Monthly Research
& Market Commentary

10 steps to becoming ‘digital’, the real world and a common lament

Identity/Strategy / 29 Jun 2015 / By Lewis Richards

I was about to begin this post with the phrase “Open a browser these days …” when it struck me how anachronistic that is.  So let’s start again …

When one of the myriad of Internet-connected devices that you carry on your person sends you a haptic ping and shows you a contextually driven snippet of information, chances are it’s a top ten list of some new meme or trend.  A ‘news’ item that one of the social graphs within the numerous walled gardens/open ecosystems you inadvertently subscribe to thinks you may like.

Now that particular piece of click bait is no doubt not particularly interesting, but the very fact that more and more of these items are driven to you by systems that purport to not only know you, but know where you are from a geo-location perspective, means that the very fabric of the world that surrounds us has changed.

The change itself though is pernicious.  The world to our eyes (whilst a magnificent feat of evolutionary development) looks the same.  We are completely unequipped to recognize the hyper connected nature that the physical world now possesses.  Our biology is letting us down.  It is also because we are lulled into a sense of security and comfort based on device form factors.  A rectangular glass and metal phone case since around circa 2007 has stretched and become thinner, but at no point has it developed any capabilities that scream out loud “hey, owner, you may not be aware of this but I am broadcasting my ass off and I’m talking to the environment all around me”.  To our eyes, it’s still the shiny inanimate object until we, the ‘owner’, choose to touch it and make it connect to the world.  The hubris!!

This poses the next great challenge for enterprise business in my mind.  Most firms have done a sterling job of ensuring that the greater percentage of their employee base have developed over the last 100 years to become, as we say in the LEF, double-deep.  This model states that there is a balance between a functional skillset and commensurate IT skills.  The problem here, though, is evolution and abstraction.  Becoming double-deep over the last decade has meant that the old joke of “my cup holder has broken on my computer” has not only disappeared, but also to millennials may well have become completely obscure.  When was the last time you (a) used a tower PC and (b) stuck a CD in it?

IT skills have improved immensely around office toolsets and an understanding of ‘the cloud’ and what it means to store information in different locations.  The new world, though, is fundamentally different.  Employees will need to understand contextual computing, sensor nets, beacons, how the devices and the clothes they wear interact with the buildings they walk in and out of.  Haptic interfaces, virtual and augmented reality.  APIs and how to construct throwaway business functions in seconds – all of these skills will be basic capabilities.

The common refrain from employees I talk to about this stuff is generally, “Who is going to tell me how this stuff all works and how to relate it all to our products and our customers?”  The unfortunate answer is no one.  If you are waiting for learning and development to create a CBT on the world you live in, then you are going to be way out of luck.  The answer is that it is everyone’s responsibility to learn for themselves about the new world.  We all have to begin to question and evaluate the environment.  Instead of wandering blithely through the office, begin to walk through and visualize the things you can see.  Is that mobile on the desk off?  Or is the screen off and it’s sitting there listening to the conversations those two staff members are having, waiting on a keyword?  Is that coat slung over the back of that chair just a coat, or is it full of environmental sensors?

Becoming double-deep in this new world means that the IT skills component is expanding. to include a digital fabric that goes far beyond basic office IT skills.  I tend to believe that this new world and the opportunities that hyper connectivity presents are fantastic.  However, that is caveated on the fact that you actually realize that the world around you has changed in the first place …


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