Enterprise hits and misses - tech layoffs harsh the holiday buzz, Southwest trips on technical debt, and ChatGPT rides the hype cycle

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 9, 2023
This week - we charge out of the gates with a macro-economic enterprise wake up call. Southwest grabs the IT failure headlines - will technical debt force 2023 IT spend? HR leadership gets tough love, CES gets a worst-of-show tribute, and I crash the ChatGPT hype festival.

King Checkmate

Lead story - HR in 2023 - can HR leaders keep up with a changing workforce?

Anyone who wondered if Brian Sommer was going to let up on HR leaders (and vendors) in 2023 - well, we have our answer. Hey Brian, can HR leaders keep up with a changing workforce?

Workforces continue to change but a lot of tech, processes and leaders in HR don’t.

That's how Brian begins his two part HR in 2023 scorcher, HR in 2023 - what CHROs and tech vendors really need to focus on. Looks like someone snuck some HR coal in Brian's holiday stocking. Brian doesn't stop there:

Employers want to know what employees want (e.g., work from home options, benefits, etc.) but still see unacceptable employee satisfaction and retention statistics. Why is this?

He provides some answers, but also brings a warning. Modernizing your employee metrics can cut both ways:

Loading up employees with more performance metrics may not work either. These metrics could actually produce a number of false positive results and actually increase attrition from your best and brightest employees. Technology that feels like micro-managing is never a good thing.

There's more: recruiting isn't in top form either (HR in 2023 - recruiting: where creativity goes to die).

We need HR technology vendors to radically reimagine what recruiting (and other processes/functions like succession planning) look like when SKILLS not job titles are the key selection evaluation criteria.

Good thing it's early in 2023. It will take HR leaders most of this year, if not more, to move on the calls to HR action Brian lays out here.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • Amazon and Salesforce cut headcounts as the economic downturn takes its toll - Here's why I didn't lead with Stuart's story: I wanted to start the year on a slightly more uptempo note. Second, these kinds of (significant) layoffs are not a surprise. We saw plenty of signs this was coming last quarter. This news doesn't mean we are in the great depression of 2023, but it does show us that digging out won't be easy, and lots of good people are going to suffer - it can't be sugarcoated. Stuart hits the proper tone here, I think - we shouldn't sensationalize such news but it's still serious business. The only silver lining I can see: this kind of tech economy has little tolerance for fluffy dotcoms with pass-the-pipe value propositions. Mercifully, we should hear less absurd exuberance about Web3 and Metaverse revolutions this year. ChatGPT is another matter...
  • What just happened to Southwest Airlines? A cautionary tale about underfunding key IT technology - Arguably, the most important enterprise tech story of 2022 landed over the holidays (no pun intended, as not many of Southwest's planes actually landed, since so few were in the air to begin with). Southwest's let's-kick-the-can-on-technical-debt systems meltdown is a cautionary tale that should hopefully wake up more CEOs, who may think it's safer to ignore their employees' warnings and skate by with shareholders, rather than to take the financial hit of a transformational IT investment. Ironically, this end-times-experience for Southwest passengers might do more than anything to keep enterprise tech budgets somewhat on track in 2023. Tech leaders can start by reading Neil's scorching analysis here.
  • Frictionless Enterprise - the evolution of the digital user experience - Phil filed another meaty chapter in his must-read Frictionless Enterprise series.

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

Jon's grab bag - Neil wasn't done scorching yet, as evidenced in We're stuck in the AI ethics fishbowl - so how do we get out? Marc starter our year in use cases out right with this revealing story: Social Security Scotland delivers ambitious tech program in just 22 months.  Stuart parsed some fascinating global tech data in It's a small world after all, but BRIC economies have different views on tech's capabilities than the US and Europe, and Gary filed a tech-for-good keeper, Digital beekeeping - using technology to support pollination and help save the bees.

The year in 2022 - the diginomica collection - each year, while the diginomica team joins you in eggnog and festivus, our year in 2022 pieces roll on. We have a range of them for you to peruse, including but not limited to AI and robotics, retail, diversity & inclusion, or my year in cloud ERP collaboration with Brian Sommer. You can check all of our diginomica 2022 year in reviews here.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

  • Stuck Standing Still: 5 Steps to Move Beyond Siloed Thinking in Organizations - If siloed thinking is the norm in 2023, I don't like our chances.
  • How to improve CX in times of a downturn - 2023 looms as a very different - and more unsparing - year for CX and CX vendors. Thomas Wieberneit has a plan of action.
  • Do Digital Your Way. Sidestep the Supply Chain Conquistadors - Lora Cecere set the tone for a supply-chain-centric 2023 with a series of essential posts: "Deeper analytics into poorly implemented planning systems makes terrible decisions faster."
  • Could OpenAI's ChatGPT make Microsoft's long-rumored Bing chatbot a reality? And now, for ChatGPT. Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley looks at a notable/pending ChatGPT rollout, as search engines face off.
  • Machines that think like humans: Everything to know about AGI and AI Debate 3 - We are in dire need of more ChatGPT context and less hype. This three hour AI summit replay (and writeup) is a good place for those who want to make informed AI decisions, rather than pour money down a hype hole, and hope it comes back out.
  • AI Image Generation Models and the Ethics of 'Data Laundering' - AI image generation - a sobering example of where AI rollouts have moved faster than the ethics needed: "And therein lies the ethical conundrum behind such AI image generators. In order to produce something in a particular artist’s style, works by that artist have to be scraped off the internet, and then fed into these AI training datasets." I'm not sure it's a conundrum at all - scraping an artists' work without compensating them is surely just plain wrong? For those enterprises looking to invest in such vendors' tools, keep an eye on the legal system, where some big skirmishes certainly lie ahead.
  • Everybody Please Calm Down About ChatGPT - Finally, someone turned on the cold shower: "The panic and hype around the surprisingly dumb chatbot is stopping us from talking about real issues with AI." Yup. Look, I think ChatGPT and its ilk will have a profound cultural effect - in a way that the Metaverse, blockchain, and Web3 can only dream about in Powerpoint decks. But a profound cultural effect is still different than an enterprise business model. Not many realize that "OpenAI" is a for-profit business; some of these bots peeps are fanning the hype flame with will eventually be reserved for paying customers only. Then we'll have the problem of determining: how much business impact can these fast-evolving tools have? Companies that get the automation-talent balance right are going to have an edge over those that look to push automation and bots further than they can currently go, without alienating customers. In theory, I'm right in ChatGPT's crosshairs - so why am I not afraid? Because at this moment, machines are good at different things than I am. But we won't always have that moat; my worry for visual artists heightens by the week. That's why we need to drill into use cases, rather than pretend that ChatGPT can parse enterprise news, much less write compelling marketing copy. If I get replaced by a digi-bot, you'll be the first to know...

Overworked businessman


So, my fave tech show of the year is already in the books:

Cash bonus to whoever selected that image of the gadget-weary attendee. Speaking of events, looks like my travel plans might need a rethink:

Hilton gave the ol' spray-and-pray a shot, and got my hyper-personalized response for their trouble:

Finally, is Last Pass skating a bit on their breaches - and subsequent PR pirouettes? I mean, this is a freaking password vault we're talking about here.

And we're off and running - see you next week. 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.

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