Tuesday, January 31, 2017

3 Disrupters* for the Copy/Print Industry

In the Harvard Business Review a few years ago I had written about how by focusing on down-stream disrupters and failing to recognize "platform disrupters" companies can miss the woods for the trees.
I see 3 such platform disrupters emerging in the Copy/Print Industry space:

#1: Robotic Process Automation

 In a widely noted study ("The Future of Employment") published in 2013, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne concluded that
“recent developments in machine learning will put a substantial share of employment, across a wide range of occupations, at risk in the near future.” 
That may be a pessimistic view, the optimistic being that technology always creates more jobs than what it takes away. But all agree that the nature of work as we know it today will definitely change. A more automated workplace with lesser number of employees could drive down the demand for traditional copy/print.

#2: Smart Contracts

From Harvard Business Review ("Truth about Blockchain")
“Smart contracts” may be the most transformative blockchain application at the moment. These automate payments and the transfer of currency or other assets as negotiated conditions are met. For example, a smart contract might send a payment to a supplier as soon as a shipment is delivered. A firm could signal via blockchain that a particular good has been received—or the product could have GPS functionality, which would automatically log a location update that, in turn, triggered a payment. We’ve already seen a few early experiments with such self-executing contracts in the areas of venture funding, banking, and digital rights management.
The implications are fascinating. Firms are built on contracts, from incorporation to buyer-supplier relationships to employee relations. If contracts are automated, then what will happen to traditional firm structures, processes, and intermediaries like lawyers and accountants? And what about managers? Their roles would all radically change...."
As contracts become smart the need for printing associated documentation will diminish.

#3: API Economy

Like Uber for taxi industry, AirBnb for hotel industry – Managed Print Services (MPS) offerings from the API Marketplaces can be a major disrupter for the organized MPS sector.
Came across some companies which are offering Printer Monitoring in the cloud. The features they tout are : 
-          A complete API Platform for Printer
-          Build your own MPS solution etc. 
They have scaled subscription based model with subscriptions including among other things : Unlimited data retention, Unlimited API calls, Unlimited access to all available API, Unlimited access to Cloud Web Portal, Unlimited Users, Customers, DCA downloads, Tech support via email, ticket, chat etc.
Currently, however these solutions while low cost and simple, have less functionality than other 3rd party tools like FM Audit and lack key features .
However, these players are only likely to get better and evolve very rapidly. They may not be perceived as competitors by the mainstream players right now but they can catch up fast. I can visualize them becoming major disrupters – either standalone or in the hand of aggregators who bundle these capabilities with some others which the mainstream players may not even be thinking about right now.
The mainstream players can react to these ins several ways
·        opportunities for them to make some of their own APIs or tool suite available on such marketplaces.
·        Or build such a marketplace for Print related APIs.
·        Or augment some of their own offerings with some other capabilities (which may be non-print related) sourced from the open marketplace.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the mainstream players see these disrupters approaching in their rear-view mirrors and will take steps to ensure that the impact for them is not a "Big Bang".
I would hypothesize that most Disruptions can be prevented from having a Big Bang effect by smart companies by:
- early identification of emerging trends
- what-if /SWOT analysis to identify impact on existing business
- identify opportunities to leverage the emerging trend
- get "co-opted" into the evolution process
- ride the evolutionary wave and reap the benefits.
Companies which do not do so will feel the impact of what was actually an evolutionary process as if it was a "Big Bang". Guys who see an oncoming bus and prepare for it can run alongside it a bit and then board it ; guys who are oblivious will be "hit by a bus".
So that’s why I view most disruptions as evolutionary rather than Big Bang and recommend that organizations prepare for them that way. For each of the companies that have been highlighted as being affected by the Big Bang disruption there will be countless others who would have thrived from the same disruption.
 * Disrupter or Disruptor: I have chosen to use Disrupter!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Big Data/Analytics: A Fertile Breeding Ground For Start-Ups?


Gartner 2016 Magic Quadrant for Advanced Analytics Platforms just touches the tip of the iceberg as far as the number of players in this burgeoning sector are concerned.
The start-up ecosystem is also pretty crowded in this space as many players emerge in different niches based on various horizontal and vertical technology and customer differentiation strategies. Nowhere is the action more visible than the IT Hub of Bengaluru, India.
I recently had an opportunity to meet with three of these.  
Tetrus Corporation headed by Sharad Rao focuses on data-mining and analytics from a US National Security perspective and so works closely with Public Safety, Homeland Security, Justice and Corrections communities. Sharad describes as their key strength the ability to work across traditional data siloes to provide security officials a holistic overview of the data and the ability to recognize threats/opportunities which otherwise may have stayed hidden in the seams. The company now strives to leverage some of the same strengths and capabilities in offerings targeted towards the private sector domain as well as other geographies.
Axtria has focused on the people/expertise aspect building a strong bench of data sciences and analytics expertise hiring some of the best graduates/PhDs from the most prestigious institutions in India/elsewhere. Axtria "Is A Data Sciences Company That Operates At The Intersection Of Deep Analytics, Domain expertise And Technology" is how Manish Mittal , managing principal described themselves.
Sigmoid founded by a bunch of bright sparks from IIT Kharagpur includingLokesh Anand and Mayur Rustagi has gained lot of traction in the retailing space with their SigView: An Integrated Solution, Built for Scale and Speed on Apache Spark. The use of an In-Memory Columnar database with some unique indexing algorithms provides them the ability to ingest large volumes of data and provide quick analytics. Mayur and Lokesh were gung-ho in describing future plans to expand their reach across more industry sectors in the US as well as globally. Also in their plans, launching SigAI: Self learning intelligence system on Apache Spark and Titan Graph.
I was impressed by the capabilities on display and am sure we will be hearing more about these companies in the days to come.
Once again though, this is just the tip of the iceberg...............
Also published on LinkedIn

Monday, February 8, 2016

3 Biggest Challenges in the "Internet of Things" Arena

Gartner's VP &  Fellow - Technology Visionary & Futurist David Cearley joined the conversation on one of my earlier posts about the Internet of Things: Digital Mesh Or Digital Goo? What will bind the IoT Ecosystem together? 
Call it the Internet of Things (IoT) or The Internet of Everything (IoE), players in this burgeoning field are facing a common set of challenges as I fathomed from a conversation with a leading vendor venturing into this space:
  • "Where are the Guinea Pigs?"  (Early Adopters): The biggest one is getting people willing to pay/invest in this area since most are not able to visualize the benefits of the analytics which can be generated or the operational efficiencies which can be realized using IoT/IoE. Vendors have an uphill climb trying to explain how they can help improve operational efficiency till they can find a stakeholder forward looking enough to make the small investments and allow the vendor access to at least a  subset of the environment to do a pilot and prove the use case. The vendors with proven success stories have a head-start.
  • "No Cookie-Cutters": Every environment is unique. A cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach cannot work. While a vendor can suggest their platform as a offering they still need to work with other partners to deliver an integrated solution. The vendors are finding themselves challenged to deliver services to the customers tailored to their unique and completely different environments. A big opportunity for strategic/implementation partners.
  • "Missing Sensors": The biggest technical challenge is not security as one would expect but the fact that lots of devices do not have the capabilities to capture the data/metrics to generate the required analytics. The vendors need to leverage sensor technology to add sensors to legacy devices to pull back requisite data esp. in the Manufacturing and Buildings industry sectors.
Are you working in the IoT/IoE space? What are some of the challenges you are facing? Please join the conversation.
Originally published on LinkedIn. You can join the conversation there.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

PReDICTT: Engaging All Employees In The Innovation Mindset!


Yes, that's right. It's no typo. I mean PReDICTT. It's the acronym for a unique program we initiated  this year : Peers Reflecting on Developments in Current Technology Trends.
The idea behind it is simple. In our roles as technology individuals, we are consistently exposed to technology and innovation trends: some directly related to our work endeavors and some seemingly unrelated, and these make us wonder what their influence may be on us in the days to come.  Some examples Include: Bitcoins, Self-Driving cars, The Internet of Things, Millennials in the Workplace, etc.  We often wish for a forum where we could learn more about these trends and openly share our own ideas and thoughts with others in anopen, candid, non-judgmental fashion.
The PReDICTT Program (Peers Reflecting on Developments In Current Technology Trends) gave the team an opportunity to periodically engage in some creative brainstorming and sharing of ideas distinct from our day-to-day responsibilities. The opportunity to view the world through a telescope rather than the rearview-mirror or windscreen for a change. A key premise being that innovation thought  even unrelated to normal line of work makes individuals more effective in whatever they do. 
This program was comprised of “Open Mike” sessions at a regular cadence where volunteer/guest speakers shared their thoughts on a Technology/Innovation trend and its likely implications. The requirement for speakers was not that they be experts in the topic but that they feelpassionately enough about it to be willing to share their ideas related to it with their peers.
By this program, even as we bring “Innovation” thought to the fore with a regular cadence driving positive downstream impacts we also strove to:
  • Enhance Communications to employees / partners
  • Enhance Employee motivation and skills for presenters
  • Enhance image of our Information Management group with partners with forward looking topics
  • Provide opportunity to recognize individuals to step outside their primary job responsibilities
We had 8 very interesting sessions during the year spanning the gamut of innovations:
  • Security in the era of BYOD 
  • Steganography and Cryptography 
  • The Changing Forms of Money and What it Means for Us- Bitcoins et al 
  • Ubiquitous Internet: Balloons, Drones 
  • Jugaad- Frugal Innovation
  • Wearables
  • Autonomous Vehicles, Driverless Cars
  • Future of Computing
As intended, all presented by volunteers. What was even more stimulating was the excellent exchange of ideas following the presentation and which often spilled over into our vibrant Yammer group. Lots of thoughts on how these can impact what we do on a daily basis and our marketplace.
The PReDICTT keywords reiterated at every session are:
  • Share & Participate
  • Develop & Grow
  • Ideas & Innovation
  • Passion & Fun
2016 promises to be even more exciting for PReDICTT as more groups warm up to the idea and join; and even more Innovations keep appearing in the world we live in! 
So one of the trends I predict for 2016 is more companies launching initiatives like this to engage their employees in "Innovation Thinking", as I call it.
What about your company? What do you intend to do in 2016 to keep your employees intellectually stimulated and engaged even if their routine jobs may be relatively routine and mundane?

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