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
Too big to fail as well? Systemic risks of cloud dependency and an existential enterprise threat- Kurt breaks down why the cloud providers are the new banks when it comes to ‘too big to fail' economics. He notes that "if the financial engineering before the 2007 crisis taught us anything, it's that any highly interconnected system designed to eliminate risks contains obscure, unperceived threats that only manifest themselves after the damage is done".
The future of work in manufacturing - COVID-19, generational divides and skills front of mind- I take a look at how the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is thinking about the future of work, where a growing generational divide is creating risks and a skills gap. For example, "NAM is aware that there is suppressed interest amongst Gen X and millennial groups to pursue a career in manufacturing, whilst every 8 seconds a baby boomer retires from the industry".
Vendor analysis, diginomica style
COVID means customers need ServiceNow's tech more than ever, says CEO McDermott- Stuart gives us the rundown of ServiceNow's Q2 numbers, where the company's subscription revenues have hit the $4 billion annual rate. The company believes that COVID-19 is focusing C-Suite attention.
Atlassian bulks up its ITSM play, buys Mindville as it releases Q4 results- Phil takes us through why Atlassian is looking to make its mark in the ITSM market.
Using low code to sidestep the disruptors - a market survival strategy from OutSystems?- Martin speaks to OutSystems about how the COVID-19 pandemic has "significantly changed the rules, creating almost overnight the need for every business to have a ‘digital' workforce" and how low-code development can support those changing needs.
Building a cloud ERP partner program from the ground up - tips and gotchas from Taylor McDonald- Jon tells us that the most underrated aspect of cloud ERP success is a good services partner. Sage Intacct's SVP of Channel Sales, Taylor McDonald, gives us his inside view of the Intacct partner program as it hits its 10th birthday.
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.
Auto Trader is creating a ‘culture of data' to democratise data use internally- Auto Trader is the UK and Ireland's largest, digital automobile marketplace. The company has built a data platform in a multi-cloud environment and is now thinking about how to empower all its users with the skills to take advantage of it.
Waxing lyrical about e-commerce - heritage retail at Barbour expands in a digital world- Barbour dates back to the 19th century and is best known for its iconic waxed jackets. However, in 2020 D2C e-commerce is the name of the game.
Brewing resilience - how early digital vision is paying off for Starbucks- Stuart takes a look at how Starbucks' early digital investments have paid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How NatWest is using Adobe and data to create more personal digital relationships with customers- Banking used to be about one-one-one relationships with your bank manager in your local branch. The internet has changed that. Can you replicate those relationships at scale, online? NatWest is working with Adobe to do just that.
Digitizing how brewers get their hops - Yakima Chief Hops automates with Magento- A network of hop farms throughout the Pacific Northwest was relying on archaic processes (such as email and phone calls) to get products in the hands of brewing customers. However, since switching to Magento's e-commerce platform transactions have been automated and self service has been adopted to improve transparency throughout the supplier process. Also, BEER!
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
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.
Garmin admits outage caused by cyber attack- Following an outage that impacted its flyGarmin website and mobile app, the company finally admitted it had suffered a ransomware attack and had paid $10 million to the cyber criminals.
How to approach cyber-security in the post-COVID-19 world- The World Economic Forum gives us its two cents on how leaders can take a systemic approach to cyber-security within the context of the rapidly changing business landscape.
British spy agency GCHQ appoints new chief cyber security chief- Lindy Cameron will replace Ciaran Martin as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ in the UK.
What makes a good leader?They're the least interesting people in the room, they hire and retain diverse talent and they build a foundation of trust.
Target's Gig Workers Will Strike to Protest Switch to Algorithmic Pay Model- workers take a stand against black box algorithms dictating pay. This is a trend we are likely to see more of in the future of the job market.
Re-opening the tech-enabled office- COVID-19 is forcing employers to think about tech in the workplace in new ways to keep employees safe. This report breaks some of it down for us.
Face masks are breaking facial recognition algorithms- one upside to the pandemic? It's put the breaks on the success rate of ethically debatable facial recognition software.
CES goes digital in 2021- The organisers of the Consumer Electronics Show have announced that that one of the world's largest technology trade shows will be digital next year, as uncertainty over COVID-19 continues to persist.
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…
I would like to speak to the manager of Domino's NZ for thinking that giving free pizzas to people called Karen is a good marketing idea pic.twitter.com/6RIz2zPMM1
— James Mustapic (@JamesMustapic) July 28, 2020
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:
Our remote work future is going to suck https://t.co/QlBKYegqG6
The remote FUD continuing on and on...
Not one mention of how remote work can empower those who are physically unable to be in offices, tapping into talent that has been unfairly excluded.
Enjoy your commute
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) July 27, 2020
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:
Seeing lots of opinions about why working from home isn’t good for employees. Whilst it will vary for many, I think it’s important to note that there’s a difference between WFH during normal times and WFH during a pandemic. The past few months aren’t typical of the WFH experience
— Derek du Preez 🏳️🌈 (@Derek_duPreez) July 30, 2020
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…