The increasing divergence in business performance – if you’re not ahead you’re dead

In my keynote speeches over the last couple of years I have often talked about how there is an increasing divergence in business performance. This theme was particularly pertinent at the height of the global financial crisis, when it was important to make people understand that there were still some companies and sectors that were doing very well. However arguably this issue of divergence is even more important now that many companies and economies have a more buoyant outlook.

As I wrote last year about the Big Shift in economic structure, some great research from Deloitte’s Center for the Edge supports my views on divergence, as illustrated below.

divergence_ROA.jpg

Data source: Deloitte Center for the Edge

This shows that Return on Assets for the top quartile performers has stayed consistent at 11-13%, and in fact recently has been close to its all-time highs. In contrast, more recently the bottom quartile is consistently destroying value, sometimes in a spectacular fashion. The only possible outcomes for these lesser-performing companies is that they get their act together, are acquired, or go out of business.

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Getting perspective: Hand-held business computers are over 20 years old

Last week I interviewed my old friend Tom Stewart, formerly editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, and currently Chief Marketing and Knowledge Officer of Booz and Co, for a piece in CPA Australia’s magazine InTheBlack. I’ll share the article, on the role of financial executives in business strategy, on this blog later in the year.

Tom mentioned the fact that Frito-Lay, the most profitable division of Pepsico, introduced hand-held computers for real-time inventory management back in 1989. I had a look and found a fascinating article from 1990 in the New York Times titled Frito-Lay’s Speedy Data Network, focusing on the information the system provided. It says:

Frito-Lay’s electronic network has already led to a sweeping change in the company’s competitive strategy. As the network developed, the company realized it could now shift from a national marketing strategy to one that emphasized local responses, so-called micro-marketing.

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Tapping the forces of change: Why cloud computing is the future

Through the month of August I will be doing the keynote address at a five-city Australian roadshow run by Telstra Business. I will open the breakfast events by providing a big picture view of how driving forces in technology, business and society are moving the world towards cloud computing, cloud working, cloud thinking, and cloud strategy.

I will be followed by Hugh Bradlow, Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer, who will provide a more detailed vendor view of cloud computing.

There is no public website for the event; I was told to suggest you contact your Telstra account executive if you’re interested in attending the event.

Below is a brief article I provided Telstra to help promote the event to their customers. I’ll be fleshing out the thinking in this article in some further writing and quite possibly a cloud framework.

Tapping the forces of change

Take a deep breath. As you breathe in, think about the invisible substance that is all around us and sustains us, but we cannot see. Air is vital to us and fuels our energy. In the same way, businesses today are finding that access to a universe of computing resources on tap in the ether around them is helping to keep them healthy and drive their growth. A company’s vitality increasingly depends on how readily it can breathe in this vital resource.

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Lessons from iPhone4 Applegate: social media augmentation of consumer voices and the need to listen

A few days ago I was interviewed by ABC’s Newsline program for a segment they did on Apple’s response to the iPhone4 ‘Antennagate’ problem.

Here is the second part of the segment including my thoughts. To see the full piece go to the Newsline archives and click on ‘Bad Press’ dated 21/7.

Despite the way the piece was edited, I was not scathing about Apple’s response. I think their solution of a free Bumper case is, so far, reasonable. However there are two important points.

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Twitter uncovers the real-time mood of the nation through the day

Some lovely research from Northeastern University uses sentiment analysis to show the changing moods of the United States through 24 hours.

In the video below showing changes over the course of a day, colors indicate people’s moods from red (unhappy) to green (happy), while the size of the state shows how much Twitter activity there is.

A few things that stand out: Early morning and late evening are far happier than other times of the day, California and Florida are the happiest states, and from other research on the site, the unsurprising finding that people are happier on weekends than weekdays.

Click through for the detailed research including a high-resolution pdf summarizing the findings.

What the future of newspapers looked like in 1981

This delightful TV news clip from 1981 shows how people could access newspapers such as San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times on their computer using a dial-up line.

It took 2 hours to download the text of a newspaper, with a $5 cost per hour. One user marvelled at how you could not only read the newspaper online, but also copy it into a document and print it out. It’s particularly interesting to contrast the interface available in the day with, say, a contemporary iPad.

“We’re not in it to make money,” the newspaper people said of their experiments with online newspapers. Evidently.

Will the future of social networking be open and distributed? Here comes Plexus

I just caught up with my neighbor and fellow futurist Mark Pesce, who over a coffee at our local briefed me on his new project Plexus, which he publicly announced at his recent keynote at Pycon Australia, for Python developers. His excellent speech, titled How Not to be Seen, is below, and the transcript on Mark’s blog.

In his presentation Mark starts with his long relationship with programming and finally moves on to describe his project Plexus, which will provide a new platform for social networks.

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Revisiting the Web 2.0 Framework for insights on the web landscape today

I have just been requested permission by London School of Economics to use my Web 2.0 Framework in their Management and Innovation of eBusiness program for the next four years. The first part of the framework is below, and the industry landscape further down the page.

Web 2.0 Framework

Click on the image for the original description and full pdf

I’m delighted that the framework is still seen as relevant and useful over 3 years after it was created in May 2007. Certainly the original post continues to get plenty of traffic, not least because an image from the framework still appears on the front page of a Google search for ‘Web 2.0’. The phrase ‘Web 2.0’ has been largely replaced with ‘social media’, ‘cloud’ and similar terms, but the underlying concepts remain valid in understanding what is going on today.

I thought it would be worth reviewing the framework today to see what is still current and what I would change.

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Looking for a great blog writer for Crowdsourcing Results site

Of the many initiatives we have on, one of the most exciting is rolling out a series of websites/ forums – we have a few up now and many more coming. As we do so, we are looking for outside writers to complement our own content.

One of our most popular new sites is CrowdsourcingResults.com, which showcases our Crowdsourcing Landscape and provides insights and discussion on how to use crowdsourcing effectively.

Below is the ad we are posting. Please apply if it’s of interest, or if not please pass it on to people who might be interested – probably mainly for interest in the topic and the visibility.

Also note that we will soon be creating a detailed report on crowdsourcing, so great writers/ researchers who want to get stuck into a bigger project should also get in touch – we can discuss terms.

Job title

Great blog writers with a deep understanding of crowdsourcing

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No more checking in: why public facial recognition may take off

minority-report-ads.jpgWe all know that processing power has for many years increased exponentially and continues to do so. This essentially means that any processing-intensive task you can imagine will eventually be possible.

Facial recognition happens to be a task that humans are hard-wired to be exceptionally good at. While computers struggled at this for a long time, it is now an entirely viable technology in controlled conditions, as when people are walking through turnstiles or gates.

The facial recognition used at the 2001 Super Bowl was successful enough to apparently nab 19 people with pending arrest warrants, while facial recognition is now commonly used in border security.

It becomes a lot harder when people’s faces are not viewed from the front, however to a large degree that’s where the increased processing power comes in handy.

Mark Cuban says that he has just invested in a company that uses video to identify how many people are in a given area, which can be useful for safety, security, and traffic control.

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