So what does ‘the After’ look like?


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A good friend from high school calls the period after we stop lockdown “the After”. As I teach university as well as run a think-tank, the discussion comes up about business models in ‘the After’. How will airlines operate with enhanced social distancing? What happens with restaurants, can they change seating plans to have a “corona immune” section? Will the emphasis be on local business sustainability, to the determinant of Amazon? Are we moving from the experience economy to the cooperative economy?

I have a couple of immediate predictions:

Countries that now rebuild tech infrastructure (5G, IoT, contactless payment, etc) will get further ahead in bulletproofing their economies. WFH will be a reality for many years, and the platforms to do so need to be better scaled.

Governments that re-skill the population to 21st century work forms will survive more fully in the long term. Automation is king, protection of poorly trained workers benefits no one.

Supply chain agility will continue to be a big thing, as companies who quickly and without prompting converted to face mask, PPE and surgical scrubs will be remembered as innovators and their brands will benefit. (CSR)

Personal privacy will take a hit in the near term, but to the benefit of society as long as there is oversight on how the data is used.

You can bailout whomever you like, but if the consumer does not feel that was a worthwhile action, it will impact consumption. Not only elephants never forget…

Supporting local industry will be a priority for many communities who will remember what it was like to have scarcity at a time of crisis.

Much more to come, business model process innovation is my favorite thing next to chocolate……


Zoom as a Platform (ZaaP) – Innovation for the current era


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In a week full of stress and uncertainty, one thing is certain. We require new infrastructures to support the heavy load of all online all the time. And one thing I have learned from this week is that most video concall platforms are not scaling very well. They all meant well in offering free trials for 90 days and so on to take advantage of the online need, but cracks are showing in most platforms in terms of peak periods and performance.

Except for Zoom, I understand. Where Skype, WebEx, Google Hangouts, MS Teams are occasionally overburdened, most folks using Zoom have not had the same experience. In fact, many are turning to Zoom as the platform of choice for real life experience in the age of social distancing. Education in the form of classes (academic and practical) are springing up all over the Web.

There is a great opportunity here, assuming Zoom continues to scale, to base business models on the Zoom as a Platform (ZaaP). Let’s call it being ZaaP’d. Will Zoom become the next Facebook as the must have app to reaching and communicating with customers?

How will COVID-19 test your organization’s resilience? Can a pandemic create new business models?


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I had a great concall this morning (yes, on a Sunday) about how organizations are approaching the possibility of the virus impacting their infrastructure. The tech giants are asking for home working, and the educational institutions are looking for virtual and remote learning.

But there are several business models here that are going to be damaged.

First is the model of insurance. As seen by SXSW this week, the organizers held off cancellation hoping that Austin would ask for it first. This is because the insurance company did not see the virus as an Act of God or natural disaster. As more and more companies will take financial hits going forward, how will insurers be pressured into adapting existing types of policies to cover (or not) pandemics?

The next is the model of conference calling. Many of the mainstream providers (Zoom, Cisco with WebEx, Google) have tried to take advantage to building the business with free 90 day trials during this period. But the uptake of Zoom recently has started to impact the quality and bandwidth provided for calls, as noticed by several users this week. Is there enough infrastructure for everyone to go virtual? I see an opportunity here for other models that exist (virtual universities, virutal events in the form of an electronic open day) to take hold.

The third model is the sick leave model, focusing on the amount of time off that a contracted employee can take. I know I had to take sick days for a family member being ill last week, and have already used up my days for the six month allocation period. Hourly workers, and those who work on freelance contracts, will be badly hit. Will people change what they do for work based on a pandemic? Certain industries will be short of workers if this is the case.

The final model I want to discuss is the retail high street. If we have social distancing, how we shop and how we eat out will change completely. E-commerce models still need fulfillment, and if workers cannot work in warehouses or shipping, we have a fulfillment problem. Will 3D printers be the answer that you can make your own? Will be there be fixed locations to pick up your goods with quarantine information available as to its preparers?

Will we have virtual dinner parties, or be exchanging recipes for self quarantine kitchens? Or will you book a restaurant based on distance from other diners and with a health certificate from the kitchen staff? (Note: already happening with delivered food in China, comes with temperature reading from kitchen preparer as well as delivery person.)

Having stocked up on canned goods and toilet paper, I am not as ready as I would like, but already thinking past this season until next Fall…… Can we turn this into an innovation moment?

Looking for my red rubber ball

On my home office desk for many months sits my copy of the book by Kevin Carroll entitled “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball“, as well as an actual red rubber (squeeze) ball. I have had the book for a number of years, and always enjoy revisiting its message of that thread throughout your life that keeps you engaged in what you find meaningful and energizing.

But I have to admit recently that I am lacking that direction towards joy.

My theory is that every seven or so years you enter a new phase of your life. I think it had to do with how often your cells rejuvenate. I recently read a document that suggests you create a timeline of your life, and pick 10 or so major moments that have defined your life direction (the so-called ‘highlights’ or major milestones). But that kind of turns things into a Readers’ Digest version of your life and I am not ready to be on “This is Your Life” just yet….

Even though the last 4-5 years having had extreme lows and interesting highs, at the present time I am plateauing and I am not sure how I feel about that.

So next to this book sits another hand-sized notebook, reminiscent of a former colleague who carried a little notebook everywhere. This is where I jot down my instructions to myself on how to make the necessary changes I believe need to be made to be on a more positive path towards better outcomes. It has a unique cover, and I picked it up in Australia on trip in 2018.

Together, these two books are helping me to guide my journey this year towards not necessarily calmer waters, but ones that flow with ease and movement. And somewhere there, I hope to find my red rubber ball floating alongside me.

Why 2020 could be the year of “Edge as a Service” (EaaS)


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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Bringing compute resources to the edge implies efforts in reducing the amount of data that needs to be sent up to the cloud. For many data-intensive applications such as video surveillance, natural speech recognition and health related monitoring, the need to process data as close to the source as possible can be important for both efficiency and security.

The major pitfall with edge computing, as it is now, is not a lack of data available but the lack of understanding in how, where and when to use it. Enterprises are starting to really understand that sometimes data has more value staying close to where it is, rather than centrally collecting it.

So why does certain data need to stay at the edge?

1. It’s big. Bandwidth issues exist: networks need to be kept clear of large volumes of data needing to be sent up into the cloud.

2. It’s timely. Speed of reaction is important: having low latency low allows rapid response as the data is processed where it sits. Imagine the reaction time necessary on the brakes of a self-driving car, for example.

3. It’s valuable. Security and privacy concerns that are alleviated (mostly) by keeping data processing as local to the data source as possible thus eliminating massive amounts of potentially hackable personal data from being stored in the cloud.

What is the power of data in a smart structure?  Trust in data is now essential to effective digital transformation.  Single verifiable source of truth is critical to sharing and collaboration using data sets. We are not getting into a blockchain discussion here, but it is imperative that data can be reliably sourced. Leaving it where it is, as a single source which can be both dynamic and real-time, is important.

I believe that data-driven implementations of Edge as a service (EaaS) will be important this year, especially in mission critical production activities, which could be oil and gas, machine assisted surgery in healthcare or any activity where immediate data inputs affect automation-assisted performance.

Content is not King


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Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

Content is not King.   Content is more like microplastic, everywhere and in volume.  Content is not curated anymore, on the contrary.  Content is everywhere, sprayed like a firehose.

This is why the streaming wars on broadcast media content is reasonably meaningless.  Because when you see how much people can make from YouTube and the advertising model there, you wonder why Netflix, Amazon, Disney, etc is spending so much money and time creating “original content”.

Because we are all now self-important, as shown by our need to create our own narratives (Instragram, TikTok) and our own self-fiction.  Heck, some even want to test their DNA to create their own biological narrative.

In the early era of broadcast media, we had both content creation and network curation.  People in media became trusted sources of information.  Right now, it takes personal effort to curate what is true, and what is not.  And much like the concerns when portals were created, many personal curation attempts end up filtering all but what they want to hear, not necessarily what is true.

Because of this, we get other people’s detritus.  And the effort to filter, to listen, to critically think – is beyond many people’s capacity. (Unfortunately, I see this in working in higher education.  I also see a great deal of mental health issues, which I believe is tied to this.) And I also see less people willing to read, which may be a function of time.

Trust now is a function of curation.  And the instinct to trust is built on experience and wariness, not openness and willingness to listen.

This stream of thought came to me this morning when I realized that I was not reading new authors, having bought a new book from an author I had not read before.  I have been reading blogs and articles using tools such as Medium but finding less and less relevant content for my personal interests.

So how do you go about finding new relevant and honest content in (nearly) 2020?   Where do you apply a trust factor in terms of sourcing relevant material?  I watch less TV, listen to less broadcast media, and generally have less media entertainment in my life at present.  I no longer find it that relevant or entertaining.  But I see myself in the minority, given how many people are attached to small or large screens, or with headsets or earbuds on.

I am highly critical of content now and limit myself to infrastructure providers that are not going to make me uncomfortable with their efforts to sell my data in exchange for access.  Have we all become more wary?

Where do you find yourself in this next decade finding relevant and interesting content?

A workplace design fixation


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Source: LEGO

I have been actively looking at workplace design the last few years, focusing on why and how a workplace motivates creativity and inspires collaboration. If you go back and look at some of my blog posts, you will see discussions on IoT, lighting, temperature and use of space as part of our quest with technology to make workplaces more inclusive and efficient.

But I am not ending it here, in fact quite the opposite. I have recently seen how the space that you work in impacts how you perceive work. Which is why I question the whole coffee shop working ethos, as well as the lack of logic on putting up glass walls between offices. Neither situation creates comfort and engagement. Coffee shops may be hip, have coffee and great music, but you cannot focus nor engage well for any period of time with others there. And as for the glass walls, my colleagues either stay away or put up posters blocking the view.

So I am now looking at how technology enables the use of space, and how technology and intelligent design can really push the boat out on how we work, and more importantly why we work as we do.

Reach out if you want to chat about this more.

A nightmare service model


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I woke up at midnight from a nightmare, and knew first thing this morning that I had to write this post. The nightmare was caused by a service model I am participating in where I acquire the services of an expert.

Why would an expertise service model give me a nightmare? Let’s first look at the service models we are used to, and then I can show you where this one caused my severe reaction.

We are used to a subscription (utility) model, where we sign up and consume, and then monthly (or other time frames) we are billed for our consumption. If you do not use the service, you are still billed for a basic fee for connectivity.

The next more common model is one of retainer. I use the services of an expert when it is necessary (lawyer, consultant, accountant) and they bill me on billable hours, and I pay when service has been rendered.

I am currently consuming remote expertise with a different model, and this is the one that gave me bad dreams. I pay a monthly fee, and can (per week) ask for visual analysis for up to six events. I submit the events, and then the expert gives their opinion (usually within 24 hours) via a visual medium. But it is my responsibility to provide the data in the right format and form, and to take actions after the expertise. I am also responsible for the monthly payments, as no reminder is sent. This is a small, but lucrative, business where this service is one of the smaller services of the service provider.

Why does this give me bad dreams? Because I have been using the service for 7 months so far, and I always have to remember where I am with the service (what week, what events, what payment is still required) and my subconscious reminded me last night that I have two more weeks and need to get some more events to load. Guilt by taking full advantage of my payment, in other words.

I am seeing a shift from classical service models of subscription and retention to models where the consumer has to take a more active role in the service provisioning. These services are more complex and less mainstream, and cannot actively scale as the subscription model does.

Is service complexity really a growing phenomena? In my business, I see the opposite that more and more information is put in front of a paywall to tempt the potential client (kid, candy store) to enter and to see the level of expertise on offer.

Yet when I consume from other small businesses not in technology, I see increased service complexity and enhanced consumer participation.

What do you see in your business? Reach out to me here or via my Twitter feed (@afairch) and let me know.

When personalization is too boring


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I have noticed more often these days the attempts of platforms to personalize my experience. When I say ‘notice more often’, I am saying that it is too obvious and also clear to me that they have not profiled me that well if this is what they believe I am looking for. And frankly, it is becoming boring!

Or the picture of me that they are reflecting back to me is seriously flawed, like a cartoon character version of me. Perhaps their algorithms are not tuned well, or they are only seeing a part of the information I have to offer as I have changed my search methods to be less obtrusive to an observer?

I say this in light of research work I am doing with Ovum on Account Based Marketing strategies and vendors. When you see the plethora of data being collected, yet in the case of me personally the mistakes being made on what interests me and what I might click on, it tells me that marketers generally are not realizing that most of us are turning down the volume on social media in our lives, and only listen to trusted voices of friends, family and people who influence we look to as trend setters. It is harder for marketer to remember that it is a ‘pull’ market right now, no longer a ‘push’ market.

I am helping someone I know craft their personal branding message, and I see others who are trying to help them implement it get it wrong on the basis of not understanding all of the parameters involved.

This leads me to believe that the problem with the social media algorithms used is that the data model is not large or complex enough to understand the subtleties involved. There appears to be a lack of learning occurring, and re-targeting efforts just amplify that finding.

So like many others I know personally, I am dialing down the use of social media and going back to more original sources, personally mined, to get my information for decisions. I’ll let you know how that goes in a few months. 🙂

GDPR for Marketers – Distraction or Opportunity?


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On March 28th at 11am EDT (4pm CET), Dr. Alea Fairchild will participate in a webinar on “How to Thrive in the World of Data Protection and Privacy for Marketers”. Registration is still available via this link.

Post-GDPR – how does your marketing team deal with data privacy now?

GDPR came into force on May 25th of last year, and for many marketers, it was a wake-up call to reexamine internal procedures and processes.  

GDPR as a regulation takes a wide view of what constitutes personal identification information. Companies now need the same level of protection for things like an individual’s IP address or cookie data as they do for name, address and national ID number. The GDPR carries provisions that require businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. And it also regulates the exportation of personal data outside the EU.

Since its implementation last May, marketers are still not clear on how it is enforced, what the penalties are, and how best to tackle compliance for those small and medium size businesses without an internal legal team. And since May, we have seen other regions refocus their efforts on privacy and consumer data rights.

So is GDPR taking time from other priorities, like cybersecurity or data protection policy, or does it bring a benefit to better engaging the customer? Or are the two related?

According to a recent Ovum report, about two-thirds of U.S. companies believe that the GDPR will require them to rethink their strategy in Europe. Even more (85 percent) see the GDPR putting them at a competitive disadvantage with European companies.  That last figure is puzzling, but culturally telling, as I believe from my experience that U.S. companies view customer and prospect data differently than in other regions of the world.  So how can data handling be transparent and create a climate of trust in the business ecosystem?

Let’s highlight some of the topics we will be discussing on March 28th in the webinar.

How did consumers react prior to GDPR last May?  Businesses were confused on how to reach out to prospects and customers in their data systems, so many marketers did mass mailings to notify people that they held data on as to ask permission to continue communicating with them. This provided a terrific opportunity to cement a closer relationship with prospects and customers.   And of these many marketers blew it, and instead gave reason for people on their mailing lists to opt-out with pleasure.  Why?  Because instead of telling people how important they are and how you plan to interact with them going forward, these mails just reminded them they were signed up to a mailing list that was no longer relevant to them.

Have we seen a business impact? Let’s face it, data privacy is a business issue with strong implications on customer experience, brand reputation, and personalization. Trust, transparency and reputation are all on the line every time we engage with a prospect or customer. Those that took this as an opportunity worked on addressing this as a benefit to the relationship by pointing out how they handled data, why they collected it and how it was used, as well as how they plan to use it going forward.

Were there any early adopter benefits? Firms that were first to embrace GDPR consistently report improvements in their business outcomes, including their customer experience and data strategies. GDPR has also been pushing firms to innovate and prepare to deliver services of the future, in line with compliance and transparency. GDPR can be an opportunity to more clearly engage the prospect or customer as a trusted provider of service.

Where is data protection and privacy headed next? Tech companies cannot require that to receive value from their products and services, you must give up your data. If you want to ask for data, there should be a reason for it and there must be an option to revoke the information if requested. To be precise: Consent must stand out, be clear and include the reasons for collection.

Where should we focus our DPP efforts? Decide the purpose for collecting the data, and the manner in which it is collected.Make the necessary process investments, supported by good tools, to know the state of your data protection efforts beyond a dashboard. DPP efforts should include internal data protection awareness workshops, privacy impact assessments (PIAs), managed breach detection and response, and breach notification policy.  Get the necessary tools for a data audit, as data discovery, mapping, and protection technologies are all key aspects to protecting consumer data and privacy. Cybersecurity monitoring, threat detection, and alerting systems are necessary to ensure GDPR compliance. Because under current GDPR requirements, organizations have to report a breach within 72 hours of discovery.

What can I do to proactively make this an opportunity for our marketing team?  Privacy protection compliance should be enforced through not only business processes and strategies but also investment in technologies and incident response management.  Data breaches are not only expensive but erodes trust in the brand.