Insights

Commentary and insights on where the digital revolution meets the small and medium business community
John Sheridan

Can government really transform?

There was a song written by Tom Lehrer in the 60's that had a line, "Once the rockets are up who cares where they come down. That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

There are other lines in the same vein that we all hear regularly, "It's not your job," "That's not what you are paid for," "It's not our core business," "It's not in your job description," "Do what you are told," "It's more than my jobs worth," and so on.

These sentences all describe the frame of mind that perpetuates industrial revolution thinking in a departmentally structured society, in the midst of a digital revolution.

And that "frame of mind" is in direct conflict with the mindset of digital revolution.

That tortoise "frame of mind" doesn't like the digital revolution.

It wishes "digital" would go away.

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John Sheridan

Frogs in the well

The digital revolution is probably one of the only major revolutions most of us have ever seen. The drivers and causes are not easy to understand for most people, but the impacts are clear to see...ever increasing connection, communication, information and collaboration at the touch of a button.

We have never been more connected.

The industrial revolution is long gone, though its signature factories, railways and chimneys are still with us today. It had a profound effect on the way our societies are organised, and the nature of jobs that individuals perform.

We have spend the last century refining our systems, training, education and management...just in time for that to be undermined and disrupted by a new digital revolution with characteristics that take us into the future and back to the past at the same time.

On the one hand, back to the closeness of the village, but this time a virtual closeness in a new "global village" with no boundaries, or commonly agreed rules and regulations.

And on the other hand, forwards into a multiverse of technology connectivity that externalises our senses and nervous system and connects us to others, and to information, ideas and automation never dreamed of in Wilmington, Kent where I grew up.

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John Sheridan

What we can learn from ants

Famous Professor Michael Porter has highlighted the increasing disconnection between business and society. Companies have become too narrow in their view of economic value creation.

They chase short-term return for shareholders. They enforce price cuts on suppliers. They deskill and automate jobs to reduce wages. They downsize, outsource, relocate and offshore to reduce overheads...all at the expense of the society they operate and live in.

Growth and innovation in business suffers as a result. And business then becomes a major cause of social, environmental and economic problems.

The disconnection between business and society has created the 1%.

And the disconnection has happened right in the middle of a new digital revolution that is steadily and stealthily connecting everybody up, fostering and encouraging ever more connection and collaboration.

So we witness board and management disconnection at a time of universal interconnection, two societal forces pushing in opposite directions. But only one of them is irresistible.

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John Sheridan

Whatever happened to solid ground?

The digital revolution is remorseless, disruptive and destructive.

Yet, it doesn't seem that way on the surface. It seems fun, exciting, stimulating and supportive. It connects us with our friends and families. It helps us at work and play.

It presents us with a constant stream of new devices, some beautifully designed and some less so. But they keep coming – phones, computers, laptops, drones, games consoles, GPS, watches, cameras and so on.

But underneath the novel and the provocative, the revolution continues at a deeply disruptive level changing the environment in which we all operate.

And the business landscape that once was reasonably easy to describe and define is now foggy and obscure.

The landscape that once had many reassuring milestones, KPIs, signposts, strategies, plans and objectives, has become an uncomfortable place to navigate, more like an unstable, choppy seascape full of surprises, sudden weather shifts and changes.

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John Sheridan

So who is being disrupted? - Part 1

Just about everybody. There are too many companies to name, so let us just look at the main sectors under threat.

The music industry, video, postal, books, newspapers, printing, real estate, travel and accommodation are well documented.

The establishment music publishing industry is still fighting back and the main music publishers are again looking at technology solutions like watermarks to stop peer to peer sharing, but this is unlikely to succeed, even if and when they win a few high profile court cases.

The musicians themselves are being far more creative about production and engagement, and continually explore new ways to create, produce, share and distribute their material. Promotion and marketing is difficult in a world of multiple channels, but imagination and social media offer collaborative options.

Apple understood the new game in 2001 and stole the high ground with iTunes.

Apple didn't try to protect an existing business model...it changed it. It let customers become the publishers themselves and never looked back. That apparently "simple" solution actually required completely understanding that the customer had changed. The power had shifted. iTunes was then simply a smart response to the new customer perspective.

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John Sheridan

Disrupt or be disrupted

The digital revolution is probably one of the only major revolutions most of us have ever seen. The drivers and causes are not easy to understand for most people, but the impacts are clear to all…ever increasing connection, communication, information and collaboration at the touch of a button. We have never been more connected.

The industrial revolution is long gone, though its signature factories, railways and chimneys are still with us today. It had a profound effect on the way our societies are organised, and the nature of jobs that individuals perform.

We have spend the last century refining our systems, training, education and management…just in time for that to be undermined and disrupted by a new digital revolution with characteristics that take us into the future and back to the past at the same time.

On the one hand, back to the closeness of the village, but this time a new “global village” with no boundaries, or commonly agreed rules and regulations. And on the other hand, forwards into a multiverse of technology connectivity that externalises our senses and nervous system and connects us to others, to information, ideas and automation never dreamed of in Wilmington, Kent where I grew up.

Factories, chimneys, machines, smoke, steam and furnaces are hard to miss and we are still living with their industrial impacts on our environment. Digital is a different matter.

It is largely invisible. The major currents of the digital revolution driving the change are ever more connection, more collaboration and more integration. And the more, becomes even more every single day.

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John Sheridan

Who is being disrupted? Part 2

TV, advertising, retail, employment and industry associations are also in trouble.

At the low quality end, TV production is cheaper than it has ever been, and this allows many new entrants to create content for distribution through traditional and new channels. Games shows, chat shows and reality TV proliferate.

The traditional television channels have been challenged by the advent of digital TV and high-speed broadband allowing access to a multitude of other digital screens. The digital distribution world is still in flux and the big players are banking on owning as much “old” content as possible to defend their incumbent positions.

High quality production however, is still expensive and remains largely in the hands of deep pocket production companies and national broadcasters.

So even though digital distribution offers a proliferation of channels to market, there is relatively little material to fill the pipelines.

The large multinational media conglomerates recognised this, years ago and bought as much quality material as possible – film, documentary, animation and television to distribute through pay TV channels, cinemas and other media channels. Content is king, and there isn’t enough of it to satisfy current and future demand.

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John Sheridan

Who is being disrupted? Part 3

Easy access to information and the capacity to discuss it meaningfully with others is powerful. Google and other search and analytic tools have shifted power from the traditional "high priests" in our society to the customer.

This new "customer power" is now affecting the relationships we have with general practitioners, lawyers, CIOs, the insurance industry, the investment industry, politicians and education. These “middlemen” historically stood between knowledge and information, and the customer offering specialist insights and interpretation as a service.

These sectors are all connected in various ways and are linked directly to government - for policy. regulation and legislation.

GPs are under more pressure than ever. It is not just the patient case load creating stress, but nearly every patient walking in the door has already visited Dr Google.

GPs also visit Dr Google. Keeping up to date with medical information is a nightmare for doctors under the pressure of enormous workloads. Smart systems have been developed to help with diagnosis and prescriptions. Practice management systems help to administer patient appointments and timetabling.

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