Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The St Louis Kool Aid

Currently on a bit of a trek, with the last week having seen me at the Hyro Thailand office in Bangkok, followed by a trek to St Louis, Missouri fo the annual IBM PartnerWorld conference. This is my first attendance at thi conference, an important partner event in light of our recent acqusition of Synergy Software Holdings Limited, the very first IBM partner in Australia now some 24 years ago.

It is about five years since I last came to the US (the internet and tools such as better email, web conferencing, Skype and chat mean that trips to the US seem to be required less often) and something is different.

Putting aside the sense that one is "entering the citadel" as you come through customs and immigration in LA, I have developed a feeling that all is not well in the U.S. of A. It might be St Louis; the town has closed two shopping centres in the CBD in the last twelve months and the streets of the business district are empty. It is a strange town, with very few shops and retail outlets. I tried to find a pharmacist in the City yesterday and was told that there isn't one. This is not a boom-town.

It has been interesting getting to know more about IBM and the partnership we have just joined. First of all, it is very clear to me just how much respect that our new additions to Hyro from Synergy have within this community. In front of around 7,000 people at the opening general session yesterday, Synergy CEO Bill Votsaris was thanked again for the support he and the Synergy team have given to IBM over those 24 years. He was one of only two people in the whole IBM partner community personally mentioned in that speech. It is great to have them on the team.

The second thing you get is a real sense of just how impressive the IBM organisation is. It is eye opening to see the innovation they are driving; through their own investment or support of partners. In the Innovations Centre there are technologies being showcased which are realising the potential of digital channels. The internet is evolving to be hundreds of millions of people and billions of connected devices. Digital Services are continuing to evolve. The connected organisation is going to be reaching customers and doing business over myriad devices. We will continue that evolution from explicit connection through special purpose devices to an "always on state" in which embedded technology will make digital connections and the use of Digital Services invisible.

For me, the wake up calls are just getting louder. For major companies, current strategies for Digital Services must include the laying of foundations to take advantage of this "invisible internet." You will need to make sure that the consideration of Digital Services Strategy acknowledges the fact that engagement and delivery of services will happen over both these implicit and explicit technologies. The offer may be made through the rich media channels but consumption of the offer may be over one of these embedded technology devices. Offer the take away food deal through the games console and fulfil the commerce through the mobile handset. Use GPS on delivery trucks to build geospatial analysis of consumption and use this information real-time to shape the delivery of offers. This stuff is real and this stuff is happening now.

Finally, my assumptions with respect to the importance of technology in all of this Digital Services revolution continue to be confirmed. In seeing the case studies and talking to the specialists, the data available from well executed and well supported digital services strategies is vast and this stuff is gold. The power of the technology to deliver, analyse, inform and refine digital services is amazing. The winners will be the ones who understand that boundless opportunity exists for those who invest fully in leveraging our digitally connected world. Good strategy, good engagement, good content, good commerce, good technology.

Do this right and you will change the world.