Nick's Blog

Digital Reflections

I am sitting writing this in Dublin. I’m on a day trip visiting clients.

In the UK, my car registration plate was automatically recognized to gain access to the car park which was pre-paid online. I’d an electronic boarding card. I flew here in less than an hour, waved a piece of paper at a customs officer and walked into the country. I have used no cash either to get here nor for lunch which I’m trying to to eat as I type – there is nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind! In a few minutes I will store this document in SharePoint using a secure VPN across public wifi and my editor will be ready to fix any glaring errors and typos and publish it.

We take this for granted. But my parent’s generation would be astounded how easy it is and somewhat in awe of the “new” technologies in common usage; my children will think it is too disjointed and clunky.

It is nearly all digitally arranged but it is not agile. The trip took a lot of planning – from exchanges of emails with my client’s PA, working out the best airport for a day trip, best way to get there, how long I really need to drive, legally but not necessarily as slowly as generic journey planning software will assume and three electronic bookings and payments.

Each company that I have interacted with has made big investments in technology to get us here. But it is not (yet) joined up. Perhaps my diary software of choice could have arranged the whole trip for me; perhaps even the agreement email, “yes, I can do that date”, could have caused the diary entry in all relevant calendars and caused the trip to be arranged – systems of interaction triggering activity in a set of systems of record in a coherent way.

This will lead to a new way of competing. If, and it is still a big if, all components of a business trip were connected, not as a package, but more as a marketplace, then the organizations that got closest to my needs will get my business, subject to my settings embedding whatever interface we use to set this up. Rather than “google” and buy the components separately, a new organisation (I think)offering this, will want to know about my preferences, and dislikes, and join it all up dispassionately. Then the component suppliers will really need to know what their customers want, because loyalty will shift from “I like this company” to “this company does what I need”.

That is a big change. It reverses the way we have learned to think. In the software world we have long been told that it is no longer about the software package it is about the resultant document. But that is not how we think – just listen around the office, people still talk about creating a PowerPoint or a spreadsheet (interestingly that one is often generic) and very few embed outputs from different different tools into the same document – and then it is usually at final stage when it ends up in a PDF.

It will be an interesting journey.

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