Enterprise hits and misses - NRF's retail show gets the diginomica treatment, and knowledge workers get their relevance challenged

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed January 20, 2020
This week - NRF's retail show gets a full diginomica review. Plus: why knowledge workers are facing a relevance question. The year in AI gets a critical start, and a new future of work index debuts. Your whiffs include a media takedown award.


Lead story - Knowledge work has peaked. Experience workers are the new elite - by Phil Wainewright

MyPOV: Not long ago, knowledge workers were set to carry the day. But Phil argues that Peter Drucker ultimately got it wrong:

Knowledge is still important, but today it has become a commodity. In the 21st century, value is shifting towards experiences and outcomes.

Perhaps - but that overflogged marketing vehicle brochure word "experiences" means so many different things - and too many of them seem fluffy.

How does Phil parse it? As he writes, it's about what customers expect. We want brands to engage with us. Why? To get the result (outcome) we are looking for:

This is an ethos that requires participation from every part of the organization, from back-office staff to frontline workers. Everyone needs to become an experience worker, conscious of how operational excellence within their own function contributes to the success each customer experiences.

The employee's role must evolve:

Access to knowledge is still important, but empathy and emotional intelligence become more valuable in crafting and delivering an experience that engages and retains customers.

Knowledge becomes something networked systems must support, because what you need to know changes so quickly:

The knowledge you possess will no longer define your worth. Instead, your value will be defined by how well you can absorb and apply knowledge in the moment.


The ability to apply knowledge to enhance experience is far more valuable than knowledge alone.

Phil's piece is worth a close read - there is more to his take on the XaaS economy than I can get into here. Buzzwords aside, I can't argue with Phil's gist - unless we are diminishing the role of specialist know-how. I'm not budging on the persistent value of experts. Wrap empathy, creativity and problem solving around that expertise, and we're in business.

Diginomica does NRF - our retail analysis was in high gear, as the NRF "Big Show" descended on NYC:

Kurt dissected the AI retail themes that blanketed the show in AI in retail - big investments can deliver new business and happy customers. Stuart took on digital pioneer Starbucks and their NRF keynote. I explored retail-as-data-business themes in Customers are generating a gold mine of operational data, and Oracle wants to do something about it.

Part one of my show wrap podcast is out too: NRF 2020 - sorting the use cases from retail tech hype with Jake Knowles of BJSS. And yeah - retail news rages on. Right after the show wraps, Stuart took on another one: Breaking up is (too) hard to do for The GAP and Old Navy, so what's the next omni-channel 'big idea' going to be?

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A few more vendor picks, without the quips:

Jon's grab bag - Stuart parses a landmark report that is relevant to Brexit, but also beyond: Digital protectionism on the rise - principles to champion a global economy Meanwhile, Den continues his extraction of hobby insights in  Lessons for enterprise from the scale modeling world - Part 2, where reality bites.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

Jason Corsello of Acadian Ventures issued the first iteration of his Future of Work Index, tracking 31 publicly traded companies that address the future of work in some capacity (here's the full listing of the companies tracked). So how have these companies performed? Corsello:

The performance is 6x better than the S&P 500 over that same period and 4x better than the NASDAQ composite.

So far, the public information from Corsello's team is a stake in the ground. He details some factors driving these changes. What we need to know more about is: what makes these companies exceptional - and how are others missing the boat?

Over on ZDNet, Tom Foremski gives us a collective terminology spanking clarifies our AI and ML discussions heading into 2020: The year of seeing clearly on AI and machine learning. Foremski warns us of our "AI" temptations:

ML systems make decisions without any explanation and it's difficult to determine the value of their black box decisions. But if those results are presented as artificial intelligence then they get far higher respect from people than they likely deserve.

And after several giddy headlines on how AI is going to solve all kinds of health ailments, it was good to see Wired's sober-minded take: Artificial Intelligence Makes Bad Medicine Even Worse.

AI systems like the one from Google promise to combine humans and machines in order to facilitate cancer diagnosis, but they also have the potential to worsen pre-existing problems such as overtesting, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment.

Indeed - though helping medical teams work smarter isn't a bad thing. I'm fairly bullish on "AI" (sorry, Mr. Foremski) on applied image recognition, but I welcome a dose of cold water. We haven't saved any lives with this "advance" yet.

Honorable mention

Overworked businessman


In this case, I like AI more than humans:

I've never met this dude, but I like him:

I got my dander up over this extra-linkbaity piece from ZDNet: Using Google Authenticator? Here's why you should get rid of it.  The writer says: "It's old and has some severe downsides." As far as I can tell, the so-called "severe downsides" come down to fetishized preferences and a desire for convenience (portability across devices). Convenience - not always a brilliant way to think about protecting your data.

Isn't that same portability a potential security flaw? Maybe, just maybe, that is the reason that Authenticator doesn't allow that? But sure, put your 2FA trust in whatever startup suits you. I'm just glad I'm not the only one. Other readers blew gaskets, as in: "This article is complete nonsense. Removing Zdnet from my news feed."

But when it comes to sharpening our BS detectors, Vijay Vijayasankar gets the door prize for the best media takedown this week:

That's a high bar for next week - let's get to it...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.


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

Disclosure - Oracle, FinancialForce, Acumatica and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.

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