Monday, November 29, 2010

100 Country Rollerblades and Red Bull Tour

By Jay McBain

As I prepare for another trip halfway around the world in 4 days, I thought I would put some thoughts on (virtual) paper. This “tour” has started to attract some interest and I am approaching the 50 country halfway point.

By the way, in 4 days I will be hitting 7 countries in Southern Africa.

How did it begin?

Simple. Bucket List.

Yes, the 2007 movie, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman ( was the inspiration. I, like I suspect many others, had a goal to visit much of the world but no real plan to do it. The gentle reminder that every day is precious and waiting till retirement age is risky:
- Potential for health issues
- Lack of energy
- Getting limited (and censored) through “tours”

“We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

Why 100 Countries?

Again, simple. Round number.

Actually, it was a bit more complicated…I wanted it to be remarkable, challenging, but yet attainable. Knowing that dozens of countries are in perpetual war (civil or otherwise), and others were small islands spread around the world, I chose a round number representing half.

By the way, the United Nations recognizes 192 countries, and the US State Department recognizes 194. The debate over places like Vatican City, Kosovo, and Taiwan make the number go up or down but the general consensus is 195 countries in the world today (2010).

The Unofficial Rules of the Tour (#1 rule is that there are no rules):

1. 8 days per trip – not work related travel. Leave on a Friday, return on a Sunday – only miss one week of work each time.

2. Every June and December (try to catch summer wherever I go north or south)

3. Book flight three months ahead, use Google Maps to determine path and transportation type between countries, and start locking in details the week of the trip.

4. Process inside each major city is to park 10 miles outside of downtown and strap on Rollerblades (actually Mission inline skates to be exact) and skate up and down each street one by one. The skating is efficient and effective even in heavily crowded areas. I can travel about the speed of a bicycle meaning a good 4-5 hours will cover a large city and 30+ miles.

5. High degree of flexibility including sometimes driving at night, catching a nap in the car or staying in a luxury hotel – all somewhat random and in the moment.

How to choose Countries?

A few times I have literally spun a globe and booked a flight where my finger stopped (China). Sometimes it is educational and theme based (tracing back WWII from Auschwitz back to Berlin). Other times it is centered around major events (watching World Cup soccer from home countries of Argentina and Brazil) and then going to the actual site later (Johannesburg).

The randomness is what drives some of the fun.

When does the Red Bull kick in?

Most people know that I do not drink alcohol or coffee, or even that much Red Bull. Looking at some of the crazy itineraries (14 European or 7 African countries in only 8 days) the inside joke is that I live off of very little sleep and lots of toxic Red Bull!

I eat 100% local to the country I am in – usually off the beaten (tourist) path and likely in some back alley somewhere. I don’t speak any languages outside of English so it usually consists of a bunch of pointing and sheepish grins.

What is the Endgame?

The question I am asked most often is: How can you enjoy the travel and suck in local culture when you are dashing through countries almost daily?

Two answers:

1. Rollerblading means that I cover more of a city than most people who stay for days and stick with “Top 10” tourist sites

2. I am keeping a “best of” list and will go back after the tour (perhaps in retirement) and spend quality time in the chosen places.

At the current pace, I will likely be done 100 countries by the time I am 50 – leaving lots of time to go back and explore deeper.

What next?

Another bucket list item is to one day sail the blue ocean and perhaps approach these countries in a different fashion - as a mariner.

Till then, Rollerblades and Red Bull. Safe travels.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What comes after Facebook?

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
November 11, 2010

As I come back from another large Channel event filled with potential game-changing sessions on cloud, social media and next generation managed services, it got me thinking about the next wave.

What will the “hot” sessions look like in a few years?

A couple of things are certain – we live in a hype society where today’s game changers are increasingly perishable. The traditional business phases (start-up, growth, peak, trough and recovery) are still relevant; however the timeline is narrowing at a pace never before seen.

Fun facts:

- The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004
- Today’s college student will have 10-14 jobs, by the age of 38 (US Dept of Labor)
- 4 exabytes of unique data will be generated in 2010, more than all of human history combined- The amount of technical information is doubling every 2 years
- We marveled that the internet only took 4 years to reach “mass market”. Facebook took only 2 years, and future technologies will go viral in days, if not hours or minutes.

Here are the four “hot” sessions that I predict for 2013:

1. Re-tool your IT business with Foursquare – If you haven’t looked at location based services closely, you soon will. Internet 1.0 excelled in connecting the world with its breadth and depth. Because of that complexity spawned internet 2.0, which made it social and more accessible.

There is no way that one person can find, decipher and act on the data that exists today (and it is doubling every 2 years), therefore peer networks and communities of like-minded and like-challenged people have naturally connected.

Internet 3.0 will use GPS technology and further narrow the information overload by filtering location. Most of us recognize that our social networks have grown too large and the value of Facebook may have peaked due to the same information overload problem that ended internet 1.0. Local information, curated by trusted sources, will provide the filtering necessary to get the relevant answers to run your business.

What will internet 4.0 look like? Likely another set of filters applied to when location based social networking reaches its breaking point. It will be based on a new technology (probably not invented yet) that will give us the information we need, when we need it and connect us to the relevant people instantaneously.

2. “These kids today” – How to protect your business from a new generation of serial job hoppers. The old rules of HR have become stale and theories on incentives, behavior modification, and retention are dramatically changing. (check out stat above from US Dept of Labor)

With a myriad of sensors, self-reporting devices and location based services, the old time sheet exercise will become a thing of the past. Your staff may be social networked to their customers, carrying on a 24/7 relationship 140 characters at a time. Tracking this customer intimacy will be easy due to new features within your PSA software.

Each time an employee shows up at a client, Foursquare will log the visit. Deskside visits will be self-reported by the device they are working on. Interaction through text, Facebook, Twitter, email and VOIP phone will be captured and reported to the customer. Stickiness will naturally increase with intimacy.

3. Guns for Hire – the next generation of delivering services. The taxi cab is an unlikely metaphor for delivering technical services, however fits the future model. All taxis are not equal in terms of quality, safety, ethics, courtesy or even hygiene, but they all tend to get the job done – moving you from point A to point B. They are all licensed and hold at least a minimal threshold of training/certification from a central authority. Their main differentiator is location – the closest cab wins.

The future of managing technical resources will be similar. Holding base certification, specialties, and security bond (ie. CompTIA), these techs will be commoditized to the point where location is the most important determination of value.

Instead of managing these people directly, you will have access to a broad network of these “taxis” all coordinated through social networking tools and location based GPS technology. Costs go down in a recurring model, benefiting the client as well as the provider.

4. Productivity through enhanced reporting and micropayments. The analytical tools available will become more granular and robust with the combination of these new technologies. The recurring revenue model will evolve to where costs are reported at a micro-level. For example, cost per location check-in, cost per phone call or email, right down to cost per tweet of delivering service.

Understanding future models of brokering cloud solutions, delivering services and pricing models per client touch (vs. by unit or head) and executing within a complex web of interconnected community networks will be critical for business success in 2013 and beyond.

The speed, fluidity and predictability of service delivery will invariably set a new level of client expectations.

The good news for all of us, is that the future points to an increasingly important and essential role for the Channel to play in business. With technical information doubling every two years, regulation and legislation being created at an unprecedented pace in history, and digital convergence and connection across billions of people to trillions of devices, the Channel is poised to lead.