FASTforward: the user revolution

The wifi continues to be flaky — good connection strength but no actual connectivity — but there’s power at the tables which almost makes up for it. Almost.

We started the day with John Markus Lervik (plus a light show, an enormous inflated ball, a small bit of theater and a live band) discussing the theme of the conference: the user revolution. There’s a strong relationship emerging between business intelligence and search, and the judicious use of enterprise search has moved beyond a commodity to become a competitive differentiator as well as playing a critical role in many government programs (the ones that keep tabs on all of us). Google made us all see that we can use search for finding information and relationships that were never available to us before; enterprise search such as FAST gives that same ability to employees inside an organization, allowing them to search the corporate information assets in order to do their jobs better. No longer are users stuck with a static view of information created by a report designer, but can create their own views for their own purposes.

John Hagel of the Deloitte & Touche Silicon Valley Research Lab spoke to us next about the impact of the user revolution on your organization: how it’s putting pressure on traditional organizations because of reduced product life cycles and other factors, contributing to life spans of companies.

He spoke about the forces that are driving the user revolution within business:

  • The move from the scarce resource of limited shelf space for products and services to unlimited shelf space: what drives the long tail. The scarce resource is now our attention. There’s a much lower cost of interaction now, including finding information about vendors and switching to a new vendor. Customers are gaining more power.
  • There’s a shift to intangible assets — mostly human talent — as key competitive differentiators rather than the old model of competition based on physical assets such as plants. There’s greater competition for this talent, since it’s much easier for people to move to another organization or even go out on their own; the key is to become a magnet for attracting talent by creating the right sort of environment, particularly an environment that builds talent. Talent is gaining more power, too.

He went on to discuss the change from push to pull business interaction models, and how there’s a move to some new performance metrics: return on attention (e.g., measuring profitability by customer rather than by product), return on information (e.g., what can we find out about participants/customers by their interactions with us, and how can we provide them with better information) and return on skills.

Hagel made a big deal at the beginning of his presentation about how he wasn’t using a PowerPoint deck, but then proceeded to read his presentation from notes in a mostly uninflected voice, making it difficult to stay focused on his talk — I’m sure that I missed a lot here. I never thought that I’d say this, but his presentation might have actually been improved by the use of PowerPoint.

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