Lessons From Mars

One of my kids gave me the book The Martian for Christmas. He knew that I had loved the movie and thought that I might enjoy a deeper dive. Check. I highly recommend this book, even if you have seen the film. Beautifully outlined and beautifully written, the book lets you bathe in astronaut Mark Watney's perils and ingenuity as he tries to stay alive on Mars alone after having been left for dead. Plus, the tech is very, very cool, and according to NASA and the physics community, it's generally accurate. 

And there are some bigger lessons that all of us can use here on Earth:

1) Anything can be fixed. When your strategy isn't performing, your product is fading, or your market is changing, diagnose and repair. There is always a way.

2) Fix, then monitor. Watney would repair, but he was always running diagnostics -- he never trusted that things would operate dependably. He was always checking back in to verify.

3) Solve the first problem, then go on to the next, and on to the next. When a company is transforming to be digital and customer-obsessed, Forrester has found that leadership often doesn't know where to begin. The Martian's lesson is to just start. Resolving many small issues and maintaining forward velocity will lead to big results.

4) Always keep duct tape on hand. Watney saves himself and his equipment a bunch of times with gray tape. The duct tape of digital transformation is MVP -- minimum viable product -- building something basic and then improving the hell out of it. It's a hack, like tape, but it keeps you in the game.

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An Existential Threat

A message for CEOs:  You are slowly going out of business, and many of you don't know it yet.

Your customers demand reliable and compelling experience, enabled by your business technology (BT). If that technology fails, or if you fail to provide that technology, you will lose customers and market share. Your company will be acquired, broken up, or stagger into oblivion as an irrelevant zombie.

Early evidence? Store closings at Wal-Mart and Macy's are exhibit A, but stress fractures are appearing in financial services (Bank of America), telecommunications (Comcast), and the travel industry (United). Now none of these companies are going to disappear in the near term. But the pressure and time of "Customer geology" spell long-term trouble.

The threat is not understood at the top of most companies. In my years attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, I never once encountered a session on how technology should be deployed in large companies.  CEOs aren't engaged, board members don't care, and most investors and analysts can't see beyond the quarter. 

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Pokemon Go And The CMO

If you are the CMO of a large company, you are probably wondering what the hell Pokémon Go means. If you're not up-to-date, this "played on a smartphone" game has taken the world by storm over the last three weeks. In the game you collect characters (a Pokémon) by physically travelling to where they are geo-located, capturing them, and then using them to battle the teams of other players. Pokémon are located in specific places; there are "Pokéstops" where you can acquire special powers; and there are "Gyms" where you can fight other teams. My screen shot to the left shows me (the backpack guy) in my office building and the thing that looks like a tower in the upper right hand corner marks the bowling alley in front of my office which is a Gym. Needless to say, Lanes and Games is really, really happy to have digitally-generated foot traffic.

The game has generated massive followership in the days since it became available -- here's what resulted in Central Park when a rare Pokémon showed up there on a recent Saturday night...

None of this was making sense until I read Forrester's latest report on the changing consumer. Here's a link to the report (summary if you're not a client).

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A Name For Self-Driving Cars: "Nemobiles"

What are we going to call cars that drive themselves? The term "automobile" would be perfect, but that's already taken.

"Nemo" means nobody in Latin -- a car driven by no one would be called a "nemobile." And you could call them "nemos" for short.

By the way, that's nemo with a long "e" -- pronounced like the fictitious fish or the commander of Jules Verne's submarine the Nautilus.

Short, distinctive, meaningful, good nickname. Much better than "driverless car," or "self-driving car," or the inevitable flat acronym "SDC."

By the way, if you are doubting that nemos will be on the scene anytime soon, consider this, as noted by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their excellent book Race Against The Machine:  In 2004, DARPA offered a prize for any autonomous vehicle that could navigate a 150-mile course in the Mojave Desert. The best performing nemo only travelled eight miles, and it took two hours to do that. But by 2010, Google's self-driving cars had logged 1,000 miles on US highways.

Now fast forward to the summer of 2015 -- Google reported that its cars had logged one million miles of autonomous driving. And in 2016, the Tesla S and X now offer easy-to-use and dependable autopilot -- a very credible early form of self-driving.

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Apple and Trump

What connects these two stories? Answer: An uprising of restless and empowered citizens and customers.

Five years ago our research began picking up faint vibrations of an approaching seismic shift -- what in those days we called a groundswell. People were using technology to take power from institutions. Technology was dissolving traditional means of government and corporate control -- pricing power, information monopolies, media influence, and various forms of private and public regulation. The new reality placed people on more equal footing in society and the economy, ushering in what Forrester and others call the Age of the Customer. In this 20-year era consumers will slowly but inexorably gain power.

Here are a few glimpses of this dynamic at work... 78% of U.S. consumers read detailed product or service reviews online before buying. 22% of U.S. buyers compare prices when they are shopping in a physical store. 20% of U.S. consumers trust digital financial advice as much as their human advisor. And we are just getting started...

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2015 Ten List

Here's my list of the ten things that captured my imagination in 2015. These are my personal views -- not derived from Forrester's research or data. Inevitably, the list starts with Apple...

1) The Apple Watch.  Not bad, not great, a solid "Meh." A pain to keep charged, fussy interface, borderline value. I don't like other people wearing what I am wearing.

2) The new iTunes. A miss-guided hash amalgamating Beats, Radio, streaming, and library. A boat/car that leaks on the water and creaks on the road. Prima facie evidence of the company's difficulty reaching zen simplicity in the post-Steve era. 

3) The 6 Plus iPhone. Best phone I've ever owned. No, it's not too big, and yes, it will fit in your pocket.

4) Apple Photos. Fantastic, simple, easy, transparent. As good as iTunes is bad. 

5) The book Mindset This volume has been around for years, but I finally read it after too many people I trust kept referencing it. Carol Dweck describes what it will take to be successful in the future -- a "learning mindset" versus a "fixed mindset." I bought it for all of my kids for Christmas. A lot of CIOs (you know who you are) should also read it.

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Five Lessons From Customer-Obsessed Executives

That's Danny Meyer, the CEO of Shake Shack on the right, and in the middle is Gwen Uyen Nguyen, from the crowdfunding company Indiegogo (I'm on the left with Dave Evans from Forrester in back). What were companies like Shake Shack and Indiegogo (and Tesla, New York Life, Pure Insurance, Kimberly Clark, Oppenheimer Funds, PBS) doing at the Forrester Age of the Customer Executive Summit?

Simple -- to talk about how they win, serve, and retain their increasingly empowered customers. The CIOs and CMOs who attended our exclusive event understand that the rules of their business have changed -- that the customer has become, in the words of one executive, "...the protagonist in all of their stories." A lot of ground was covered (you can watch videos from the event here) but below are my five favorite learnings:

Lesson One:  Lubricate paths between customers and product builders. JB Straubel, the CTO of Tesla, stated that his company owns its dealers and repair shops because they want an un-interrupted feedback loop between its customers and its engineers. Better loop, better cars.

Lesson Two:  You have to work differently to achieve customer-obsession. According to James McQuivey of Forrester, this is how you work now:  1) Simplicity, not complexity. 2) Immediacy, not latency. 3) Aligned, not siloed. 4) Agility, not rigidity. Sounds obvious. but in reality hard to achieve.

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CX = $$

All CEOs strive to increase revenue. It expands market share and pushes stock prices higher.

In our digital age, how do you get it? As it turns out, good customer experience drives revenue growth. Seems obvious, but it took Harley Manning of Forrester months of research to prove it. You can find the report here (summary unless you are a client...)

Harley examined five U.S. B2C markets in which there was a leader and a laggard in Forrester's CX Index. He compared their revenue growth and CX Index levels over a five year period -- 2010 to 2014.

In cable, CX leader AT&T grew 6.2 times faster than laggard Comcast; in airlines, experience leader JetBlue grew 5.5 times faster than laggard United; in the full service investment industry, the leader Edward Jones' revenue grew 2.6 times faster than laggard Morgan Stanley; in the retail industry, customer experience leader Amazon grew 17 times the rate of laggard Wal-Mart.

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The Forrester 2015 Book Club

Great books, from great clients... Forrester's Board of Clients were in Cambridge this week. This brilliant cross-section of our 2,400 clients tells us what we are doing right, what we can do better, and where we should go. 

I always love the pre-meeting dinner. It typically turns into an intellecutal/techie slug-fest fueled by good wine. We did it this year in the restaurant where Mitch Kapor famously told Steve Jobs, "I'll make you a deal. You stay away from commenting on my dietary habits, and I will stay away from the subject of your personality."

Some random thoughts/conclusions from our discussion... Only one board member had a smart watch (not Apple), but 50% think they will wear one within two years. Moore's Law grinds onward, but corporate organization and culture lag dangerously far behind. Big companies must innovate outside of the core, but then must know how to successfully bring it back inside.

And over dessert we talked about our favorite book of the moment. This year there was a dystopian, sci-fi overtone. Here's the list:

The Circle, by David Eggers. 
Nexus, by Ramez Naam
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Overcoming IT Gravity

Why do CIOs not become CEOs? What prevents them from achieving at the highest organizational levels?

It's because they don't have their hands on revenue, unlike CMOs, CFOs, brand marketers, and strategists.

But now we are entering an era where CIOs must manage two agendas: 1) the internal systems (IT), and 2) the systems, processes, and technologies to win, serve, and retain customers, what we call business technology (BT). As shown, CIOs should be guiding their companies along a path to high IT and high BT -- the place where technology will truly move revenue and profit.

Is it happening now? At the Wall Street Journal CIO Network event, I asked attendees if they were involved with serving customers and building BT agendas -- most of the hands in the room went up. I thought: "Wow...a pretty advanced group." But at the end of the conference the CIOs presented their collective priorities. The word "customer" was nowhere to be seen. The list was a litany of traditional IT agenda items -- from training to H1B visas to creating more of a "business vision," whatever that is.

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