Disruptive days call for an inside-out approach

May 21, 2018
business-as-usual_dead-endThe next big thing is here even if it is hard to see. It’s Internet again, this time with the real world added to people and organisations already in place. That process is often called Internet of Things – IoT where the “T” refers to the physical world. And this time the impact on society, organisations and people will be even bigger than what Internet had last time since the real world most often is missing from the processes we try to digitalise today. The stock exchanges went through its digital transformation years ago since documents traded was digitalised, brokers on the floor was replaced by systems and money flows freely in cyber space. The remaining connection to the real world includes the companies themselves and some individuals still trading as well as the distance between the computers with the trading systems and the robot trader agents.

We started digitalise in the fifties but it is only when a process is fully digital the benefits appear. And most processes touch the real world why IoT is required to complete most of the digital transformation. When a process is digital, end to end, we can harvest, but more importantly we can add turbo functionality like artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision to them and make many times better gains in speed, cost, efficiency and quality. The impact of that can easily be a drastic change in an entire industry (like when selling books left the book store era) and will for sure eliminate a lot of white and blue-collar jobs.

We are just in the beginning of this fundamental change of rules and games which probably will go on for the next 20 years or so. And who the winners will be on the other side is hard to tell but I believe there are some things that will characterise the good candidates:

Entrepreneurs with open minds, good ideas and fantastic ability to execute together with the resources needed can build from a clean piece of paper and skip all legacy related challenges. Most will fail but some of the winners will absolutely come from this category either on their own but more often as part of a bigger organisation. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
Financial muscles enables clever investments and some of the winners will be clever and lucky enough to buy themselves a winner’s position. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
Some organisations of today will master this entire race – yes it’s like 10 marathon races back to back and even if you are in the lead after race number eight you can easily fail completely. Think Netscape… Ability to change is always a matter of people and processes. A winner in this long race will have to secure solid processes and a well unified and motivated team throughout the entire race even though the distance and where the goal is remain unclear. Constantly changing processes and people during the race, in worst case even bringing in external leaders and people, will not create the ability required. No, a well working team with solid leadership and the core competences over time can make it. Such team can react to news, changes, threats and opportunities in a much better way than others. And they will learn while going thus know things others don’t know. Systematic innovation is an organisational ability required to tackle very complex challenges. Motivation, inspiration, engagement, care, love, trust, health, experience, ethics, well-being and fighting spirit are things that will be found in the companies that made the digital transformation successfully. And they will have strong brands with attributes that todays youngsters will appreciate.

Established organisations who want to master the digital transformation well has to start their journey immediately and rapidly get beyond strategies, plans, innovation managers, Powerpoint and Excel. Among the first things I suggest needs to be in place are very strong support from executive management, activities to inspire, engage and include staff, rapid prototyping capabilities in place and establishment of new relationships with a host of new companies and people who each master something that might be of great importance onwards.

It is already difficult for companies to master their own domains these days and with challenges coming from everywhere, a much wider view is required. And even more challenging: the golden rule of “asking the customers” – the outside-in approach – becomes obsolete when technology provides completely new opportunities. Like when internet came last time we’re now entering yet another era where inside-out is the name of the game.

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No, self-driving cars are still not around the corner

March 20, 2018

Self-driving carAutonomous cars have been a hot topic for a couple of years now. It is indeed a very interesting and complex technical challenge connected to potential resolution of very serious problems and innovative use cases. But it is also about culture and liability which I believe always takes very long time to cope with.

The tragic news that a car in an autonomous trial in US killed a woman yesterday can’t be a surprise to anyone. There has been a lot of accidents with autonomous cars before, traffic is very dangerous and cars kill people every day. Each accident is followed up carefully to understand what happened, why and who is to be blamed for what. Traffic rules, law, policies, insurances, vendor responsibilities etc are in place to help deal with these tragic events. Here is the core problem with autonomous cars – when a car make a mistake, who is liable? And, do I want to meet self-driving cars on the road or fly airplanes without pilots?

Already in the Reuter article we start to see arguments about who owned the software in the car, which brand it had, if the car actually did anything wrong or if a person driving would have been able to avoid the collision. Also that the woman seems to have walked outside the crosswalk, that she had a bicycle and that she might have been homeless. But truth is that it is unclear who is responsible and for what.

I remain convinced that we will not have self-driving cars on normal roads together with other traffic and in normal speed until you and I are ready to have our kids walking to school meeting those cars. My best guess is not before 2030. And given that “rain, snow and ice are particularly challenging for autonomous cars” maybe we just should forget about it in Sweden.


From Smart to Great Cities

November 22, 2017
most-beautiful-cities-barcelona-cr-gettyMost cities have jumped on the Smart City train and it is considered an important and good thing to do by virtually everyone. But it is unclear who drives that train, where it is going and when it will arrive. I prefer talking about Great Cities since that is something we all understand, can argue about and contribute to. A Great City to me is a safe, sustainable and efficient city where people are healthy and happy. A place I would like to live in, work in and visit. It takes systematic and continuous innovation to become and stay a Great City, and systematic innovation requires infrastructure and scalable platforms to be in place.

It is obvious that technology is a key tool to continuously make our cities better especially in terms of efficiency, sustainability, safety/security and convenience. These are the key deliverables of IoT so no wonder IoT is hot today. By connecting the physical world to the Internet of people and organisations already in place, IoT enables us to make processes completely digital thus more efficient and ready for “turbo effects” from things like Machine Learning. This drives digital transformation and the impact on people, businesses and cities will be as big as when internet arrived.

But this is not enough to make cities great. It is still primarily human beings living, working and visiting the cities why “core platforms” like decent infrastructure, healthcare, social care and education for all is required. So is an environment where people feel safe and can breathe fresh air, drink fresh water and enjoy their human rights. And not the least enjoy nature, art, design, good food and time with people they love and care for.

With my definition of Smart Cities as Great Cities I unfortunately can’t think of any. Many make progress on the technical side but when it comes to “core platforms” there is a lot more to wish for. The “core platform” we have in Sweden is relatively good which I believe attracts talent and explains some of the quite successful startup community we have, but we have ways to go.


Digital Transformation, not Digitalisation, is what’s new

July 7, 2017

ai-cropped-640x353Digitalisation is frequently used as the name of the game today. But digitalisation, i.e. conversation from analog to digital representation of information, started some 60 years ago and has been going on ever since. When a process is fully digitalised, from end to end, the process will be much more efficient than before. But most processes today are only partially digitalised which is like building a bridge and leve some meters here and there. Let’s take the example of a smart electricity meter, where the collection of usage data is digitalised and hopefully the receiving systems at the energy company. But then the processed details often are put on paper and sent to the customer who hopefully pays in a digital fashion or god forbid calls customer service.

A fully digitalised process is quite efficient but more importantly it is a great starting point for artificial intelligence in any form or shape to be applied. Imagine that we could move the simplest 30% of the decisions in a process from people to computers. What would that mean to your organisation’s cost, quality and speed of execution, and not to forget your competitiveness? What if we could add an algorithm making our system self-learning thus provide qualified decision support for the remaining decisions made by your staff and maybe even advise to your customers. This is what Digital Transformation is about and that is what we should talk about rather than digitalisation. 

It is IoT that adds the last meters of the digital bridge. By connecting the real world to the Internet where we already have people and organisations we can start complete the digitalisation of our processes – a sensor that tells when a door is open, where a car is located, when it’s time to repair a fridge or when the level of carbon dioxide is too high. And this is exactly what the more progressive organisations are working on right now. And since organisations and processes are quite unique there are a huge amount of opportunities for companies to develop algorithms to support specific processes. I already have many members in my alliance for Swedish IoT startups working with machine learning including Ekkono, Watty, Aifloo, CombiQ, BellPal and Imagimob

The effects of Digital Transformation will be massive in all industries and large-scale redundancy will definitely hit white-collar employees as organisations get their act together. I miss awareness and a serious debate about this in Sweden since it limits our chances to come out of this transition strong, the longer we wait to address the challenge.


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