CIO · Cloud

Three key changes to look for in 2018

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2017 has officially come to a close and 2018 has already started with a bang. As I look forward to what 2018 brings, the list is incredibly long and detailed. The genres of topics are equally long and cover people, process, technology, culture, business, social, economic and geopolitical boundaries…just to name a few.

Here are three highlights on my otherwise lengthy list…

EVOLVING THE CIO

I often state that after spending almost three decades in IT, now is the best time to work in technology. That statement is still true today.

One could not start a conversation about technology without first considering the importance of the technology leader and role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO, as the most senior person leading the IT organization, takes on a very critical role for any enterprise. That was true in the past, and increasingly so moving forward.

In my post ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’, I outline many of the differences in the ever-evolving role of the CIO. Those traits will continue to evolve as the individual, organization, leadership and overall industry change to embrace a new way to leverage technology. Understanding the psyche of the CIO is something one simply cannot do without experiencing the role firsthand. Yet, understanding how this role is evolving is exactly what will help differentiate companies in 2018 and beyond.

In 2018, we start to see the emerging role of ‘Transformational’ CIO in greater numbers. Not only does the CIO see the need for change, so does the executive leadership team of the enterprise. The CIO becomes less of a technology leader and more of a business leader that has responsibility for technology. As I have stated in the past, this is very different from that of the ‘CEO of Technology’ concept that others have bandied about. In addition, there is a sense of urgency for the change as the business climate becomes increasingly competitive from new entrants and vectors. Culture and geopolitical changes will also impact the changing role of the CIO and that of technology.

TECHNOLOGY HITS ITS STRIDE

In a similar vein to that of the CIO, technology finds its stride in 2018. Recent years have shown a lot of experimentation in the hopes of leverage and success. This ‘shotgun’ approach has been very risky…and costly for enterprises. That is not to say that experimentation is a bad thing. However, the role of technology in mainstream business evolves in 2018 where enterprises face the reality that they must embrace change and technology as part of that evolution.

Executives will look for ways to, mindfully, leverage technology to create business advantage and differentiation. Instead of sitting at the extremes of either diving haphazardly into technology or analysis paralysis, enterprises will strike a balance to embrace technology in a thoughtful, but time-sensitive way. The concept of ‘tech for tech sake’ becomes a past memory like that of the dialup modem.

One hopeful wish is that boards will stop the practice of dictating technology decisions as they have in the past with mandating their organization use cloud. That is not to say cloud is bad, but rather to suggest that a more meaningful business discussion take place that may leverage cloud as one of many tools in an otherwise broadening arsenal.

CLOUD COMES OF AGE IN ALL FORMS

Speaking of cloud, a wholesale shift takes place in 2018 where we pass the inflection point in our thinking about cloud. For the enterprise, public cloud has already reached a maturity point with all three major public cloud providers offering solid solutions for any given enterprise.

Beyond public cloud, the concept of private cloud moves from theory to reality as solutions mature and the kinks worked out. Historically, private cloud was messy and challenging even for the most sophisticated enterprise to adopt. The theory of private cloud is incredibly alluring and now has reached a point where it can become a reality for the average enterprise. Cloud computing, in its different forms has finally come of age.

 

In summary, 2017 has taught us many tough lessons in which to leverage in 2018. Based on the initial read as 2017 came to a close, 2018 looks to be another incredible year for all of us! Let us take a moment to be grateful for what we have and respect those around us. The future is bright and we have much to be thankful for.

Happy New Year!

Business · Data · Social

A Proposal to Save Social Media and Twitter

Back in May of 2014, 30 months ago, I penned the piece What Happens if Twitter Goes Away? It was a provocative look at the decline of one of Social Media’s darlings and suggesting potential value between free and paid services. Has the Social Media industry reached an inflection point where “free” services need to switch to paid? What are the pros and cons to doing so?

LOOKING BACK TOWARD THE IPO

At the time I wrote that piece, Twitter’s (NYSE: TWTR) stock price had settled to $31.85/share. Twitter’s IPO was at $26./share. Shortly afterwards, the stock climbed to their all-time high of just over $60./share. Fast forward 30 months and today price of $17.49/ share…well below their $26./ share IPO. For almost a year now, the stock has trended below their IPO price and stayed there.

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DIVING INTO THE NUMBERS

In their 2016 Q3 earnings call, Twitter reported $616 million in quarterly revenue with 317 million Monthly Average Users (MAU).

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Annualized, that equates to $2.5 billion per year. But is there a way to increase revenue and provide greater value to users at the same time? I think the answer is yes.

FINANCIAL SCENARIOS: PROS AND CONS

There are a number of paths that Twitter can take. By taking the current path, they continue to face an uphill battle of grinding out revenue numbers with lagging MAU figures. In contrast, there are a number of other scenarios that may present a potential opportunity to both Twitter and users.

twitter-financial-projections

The fundamental changes offer the suggestion of Twitter charging a nominal amount per account. There are pros and cons to this approach. Note that none of the scenarios include Twitter’s existing revenue streams. Here’s a breakdown of the scenarios:

  • CURRENT: This is the current situation at Twitter. $2.5 billion annualized revenue with 317 million MAUs.
  • ALT 1: This scenario suggests that the MAUs remain constant at 317 million , however, each account is charged a nominal $4/yr for individual accounts and $20/yr for corporate accounts. The increase adds $2.3 billion in annual revenue.
  • ALT 2: This scenario takes into account a conservative figure that 50% of MAUs would disappear if Twitter charged for accounts using the ALT 1 figures. This still adds $1.1 billion in additional annual revenue.
  • ALT 3: This scenario suggests a 50% decrease in MAUs, but charges individual accounts $12/yr ($1 per month) and corporate accounts $20/yr. The assumption is that 20% of accounts are corporate accounts. Annual revenue increases by $2.2 billion.
  • ALT 4: This scenario is similar to ALT 3, but increase corporate charges to $50/yr/account. Even with 50% MAU reduction, annual revenue by more than $3.1 billion…more than double current revenue.

The big con would be that users would not pay for the service and MAUs would drop precipitously. Today, users are accustomed to using social media services for free. However, what if services charged a nominal amount per user. Would users pay?

The pros are that Twitter revenue would increase significantly. If Twitter used that revenue to reduce/ remove ads and/ or change the value model, the value would greatly outweigh the nominal costs. One of the big cons to Twitter today is the noise from bogus accounts, bots and the like. By charging, there is an upside that many of these bogus accounts would go away and therefore reduce the overall noise to the data stream. That would be a huge plus for those looking to monetize the Twitter data stream.

NEXT STEPS…

The next steps are in Twitter’s hands. However, as a user of Social Media that understands its value to enterprises and their customers, a change is needed. From an economic standpoint, if something is valuable, we should pay for it. Even at $4/yr/account for individuals and $20/yr/corporate account, the costs are really nominal. Unfortunately, free services skew the market and user base in artificial directions. It is time we consider a change.

What are your thoughts? Would you pay? Why or why not? How about for corporate accounts that you may manage? Add your thoughts to the comments section below.

Business · Social

Three keys to building a successful community

As someone whom is part of several communities, and now being asked by companies to help build their communities, this is a topic I see firsthand. Having been invited to join so many communities, I have had to ask what the value is. This leads to being more selective on which communities I ultimately participate in.

It is important to note that there is a difference between the value to a community member and the community organizer. The value equation must factor both and be bi-directional. In sum, all parties to the community must see value in their participation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY

In personal terms, a sense of community plays a key role in our societal interests and overall well-being. A community of individuals with similar interests is quite powerful in many ways. There is a saying that “It takes a village…(to raise a child)”. If said ‘child’ were a product, interest or company, the value comes from not just the product itself, but from the community built around the child. It is this very community that brings the true value to any product, interest or company today.

In a business context, the community may include buyers, consumers and influencers. Today, there is quite a bit of discussion about “Influencer Marketing”. Understanding the authentic influencer and therefore their true value is much more complicated than just looking at some social media stats. Unfortunately, social media has provided a megaphone for anyone to use. Providing value to a community, like raising a child, takes more than just reading a book, showing up on a list or having an opinion.

In my experience, there are three core components that drive the criteria: Relevance, Relationships and Respect. Communities are complex to understand. Communities are hard to build. Communities require constant care and feeding.

Community Three Rs

THE FOUNDATION OF RELEVANCE

The very definition of community ties back to sharing a common interest. The interest ultimately becomes the relevance to each individual’s specific situation along with that of the organizer. Relevance provides the common bond and interest between the parties. It provides a central rally cry that addresses a common, shared need or desire.

Individual interest is not enough. An individual may be interested in a specific topic, but if is not something they are passionate about, it may be hard to keep their interest over time. Even if someone is passionate about a specific interest, do they have the capability to provide a significant impact. Interest does not equal expertise. Just because you have an opinion, does not make you an expert. Not-so-subtle message here: Reach does not equal Relevance. And like value, relevance goes both ways. What is in it for me and for them?

RELATIONSHIPS PROVIDE THE GLUE

Identifying individuals with a common interest provides a certain level of value. However, the true value is in knowing (and maintaining) the level of interest and influence of the individuals over time. What are the nuances that an individual brings to the community? These nuances often do not show up in a profile, post or list. How have those changed over time? Remember that we are talking about humans here..which are complex.

The relationships span both community members and organizers. In addition, these very relationships will evolve over time. The relationship itself is not a binary thing. It will exist on many levels and take many forms.

NOTHING WITHOUT RESPECT

One would be remiss to talk about relationships and leave out mutual respect. Rather than talk about what respect brings, let us talk about the inverse. Simply put, without respect, a community does not work. During the course of conversation, opinions will differ. There needs to be a level of respect among the participants. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood the community will either disintegrate or worse, implode.

Respect is not something that is freely given. It is something that is earned over time. It, like relationships, must be cared for. Respect is something that takes time to build and can be torn down in an instant.

COMMUNITY, COLLECTIVE OR ORGANIZATION?

Each of these three core components directly tie back to the participants whether discussing relevance, relationships or respect. All three are essential to success. A community is not a one-time activity. The value of a community is the sum of the parts…over time. It has a lifecycle that goes through different stages of maturity.

If you have reached this point asking how this differs from the complexities of building an organization…you’re spot on! But how does one go about building a community? And how does one ensure that the community will help the child…er…business flourish? Ahh… that is for another post.