John Sheridan

John is CEO of Digital Business insights!

CEO - Digital Business insights!
More than 30 years in advertising and the digital economy. Insights into the customer view of the digital revolution

John Sheridan

Frog in the well – a circular view of the digital revolution…

The digital revolution is probably one of the only major revolutions most of us have ever seen.

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. 

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. 

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John Sheridan

The equation for success.

James Kirby, Wealth Editor of the Australian raised some interesting points recently, under the heading “The four big housing market lies”. It’s worth reading the Australian just for that commentary alone.

He points out that Australians are able to pay their mortgages each month because interest rates are so low. When rates move higher, as they will, there will be a problem.

Most deposits are 20%, which makes saving for a deposit just about impossible, without help from mum and dad. If that help is available.

Nearly 40% of the market is in interest-only loans. They rely on price appreciation to make money. Any change in conditions – negative gearing, tax deductions, rising interest rates, China shutting the gate, drop in house prices – and the overall market will shudder, disrupting other parts of the economy.

Anecdotally, Chinese housing investment is a subject that is regularly and quietly discussed in offices, living rooms and at barbecues when the subject of who bought the house at the end of the street comes up…”a nice Chinese couple. They outbid everybody.”

And there will continue to be Chinese investment in Australian capital cities for as long as Chinese and Australian regulators allow it. Blocking the dreams of young Australians to own anything in the city.

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John Sheridan

Plans and more plans...when we need action.

It’s 2017 and according to the ever reliable Roy Morgan Research poll, unemployment (9.7%) and underemployment (8.2%) now adds up to 17.9% - a total of 2.4 million people looking for work or for more work.

Not a good start to the year.

We have now set a new record for household debt, which the Reserve Bank chief says is a threat to the economy. Which affects spending.

Wages growth is historically low. Households are cutting back on consumption, hurting the economy and employment.

Well, duh! It all joins up.

And coming towards us through the wires and wireless is an enormous wave of change, with robotisation, computerisation and automation set to steadily eliminate 40% of jobs. New jobs will replace a proportion of those lost but nowhere near enough.

And what are we doing about it?

Waiting.

John Sheridan

One job at a time...

Work as we have known it is dying. Careers are dead. Offices are disappearing slowly. Intriguingly, there is still a Careers Advisors Association in Australia, though I wonder what they know that nobody else does.

Work is now contracts, part time and freelance. Even academia, government and professional services are increasingly shifting into contractual insecurity.

There is still stability at the top of course, which is what you would expect with senior managers, vice chancellors and directors looking after themselves, but it is now virtually impossible to steadily climb the “ladder” unless you begin at the top by starting your own business.

So how easy will it be for our children to navigate this new world of work? We continue to make it increasingly difficult for them compared to how it used to be. Free education for instance.

Are we preparing them properly for this much harsher world or still selling them ancient myths and dreams based on our educational years and working experience?

For what is this madness, that a generation of politicians who received a free education that gave them a chance of success in a job rich world, condemn the current generation to pay for their own education in a world where jobs disappear daily?

And we are doing this to them. It is not their fault. It is our fault.

John Sheridan

Digital climate change (or the denial of the bleedin’ obvious)

It’s the end of another year and the start of another. Hopefully not another year of prevarication, wandering in circles, navel gazing, staring at ants on the wall, while ignoring all the elephants in the room. Metaphors rule, OK?

There are some big issues in play at the moment. But the biggest issue still remains the digital revolution. The digital revolution is changing the world fundamentally. All other issues are sideshows by comparison.

And digital revolution is the thing that government just doesn’t know what to do with or about.

Digital has already disrupted governments across the world, but they didn’t really identify the cause. They concluded (incorrectly) that the disruption had something to do with brexits, trumps and hansons – the sideshows. They still haven’t understood the digital transformation behind all the citizen uncertainty.

John Sheridan

Export. Export. Export. Full STEAM ahead.

Alan Kohler is a good bloke. Of all the journos writing for the Australian he consistently tells it as it is. In simple English. Which is what we all expect of journalists of course, but such commentary is rare and hard to find.

The “Treasurer’s debt dilemma” is a very good piece.

It highlights the problem the treasurer has in needing to cut spending to placate the ratings agencies (which Mr Kohler points out quite rightly have little real credence after rating collateralised debt obligations - CDOs - as AAA in 2006). What do they really know and why do we listen to what they say anyway?

It’s a crazy and bizarro world we live in, trying to see through the blurry spiders webs of perception, fake news, PR and hyperbole.

Alan Kohler blows a lot of that fluff away. Regularly. In the Australian and on the ABC. Malcolm should make him the Treasurer. In the US he could, but not here. I wish it were that easy.

While the government’s attention is focused on “not” spending money, we need to shift our attention to how to “make” more money in the first place.

John Sheridan

17.5% unemployed or underemployed. What are we waiting for?

According to the Roy Morgan poll, unemployment in Australia is now at 10.4% with underemployment at 7.1%. Which means 2.249 million Australians are now looking for work, or looking for more work.

Add the ever increasing impacts of digital job destruction, ageism, lack of leadership and swiftly shifting job requirement skillsets and those figures will soon move higher, not lower.

And quicker not slower.

Inaction by federal government is hard to understand. It’s been a year now with no meaningful action. Just lots of empty words. Even Clarke and Dawe from the ABC have now turned government inaction on our economy into a parody.

See “The importance of a strong team in sales and marketing” on the ABC website. Amusing, but far too close to the truth to be completely funny.

Why so little action?

Is the scale and scope of the “no jobs and no growth” problem just too large and wide reaching?

Is it too hard to respond to, because we can’t simply look overseas for a quick answer like we normally do – because they face the same problems themselves?

Have the federal rabbits just frozen in the headlights? Do they even have a clue?

Waiting is not an option. We have to do something. The problem will only grow. And it does so day by day.

And allied to this problem is the slowing economy, increasing household debt, near zero interest rates across the world leading to diminishing returns for investors, pensioners and those heading towards retirement.

Less work, lower wage growth, more debt and increased stress on mortgages and retirement funds.

Waiting is not an option. Action is required.

John Sheridan

The future of work isn't the issue... the future of jobs is.

Banks don’t invest in small business any more. They promote credit cards instead. No social contract. Only dividends and shareholders.

They will only lend money with a lien against property, which then makes property even more collectively important as a backstop against financial disaster, and increases the risk for everyone.

We cannot build Australia’s future through investing everything into one non-productive asset class - housing. That just steals investment from scaleups and startups. It steals investment from farmers. It steals investment from manufacturers. It steals investment from small business.

And it pumps up the housing bubble, because there is nowhere else to invest money. Central banks across the world have driven interest rates so low that the traditional investment options of bonds, shares and bank deposits are broken.

Leaving property the only choice.

John Sheridan

Australia has voted. And we can all be winners.

We live in digital revolutionary times. The world is changing. The evidence is everywhere. And it impacts everything we do. So why do we act surprised when the digital revolution impacts politics?

The revolution has shifted power from “vendors” to “customers”. Permanently.

Simply replace “vendors” with politicians and “customers” with voters.

The politicians use digital tools to leverage what they have always done - for research, for marketing and communication, to push political messages through a range of digital media but they haven’t really understood what digital has done to change their customers.

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John Sheridan

Which way to the future?

The latest ABS job figures are interesting. And also misleading.

According to the ABS, unemployment is down to 5.7%. Yet, according to the Roy Morgan poll, unemployment sits at 11%. And 18.8% of the workforce is either unemployed or under-employed.

ABS figures are under question and it is worth visiting the Roy Morgan sitehttp://www.roymorgan.com/morganpoll/unemployment/unemployment-methodology to understand why. As it says on the website, “Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia, not the perception of unemployment.”

So why is this important?

Because 5.7% unemployment doesn’t sound too bad. And even suggests the country could be heading in the right direction.

But 18.8% sounds like a big problem. And suggests that we are heading in the wrong direction. Because 18.9% means less tax, less discretionary spending, less confidence, less opportunity and we need to do something about it.

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John Sheridan

What the world needs now...

Automation, robotisation and computerisation are now estimated to destroy 50% of middle class (better paying) jobs over the next 20-30 years, further increasing the inequality that we see in our societies.

According to Oxfam, just 1% of the human population will soon own more than 50% of the world's wealth. And just 85 individuals now have the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people. We can debate the figures but the directions and trends are clear. A squeeze from both ends.

And against this background, the carrot is provocatively dangled... "Anyone can do what the 1% have done in the land of opportunity" as though it is in some way our fault for being gutless and lacking initiative, but the reality of glass, ivy league, concrete and steel, skin colour, illness, neighbourhood, parental background, gender and "old boy" ceilings demonstrates this is patently untrue. Silver spoons reach a long way.

George Orwell was remarkably prescient when he wrote 1984. Worth reading again, if you haven't done so recently.

So what went wrong?

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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

Think tanks and do tanks. We need both.

Innovation happens in laboratories and workshops in every university across the land. They are think tanks.

And innovation happens daily in the real world laboratories of small business, in the biodiversity of the marketplace. Innovation is in the very DNA of every startup and small business.

Without fresh ideas, agility, responsiveness, constant adjustment and change a business will stumble and fall.

Most big businesses left this degree of insecurity behind years ago. They learnt lessons, improved their systems and processes and reinforced what was learned through training, reward and management.

The ability to repeat and incrementally improve is what gave the big business its edge, its ability to deliver day after day what the customer wanted. That is why it became big. Repetition and reinforcement created success.

Documented systems and training reinforced success. Over time the system became the foundation of the workforce culture, with individual workers and managers rewarded for supporting the drive to more sales, more profit and more happy customers and repeat business.

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John Sheridan

Digital collaboration - how to do "more with less"

The potential and opportunity presented by the tools of the digital revolution grow every day.

Because, the currents of change and disruption – more connection, more collaboration and more integration – create an ever-expanding number of people able to contribute, engage and participate.

We have never had this before. Ever. This is brand new.

And as people become familiar with the tools, the focus shifts from “How do I use this” to “What can I use it for?”

People become ready, willing and able.

And that is exciting. Because the limitations for action are only in the imagination and the extent to which other participants can be engaged.

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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

Are you signed up for the digital revolution?

Are you an enthusiastic digital revolutionary? A digital Che Guevara? William Wallace? Garibaldi? Or Gorbachev? Somebody willing to change the way they think and operate completely. Are you an actor or observer in this digital brave new world?

The revolution is under way. And there is no room on the bank watching the digital river flow. We are all impacted in some way by the remorseless currents of change...some much more than others.

There is no dramatic tsunami to run from, there is just a steady, ever increasing rising flood of more connection, more collaboration and more integration flowing into all our daily activities changing and modifying our thinking and the way we operate.

Tsunami or flood...it doesn't matter. If you don't react thoughtfully, you drown either way.

Letters and faxes replaced by emails and SMS. Flights replaced by videoconferencing. Broadcasting replaced by conversations. Pundits replaced by Google. Cameras on phones. Sensors on everything.

In the midst of an unprecedented digital revolution, it is evident that 95% of us aren't very revolutionary.

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John Sheridan

Only castles burning

One thing I have noticed over years of looking at digital strategies and regional economic development strategies is that they are all the same.

Change the name and the pictures and a few words, and bingo – another strategy saying exactly the same as the last one.

Sometimes they ARE exactly the same as the last one – the consultancy involved failing to change all the locational names properly when delivering the cookie cutter report to the next government customer.

So why do councils pay large amounts for strategies they could create themselves?

Is it laziness? Or fear? Lack of confidence? Stamp of approval?

Why not just download the digital or economic strategy from another region and just change the names. It would be cheaper and the outcomes will be the same.

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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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