One thing which has happened as we have been developing our ideas on the Digital Dashboard and Enterprise Software front is the emergence of events and information about events at the heart of the system. We had not actually planned it that way to begin with (perhaps because of inexperience) – the initial focus was more on aggregating information. Now, what is becoming clear is that the real value of the software needs to be in event management.
Events are either created because of some system-generated activity or a human action (thanks to Ramesh Jain for putting it so succintly). Much of our focus has been on the latter. An invoice is created, a cheque comes in, a customer call comes in – they all result in events being created.
When we will talk to SMEs, what we will need to explain to them is that events which they were managing manually can now be processed electronically by computers to assist in decision-making by providing a wider context around the events.
Some of the components we will need in this:
– Information Refinery / Event Processing Unit (EPU): the brain
– Digital Dashboard: for aggregating information and notifications
– Event Horizon: to show the events as they happen
– Information Visualiser: to enable “conversations with data” and drill-down
– Feedback Loop: through Blogs and the RSS Aggregator
The underlying goal: a real-time enterprise.
I was reading some of Christensen’s comments and a point struck me: We need to think of our TC-TS solution as a “disruptive innovation”, and not as a sustaining innovation. When we try and target existing Windows users, we will lose. We have to open up new markets and new users.
I have been falling into the “easy target” trap – it is much easier to talk to our existing customers than get new ones. So, what do our existing customers tell us? They don’t really need it. Either they have the PCs they need or they have the money to buy the new PCs they need or they need support for some Windows application on the desktop. Then, we have to try and convince them to trial this – some may agree but their heart is not going to be in it, unless the manager there is an “innovator” or a “visionary” (to use Geoffrey Moore’s terms from his Technology Adoption Life Cycle). We are setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure.
What we need to do is to target the markets and customers that we can “delight” – the markets that the established PC players do not want or the non-consumers. This is the harder thing to do, because one has to imagine (and make others see) things that do not exist.
I have done this once before – when we were selling websites and advertising for IndiaWorld. We were competing against ourselves. It is tough, because one has to do the concept-selling. This is what we have to do now. It is easier in a sense because people know the value of computers. We are now making them affordable for users who did not have access to it before, and we are enabling them to put the PCs (TCs) in places that were not possible before.
The way to think is by answering the questions raised by Christensen in his recent article in Sloan Management Review:
1. Does the innovation target customers who in the past haven’t been able to “do it themselves” for lack of money or skills?
2. Is the innovation aimed at customers who will welcome a simple product?
3. Will the innovation help customers do more easily and effectively what they are already doing earlier?
4. Are prevailing products more than good enough?
5. Can you create a different business model?
Kevin Werbach made an interesting observation recently: the two-and-half-year tech crash has now lasted as long as the tech bubble did. It seems like a long time. For many of us involved in technology, the daily routine of going to tech websites every morning may not have changed much. What has changed is the pace everything just seems so much slower. That buzz of new things happening almost on a daily basis has long since disappeared. Even as venture capital investment has dropped sharply, the flow of innovative ideas has gone down dramatically taking with it many a promising start-up.
Writing in the Financial Times (October 3, 2002), Richard Tomkins makes a fervent appeal for science and technology to put us back on the road to utopia:
It was possible to believe we were heading towards utopia when science and technology were giving us such marvels as domestic electricity, the telephone, the motor car, the aeroplane, refrigeration, plastic, films, radio and television.
By the mid-20th century we were so bedazzled by the wonders of technological progress that we began imagining a future in which machines would relieve us of the drudgery of work, leaving us free to live a life of aesthetic contemplation. Meals would be replaced with food pills, moving pavements would transport us along the streets and people would live in space colonies on Mars.
Instead, what happened? We got the internet. Well, thanks, but we are singularly unimpressed. Sure, advances in information technology have had a big impact on business – hence those dotcom-era magazines such as Fast Company and books such as Bill Gates’s Business @ the Speed of Thought – but their effect on the day-to-day lives of ordinary people has been minimal. Outside work, the internet has had much less impact than, say, the washing machine, which helped free women from centuries of domestic drudgery and enabled them to enter the workforce.
If people were worried by the pace of technological change, the time they should have been most worried was a century ago, when inventions were arriving helter-skelter – not just little inventions that made incremental improvements to people’s lives but mind-boggling, world-changing inventions, such as railways, that transformed the fabric of society.
In fact, we seemed to adjust to those technological changes quite easily. What bugs us now is that the last big inventions to have significantly changed our lives – television and the passenger jet – came half a century ago and we are perplexed by the failure of science and technology to have come up with much since.
One can argue about the merits of some of the points made by Tomkins, but one thing is clear: technology needs to find its groove once again.
Tomorrow: India as Proxy