Build 2016 - Day 2: Walking out of the wilderness

Jeffrey Hammond
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu
 
Today’s Build keynote felt a bit like the final steps of a thousand mile journey for Executive Vice President of the Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie, if not the larger Microsoft. It’s been a multi-year journey, forging a cross-platform, cross-language and open source culture at Microsoft, and it was by no means a sure bet. Let’s review some of the history:
 
  • If you can’t beat cancer, join it. Steve Ballmer’s 2001 statement that “Linux is a cancer” is an almost mythic meme 15 years later. But it clearly articulates the corporate attitude of Microsoft toward open source at that time. Old attitudes (and cultures) die hard. That’s why yesterday’s announcement of Bash support in Windows was not just good for cross-platform developers, but symbolic of the now firmly rooted cultural transformation at work in Nadella’s Microsoft. We noted it years ago, but it’s pretty clear that the change is sticking.
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Understanding The New Guidelines For Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) In eCommerce In India

Satish Meena

The Indian government issued new guidelines for FDI in eCommerce on March 29, 2016 to provide clear definitions for the sector and to remove ambiguities in the law that companies have been using to get foreign investment. Here are some of the key changes and my thoughts on their impact:

  • The government has defined an eCommerce entity, a marketplace model, and an inventory-led model. For the first time, the government has given clear definitions to remove the ambiguity in this sector. It also makes clearer the government’s position on the business models that online retailers are adopting. Online retailers are increasingly adopting an inventory-led model, as it gives them more control over supply and speeds the route to profitability. By not allowing FDI in the inventory-led model, the government has made it more complicated for online retailers looking to become profitable in the near term to support their valuations, go for an IPO, or raise funds.  

  • 100% FDI is allowed in the marketplace model. Allowing 100% FDI in the marketplace model largely maintains the status quo, as most online retail companies like Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal are funded through the marketplace loophole; these companies position themselves as technology facilitators for the buyer and seller. The new guidelines will help boost investment in marketplaces, as not every investor has felt confident about investing via a loophole. This is good news for the leading marketplaces that are looking for more funds to grow their business; they can now approach a new set of investors who were waiting for this clarification from the government.
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Accelerating Digital Business And Innovation In Financial Services

Fred Giron

From discussions with our clients in the financial services industry (FSI) in Asia Pacific, we’ve noticed that their digital agenda has changed dramatically over the past 18 months, shifting from a consideration of acquisitions and distribution channels to a broader business transformation imperative.

In fact, leaders at banks and insurance firms are increasingly realizing that:

  • Customer experience is fast becoming the only competitive differentiator.
  • Banks and insurance have to accelerate their ability to innovate and deliver new sources of value to customers faster. 
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Build 2016 - Day 1: Windows without windows

Jeffrey Hammond
The big number at this year’s Build: 270 Million. That’s the number of copies of Windows 10 that consumers and enterprises have purchased or upgraded to since Microsoft’s latest flagship launched last year. And the message that Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices group Terry Meyerson sent to developers at the Build conference was that Windows is very much alive and well, and that it’s a great platform for them to build on (pun intended).
 
But there’s another not so obvious theme in Microsoft’s messages to developers at Build. Satya Nadella painted a picture of the longer term future of operating systems in general and Windows in particular: The decomposition of monolithic OSes that served consumers well when our digital interactions were confined to one or two devices. As devices multiply and input/output mechanisms broaden, it can’t help but affect the underlying services that operating systems have traditionally provided, especially as entirely new categories of connected devices emerge. Here’s how:
 
  • Cortona is ready for deep developer integration. In my opinion, the biggest change at Build is the emergence of natural language processing as a first class input/output mechanism for. Conversations as a platform (CaaP) takes the power of human language and applies it to digital interactions. Microsoft’s CaaP framework layers in context about people, places and things to enrich the conversations. With CaaP, human language joins window chrome and widgets as a core UI element. And developers can now layer in their own extensions to Cortana via “bots”. 
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What Comes After The Unicorn Carnage?

Ted Schadler
According to CB Insights (thanks, guys!), by the end of 2015, investors had given 152 tech startups “unicorn” valuations of more than $1 billion.  But now, valuations are deflating for many private and public tech companies. Is this 2000 all over again? No. The bubble popping over the next two years will mean job loss in Silicon Valley and a pullback in disruptor investment but not a collapse of tech spending or of the wider economy. CIOs and CMOs should seize this small window of opportunity to hire or acquire talent for digital transformation to serve customers in the digital channels of their choice.
 
That’s our conclusion (24 analysts contributed to this analysis, with special thanks to Chris Mines and James McQuivey) in new Forrester reports for CIOs and for CMOs. We present the full analysis there, but here's a (long) summary.
 
 
1. The Unfolding Carnage Of Unicorns -- There’s Blood In The Water
 
Private investors dramatically drove up the number of unicorns -- private tech companies they valued at more than $1 billion -- from 31 in 2012 to 152 in 2016. But down rounds and post-IPO stock collapses have begun. Accel Partners’ Jim Breyer, believes 90% of unicorns will be repriced by investors or die. He called it “blood in the water.”
 
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The Latin American Economy Is Slowing Down Online Retail Market Growth

Satish Meena

Online retail in Latin America faces a number of challenges: a troubling economy, rising unemployment, high inflation, and regulatory and infrastructure problems. The recently published Forrester Research Online Retail Forecast, 2015 To 2020 (Latin America) explores the impact of all of these factors. Some of the key findings are as follows.

  • Brazil remains the largest, but slowest-growing, online retail market. The online retail market in Brazil is double the online retail markets of Argentina and Mexico combined. But the ongoing economic crisis in Brazil is hurting its online retail market and causing a slowdown. We expect online retail in Brazil to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.5% from 2015 to 2020, compared with the CAGR of 28.3% witnessed from 2010 to 2015. Customers are spending less on both offline and online retail, which affects the overall growth rate and penetration of online retail, particularly in non-metropolitan areas. A lack of regulations and an unfavorable tax regime make it difficult for online retailers to expand beyond metropolitan areas.
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What The World Can Learn From Japan's Exquisite Service Culture

Ryan Hart

Those of you who have spent time in Japan might have noticed that interactions with service staff there play out in a carefully choreographed blend of ceremony and gratitude, regardless of whether you’re buying a coffee at the corner shop or a bag at a local boutique. The paradox is that this delightful customer experience occurs despite most companies in Japan lacking the accountability, rigor, and coordination that characterize leading CX global organizations.

What's interesting though, is that a high level of empathy enables Japanese organizations to overcome their CX maturity shortcomings by delivering an exquisite level of hospitality service. This empathy-focused culture is rooted in what the Japanese call omotenashi, a spirit of unobtrusive and respectful approach to guests that anticipates their needs, bestows respect, and surprises them at every point in the service scenario.

One misconception is that this exquisite hospitality is solely and inherently connected to Japanese culture and cannot be easily replicated elsewhere. Parents and schools inculcate an awareness of and sense of empathy toward others into Japanese children from an early age, and this ethos permeates Japanese society. However, as Charles Darwin pointed out in his book, The Descent of Man, everyone is born with an intrinsic level of empathy that remains present to varying degrees in all of us. Companies should recognize that omotenashi can take root anywhere and can begin planting the seeds of an omotenashi culture in their companies by codifying CX empathy programs that, in principle:

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GoPro: What Happened To The Content Marketing Child Prodigy?

Ryan Skinner

GoPro’s like the preternaturally gifted kid at Content Marketing High. Its community of content creators churn out viral video clips like butter, and its online audiences are second only to Red Bull’s. The product’s actually a viral video machine, giving it this absurd business, marketing and content strategy alignment:

But all is not well with the valedictorian of Content Marketing High. Its market value has been decimated in the last half year, as its stock crumbled to less than 25% of its former self.

Given that this brand is such a content marketing wunderkind, anyone interested in content marketing has to ask himself: Is this a demonstration of content marketing’s impotence? I’ve asked another content marketing influencer, who wouldn’t really answer the question.*

My colleague, Ted Schadler, has the consumer electronics savoir-faire to diagnose GoPro’s real problem: The product has not become a mass market product; it’s been embraced almost exclusively by extreme sports stars and wanna-be’s.**

Powerful consumer electronics brands cannot
grow on snowboarders and skydivers alone.

GoPro’s success documenting inhuman feats by death-defying daredevils has come at the expense of documenting the content that real people might want to create from a first-person camera.

The brand is adjusting to the market headwinds by investing in its software, making it easier for anyone to upload and edit video footage. Democratizing its storytelling to appeal to everyman should get as much focus.

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Your Business Technology Strategy: Go Fast Or Go Home

Sharyn Leaver

CEOs and their leadership teams are at a crossroads as technology underpins virtually all customers’ expectations and unlocks new sources of customer value. The choice is rather straightforward: invest heavily in business technology (BT) to win, serve, and retain customers, or flounder under the weight of legacy IT.

The choice is obvious, isn’t it? We know and have proven that a better customer experience correlates with higher revenue growth. And what firm can claim immunity from the pressure of increasingly powerful customers wielding unbelievable technology power? 

This is no time to hedge. Strategies like bimodal IT that advocate for silos and two operating speeds may appeal to risk-averse leaders, but bimodal won’t get the job done. In fact, it works directly against the key operating principles of customer-obsessed firms in B2B and B2C industries like General Electric, Netflix, and USAA. These firms and other leaders use the customer as the central design point for their business technology strategy and strive to be:

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Managers Must Understand The Differences From Past Ways Of Doing Business

Dan Bieler

Photo: Bergmann

At Mobile World Congress 2016, GE outlined some fundamental insights about the digital transformation efforts of industrial businesses. William Ruh, CEO for GE Digital, a US$6 billion business of General Electric, shared valuable insights about the digital transformation process that industrial businesses need to tackle.

Industrial companies are very different from consumers: They don’t want to buy a great mobile or social experience; they care instead about business outcomes, such as lower energy consumption, faster cash cycles, or higher employee productivity. Digital transformation means that industry will do things differently than in the past.

  • Industrial firms will learn from the consumer world only up to a point. Industrial products are not developed, designed, and sold like consumer products. Uptime and longevity are critical in the mechanical-electrical world. Industrial products often have lifetimes spanning decades, rather than being replaced every two years like smartphones. Often, industrial equipment is not turned off for years, making ongoing software upgrades difficult. Moreover, the results of faulty industrial equipment like aircraft engines can be much more serious than for consumer products.
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