In our 2014 Digital IQ survey of almost 1,500 business and technology executives, only 20% of respondents are highly confident in their organization’s Digital IQ—a company’s acumen in understanding, valuing and weaving technology throughout the enterprise.
How can a company raise its Digital IQ and harness the full power of technology to advance their business performance? Top performers—companies that reside in the top quartile for revenue growth, profitability, and innovation—point the way.
We analyzed the responses of top performers to understand what they do differently to fuse business and technology. For top performers, digital isn’t window dressing or corporate speak. Digital is a way of life. Following are five key best practices that top performers employ to outdo the competition:
1. CEO is the Digital Leader
81% of top performers say their CEO is an active champion of using information technology to achieve business goals, compared with 68% of other companies. Executives tell us that CEO involvement in shaping strategy provides them with a competitive advantage. Once the company determines its digital strategy, the CEO must define clear roles, accountability, and governance for how the strategy is executed. The scope should address who is responsible, and how the functional or business unit leaders will work together—for example, what the CMO is responsible for in a customer initiative, what the CIO does, and together what they will deliver and when.
2. CMO and CIO are Collaborative Partners
The CIO and CMO relationship is critical to success because many digital technology initiatives are driven by marketing needs. 70% of top performers say their CIO and CMO have a strong relationship, compared with just 45% of the pack. The growth in digital marketing spending, often independent of IT, has led to debate among industry analysts about whether the marketing organization will soon yield more spending power than the IT department.
Click to continue reading the five key best practices
As the use of mobile devices continues to climb, the use of dedicated apps is also increasing — but is this a natural evolution, or should we be worried about apps winning and the open web losing? Chris Dixon, a partner with venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, argues in a recent blog post that we should be concerned, because it is creating a future in which the web becomes a “niche product,” and the dominant environment is one of proprietary walled gardens run by a couple of web giants — and that this is bad for innovation.
Dixon’s evidence consists in part of two recent charts: one is from the web analytics company comScore, and shows that mobile usage has overtaken desktop usage — an event that occurred in January of this year. The second chart is from Flurry, which tracks app usage, and it shows that apps account for the vast majority of time spent vs. the mobile web, an amount that Flurry says is still growing. I’ve combined the two charts into one (somewhat ugly) graphic below:
If apps are winning, is the web losing?
The implication of all this is obvious, says Dixon. Mobile is the future, and what wins on mobile will win the internet — and “right now, apps are winning and the web is losing.” Not only that, but Dixon argues that the problem is likely to get worse, as more companies realize that an app gives them much more control over the user experience than a website. And with less and less investment in making the web experience better on mobile, it will continue to deteriorate, which in turn will push users even further towards the use of apps.
The 30th San Francisco edition of Macworldopens Thursday with a showcase of startups that organizers not surprisingly tout as the next game changers in technology.
But predicting the future is always easier in hindsight:
“The machine uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse.’ There is no evidence that people actually want to use these things,”San Francisco Examiner columnist John Dvorak wrote in a column published in 1984 by the then-jointly produced Sunday Examiner & Chronicle.
To his credit, Dvorak correctly predicted numerous reasons the original Macintosh wouldn’t be as big a hit as Apple hoped. But we now know the mouse revolutionized personal computing.
Macworld itself has transformed several times since January 1985, when that first show drew 100 exhibitors and thousands of Apple fans to Brooks Hall. At the height of its popularity, there were two annual Macworld shows, including one on the East Coast.
Center of universe
But San Francisco has remained the center of Macworld’s universe.
The legendary Chronicle columnist Herb Caen described a swanky preshow party at the St. Francis Hotel thrown by David Bunnell, then chairman of PC World Communications, publisher of Macworld magazine and sponsor of the show.
Over the last week the question of why Facebook would spend $2 billion buying Oculus Rift, a maker of virtual reality headsets has been asked repeatedly. In a world where wearable technology is generally seen as the next big thing, a pair of rather large VR goggles appears to run opposite to the approach taken by Google GOOG -2.94% and more recently Microsoft MSFT -2.15%.
Simply put, Google has taken a much more contextual approach to how it believes you and I will consume its services. It’s a strategy that sees a combination of ubiquitous mobile phones, wearable technology and globally available Internet, built upon a collection of web connected things. These things include Nest, a web connected Thermostat, Google Glass, a wearable heads up display of information and recently its announcement of Android Wear, a version of the popular mobile OS tailored specifically for wearable tech products. Adding to the mix are some of its ambitious R&D efforts like “Project Loon” which looks to use a global network of high-altitude balloons to connect people in rural and remote areas who have no Internet access.
Through these activities it seems Google’s strategy is to create contextual elements that augments your existing reality with data specifically tailored to you as you live your life. Or in other words, they are not looking to immerse you its world, so much as to help adapt and improve your existing world by adding to it. Combined with Google Now it’s a strategy that tries to anticipate what you need to know before you ask or even know what to ask.
Satya Nadella’s Microsoft is all about “mobile and the cloud,” a more nuanced view of what it means to be a devices and services business. So if day one of its BUILD developer conference was all about the mobile, it’s not surprising that day two was all about the cloud — with Cloud and Server chief Scott Guthrie making 44 separate announcements about Azure in the course of his keynote.
Microsoft’s Azure cloud service has been the driver for much of the company’s recent innovation, with its mix of infrastructure and platform features. Working with Azure has meant working with its web portal every time you wanted to create new virtual machines. Microsoft is streamlining the process for developers, so you can now create a virtual machine straight from Visual Studio. You can also manage your existing VMs, and even remotely debug apps running across devices and the cloud.
Increased automation makes Azure, and the cloud as a whole, more palatable to IT departments. With support for Puppet and Chef, you’re now able to automate configuration management across a flexible fabric of virtual servers. By adding open configuration management tooling to Azure Microsoft is making its cloud surprisingly portable — you can take those configurations and use the same tools to deploy them on other, competing, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) clouds. Microsoft is also using its own tooling to simplify defining and provisioning virtual servers, with its PowerShell scripting environment now supporting a JSON-based template language that can be used to deploy not just servers and applications, but also the low level connections that form the foundations of a cloud application.
Azure’s web platform is perhaps the most visible element of its Platform as a Service (Paas) aspect. It’s now able to autoscale web sites, helping your apps keep online as loads fluctuate. There’s also support for a new Webjobs role, which offloads work to background threads running in any supported language, and tools for handling traffic across Azure’s global network of data centers. You can now also use Azure as a development platform for web applications, with private staging sites that can be swapped for live sites at a click of a button.
After last week’s launch of Office for iPad, the announcement of the Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite, and the news from the company’s BUILD conference this week, it seems that Microsoft has finally gotten to the enterprise mobility party in terms of devices and in terms of infrastructure.
With Windows Phone 8.1, the company is finally building a range of enterprise security and management capabilities into its mobile platform. Microsoft is also making it easier for developers to write code that crosses all of its platforms, something that’s useful for consumer, business, and enterprise app development.
While most of the focus this week has been on devices and developer resources, Microsoft is also making some powerful plays in terms of enterprise mobility infrastructure. When I spoke with Microsoft vice president Brad Anderson back in January, it was clear that Microsoft had high aspirations in terms of entering the enterprise mobility space. At the time, Intune’s mobile management capabilities were far from complete – and, for iOS and Android, they still are below the benchmarks of many EMM vendors at this point. But it was clear that Microsoft was going to be making rapid improvements and expanding the scope of its capabilities.
The scale of that strategy came into focus as Satya Nadella announced Office for iPad alongside a new vision of Microsoft as a “mobile-first and cloud-first company.”
The Enterprise Mobility Suite builds together a range of technologies that are likely to add up to being more than the sum of their parts.
The suite builds on the multi-platform mobile management capabilities that Microsoft began implementing last year and advanced in January. Those capabilities, part of the company’s Intune cloud-based device management solution, included support for managing iOS and Android devices in addition to devices running various flavors of Windows.
In a recent study by the World Federation of Advertisers on the contentious subject of big data, top marketers have highlighted some of their biggest challenges. Whilst 88% of the respondents said it was vital for current and future business decision-making, 54% struggle to cope with the huge volume of data being generated. (See the infographic below)The other 4 challenges include:
- To deploy insights practically across the business (49%)
- To find business analysts and data scientists with the right skills (49%)
- Unprepared to take advantage of the opportunities of big data (74%)
- Improved understanding of ROI as their primary reason for investing in this area (70%)
The study is based on on responses from 47 different multinational brands, collectively responsible for USD35 billion in marketing spend each year. Conducted in conjunction with The Customer Framework, the survey revealed that big data efforts work best when three key conditions are met:
- The company has a clarity of purpose around its big data efforts
The most successful respondents were those who identified a clear purpose to their exploration of big data. Nearly 61% claimed to have a clear definition of the purpose of big data. Because every company has access to a multitude of different data sources of varying quality and ownership, the absence of a ‘purpose’ or hypothesis can lead to wasted investment, the WFA said.
- The company ignores the hype around big data and starts small
Starting work with small data sets can enable marketers to more easily meet with success in identify insights that can be applied across the business. This helps to demonstrate that it’s worth investing more in the right people and tools. It also allows marketers to boost their expertise and enable them to ensure that work on larger and more disparate data sets truly generates better commercial insights.
Click to continue reading and view infographic
Wearables are the next big thing, analysts and industry watchers say. But are they right?
Take your pick of hyperbolic predictions: BCC Research forecasts that the wearables sector will grow to $30.2 billion by 2018; ABI Research anticipates that 485 million wearables will be sold annually by 2018.
That sounds incredibly positive, but BCC analyst Adam Weigold warns that in order for the industry to hit his firm’s prediction, customers will have to feel that wearable devices offer “distinct advantages.”
There’s the rub. Wearables must be innately useful. They must deliver essential functions. Their existence needs to make sense. They have to supplant alternatives. In other words, these things can’t be gimmicks.
At the same time, they have to work as fashion, something the tech industry has no experience in.Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell told Stuff thatexisting wearables are “terribly literal” and lack “symbolic meaning.” That’s important, she said, since in general the things people wear “do symbolic work.”
And while wearable computing devices must function as fashion accessories, it’s a mistake to make them technology accessories. Not a fatal mistake — there’s a strong accessories market. But to really snag mass-market adoption, wearables need to be essential and work as stand-alones.
The above chart comes from data released by SNL Kagan earlier this month. It highlights the fact that, despite all of the ink spilt in recent years bemoaning the internet driven demise of traditional media, such businesses remain very, very profitable.
The most profitable “old media” business in America last year was John Malone’s Liberty Media, which among other assets, owns the Atlanta Braves major league baseball franchise; 26% of America’s fourth-largest cable provider, Charter Communications; and 27% of concert promoter Live Nation. (Although it’s worth pointing out the company enjoyed a one-off accounting gain worth $7.5 billion, after it changed the way it treats an investment in satellite radio operator Sirius XM on its books).
There’s a common thread between the rest of the top five (and at least half of the list): they produce and sell television shows and/or movies. 21st Century Fox is the company behind the eponymous network, cable channels (like Fox News) and Hollywood film studios; Disney makes nearly half of its revenue out of its media networks division, which includes the juggernaut that is ESPN; Time Warner owns HBO and CNN among other businesses ; Viacom is the company behind MTV, Nickelodeon and the Paramount line of film studios.
It is also worth pointing out that Google, by many definitions a media business (it makes most of its money out of search advertising) is more profitable than any company on the list. But among internet media (or so-called “new media”) businesses, it’s the glaring exception.
All the same, internet companies like Facebook (net income was up 4,600% in 2013) and Netflix (up 555%) are growing at a rapid pace. So it might not be that long before they are among the biggest media businesses—however you choose to define one—as well.
Between Google’s January £400 million purchase of DeepMind and IBM’s recent competition to find new uses for supercomputer Watson, the media spotlight seems to be gradually honing in on Artificial Intelligence (AI). We speak to professional insiders to find out if 2014 really is the year for AI.
“I have a list of things I expect people to do with Watson, but by unleashing it to people in Brazil and Africa and China, as well as Silicon Valley, who knows what they’ll come up with. That’s the intrigue behind having a contest,” said Jerry Cuomo, IBM fellow and CTO for WebSphere about the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, which invites software developers to produce apps that make use of Watson’s resources.
This certainly opens up a lot of scope for progression in Artificial Intelligence, especially when you consider the increased emphasis on machine learning and robotics from companies like Google, which has been gradually acquiring organisations in this space. In December there was Boston Dynamics, in January there was UK startup DeepMind, and then there were all those smaller deals like DNNresearch along with seven robotics companies at the tail end of 2013.
So where is Artificial Intelligence likely to go in the near term, medium term and long term?
Neil Lawrence, Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Sheffield who works with colleagues on DeepMind and Google says: “The investments we are seeing [by big companies] are very large because there is a shortage of expertise in this area. In the UK we are lucky to have some leading international groups, however the number of true experts in the UK still numbers in the tens rather than the hundreds.”
“The DeepMind purchase reflects this,” he continues. “Their staff was made up in large part by recent PhD graduates from some of these leading groups. Although even in this context the 400 million dollar price tag still seems extraordinary to many in the field. The year 2014 is not the year in which these developments happened, but it may be the year in which they’ve begun to impinge upon the public consciousness.”