a company can exert on its competition. Digital transformation simply cannot be handed off to consultants. There is nothing more "core" than competency in this area.

Adriole calls for an internal team of consultants (in other words, invest in people and build out capability where you have gaps, don't hand off responsibility to a third party out of fear). He concludes:

But the takeaway is clear: rethink the role external consultants play at your company especially when it comes to digital transformation, and then consider how an internal team might accelerate success.

Cyber security

Honourable mentions


An honourable whiff this week goes to Domino's - a company which has digital clout in the market, but might need some lessons in responding to zeitgeist trends. The pizza delivery giant had to backtrack on an offer in New Zealand to give anyone with the name ‘Karen' a free pizza - the idea being that Karens have had a tough time online lately and the nice ones deserve a treat. However, as is the way of the internet, a backlash quickly grew over claims the company was rewarding privilege. Maybe stick tostuffed crustswhat you're good at, Domino's…

However, my primary whiff this week goes to a number of people online that think that a future of work that involves distributed workforces is a terrible idea. First up I spotted this piece tweeted out by our very own Jon Reed, called ‘Our remote work future is going to suck'. Among the reasons cited include how remote work can stifle your career growth, how it breaks large companies and how it enables you to be forgotten. It seemsGoogle,FacebookandTwittermissed the memo on those points, ha? As Jon put it nicely:

I then spotted a slightly less dogmatic thread from Matt Ballentine on Twitter, which prompted some very interesting responses from followers about why employees need office space. I'm probably slightly cheating here because I wouldn't class this as a full blown ‘whiff' (sorry, Jon), but it continues on the theme and the replies are worth a read to see how strongly some people feel about it.

My main rebuttal (as someone that's worked from home for 7 years) to the above is:

Anyway, that's me done for this week's Enterprise Hits and Misses. It's been an honour and I hope I've managed to do at least half a good a job as Jon does (this is a mammoth task every week and he makes it all look so easy!). Until next time…


Image credit - Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Loser and Winner © ispstock - all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure - Sage Intacct and ServiceNow are diginomica premier partners at time of writing.