The Future of IT – 04/04 Itinerary

Few weeks ago, when I published the article “The Future of IT”, I was planning to write something about technology.

But, as most bookworms turned practitioners, I know that a white page is tempting.

Most writings about the future are actually the typical side-effect of an attempt to find order within chaos- notably when it is an unknown chaos that you are trying to describe.

This article is published in four parts (no more than 1000 words each).

Of course, I tried to keep it readable- no more than 150 to 250 words per section.

This is the fourth article: itinerary.

You have read about my target future and the present. How do we move from the present to the future? It depends from where you are now. Therefore, I will outline an example, i.e. monitoring online positioning, that could inspire other applications.

The case study

The case study

If you are a small company selling products to consumers or other companies, your choice of channels is mainly linked to the value per customer.

In this case study, I assume a SME that selected normal retail channels (supermarkets, etc), using the online channel to acquire visibility (“the” company in its specific segment), inform customers, and obtain new customers for areas not covered by the retail channels.

Acquiring visibility meant showing online the expertise that made their product unique, by having the marketing unit and an external agency re-write internal material, after reviewing with the lawyer IPR protection issues.

Beside the website, the company also retained the services of external experts to use advertisement on Google and others, and to make the website visible in searches and through links from complementary products.

The issue for the company is: should it get an internal resource to monitor the online activities?

And if so, how could it then ensure that the resource is always up-to-date?

Or should it keep rotating between companies that, in the end, sell the same tricks to all their customers?

When asked to look into the marketing material to “tailor” the online positioning approach, those companies become prohibitively expensive, and there is no real monitoring on how that side of the investment is affecting sales.

There are some software solutions on the market- but, again, who has the skills to monitor them?

So, the solution is to join forces with other companies and some suppliers.

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Instead of working with its own budget, the company talks with its agency, and together they draft an idea of what they would like to obtain.

Talking with other companies at the local association, a joint outline is developed.

The outline is then presented to a rating company, to identify if and how a service could be delivered.

The rating company has internal software experts, but, instead of setting up a new service center to deliver the service to the new customers, they decide to use the services of a cloud computing company.

The concept is simple: on the cloud, a shared model will monitor and analyse all the data from the websites involved, link everything to the initiatives, while each participating company will receive a physical machine where there will be only one software- to combine data from their own accounting systems with the model.

The model will then send back to the cloud parameters, used to assess the results of each type of initiative across time in each company, and send to the company a feed-back on how did it fare, compared with others.

Thanks to the size of its new customer base and its own expertise, the rating agency will constantly evolve the model and, via the pre-configured computers, it will send to each customer automatically updated models, allowing them to use always the best practices.

This new service can then be packaged- the aggregated model on the cloud becomes potentially a new database to sell.

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What was in the previous section was actually done in a piecemeal fashion time and again by different companies.

The innovation is what happens next.

Being on the cloud, the service is available and can be used for new services.

As everybody involved (from the company originating the idea, its agency, the other companies, the rating agency, any additional customers) is clearly associated with each step in the creation and delivery of the service, any further revenue generated can produce a “royalty payment”.

The further value added is the possibility to install, on demand, other services from the catalogue, either on the cloud (for non-sensitive or non-proprietary data) or on the appliance, used only if, when, and where needed.

For example: if your invoicing cycle requires issuing documents twice a month, why should you buy and keep the invoicing side of your software for a full month?

If the service and its base are on the cloud, you will downsize the in-house IT systems, as the only one that you will need is the appliance, while delegating all the communication and logic to some standardized service online, that will be always be up-to-date.

Every customer becomes potentially a supplier.

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If you read again the case study, the building, and the innovation sections, you will notice something: the complexity is transferred to the relationship between all the parties involved, but the risks (and benefits) are shared between all those involved.

Moreover: hardware is barely mentioned (the “black-box” appliance), as well as software suppliers.

The concept is quite simple- if you remove technology from the picture, it becomes simpler to build aggregations of interests around a specific “core expertise” (the rating agency, in this case), and the providers of needs and funding (the initial customers).

But the key issue is: the initiator of this process must be on the customer side, to generate a business-driven solution.

The concepts in this chapter are applicable today. What is still missing to produce target future is, of course, a catalogue-based marketplace, and a catalogue-based intelligent scouting system on the appliance (but check online).

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Technology is becoming so simple that it looks like magic (yes, look for the source of this almost quote).

If you remove the complexity from the tool used to solve a problem, you allow the user to focus on the real target.

While IT in the past was the territory of the specialists (myself included), nowadays non-technical users can increasingly generate business-oriented solutions with limited or no investment.

Transforming hardware and software into commodities will maybe one day create also a derivative market on revenues generated by a specific “organizational experience”, finally converting IPR into an asset- but for each one of the parties involved, suppliers and customers.

In the future, also consumers, that are currently required to provide increasing amount of information from a long list of irrelevant petitioners, could expect to be paid for the information they provide- more than the fraction that they are paid now.

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