As we’re reminded on a daily basis, experts tell us we’re on the cusp of a digital revolution. For many of us, we scratch our heads and ask if we’ve really been living in an analog world over the past 10 years. I honestly can’t remember the last time I picked up an actual newspaper or printed out a boarding pass. Nonetheless, we’re being told to prepare for a bold new world where most human interaction is optimized, and machines will take the reins. Inefficiency will be replaced by algorithms and automation. While I’m not afraid of a virtual dad (as seen through my kids’ virtual reality glasses) walking my children to school in the morning, I am concerned about how to make the most of this “revolution.”
As consultants, we’re often asked to validate our clients’ future technology roadmaps or help guide investment decisions around next generation platforms. It’s not so easy anymore. In the past, we could better predict when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em in terms of technology investment. The intersection of Cloud, IoT, Data, Bots & DevOps have muddied the waters more than any other time I can remember. Many technology executives are subject to paralysis by analysis. Too many choices, not enough proven formulas.
Where do we go from here? How can one be expected to make the right decisions for the future with no real roadmap? What and/or who is the best source? The answer might not be too hard to find. I propose that we look to the future…our children. As a father of four, I’ve seen firsthand how our lives have been overtaken by the digital world. We’re swallowed by a healthy dose of online chatting, clashing, crushing, and crafting. We navigate the streets at speeds under 5mph seeking digital creatures; relationships have been digitized; and YouTube is much more interesting than Monopoly in our household. Strangely enough, I find some comfort in this new world. As observers of these young creatures, we’re all being provided a roadmap for the future. I’ll outline five parallels between home and business that might provide some insight to developing an impactful digital agenda for years to come.
Connection is the New Currency
Have you ever been in the presence of a 4 year old when wifi goes down during a random Youtube video? Trust me, it ain’t pretty. It’s an eye-opening experience. The expectation of an always-connected environment has been set forever. The same holds true in the enterprise. Gone are the days of online/offline options in our workplace. Even when not connected, we must create a flexible, but static architecture that allows our users to continue to do their jobs with no change in the user experience. The good news is we’re starting to leverage this sort of technology today. We’re currently using many of the new PaaS offerings from SAP, Salesforce and Microsoft to help achieve this always-on approach to development.
Furthermore, our children thrive as part of this sharing culture. Whether it’s sharing the latest snap or the the swapping of answers to tonight's Algebra homework, the kids today only know one way of working--collaboratively. As we move forward, all architecture, storage and applications must consider this important dynamic. We’re already seeing the power of some of the Google and Microsoft apps that allow this sort of real-time collaboration. We need to be careful to apply this same thinking in all products and services that we offer to the enterprise.
You Can Lead Them to Water and Make ‘em Drink
For years, I’ve tried to get my kids off the couch and outside for some Vitamin D with very little luck. The Xbox and PS4 have robbed our kids of the great outdoors. Essentially, our garage was full of dusty bikes. That all changed on July 6, 2016. Do you recall the significance of this date? Pokémon Go’s launch date. Before we knew it, the video game controllers were collecting the dust and a quiet calmness echoed through the halls of the house. With no influence from parents, they were on the sidewalks again, enjoying the fresh air.
This mobile-device dependence doesn’t stop with our kids. I’d urge each leader to take advantage of this change management opportunity. As we craft the next generation of applications, we should place special emphasis on how we design these tools to encourage collaboration and transparency across the enterprise.
Be Prepared for Wild Success
In a recent podcast about the startup of Instagram, the founders recounted one of the biggest mistakes of their journey--they didn’t anticipate the demand and weren’t prepared for the popularity of their photograph-sharing site. They didn’t anticipate the international community’s massive adoption of their platform. In modern day, our children are quick to share their emotions, snapping and sharing their emotions several times an hour in Snapchat’s “secure” environment, safe from their own parents. Today, we have the benefit of almost unlimited scalability from the Cloud. Today’s CIO must really question the need for additional investment in non-scalable platforms. Compute power and storage will one day be virtually “free.” We must carefully structure agreements with partners that allow this scalability without the long-term financial commitment to storage and compute power that might never be required.
Loyalty is for Losers
They demand options; agility is king. No longer are the days where you buy one $60 game that provides a year of enjoyment. Instead, there are subscription video game services and free apps that allow the next generation to switch allegiance from game to game on a daily, even hourly basis. There is no long-term commitment. Pokémon Go, the most successful app in recent history, isn’t even in the top 50 downloaded apps today--just four months after release! As we approach our 3-5 year planning cycles, we can no longer assume that a huge capital investment in an application will run its course. Today’s CIO must ask why a more agile, SaaS based model can’t meet the needs of the business today, because the long term commitments to legacy enterprise models will constantly face scrutiny as the market adds better, more agile options in years 2, 3, and beyond. We also need the flexibility and mindset that it’s ok to cut bait when the fish are no longer biting.
Simplicity is the new Gold Standard
In a bit of a refreshing trend, kids are migrating to the simpler, more intuitive options in the App store. Instead of a graphics-rich game that takes months and years to develop, the next generation is flocking to stick figures on motorcycles jumping basic shapes. We’re also seeing a resurgence of old-school video game systems, like the Classic NES. If something needs an instruction manual, it’s tossed aside for the more intuitive option. The UI must be clean and rewards must be easy to calculate and compare to friends. As we look to shape future expectations of our user community, we must avoid over-engineering. Great is the enemy of good; agility must become a mindset.
I recently had the pleasure of escorting my daughter, Olivia, to work for Capgemini’s “take your kids to work day.” As I watched her and some of the other children work through a few simulated group exercises, I was refreshed to observe how well they collaborate and leverage technology to navigate various challenges. The companies that embrace this new set of expectations, this Digital Generation, will be the real winners in the race to returns. Instead of waiting for the our own organizations to dictate the new norm, let’s get a headstart on this revolution and spend some time with our kids at the same time.