Go back just 5 years and reflect on the world we were living with in terms of technology.
First up consider your personal world back in 2010;
- The Apple ipad was just being launched; As of April 2015, there have been over 250 million iPads sold
- Snapchat hadnt been invited ( if you have kids you will know what this is ) ; by 2014 Snapchat announces that it has raised $485 million from 23 investors at a valuation of at least $10 billion
- Candy Crush was still two years away ( if you have a partner you will know what this is ) ; by 2013 it had an average of 324Million users each month
- Netflix movie subscriptions were only a year old; by 2014 there were 50 million members
- Instagram had only just been launched as a free mobile app; 4 years later it had 400 million subscribers
- Oculus Rift was a prototype as the gaming world of virtual augmented reality was slowly emerging; in 2014, Facebook announced that it had agreed to buy Oculus VR for $400 million in cash.
Now consider the corporate IT world in 2010;
- Virtualisation was still the dominant roadmap for workload consolidation and IT shops were still working through data center transformation projects; Cloud was still a private or public conversation and hybrid IT was unclear.
- Shadow IT wasn’t a term; neither was BYOD, and mobile device management was in its infancy.
- Openstack has only just been launched by Rackspace and NASA as the open source community’s answer to cloud lock in; and Oracle was still two years away from their Cloud position and Apple iCloud was not mainstream
- Microsoft CEO – Steve Ballmer – was standing up in University of Washington saying he was betting the company on cloud computing with his ‘we all are in’ ( the cloud) speech; 12 months later, Microsoft commits 90% of its $9.6bn R&D budget to Cloud
- 3D print was still really called Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM ) and had not entered the popular ‘geek speak’ world Internet of Things (IoT ) was still a best kept secret and the first economic and commercial prototypes were coming out from people like LG with their LG announces it’s first Internet refrigerator plans; by 2020 it is predicted 75 billion devices will be connected to the internet
- Gartner had not coined the Nexus of Forces – the coming together of market forces – Social, Cloud, mobility and information; and ‘being digital’ was more likely to refer to TV signal than a business roadmap.
And this list can go on and on but reflect that for the first time ever in our lives have we blended our personal and corporate experiences together – learning together, sharing together and putting whatever happened before to the back of our minds.
In effect, resetting our experience clock.
But we have all seen this before – remember 1999? remember the first PC? Remember the days of mainframe? OK so maybe none of us were actually in work in these times but one thing is for sure – the pace of technological change is moving at a faster pace than ever before, and ever indication is that our ‘experience clock’ is going to go through several ‘resets’ as we move out old experiences ( because we genuinely don’t need them any more ) and refresh ourselves with a whole new learning and experience currency. A bit like getting used to a new language where you are not allowed to use your native tongue.
And here is the real rub.
Our experiences have made us what we are today – Subject Matter Experts. An awful term but very popular. SMEs in technology are common place and much sought after. Whether you are a back office IT SME or a ‘app dev’ SME or a business analyst SME, these skills have been honed over many years through certification, on the tools , hard knocks, lessons learned and down right ‘in the weeds’ experiences. And please don’t underestimate what this means. Significant.
Yet despite this our ‘experience clock’ is being reset around us.
You see over these years ( maybe 5 or 10 ) a change has come about that for many has been an unconscious event that didn’t need to worry us – after all we have decades of experience. We are SMEs aren’t we?
This change which I believe is resetting a lot of our experience clocks is to do with the following;
- Businesses changed their language; businesses didn’t want to talk about technology on its own.
- Businesses hired business people to take over CIO roles; IT senior management teams are more like business groups.
- Businesses produced business plans that were more like 30 day plans demanding output from IT that would have been unthinkable 5 years and just plain impossible 10 years ago.
- Businesses started talking bimodal and speed and demanding business aligned IT plans that were not just paper; expecting IT organisations to restructure from top down to create momentum to directly influenced sales performance, customer engagement and increased revenues booked.
- Businesses worried about endless product conversations focused on features ; businesses stopped projects that were failing rather than grinning and bearing; service was turned on its head and the customer really did call the shots.
- Businesses understood words like velocity, volume, variety and know the value of compute turning rich veins of traditional computing business into commodity and ‘click’ consumption
- Businesses looked to the IT organisation to become a business – to act like one and to take accountability; ground up changes drove people traction, new role definitions and ultimate customer engagement.
And it is because of this that I believe the experience clock of the ‘industry’ was being reset.
Reset in terms of developing new skills and talents that became more well defined and sharper as the challenges of the customer and business become so new that the decades of experience of being a ‘IT pro’ or ‘sales guy’ fast lose their relevance.
Being relevant suddenly becomes more important; whether it is how you make money in this new world or how you demonstrate you have up to date skills. After all being a deep SME relying on your ‘legacy’ and ‘depth of experience’ may be under the spotlight, especially as the conversation becomes less about the technology and what it meant 5, 10 , 15 years ago, and more about business workload transformation, hybrid architectures, data governance and digital workplace.
In essence, right to left thinking took over left to right thinking and ‘product SMEs’ were being replaced by ‘outcome SMEs’., focused on how ‘being digital’ was the overriding strategy relevant to anything technology biased.Just like we have all moved our TV experiences from the analog world to the digital entertainment highway, so has the business reset their expectation from ‘the past’ to ‘the future’.
Predicting and building for what is coming becomes possibly more interesting, not in some wishy washy crystal ball way, but in true pragmatic ‘ this is what we need to do ‘ style, leveraging your most recent experiences with a blend of anticipation and experimentation.
Who was it that coined the phrase ” We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” ? Yes – Albert Einstein. Astute comment and every business needs some of their people to be in this camp – not of all them though!!
To close the days of being a fountain of all knowledge – the guru or the SME – is fast changing, and whilst totally relevant and in demand, does need to sit alongside a whole new breed of ‘experience’ workers. These workers emerge not just from the young person bucket, but from people who have become unshackled from the the analog world, immersed in keeping apace with the speed of the business and aligned thinking about how technology can affect change. Such people are so far ahead of the thought curve that they are In fact ahead of the business, as they race to anticipate new experiences, and to identify what the business is going to need to remain productive and relevant.
And the most exciting aspect of all this is when you meet such ‘experience clock resetters’ you will realise they have mastered a way of knowing where there old experiences are, but blended an acute sense of knowing when to press the reset and come up with ‘new stuff’ that people want.