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.