Your business isn't dead ... yet

Richard Lord, global head of enterprise applications, Publicis GroupeLast month I went for one of my road-trips to the US to visit a number of the larger technology companies, for a "let's see what's next" tour. I had the pleasure of meeting with Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Cisco and Salesforce. All big companies, with a lot of very smart people working on what's next in technology.

Much of what was shown and discussed was under NDA, so I'll write about the important themes and what I think this means.

Without exception, the general theme was about the "post-stampede" cloud era. This is a term I have made up, trying to differentiate from the rush-to-the-cloud efforts of every software and services provider we have seen for the last eight or ten years.

We've moved to a more considered and strategic phase, with big plans, backed by big money and the capacity to execute very significant change. These companies are "bringing it all together" to create very sophisticated technology platforms, with the potential to transform business at many levels.

Some of the numbers are mind-blowing. One company spoke of the fact that they are adding more servers to their cloud infrastructure every day than they did in all of 2007. Another spoke of internal bandwidth within their data centers at the multi-terabyte scale, with plans to hit the petabyte mark.

New technologies are being designed and built for custom purposes, from lightning fast connectivity through to very specialist compute devices designed for ever more sophisticated AI and big-data processing.

The capabilities and capacity are AWESOME.

New potential in light speed

Having had a couple of days to ruminate, I am left with a feeling that many (maybe most) large organizations are probably not even aware of the fight for survival they are in.

The technology available today is phenomenal, cheap and universally available. Anyone, anywhere in the world can buy infinite computing power, augmented with sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) engines, backed by limitless databases, state-of-the-art applications and more. It is priced on consumption, with little need for capital investment. The commercial barriers to entry are low, with the main constraints being the availability of the talented people who understand and can leverage this stuff, and the corporate willingness to do so.

It is going to mean new opportunities, new efficiency, new businesses and new competition. It is happening at light speed and it is happening now.

It can be daunting for an enterprise to confront with the specter of deep, structural change driven by significant technology innovation and evolution. It is even more the case if you have not yet started work on understanding and leveraging this new technology.

Responding to the new normal

As you take your first steps to respond to this "new normal" I offer a little advice. First, action is the only option. You cannot ignore the capability that is being delivered today and what will surely come. You must change your business.

Second, empower your efforts. This needs to be a strategically important initiative, sponsored at the highest levels and with the funding and mandate to explore, understand and implement. You need to be willing to evolve your business, quickly, before the competition does it for you.

Finally (and a positive note), remind yourself of the things your business DOES have that the new competitors and disruptors don't. You have customers, infrastructure, historical information and data. You have suppliers, partners, distribution chains and very importantly, you have a brand and reputation. These things are crucially important and cannot be conjured from thin air.

You have a chance to embrace the potential and possibilities that these amazing technologies can bring. Your business isn't dead.... yet.


Richard Lord is the Global Head of Enterprise Applications for advertising and public relationships company Publicis Groupe. Leading a global team delivering world class technology to businesses in over 100 countries, Richard is based in Hong Kong and his remit includes digital transformation. Richard is veteran of the digital industry, having started his first online tech company in Australia in 1993.