Now that the media hype of 2013 has settled . . . somewhat, 2014 will be a pivotal year in which we see small, tangible steps towards reality. Below are a few trends and commentary on what we’re seeing in the market:
1. Ecosystem components begin to marry. Investments, acquisitions, partnerships, and new developments will focus around unifying printers, software, and services for seamless 3D printing experiences. For example, Adobe recently announced direct integration with MakerBot and Shapeways to close the gap between 3D modeling tools and what printers need to physically produce objects. Other major software vendors like Autodesk will play an evangelist role in bringing ecosystem players together to enable interoperability across proprietary platforms.
2. New startups stretch our imaginations of business model disruption. 3D printing is a catalyst for rethinking inefficient analog processes. Startup SOLS aims to disrupt the entire orthotics value chain with an end-to-end digital service for custom shoe insoles. Customers scan a 3D model of their feet, input data on weight, lifestyle, and activity patterns, and send to print.
Globally, executives acknowledge the disruptive influence that digital technologies have on their businesses. In fact, in a recent Forrester survey fielded in conjunction with Russell Reynolds, 41% of business and IT executives believed that their industry had already been moderately or massively disrupted and over half expected to see more disruption over the next 12 months.
You don’t have to look far to find evidence to back this belief up. In fact, you don’t even have to look globally — digital disruption is happening right in your back yard. Just take the UK as an example:
The UK government is transforming its public services to deliver “digital services so good that people prefer to use them.”
Retailer John Lewis is offering a £50,000 cash investment to the winner of its tech incubator “JLab.”
British Airways is driving for operational excellence in baggage handling by RFID tagging luggage.
Movie streaming service Blinkbox, owned by retailer Tesco, is expanding into music.
PruHealth is partnering with wearable technology firm Fitbug to offer rewards for active health insurance customers.
The fact that the world is becoming digital is no longer really newsworthy. It’s a boardroom topic for most firms. As it should be. You only have to open your eyes to see the impact that digital touchpoints have on business. As I sit here writing this blog, I am in the departure lounge of Brussels Airport en route to Stockholm for the last leg of a presentation roadshow. I’m surrounded by travelers on smartphones, tablets, and a few laptops. Almost everyone (with the exception of a sole individual filling in a crossword) is using a digital device.
Firms are beginning to acknowledge this digital-first culture. We’ve been presenting to audiences in cities all around Europe, talking about Transforming Into A Digital Business In The Face Of Disruption. The overwhelming feedback from these presentations has been that firms are beginning to realize that digital is critical to their future success (and in some cases, their very survival). This spans B2C and B2B. But in many cases, the executives we speak to say their firms don’t have a digital strategy, and even if they do, they doubt their capability to deliver it.
It’s clear — companies need help to make sense of what digital means to them.
It’s only crumbling, archaic companies that have to worry about digital disruption, right? Companies that cling to out-moded ways of operating, where out-of-touch, besuited executives languish in mahogany-paneled boardrooms pondering strategy over cigars and brandy.
Oh no. Digital disruption impacts every business and every company.
No matter how “born digital” you may think your firm is, there’s always room to get leaner, meaner and closer to your customers. Take this as an example.
You might think that Satya Nadella, recently appointed Chief Exec of software powerhouse Microsoft, has nothing to worry about. While Microsoft wasn’t strictly “born digital”, it isn’t far off. It boasts an impressive array of digital services in its suite of products – Hotmail, Xbox Live and MSN to name just a few. But Nadella is only too aware that what’s made Microsoft successful in the past will not continue to differentiate it in this uncertain future.
In a recent New York Times interview Nadella was asked about how he wanted to change the culture of Microsoft. He succinctly sums up exactly why every firm must become a digital business:
2013 was a year in which media attention and hype targeted 3D printing: “artisanal” do-it-yourself (DIY) upstarts on Kickstarter making headlines across the blogosphere every week; high-profile speculation, such as President Obama’s quip that 3D printing will create a new manufacturing economy in the US; and Victoria's Secret models strutting down the runway in elaborate 3D printed corsets and signature wing accessories.
The excitement has reached the C-suite, where execs are wondering how this elusive and unfamiliar new technology will affect their business. As the resident techie, the CIO should expect the questions to come her way: What are the business implications? How fast is the technology developing? What are the implications for business technology at your organization?
Here are three angles on how 3D printing is driving business impact and digital disruption:
1. 3D printing can create tremendous business value — today. 3D printing enables key business imperatives in the age of the customer: faster time to market, new products and new markets, and the expansion of personalized products or services.
I’ve spent the past two days at Finovate Europe in London, which must be one of the more thought-provoking ways anyone in digital financial services can spend two days.
Here’s my perspective on the lessons from the event for digital financial services executives:
More people are focusing on the small business opportunity. There were far more companies proposing to help small businesses manage their finances this year, in numerous ways from access to capital through to document storage and expense management. I was particularly impressed by the work that Efigence and Idea Bank have done to help Idea Bank’s small business customers manage their finances.
Automated financial advice for mainstream customers is edging closer. For years, Forrester has talked to its clients about the huge opportunity, and pressing need, for financial firms to use software to automate the production of financial advice. A growing number of firms are trying to solve this problem from one angle or another, including Money On Toast, Vaamo, Your Wealth and Yseop. Perhaps the best quotation of the event came from Elizabeth Farabee at Yseop: “A banker doesn’t sell the customer the best product, but the product he knows best.” Automating the manufacture of advice can fix that.
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News out today confirms that Sony has indeed sold off its Vaio PC arm, ending 17 years in the personal computer business. And that CEO Kazuo Hirai has also decided to separate the TV division into a standalone unit in order to better heal it. Although he insists for now that Sony has no plans to sell that division, it would be foolish of the company not to consider any good offers. If there are any.
Because really, who would want that business? It has lost nearly $8 billion in the last 10 years and has been rapidly losing share to Samsung and LG and is about to get attacked by Chinese TV makers eager to have more influence in the US and other Western markets. I saw a very impressive offering from Hisense, TCL, and Haier at this year’s CES and expect them to make inroads against the more expensive panels from Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, all of which have struggled to keep up.
Marketers, you are officially on notice: The very idea of brand relationship is going to become irrelevant thanks to digital disruption. If you continue to focus on building a wonderful brand relationship with your customer, you will one day awake to find that someone else has taken your place in your customer’s life — not with a more compelling brand relationship, but with a more compelling digital customer relationship.
Someone out there is building the “ultimate customer relationship,” a type of digital bridge I write about in my most recent Forrester report, "Start to Build Your Ultimate Customer Relationship." That ultimate digital customer relationship is the type of relationship that digital tools and services enable and that digital consumers welcome. They’re happily signing up for anything that tethers them to a source that can give them more of what they want, more easily than before. Even with the supposed threat of privacy all around us, consumers are diving into deep digital relationships with companies or brands that deal with the most sensitive aspects of their lives. Weight-loss app Lose It helps users log personal information such as calories consumed and tell others of their goals, leading to the loss of more than 27 million pounds so far; Square gets consumers to email cash to friends — thus introducing them to Square and inducing them to sign up; and Airbnb has welcomed more than half a million listings of spare rooms and apartments that have been visited by more than 9 million guests. What’s more personal than your weight, your money, and your spare room?
The madness that is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has finally subsided, people are safely home (some never arrived thanks to cancelled flights), and we’ve had sufficient time to read the CES stars and foretell what it means for 2014 and beyond. Condensing this show down to so few points requires omitting some things, even some fun things like Michael Bay’s meltdown and T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s attention-grabbing tactics, but it’s my job to say what it means. So here I go, predicting what will happen in 2014 with three (admittedly long) bullets:
I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.