Enterprise hits and misses - Davos issues robots vs jobs warning, and the killer IoT app is a service

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 25, 2016
In this edition: Davos goes for digital speed but hits gender equality speedbumps. Robots square off against jobs, and the killer IoT app is an API service. Plus: some memorable whiffs.

Cheerful Chubby Man
diginomica hit: Davos 2016 – no speed limit in pursuit of digital transformation - by Stuart

quotage: "'We were coming from a relationship which was projects and service on demand. You have a problem with your power quality; I come to help you. Now we are connected 24/7. That means that we can bring new values, new capabilities and a lot of new services. We were operating as a federation of companies and customers were harshly complaining, ‘We want one solution, we want one Schneider’.'" - Stuart quoting Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of Schneider Electric

myPOV: Planeloads of heavy-hitters, change agents and digital divas descended on the World Economic Forum in Davos. Stuart documented the intellectual festivities in a two-part series on digital transformation (The digital change panel was the second most popular session at the event, trailing only Kevin Spacey). In part one, Stuart noted how digital change peels back to culture, communication and trust.

The CEO of Kaiser Permanente spoke directly to the issue: is digital coming for our jobs, or enabling us to compete better? (He firmly believes it's the latter, but that's where the communication comes in). Alas, the more things change, the more they stagnate, as Stuart hammered home in Davos 2016 – men still run the world and it’s not going that well. Appropo to conclude with this from Facebook Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandburg: "Sandberg conceded that the world is at a tipping point between optimism and pessimism about digital disruption."

Happy children eating apple
diginomica five: top five stories on diginomica this week
  • In search of a ‘killer’ app for the IoT era - Martin's on his game as he asks where the killer IoT app is actually a killer service. The killer app turns out to be a new class of services, fueled by APIs: "wizzo customer-facing services can use APIs to feed directly into and out of those back office systems." Martin took another IoT angle in The Internet of Things, sport and avoiding the own goals, where he ruminated on lessons from the sports fan experience that might not translate so wonderfully to the workplace: "And what might be the consequences? Imagine being able to monitor every detail of every action taken by an employee and identify which might be the weak link," To paraphrase Martin, managers are salivating - workers not so much.
  • Could Myspace have become Spotify? Innovate at the edge, not at the core - Derek used a recent event in Manchester to spark a question on how companies should innovate. "Core versus edge" is one way of framing it, and it raises provocative questions. I found myself distracted by the Myspace part. I don't know whether Myspace could have become Spotify, but even in their prime that Myspace was overlooking its close relationship with musicians to its peril. Seems like they looked past a market advantage in search of the grandiose. That rings a bell with a couple of my own failed ventures past.
  • What we should really be watching – HR - Brian's back with an acerbic laundry list for HR vendors to ponder, loaded with warnings on automation perils and algorithmic bots run amok. And: there is no technical fix for lack of managerial empathy.
  • Beware these 5 disruptive changes when you go cloud HCM - Phil delves into recent SAP and Workday customer use cases to boil down some cloud HCM field lessons.
  • How digitization in retail is having a domino effect on Macys, JC Penney and Sears - Wherein Den asks if there is a remedy for the Amazon cloud retail effect? Short answer: no, but there are potent retail logistics issues to consider. Beware the "Macys Effect."

Vendor analysis, diginomica style - IBM beat its numbers but still took a Wall Street beatdown. Den explains the "major problems" that make investors tiptoe in IBM beats on Q4 FY2015, can’t catch a break with analysts. Stuart assessed another services giant in an uncertain transition in Changing of the guard at Wipro as CEO designate sets out strategic stall. A blog comment from a NetApp service provider added another dimension to Phil's NetApp, IBM lose out as storage spend boils to the cloud. (Phil scores a line-of-the-week with "the inertia of existing relationships will delay action until it’s too late."

Den added SAP earnings outlook, starting with the full numbers in digibyte – SAP outlook for 2017 at the top of previously guided range, and digging in with SAP Q4 FY2015 – a critique for the road ahead. Gist: the business model transition is underway and the numbers show traction. But: challenges related to S/4HANA adoption and the role of SAP in digital transformation remain. As a video maven, Den's a good one to assess IBM's Ustream move (IBM acquires Ustream, expects video to lose its Cinderella status).

Phil delves into Infor's retail cloud ambitions in Infor puts $25m in retail big data play Predictix. Building on recent skills themes, Den shares Infosys research – 12 key findings about next generation skills and education (Me: traditional education is completely out of step with digital work - can employers fill the lifelong learning gap?)

Jon's grab bag - Phil went on a devops binge this week, writing on a devops startup ($30m launch as Sendachi brings devops to enterprise) and a devops banner-waiver (Puppet CEO on why he won’t use the $22m they just raised). As Phil sees it, it's all part of the devops mainstream emergence. Den wraps my picks with a life/work balance sinkhole, Killing off talent with travel. He raises a nagging question: why do we insist on burnout travel loads when virtual meeting tech is more than adequate?

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
World Economic Forum - robots and humans square off for jobs, by just about everybody

quotage: "The World Economic Forum warned in a report published on Monday that advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and other modern technologies are currently likely to lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs worldwide by the year 2020." -

myPOV: The World Economic Forum (WEF) timed a big new robotics-and-jobs report for release with last week's events. The result was a flurry of hot takes, ranging from upbeat (Ray Wang), to ridiculously upbeat, to sober/serious (Machkovech). On TechCrunch, Roshan Choxi framed it up pretty well:

Even if we take the surveys estimation of 5.1M lost jobs by 2020 with a grain of salt and trust that job growth can keep pace with job declines (albeit in different industries), it’s unequivocally clear at this point that the shift in employable skills will be a challenge for those on the losing end of that exchange. This is a problem that we can prepare for though, and the WFE is rightfully ringing the alarm bell for employers and governments to prepare the global labor force for a sudden shift that could leave many workers at risk of losing their jobs.

It's fascinating to see such variations in optimism/pessimism from the exact same data. Robots-versus-jobs reminds me of climate change: once folks take their positions, they gravitate towards the data that reinforces it. But just like in climate change, the debate obscures the real point: get to work. The know-how on skills expansion is already there: all that's missing is employer-sponsored upskilling/training programs that should benefit - well, just about everybody.

"No more excuses" in hiring a diverse workforce, declare the authors of the WEF report. The contrasting list of 2015 and 2020 skills is interesting, with creativity and emotional intelligence taking big jumps on the 2020 list. Sounds like a better workforce to me; I guess "fighting robots" has been saved for the 2025 list.

Other standouts

  • Oracle gives analysts the cloud lowdown; analysts are impressed - Oracle hosted two cloud events in New York City last week, one for customers and one for curmudgeons analysts. The food - oops, I mean the content - must have been solid as Constellation's Doug Henschen, who does not hand out praise liberally, had warm things to day. (see Henschen's analysis, Oracle Data Cloud: The Data-as-a-Service Differentiator). Henschen withholds his verdict on the ambitious Oracle Data Cloud, but he makes the point with scarce data science skills at a premium, "insight as a service" could be a fruitful market - though Oracle will encounter many familiar foes (IBM, Microsoft) and new ones (Amazon) in these pursuits. Henschen's colleague Holger Mueller posted his own progress report, where he asserts that "Oracle remains the only cloud vendor stressing DaaS – Data as a Service capabilities." Bonus points to Mueller for shooting a video wrap in the back of a fast moving vehicle...
  • Silicon Valley, stuck in innovation monoculture? - If we're going to innovate our way out of our dilemmas, count Silicon Valley lifer Tom Foremski amongst the skeptics - at least as far as Silicon Valley is concerned. Asking "How many varieties of email organizers, dating apps and to do lists do we need?" Foremski serves up the tough love: "Silicon Valley won't go away -- it'll be where startups will go to scale their business. But don't expect many original startup ideas from this self-segregated business park monoculture." He likes our chances better in more diverse environments.
  • The biggest content gap in technology marketing - Gartner's Hank Barnes revisits a key piece on how tech marketing teams are falling flat: customer case studies. Barnes and I had a debate on this previously, about how much detail on implementation and training should be included in a case study. The debate isn't as important as the overall content lessons Barnes pulls in here. He writes of a content disconnect that prevents potential buyers from understanding the steps to value: "I believe that if providers developed content that described “the first 90 days with our product” (or any other relevant time frame), that these concerns would diminish."

Honorable mention

Transforming Consumer Value Chains: Navigating the Power Shift to the Shopper - I love me some supply chain wonkiness.
The FANG Playbook - FANG, for those who don't give a hoot about Jim Cramer, stands for the high-flying stocks of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. Here's some nuance on why they matter - though I'm gonna need more convincing that Netflix will remain in this group for the long haul; they aren't superior in content production or inventory, and they don't control content distribution the way Facebook dominates social. Only problem is that if you take the 'N' out...
Download the industry’s updated Robotic Process Automation maturity model - take an interactive survey, get some detail on your robotics/automation maturity...
How crowded is the cloud? - speaking of surveys, two of my fellow Enterprise Irregulars have wrapped a report on cloud use and adoption with FinancialForce.


Overworked businessman
Since we all do time on the apology circuit, it's nice to have a professional from Without Bullshit to grade the apologies du jour - in this case, from the Boston Globe, Chipotle, and the Oscars (over the incredible lack of diversity in their finalist nominations). Of course the Oscars got a failing grade - but then we're talking about an awards program that thought Dances with Wolves was a better film that Goodfellas, and who snubbed Bill Murray in Lost in Translation so they could give a make-up Oscar to Sean Penn for Mystic River to make up for other prior snubs.

A video from SAP crossed my feed this week, SAP's CMO reveals Top 5 ways to transform business for the digital age. The video content is ok, but here's the bugaboo: this isn't really a "thought leader" video, it's a promotional video for SAP's product lines. That's fine - but let's title our content according to what it delivers. A better title, you ask? Just call it "SAP's CMO reveals Top 5 ways SAP can transform your business for the digital age." Yeah, you might lose a few views, but that's better than the bad aftertaste of mislabeled content.

Den in an unrelated whiff

And finally, my diginomica colleague Den Howlett posted a controversial post this week, The stack fallacy nonsense. Den's post was a response to Anshu Sharma's piece on TechCrunch, Why Big Companies Keep Failing: The Stack Fallacy. Den Howlett is one of the best enterprise bloggers because he is willing to go where others won't go, and say what others won't say. But our strengths bring an edge to reckon with. I thought this post went too far, and I let Den know that during a spirited phone conversation.

I'm a huge believer in the rigorous challenge of ideas - that's what enterprise customers need from enterprise media, and let's face it, they don't get it nearly enough. But Den's piece felt to me like settling a personal score of some kind; it had an attack-dog-vibe that rubbed me the wrong way. Den doesn't agree.

We can have an extended debate on how relevant the nitty gritty of Sharma's employment history is to his argument. Den feels it is extremely relevant. Den's assumption that Sharma's knowledge of Oracle and Salesforce is "woefully out of date" because he no longer works there is just that - an assumption - and therefore not a persuasive point.

Where I do side with Den is that Sharma should have disclosed in his piece that he formerly worked for Oracle and Salesforce, two companies that are important to Sharma's "stack fallacy" argument. Weaving in reflections from his tenure also would have strengthened Sharma's post. Like Den, I found myself questioning Oracle as one of Sharma's key examples of the stack fallacy problem, and therefore the universality of Sharma's premise. In my view - and no one can accuse me of being an Oracle fan boy - Oracle has done pretty well in the apps business, early-Fusion-years absurdities and growing pains notwithstanding (the glowing cloud reviews above are the latest evidence).

There are also gobs of ERP market share stats to back that up, which would have been an ample counterpoint to Sharma's position. That said, Sharma's got a compelling point about the ease of acquiring technical know-how versus the elusiveness of deep market intelligence. Anyhow, for me, this got too ugly and I wish a different tone of back-and-forth debate had been achieved. (Full disclosure, Sharma is a fellow member of the Enterprise Irregulars and I know him through our backchannel discussions, though we've only met once.). Maybe someday we can get the two of them on video reflecting on this, if and when enough water has passed under the bridge. For now, you'll have to settle for this whiffy commentary. And with that, we move on, as the two of them have already done, at least from what I can tell.

Whew! And now you can get back to your snow shoveling - or watching polar bears frolic in the snow if you so choose.

Which #ensw pieces of merit did I miss? Let us know in the comments.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

Image credits: Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Snowboarder Crashing © dismagwi - Fotolia.com - all from Fotolia.com

Disclosure: SAP, Workday, Infor, FinancialForce and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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