‘Roam’ is the new Capital of Flexible Working

roamThat’s how I described the big shift which is going on around us in remote and flexible working at the ‘Anywhere Working‘ conference in Manchester recently.  An excellent initiative, its purpose is to evangelise about the benefits of remote working and how it “can increase your productivity and wellbeing, save the environment, and most importantly, affect your bottom line in terms of your time and your money.”

My job was to describe my own remote working story aswell as for me to talk about some of the background drivers behind this revolution in working practice.  Over one million people have supported the initiative via the website, so there’s the evidence, it’s no evolution.

Remote working started for me in 1994, with a massive laptop, a 28.8k bps modem and an inkjet printer – when set-up you’d think I was running a large enterprise compared to today’s technology.  Sales performance reports came in an envelope once per week, mobile phone’s were still a bit of a luxury and download speeds were woeful.  More business was done by phone and face to face, human relationships really mattered, the internet was just taking off.

Contrast that to now.  People are running now one, but multiple devices.  A smartphone, an iPad and a laptop computer, all synced up via the cloud offering instant access to the world commercially and socially – disruptive times.    Themes I covered which are contributing to this include: -

  1. Collaboration
  2. Digitisation
  3. Clobalisation
  4. Generation XYZ
  5. Speed + Agility

All these things are going on at once, in parallel, meaning the ‘mash-up’ effect is huge and creating instant opportunity to review how you do things.  New starts are entering the marketplace with an ‘edge of chaos’ mentality, seeing nothing but tools, marketplaces and opportunity.  They have no technology baggage, downloading the latest ‘app’ in seconds and ‘plural working’ numerous projects to pay the bills.  Large enterprises can ‘do more with less’ by equipping ‘roam’ workers with new technology which allows them to work smartly, releasing more ‘face to face’ time with the people that matter and adding value.  According to a survey by CIO Net – 79% of enterprises see the primary driver behind mobility as “increasing employee efficiency.”

Talent is looking at employers both current and future and asking the question – “what’s your remote working policy.”  In all of this, there is the opportunity for you to create something new.  A new business model, a new process, a new way of interacting with customers old and new.  It does come with some baggage, mainly I.T. related with frustrations around wi-fi signals,  access to power, battery life and security concerns, but nothing that can’t be fixed or worked through.

The new world order is here, right now.  Cappuccino commerce, start-ups getting going from coffee shops.  American coffee houses already describing the “tablet trash” of customers sitting on free wi-fi all day for the price of a single cup of coffee – oh dear, perhaps a new business model coming, pay as you drink!  I must confess to having a web conference from a coffee shop early this morning, headphones in, webcam on, flat white + a toasted teacake – yum.

All that aside, it’s exciting times.  If UK Plc is genuinely going to increase its productivity, then this is the way to go. I’ve already had feedback that one of our customers who has invested in our cloud based web conferencing service – Omnijoin - holding over 700 web conferences since January, proving that even with remote workers, you can stay connected.

The trend is here, it’s not a fad, so fortune favours the brave.  Get mobile, become a citizen of “Roam.”

20 Years of Texting….

Yesterday saw the milestone anniversary of 20 years since the first text message was sent.  On the 3rd of December 1992 a vodafone engineer sent the words “Merry Xmas” to a mobile phone and the rest is history.  2011 saw around 8 trillion text messages sent, 150bn of which were in the UK. 

It’s almost unimaginable to think about lift without text messages in the current day.  For many, text is still the number one platform for those on your “inner circle” of contacts, a text notification trumping updates/messages from other platforms.  Yes, users are spreading out their messages to different platforms like BBM or Whatsapp, both born from the concept of short messaging.  Chatting to a generation Y today, across all the various platforms, they sent around 100 messages per day on their mobile device across three differing services including SMS, but excluding social media updates on Twitter or Facebook – that’s a huge amount of messaging.

In business, you are always looking for things that may disrupt your business model.  SMS was one of those things that had disruption designed into it, as it impacted on the amount of calls people made and the letters and faxes they may have previously sent suddenly went onto a mobile device.  I can remember tapping out my first text on a Nokia phone, three presses for a ‘C’, two for an “F”, those old enough will remember.  It’s a far cry from now.

Other examples of disruptive technology are cloud computing (demise of hosted software), tablet computers (demise of laptops), MP3 players (death of record shops), broadband (where do I start).  It happens in services too, think of moneysupermarket (reducing need for financial advisors), Direct Line (going direct and cutting out the middle man), Crowdfunding (start-up funding from strangers reducing the need for banks), the list goes on and on.

The trick is to spot the difference between a fad and a trend.  Texting was a trend, it’s lasted for 20 odd years.  Fads simply come and go, they don’t last or provide long term disruption to an industry or behaviour.  Personally I devote time to evaluating what the big trends are in the consumer space and business space, inside and outside of our industry as it helps to give you the general sense of direction and potential for future disruption.  Will texting last another 20 years?  Probably not.  Like the fax machine and typewriter, it will have played a hugely important part in the development of communications, however new instant messaging platforms are likely to be the winners in the long term.

Whether these messaging platforms with their shortened catchphrases will add anything to our abilty to communicate as human beings in the long term is up for debate.  Data suggests that the average Gen X has a daily vocabulary range of around 2,000 words, a Generation Y is around 800, so when we get to Generation Z, life is going to be truly interesting – LOL! :-)

Cappuccino Commerce

According to some research we’ve just conducted, 22% of new start businesses base themselves in a coffee shop and are driving a new trend we describe as “cappuccino commerce.”

Speaking on Radio 5 live this morning, I cited some of the drivers behind this trend, as always airtime is very limited, so I’m expanding some of the notes I’d prepared here for quick and easy comsumption.

  1. The new postcode of SME’s is “no fixed abode.”
  2. Technology is the key driver of this change, in particular the availability of free wi-fi and cloud computing.  71% of respondents cited smartphones, mobile printing devices and tablet computers as the key things that felt enabled them to work in this way.
  3. 67% of these businesses intend to stay “office free.”
  4. AAA* is the new standard for business success “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere.”
  5. It took Apple 24 years to sell 67M i-macs, it took them 3 years to sell as many i-phones and only 2 years to sell as many i-pads.
  6. Apple derives 60% of it’s revenues now from products that didn’t exist 3 years ago.
  7. Access is the oxygen to mobile businesses (access to wi-fi or a high speed mobile network).
  8. New start businesses have high agility, this ability to work anywhere gives them competitive advantage, not disadvantage.
  9. SoLoMo – Social, Local and Mobile businesses are the key trends fuelling further new starts and customer buying behaviour.
  10. Fi-Wi is the new Wi-Fi.  Users are demanding higher speed on the move.
  11. Generation X, Y + Z are all participating in the shift.
  12. Businesses like Brother are adapting their product offers to this new breed of “roam-workers” by introducing new products like mobile printers, mobile scanners, i-pad print and scan applications plus cloud printing applications.
  13. Globalisation of business means people need to be on the move.
  14. Access to power is also one of the key considerations as to where people work.  No power = juice jitters and technology meltdown.  Coffee shops, listen up!
  15. Digital Ubiquity is the new watchword – you heard it here first.

Retail Alchemy in the Digital Age

If you want to know what’s going in a sector, go and hear one of the top management consultancies deliver a talk.  I did this morning, when I attended a seminar by Deloitte on the future of retailing. 

One of the guest speakers was New Channels programme manager at Marks and Spencer – Alice Rackley.  Leading a forty strong team inside the business (which was only six strong six months ago), her job  is to integrate the on-line with the off-line.  I have to say I didn’t realise M&S were doing quite so much.  They aim to be the number one multi-channel retailer in the world, that’s aiming high.

Typical examples of things they are doing include equipping assistants with i-pads selling extended ranges, installing screens in store which allows customers to see user generated content reviews of the products they sell, augmented reality mirrors in their new make-up concession.  The really smart thing I thought they were doing was probably the simplest, putting wi-fi networks in all their stores so that people can browse their mobile shopping sites at good speeds on their own devices.

Deloitte had a couple of speakers up who threw some good stats and trends up.  Here’s a few in no particular order: -

  • Amazon are expected to overtake John Lewis and M&S to become the largest variety retailer by 2014.
  • Apple are expected to have sold 80M i-Pads by the end of 2012.
  • 48% of shoppers own a smartphone, 58% of those people use them for store related shopping (this works out to 27% of all smartphone owners if you do the math).
  • Marks and Spencer transacted 6% of all on-line sales on i-Pads in Jan 2012, by June it was 8%.
  • 1 in 5 retail purchases will be via Smartphone by 2014.
  • Big theme is “digital ubiquity” – that is digital everywhere.
  • New innovation coming to market is “audio watermarking” whereby an embedded watermark is put into a TV ad which then triggers an experience on your i-Pad if your multi-screening.
  • It took Apple this long per device to sell 67M units – Macs -24 years, i-Pods – 5 years, i-Phones – 3 years, i-Pads – 2 years.
  • Speed of Response is becoming key.  An example was given on retailer “New Look” who reacted to a new Kate Middleton outfit with an entire digital response within 24 hours of “get the look.”
  • Prediction of “death of the till” as store assistants use hand-held devices to optimise conversion.
  • Example given on a retailer who has equipped their staff with i-Pads to take photo’s of people outside dressing rooms, then recommend other clothes/complementary purchases.
  • Future for retailers will also be about analytics and making “fact-based” decisions amongst the big data that exists.

What struck me was just how much disruption there continues to be in the sector and it wrestles with it’s multi-channel strategy.  Some are doing it well, others not.   What’s clear is that the traditional landscape is changing at a supersonic speeed, expect more casualties from those that fail to react.

Collaborative Consumption

This morning I attended a technology seminar, with three leading figures from the world of technology journalism sharing their views of the future.  In my view, it’s vital that you always look ahead for the next big thing, or you end up like Nokia or Kodak, thinking that what exists today might last forever.

One of today’s panel members – Olivia Solon, Associate Editor of Wired Magazine – talked about the trend Collaborative Consumption.  In short terms, what this means is how spare capacity is mopped up by the crowd using the web.  Lots of examples of this are popping up all over, including car shares (one commuter one car who trades their free space), bike renting (let’s say someone rides to work and the bikes sits in a shed all day when it could be rented out), house sitting to name a few.  Capacity is made visible to the crowd either on a short term (one day), mid or long term basis.

She made an excellent supporting point around trust. I’ve been talking about TATT (Time, Attention, Trust and Transparency) for about two years now, believing them to the key social currencies.  If collaborative consumption is to be truly a success, then you are going to need to be pretty sure about the credentials of a stranger before you let them into your home, your car or have them riding away on your best bike!

Sites like e-bay and its payment platform – Paypal – build transparent trust by members giving feedback to build a reputation aswell as a pretty robust process to validate who you are are, before you can get a Paypal account.  This highly visible feedback reduces fears with other potential buyers and sellers.  It works well for e-Bay, so if collaborative consumption is to take off, how can demonstrate your trustworthiness in the future across multiple consumption plaftorms?  Such a thing doesn’t exist today.

If you think about all the on-line transactions you make (Amazon, i-Tunes, e-Bay, Tesco, Council Tax, Utilities) aswell as your social graph (social media) and then imagine all those transactions being aggregated in one place to build a trust rating which is effectively validated through multiple sources validating your public trust persona, then that could be a vision of what the future might look like. It would be like a visible credit report, buyer/seller report and assessment of you as an all round good egg, which is available to others.  That would be a big job, but not beyond the realm of impossibility given the amount of data that now exists.

If we’re truly going to switch from hyper-consumption to collaborative consumption, then the evidence of trustworthiness to strangers will become a big issue.  Let’s see who gets to market first.

Dr. Andrew Sentance visits Manchester

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a private dinner with Dr. Andrew Sentance - who sits on the Bank of Englands monetary policy committee (MPC) – on a visit he made to Manchester earlier this week.

Meeting business leaders as part of his visit to the North West, he was interested to understand feedback about life on the street and hear directly how we felt the economy was doing, our outlook and perspective for the future. 

Articulate and brainy (why wouldn’t he be with a name like Sentance), he opened with a macro view on the global and UK economies. I’ve captured some of his key commentary in no particular order: -

  • Commodity pricing remains a key issue (oil+gas).
  • Interest rates do have to go up soon and “how to deploy the exit strategy” remains the key consideration without damage to the economy.  Perhaps in steps of 0.25%, travelling to 1% sometime over the next 12 months.
  • The world is truly globalised now and it is difficult to act independently with so many chain reactions now built into the system.
  • UK is in a recovery phase (as detailed by yesterday’s 0.5% rise in GDP) however the recovery is at different speeds, in different sectors.
  • The 2.5% VAT rise is equal to a 1% reduction in wallet spend for the average consumer.
  • Inflation remains a key long term concern for the economy.
  • Exports continue to be in good shape with the weak £.  However, he did ask the views of the group about if the pound went up to the 1.25-1.30 range, would we see that as “damaging” – conclusion was no.
  • Wage settlements continue to be inconsistent across sectors.  Some businesses opting to not offer increases, others awarding at RPI/CPI rate (up to 5%).

I asked whether the MPC took into account “natural disasters” in their forecasting.  It’s become clear now that a great deal of worldwide production is going to be impacted due to a lack of things following the disaster in Japan, such as micro-chips.  This inevitably may lead to a shortage of some goods in developed economies and therefore a potential to impact growth.  Sentace said the short supply may push prices up, therefore lifting selling prices, so my advice is ”buy it now” – for anything electronic!!

It also became apparent as there were a few businesses there which sold multi-nationally, that production by some major brands for developed economies is being capped in favour of developing economies like Russia, India and China (where there is a huge appetite for western goods and brands).  This is impacting on some of these goods entering the European supply chain.  For example, I didn’t realise that there was a shortage of pigment which car manufacturers use for painting cars, seems that one luxury car brand could only supply their cars in white for the forseeable future.  Interesting thought (guess what colour my new car is – that explains a lot).

It’s good to get these “think tank types” out.  Hearing real feedback from real businesses.  Having debate.  Listening to opinion and it’s a real value to meet other businesses from non-competing sectors to hear their view of the economy.  In a “sentance” – well worth the time investment.

It’s all about ME….

I love to play with words.  One of my most recent creations which I used at the How-Do Brand on Demand event on Wednesday was “ME-conomics”. 

I used the word as a descriptor for the changing nature of mobile business, personalisation of goods, growth of personal branding and how marketeers need to pay attention to these trends in their marketing mix in order to monetise them (economics bit).

There was widespread agreement that the world is moving pretty quickly at the minute.  Mobile applications are motoring along at a terrific pace.  Innovation is rife.  Here’s a great factoid – 60% of Apple’s 2010 sales came from products that did not exist three years ago.  Scary!

Mobile-ME

Retailers in the states are now providing free wi-fi in store as a way of being able to geo-locate their customers, find out more about them and send hyper-local advertising to them, fire real-time coupons at their customers and track their physical paths through the store.  Interesting stuff, totally driven by the technology.  Mobile search gives local retailers a real chance for cut-through, as long as they get their proposition right.

Pay-Off

It’s evident that those businesses that get their plans shifted to accomodate the mobile revolution will be big winners in the game.  Mobile enabled websites, mobile enabled e-commerce, mobile enabled search.  I talked about the world shaking down to the big convenience platforms, Amazon, i-Tunes, Facebook, eBay – as they offer the ultimate in convenience to the attention poor individual on the move.

What’s clear, is that ME-conomics is a big trend.  There are other elements to it, I’m saving those for a keynote I’m doing in a couple of months in Berlin.  More to come.

Convenience

“That was Easy.” This red button was the physical manifestation of an advertising slogan that office superstore giant Staples ran.  They ended up giving away millions of these little red buttons, which said the words when pressed.  Great, simple campaign.

Later this week, I’ll be delivering a keynote to a marketing conference in Manchester.  I’m focussing on convenience as one of the features of something I call the “expectation economy”.  That is, the changing face of why people buy from key platforms.  At home, Amazon, eBay, i-Tunes, Google and Facebook consume the bulk of our face time and are becoming our de-facto on-line shopping malls/social/search platforms.

They are shaking the on-line world down as they continue to consolidate, throw their net wider, provide new and additional services which makes life easier for people.  As an example, in September last year, Facebook started to sell credits in stores in the USA, in the same way you could buy mobile phone credit.  A potential game changing moment. Right now, they can only be used to buy apps or other in-game stuff, however it’s only a matter of time before Facebook becomes a fully blown trading platform in its own right, then what’s going to happen?

Inevitably, they’ll scoop up a process that is currently being transacted somewhere else. They’ll find a way to integrate into their social sphere.  They’ll make it easier for buyers with one-click.  They’ll make it mobile.  They’ll make it easy.  They realise that people are busy, moments are being maximised, the more folk can do on the move or with a mobile in their hand, the better.  Upgrades, last minute stuff, gift certificates, movement of money, you name it, I bet you’re going to see it at some point in the near future.  Perhaps Facebook credits may become a new global currency?

Mobilise your Digital Assets

Mobile marketing.  Mobile search.  Mobile me.

The next decade will be the decade we remember for it’s advance in mobile technology.  Signalling the shift to location based shopping, services and convenience.  Apps are coming out by their droves and one that caught my eye recently was this one from Red Laser which I think gives an indication of where it’s all heading.  Using an i-Phone, you simply scan a products barcode, the app then identifies it and presents the current web pricing for that product from it’s database.  Instant price checking and hugely convenient.  Just one thing to do, scan the app.

From the user feedback so far, it seems the pricing isn’t perfect in their back end database, that can soon be corrected.  It’s the process that interests me more. Another shift in the way people shop, instant comparison pricing and perhaps a decision to not “buy it now” but buy it when you get home, if the price is significantly different.  Retailers watch out.

Mobile search is where it’s going to be at, presenting your website in a mobile friendly way.  Manchester Search specialists theEword have already cottoned onto this and have a tool in development which will effectively convert your site into a mobile friendly version, which I consider to be an essential step for all businesses moving forward.  Pay per click and search engine marketing also takes on a new persona, with specific activity needing to be done in parallel to your conventional SEM.

What’s evident is that the future is about mobile, the customer journey, convenience, location based marketing and immediacy.  If you’re not working on “mobilising” your digital resources, you should be, it’s where it’s all heading.

11 Predictions for 2011

I’ve got the Mr. Sheen out on my crystal ball, given it a good clean, stared deeply into it and seen the future.  Saturdays lottery numbers are 7, 9, 22, 28, 35, 42 – buy a ticket now!

Seriously, thought I’d have a go at laying down some thoughts about where I think the world is moving for 2011.  In no particular order (and they may change as this is my first bash after thinking about this on the way home from work last night).

  1. Crowd-forcing. Inspired by Crowd-sourcing.  The crowd pulling together to pressurise/threaten brands through negative on-line chatter and peer pressure.
  2. Digi-paranoia. Fuelled by the Wikileaks scandal, people will become more paranoid about their on-line breadcrumb trail.  They’ll protect more of their digital assets, through pre-approving and using trusted platforms.
  3. Talent thaw. 2010 has been a tough year for finding good people, the hatches were well and truly buttoned down and movements frozen.  As confidence returns, we’ll start to see the talent market thaw.
  4. Life caching. As micro-moments continue to be recorded in the cloud by mobile devices, we’ll record/upload more data electronically than at any other time in mankind (despite paranoia trend, sheer qty of GB/TB on the web will make 2011 a record year).
  5. Friend Filtering. 2011 will be the year of quality over quantity.  New social media start-up Path hits this trend, limiting your network to just 50 key people.  Competitiveness for this new inner-circle will drive new behaviour and take us back to “Face Friends” who matter, rather than Facebook Friends by the thousand.”
  6. Centre-fall. De-volving from the middle, whether that be government or big business.  Applications in the cloud will allow businesses to challenge their conventions and methodologies of working.  The drive to competitiveness and the desire to see people take responsibility, will mean the hub will become less important than the spokes and rim.
  7. De-cluttering. Removing things that crowd out our thoughts/consume our time (see next point).  Prioritising those things that truly add value.  Marketeers need to take note as traditional methods of interruptive marketing are becoming less and less effective, particularly in B2B.
  8. Time poor war. Time continues to be the worlds most scarce commodity for the masses.  Time improvement tools just mean we are working more, not reducing work-time spent pursuing happiness or joy.  Generation X are kicking back against this as the last generation which may rescue the lost generation of “Y”‘s, before the values of deep friendship, downtime, family time are confined to words in wikipedia.  Hyper-tasking will be the new multi-tasking.
  9. Relevancy. Staying relevant in peoples lives.  Having just the right amount of interaction.  Choosing moments.  Keeping an acceptable proximity.
  10. Social Media Revolution. Wider business will take more notice of social media channels for conversations and relationship generation now all the glittery buzz is dying down.  It was never designed to be a transactional channel but a way of generating proximity, feedback and conversations with individuals.  As new business becomes harder (less public sector expenditure to cushion your overhead), new conversations and contacts will be key and more businesses will get moving with new conversation channels.
  11. Trust and Transparency. A continuing theme for me.  People are more willing to trust a strangers view than a big brand ad when it comes to products and services.  User generated content will continue to grow exponentially, more people will blog, leave content on sites like Tripadvisor and Reevoo, use electronic platforms to distribute buzz (+ or -).  2010 was the year we’ll all remember for Wikileaks.  Wikileak yourself or your business, compare that with the messages you send on your marketing materials and ask yourself are the two things consistent.

What are your thoughts? What would you add?