I often get nice compliments like “where did that insight come from?” or “how could you rattle off so many case studies around that technology trend?”
In reverse, I find myself disagreeing with fellow bloggers and analysts and when I examine why, it’s usually because we look at the same problem from very different lenses.
My “guides” are spread across 4 quadrants
I like to study how non-tech enterprises embed technology into their products and services. And in reverse how tech companies become leaders in operational, non-product areas. So, It could be a restaurant using iPads as menus and as bathroom mirrors or it could be a city with smart parking with sensors embedded. Given a choice I would rather spend a day with software engineers who are part of Mercedes product engineering than software engineers who support its SAP systems. There is a certain thrill in hearing about a project or product which little of the media/analyst world will ever write about. In reverse, while most attention goes to their products, I love to examine Apple’s retail channel, Google’s clean initiatives, Amazon’s Kiva robots in its warehouses. To me, “switchhitters” – enterprises which consume and produce technology equally well - are really interesting.
I stay in touch with a group of VCs, professors, journalists, executives who are not very active on social networks or the conference circuit, but have over time shown me they are always in the thick of emerging technology trends. I also like to go to 2-3 new conferences (to me) a year. One coming up next month is the MIT Sports Analytics event. Every sport is taking the Moneyball ethos to new levels as they analyze athlete performance. They are leading the way in facilitating social analytics. I bet a Borders or a Blockbuster could have learned from how many of these teams continue to fill their “brick and mortar” stadiums when the digital competition via TV and web is so compelling.
Horizontal, Large tech vendors
These tend to be large tech vendors which typically show up in the top right of Gartner Magic Quadrants for their software, hardware, outsourcing categories. These are obviously important – and I go to many of their briefings and events - but find they get more than their fair share of coverage from Gartner, Wall Street and bloggers. Even smaller analyst firms who could differentiate themselves will pack their webinars and events with reps from these “safe bets”. Many of my disagreements with fellow bloggers and analysts stem from the fact that they spend much of their time in this box. So, they will continue to watch for what IBM Watson is doing 3 years later when there are so many other fascinating advanced analytics projects to follow. Often that leads them to extrapolate quarterly results of vendors to project where the industry is headed as with this Social Enterprise conversation.
Vertical and “Offbeat” tech vendors
Some of the most interesting innovation is happening in vertical markets. Look at retail and you see depth sensors to manage shelf space. scanners to give customer better fitting clothes, next-gen POS, Big Data to manage product mix and so on. Same with insurance as they use advanced analytics to cover risks around crops and ski trips they could not a few years. I love to get to know products and vendors who help with these innovations. Also other vendors “off the beaten track”. It could be a disruptor – someone who offers third party software maintenance, cheaper global mobile roaming etc. It could be an outsourcer in E. Europe or Africa. It could be an innovator in a new category like NetSuite was in 1998 way before any one had thought about cloud computing.
Yes, my insights can be different. Some would argue what I hear from so many sources is a lot of noise. I like to think I am blessed with a curiosity antenna which can pick up many varied signals. If my little iPhone can keep Bluetooth, GPS, voice, data and many other signals straight, so should I.