Putting the Tech into SexTech

“The condom was probably invented by a middle-aged man sitting in a well lit room.”

From pinpoint accurate insights, hackathons can deliver amazing products. And this was never more evident than in the recent SexTech Hackathon held in Sydney by FutureOfSex.org.

Now, the “future of sex” is likely to raise an eyebrow or two, but we know that the sex industry – especially in the category of leisure and pleasure – has long been heralded as an innovator. It’s just innovation that happens below the radar – but the truth is that emerging and disruptive technology from virtual reality and big data to cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and robotics find their first experiments in the dark ends of the web.

Now, under the banner of “SexTech” a new generation of entrepreneurs are bringing some of this innovation to light – bringing with it a renewed sense of purpose and understanding of what it means to be “human”.

At Australias’ first SexTech hackathon, the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the range of deep tech on display was breathtaking. Bringing together the hackers, hipsters and hustlers of the entrepreneur and startup community and combining them with the humanitarians – the sexologists, psychologists, UX, medical and academic experts – ensured that the solutions weren’t just human centred – they were deeply technical too.

So what does the Tech in SexTech actually look like?

To start with, SexTech – at least in this incarnation – was powerfully female driven. With around 100 participants, 90% of whom were women, this was a hackathon that attracted women with engineering, science, marketing, programming and design skills. Usually hackathons struggle to attract a gender diverse audience – but the design of the event, the positioning and the pre-hackathon engagement all worked to create a profoundly different experience.

The solutions, similarly, were equally diverse.

  • [IOT]: Voice controlled sex technology for people with a physical disability: The winners of the hackathon, AudioVibe, developed a voice activated, hands free vibrator and internet of things (iot) platform designed specifically for people with a physical disability. Working with leading local disability designers, the team validated and prototyped the underlying technology and proof of concept in just 36 hours.
  • [Machine learning]: Improving the sex life of couples with artificial intelligence: After a few years of being in a relationship, many couples experience a decline in their libido and sex life. In fact, around 50% of couples have a mismatch in their desire for sex. But what if an app could help partners easily signal interest – and receive tips, suggestions and more with the help of a virtual sexologist? The Ignite app used machine learning algorithms to identify dating and relationship best practices, sharing them through a chat bot interface. This, combined with “date night roulette” randomised tips helped couples broach the difficult subject that neither partner knew how to initiate.
  • [Mobile apps]: Gamification of online dating: The team behind Love & Consent sought to bring online dating to the gamer community. With a massive audience of casual gamers spread across the world, tapping into the accepted game behaviours – levelling up, in-game rewards etc – the team sought to transform the transactional nature of Tinder into more meaningful and safe encounters than offered by a bevy of “dick pics” and poorly worded profiles.
  • [Telehealth]: Connecting women with the right doctor for their sexual health needs: Dr Nikki Goldstein tackled the challenge faced by women across Australia seeking advice from sex positive physicians. Often inadequate medical advice is provided to women simply because they cannot find a doctor they feel comfortable discussing “uncomfortable issues” with. This solution combines a Tinder style profile and matching platform combined with a telehealth online conferencing solution to help ensure women anywhere can access reliable, quality medical advice.

Other solutions included optimised search engines, virtual reality and scientific condom packaging design driven by new approaches to 3D printing. But each of these required an understanding of deep tech built around very specific human moments and needs.

While in other parts of the technology world, solutions struggle to find the right way of bringing the human-computer interface together, the emerging SexTech industry seems to have found a unique way forward. And with Asia’s first SexTech Hackathon scheduled for May 2018 in Singapore, momentum is building around what is a burgeoning $30 billion market. One thing is certain – SexTech appears to be ground zero of human-technology interrelations – and every step into this emerging world is full of fascination.

Interaction: GroupM’s Take on Digital

I am always interested to see how different lenses on the same subject reveal insights. For example, B2B marketers have a particular skew when it comes to digital and social media – it is hard edged, data driven and technology enabled. This is particularly true for large scale tech companies – but is an approach that has been resonating across industries for some time. B2C marketing, on the other hand, operates in a high velocity world that can turn on a tweet – responsiveness is no longer just a customer service issue but one that impacts the entire value chain.

We are, after all, ever closer to our customers than ever before.

Social and digital media, however, often feels like it operates in a bubble. An ever-increasing bubble it seems, but a bubble nonetheless. When I watch Gruen, for example, I struggle to recall even the most popular or widely discussed TV commercials shown – my habits have now been so deeply skewed by on-demand viewing and timeshifting that TV by timetable seems so last century.

But this is merely the bubble that we choose. The lens that we select.

And there are movements and trends that continue in their own parallel universe that operate at different speeds.

The GroupM Interaction 2017 report is interesting particularly because it applies a media lens across everything from ecommerce to fake news, television to bandwidth. I particularly like the section on privacy and the impacts that widespread security breaches are having on consumers’ sense of trust.

The report identifies four creative challenges facing both brands and agencies:

  1. Getting the attention of the consumer in a low attention world. As the buyer pushes the seller towards viewability, the consumer is pushing the brand to greater ‘watchability.’
  2. Meeting the costs and measurement implications of the constant iterations of formats and functionality.
  3. Finding the balance of enough variation to meet the needs of ever finer segments without undermining the overall brand proposition. (The Marriott Hotel Bogota has 57 images on Expedia.com. Marriott / Starwood operates over 7000 properties. That’s a lot of images.)
  4. The creation of new classes of content for e commerce environments.

While I can agree on the surface with these challenges, I wonder really whether our attention spans truly are shrinking – do we really have the attention span of a goldfish? And if this is not true, what does this mean for the remaining three challenges?

I have a sense that we are consuming ever-larger volumes of media each and every day – but it’s not necessarily in the format and channel that lends itself to the kind of tracking and measurement that business clients have come to expect.

A recent article from BBC Health questions the notion of the shrinking attention span by unearthing the starting point for this theory – a Microsoft report referencing the Statistic Brain website. Apparently there is no evidence pointing towards a shrinking attention span, nor support for the widely held view that goldfish have attention spans. In fact, Dr Gemma Briggs from Open University suggests that attention is entirely contextual – ”How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation”.

And that brings us back to the question of lenses and touches on the topic of Fake News – a subject also covered in the GroupM report. One of the suggestions in the report points towards the emergence of a “purpose driven media” and an incentive structure created to drive this:

The most shared and most monetized stories come from authentic news sources. A way of decreasing the incentives to the bad guys is to increase the incentives to the good guys. A simple adjustment in the revenue sharing model would go a long way.

And that’s where the future of media becomes extremely interesting. Given the emergence of organisations like Sleeping Giants, a purpose driven media may be a necessary development to help restore trust, authenticity and – dare I say it – respect in the media and advertising industry.

Download the Interaction 2017 report here.

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Sleeping Giants Take on Fake News and Brands – Is Your Brand Ready?

We have all heard about the vast network of fake news sites that spread disinformation during the recent US Presidential Campaign. These sites use the same clickbait strategies that propelled sites like Upworthy to the top of the digital media scrapheap – inflammatory headlines, sensationalist stories and catchy hooks that tempt you to click just once more.
What Upworthy’s content strategy revealed was a unique combination of skilled teams, data and insights would help the organisation create content that was “viral ready”. As Joseph Lichterman explained in this Nieman Lab article:

Using the user data it’s collected, Upworthy found that elements like humor and a story structure that built in suspense would draw in readers and keep them on the page and better engaged.

This meant that even to tell a story with real information and verifiable facts, the goal for Upworthy was to grab and own the attention of readers as a priority, delivering news and information as a lower priority. As Amy O’Leary, Upworthy’s Editorial Director explained, “If I were to tell you, ‘Hey, I’ve got a 5,000-word piece on fast-food workers’ wages,’ very few people would be excited about that”. Instead the story would focus on building rapport with the audience, engaging through an imaginative framework of shared experience and emotionally engaging writing and opening up into the ethical challenges that come with enjoying something you eat while knowing the background and facts of its production. As O’Leary suggests, “I think we’re reaching deeper into people, because the approach is one of openness and not judgment”.

It’s worth reading more of the article to learn how Upworthy used data to drive its curation process – but what is fascinating (and concerning) is the way that this model has been co-opted by the fake news movement. By ignoring facts as the basis of news, these fake news sites have effectively defined a whole new genre of content catering to our own sense of digital isolation and disconnectedness. If we have learned anything from the last decade in this Age of Conversation, it is that when we (as consumers) come face-to-face with the vast anonymity of the internet, we rapidly seek our tribe – and we do so through the media at our fingertips – visuals, text, keywords. We seek the connection via keyword and conversation – and naturally enough find ourselves in an echo chamber.

Those of us who work with digital technology and audience strategy have – to be honest – been taking advantage of this approach for years. I often say that both love and hate Facebook and its targeting for I know how useful and powerful it is as a marketer, but equally how invasive and manipulative it is as a consumer. So much so that I consciously manage my engagement and sharing on Facebook and limit what I click on etc. But I also know that even my limited engagement there – and on every other digital channel – leaves enough breadcrumbs to be valuable to the brands and businesses seeking my attention. These days my choice to click comes down to context and location.

Because I know that every click rewards not only the brand but the advertiser too.

With the massive rise in programmatic advertising over the last two or three years, most advertisers and planners are unlikely to even know where their branded advertising will appear. It could appear on alt-right websites (the term used to mask white supremicist oriented websites), pornographic websites or even across the dark web. The powerful retargeting tools now in the hands of marketers and their trained algorithms means that ads that you first see on a mainstream website will follow you wherever you may go online. And while the web has some amazing resources, it also has some deep and nasty crevices.

So what do you do when your brand starts advertising in this murky digital world?
Imagine, for example, that you visited a fake news site with outrageous headlines and you did so out of curiosity. What kind of advertiser, you wonder, would support a platform that knowingly creates fake news and information that demonises your own audiences (the people who are your customers and supporters). This NY Times article explains such a situation:

One day in late November, an earth and environmental science professor named Nathan Phillips visited Breitbart News for the first time. Mr. Phillips had heard about the hateful headlines on the site — like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” — and wondered what kind of companies would support such messages with their ad dollars. When he clicked on the site, he was shocked to discover ads for universities, including one for the graduate school where he’d received his own degree — Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “That was a punch in the stomach,” he said.

Rather than to let this slide, the professor sent a tweet to his Duke questioning its affiliation with a “sexist and racist” site. Eventually this was sorted, as the NY Times revealed.
But in the background, a movement known as “Sleeping Giants” was arising to combat this kind of fake news. This shared Twitter account and network of followers are using a similar approach – naming and shaming the brands that support these fake news networks. The Sleeping Giants publish a list of brands who have discontinued their support for fake news sites – starting with the Breitbart network. But we can expect more of this kind of activity in the coming months and years. The question for brands in all this – do you know where and who your ad dollars go to? And how will you respond when you find your brand in places you don’t expect or want?

The best marketing investment you’ll make all year

In conversation after conversation with marketing directors and CMOs I keep reaching the same conclusion: our efforts at skill building are woefully inadequate to keep up with the pace of customer change.

There are two factors at play here:

  1. Senior marketers remain risk averse so pursue conservative strategies
  2. Junior marketers willing to work with and adapt new approaches are hobbled by the strategic frameworks and their skills degrade.

Unfortunately for marketers, our customers are more agile than ever, readily adopting and consuming new models of engagement, interaction and purchase. Just think about retail disruption and the way new entrants like Zara have been able to swan into our landmark locations and capture new and existing markets while the dinosaurs of Australian retail cut costs, flounder online and bark about GST and an unfair playing field.

The same can be said of media. Platforms like Junkee and the Guardian have flown in the face of a struggling media sector, out performing traditional mastheads right at the time that it seemed that the Media market was imploding.

When you take your eye off the customer ball, you open the door of opportunity to those with a more nimble business model.

In many ways, customers are like water – they follow the path of least resistance, and the simple fact is, our outmoded channel, contact and conversion paths are resolutely locked in a bygone era circa 2005.

On the positive side, there’s never been a better time to invest in both marketing and marketing skills – for both are the engines of innovation and growth in a customer-centric world.

Let’s see what this might mean.

Marketing is digitally determined but strategy is still king
If budget (and privacy) was no option, we could conceivably track, measure and optimise every customer interaction. But would this quantifiable improve our marketing? Would it make our customers more likely to buy, buy more often, or recommend us?

One of my favourite sayings is “Just because we can doesn’t mean we should”. And this applies now more than ever. While digital has transformed the work, methods and metrics of marketers, choosing what to do and when should not always be ceded to algorithms. Strategy is a vital part of your brand and its experience and marketers should be make use of the digital domain to inform decisions, not make them.

Use social signals and analytics to inform strategy
While the term “big data” is often heralded as the answer to every marketer’s dream, it’s often surprising how well we can use “small data” to radically transform our customers experience. At various stages of the buying journey, our customers will often consciously or inadvertently reveal their intentions. They may tweet about an issue or interest in a new product. They may share interesting new offers that appear in their Facebook timeline. Or they may even photograph and geotag a product they see in a shop or online using Instagram.

Moreover, they may also tag – and by tag, I mean recommend, a product to a friend. This could be a simple tag where a friend is notified by name or ID. Or it could vine with a warm recommendation, like “you’ll love this, Gavin”.

These social signals may be too inconsequential to warrant direct engagement, but at scale, could denote the first stages of a trend or an opportunity to “go viral”. The only way to know this is happening is to incorporate social analytics into your marketing business process. In doing so, it will bring you one step closer to your customer.

Automating for frictionless brand experience
Social analytics also provide vital insight into your customers’ journey. With even a small amount of journey mapping and data analysis, you’ll soon learn of the various friction points across various touch points. And where those friction points exist, marketing automation can be used to overcome or avoid that friction.

It could be as simple as sending an in-app message, email or text message to pre-empt a problem or offer a workaround. It could be that an abandoned online shopping cart triggers a follow up from your call centre. There are many scenarios, but all should be designed to provide a value add to your customer.

The common thread linking your brand and your customer is bound up in experience. Our increasing use of technology takes us part of the way, but the foundation of strategy, creativity and tech know-how that must be in the DNA of the modern marketer is what allows it to flourish. And that means investing, nurturing and growing your team and their capabilities. In fact, skills may be the best marketing investment you’ll make all year.

After the Spark of Innovation Comes the Grind of Transformation

For the  corporate entrepreneur or intrapreneur, innovation is seductive. It’s the nod and a wink that catches your attention out of the corner of your eye. Often, by the time that you’ve doubled back to start a conversation, it has disappeared into the corporate ether.

But that glance holds you in thrall. You know that despite the allure of bright and shiny projects, it’s the riskier, opportunities that will draw you back in.

And yet, while innovation continues to attract us, the real value accrues to the organisation that systematically absorbs that innovation and disperses it not just in new product and service offerings. This means taking the spark of innovation and allowing it to light a million fires in the minds of our employees, transforming the culture one idea, project or prototype at a time.

But almost every leadership team makes the same mistake with digital and with innovation. They focus on the technology, forgetting about the people.

This infographic illustrates this exact problem. Sure, digital is disrupting enterprises, but it’s the hard grind of transforming your people and your processes that sees dramatic revenue, cost and consumer experience benefits:

  • Executives expect that by 2020, 47% of sales will be influence by digital
  • BUT:
    • 14% believe they have the right processes
    • 21% have the right culture
    • 21% have the right people.

Which means, there are significant transformation deficits that must be overcome.

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Marketers as Innovators – Join the DisrupTV Live Stream

This weekend – at 5am Australian daylight time – I will be joining the hosts of DisrupTV, R “Ray” Wang and Valar Afshar to talk marketing-led innovation, and provide a snapshot of the Australian innovation landscape. This weekly web series is streamed live on Blab.im and is focused on leadership, innovation and disruption in the enterprise and brings together A-list guests, the latest enterprise news, hot startups, insight from influencers, and much more. And when I say “A-list guests”, I’m not talking about celebrities. I’m talking about business and technology leaders who are changing the way that we do, think about and create value in business.

The show has featured:

The discussion with Alex Osterwalder is eye opening and full of insight for those seeking to change the way businesses organise themselves, create value and operate in the world. It’s well worth tuning in (embedded below).

This week’s interview features GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell. He leads digital innovation and transformation, and is responsible for the digital solutions business and digital engagement to drive business growth. I will be discussing the nature of corporate innovation, how a market-product fit wins over a product-market fit in the enterprise, and will touch on some of the initiatives arising from the Australian Government’s #IdeasBoom. We’ll also be joined in the “Influencer’s Corner” by Guy Courtin, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research.

Be sure to tune in at 11 a.m. PT/ 2 p.m. ET and remember to tweet your questions using the #DisrupTV hashtag.

The Price of Marketing is Innovation

Marketing teams everywhere are experiencing a profound disruption. It’s a change in thinking, planning, analytics and platforms unlike anything that we have experienced previously. And while the changes happening to us as marketers are unsettling, far more troubling are the changes happening around us as marketers, business people and consumers. We are living on the pinhead of a transition that is sweeping all before us and swallowing the past as it goes.

Living in a platform age has changed the dynamics of our lives. What was personal has become professional and what was “work” has become, well, less clear. Less defined. After all, we can now “work” from home, from a coworking space or shared office. Even a cafe around the corner from your home can serve you VPN access with a steaming hot cappuccino. We are an always-on, digitally connected, wifi enabled workforce that can transform from knowledge worker to connected consumer faster than Snapchat can forget that selfie you posted to your network of faux friends and friendly foes.

And the platforms have come a long way, taking advantage of four transformative technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud. The SMAC model. For years, technology companies have known about the power of platforms – using SMAC to create competitive advantage and commercialising the value across networks. Startups have known this too – though often without clear and incisive strategy. They’re too busy moving quickly across the platforms to harness their potential for scale.

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But this is changing. All businesses are changing.

These days, any business can become a technology business. What was once my consulting business – Disruptor’s Handbook – has become a technology business. We are deeply technology enabled – from CRM to lead and opportunity nurturing, communications management, planning, collaboration and execution right through to business analytics and financial management. The intellectual property that we have created has been downloaded thousands of times and is being put to use in 25 different countries including the UK, China, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, India and Mongolia.

This can only happen because we have embraced the SMAC model. We have apps in the cloud, integrated using pieces of string, chewing gum and a raft of zapier zaps, API calls and pre-made plugins. It means we rely on a dozen services rather than a single suite, but it holds together and works almost flawlessly. Until it doesn’t. But it provides a scale that would otherwise be difficult to achieve without a significant technology budget.

And if we can do it, you can too.

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Swallowing the past

Just when you start to feel comfortable with your technology choices, the rubber bands and sticky-tape that you use to hold it all together, the worst possible thing happens. Well not exactly the worst, but modern marketing’s closest equivalent. A new technology is released. Or an upgrade or a patch. And this new thing is so bright and shiny, you feel like Cory Hart in a film clip straight from the heart of the 1980s. You can’t help but to download it. Sign up. Trial. Share it with friends and colleagues.

And this one new thing makes you question all that has gone before it. Imagine Facebook before it bought Instagram. Or Google before it bought Urchin. These companies are moving so fast, transforming their user experience and brand promise so quickly that we hardly remember what life was like before the change occurred. These platforms are swallowing the past moment by venture-funded moment.

But where do we start? In the marketing technology field alone, Scott Brinker estimates that we are dealing with over 2000 technology choices across almost 50 category areas. In each of those categories we face a dazzling array of choices, capabilities and technologies. So much so, that we often elect to do nothing. As marketers we are suffering from one of our own invented marketing conditions – decision paralysis. We refuse to take a step forward out of a fear of being wrong-footed.

Yes, the future is bright and it is long, yet we are living a constant present.

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Marketing technology – it’s not a footstep but a journey

Traditionally, marketers have always had their eye on the customer. But in the rush to transform their approaches, update their skills and stay ahead of the competition (all while still delivering ROI), many of us have been blinded by the technology light. The problem is that this is not a light. It’s a train and it’s heading in our direction. Marketing technology has put us on a set of rails that are almost impossible to escape from.

But there is a way.

Rather than following in the digital footprints laid out in front of us, we must consciously choose an alternative – the customer journey.

When we start with our customers and their journey it changes the game for us. Rather than generating campaigns, leads and opportunities, we are seeking to understand our customers’ needs, expectations and path to purchase. It’s less about how we sell and more about how they buy. And when we understand this, we can then select the technologies that help us deliver that experience.

How do we do this?

Clearly it requires new thinking and new skills.

Agile marketing and the new world order

In many agencies, agile marketing has been the order of the day for sometime. Building on the old “traffic management” model popularised in publishing houses, digital agencies have been adopting agile methods and approaches to deliver their marketing solutions for years. But in this world of constant change – with a need to swim upstream to where the new sources of business value lie, client side marketers are having to adapt their own ways of working. Out are the old metrics and in are the new. Same with skills. Creative. And technology. Many of our marketing platforms have already been superseded – yesterday’s cutting edge marketing cloud is already burning like acid rain.

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Our increasingly complex world is expecting increasingly complex solutions. We can’t just work in broadcast or print. It needs to be omni-channel. Mobile. We need the best of social and the power of analytics. We need predictive modelling and on-demand forecasting. There are so many new acronyms that we need a new urban dictionary just to keep up. I have been exploring these topics on the Firebrand Talent blog – seeking to match the changing landscape a framework for marketing renewal.

In fact, I am finding my work in innovation is meeting my work in marketing. They complement and reinforce each other. And in the best instances they catalyse and accelerate each other’s effectiveness.

These days the modern marketer has no choice but to create a new world order. Gone are the certainty of ratings and public statistics. Gone are the guaranteed budgets and elastic ROI figures. In are hard numbers, data analytics and real time bidding. It’s like working with an armful of tactics while building strategy on the fly. We can do it, but we do need to ask – is it best for the business and best for the customer? Is it brand-wise?

The time has come to shift not only our thinking but our practice. It’s time that we recognise that customers are not going to buy something just because we interrupted their continuously connected life with the right offer in the right place at the right time. We need accept that we need to build new products for new conditions, not just create new campaigns to spruce up a tired offering. It’s time we stopped talking about “agile” and started “being” agile. We need a marketing system for the disruption that we are all living.

But what is it going to cost? I hear you say.

It’s not a cost. Modern marketing is an investment. And innovation is the price of getting a seat at the customer’s table.

Cyber Security is Now an Important Part of Your Brand

In workshops, presentations and executive briefings, I continue to push one clear message. Experience is the Currency of Your Brand. This new consumerverse that we have found ourselves in goes beyond the simple notion of being “customer centric” – to the heart of what it means to be invited into the lives of our customers. For no matter whether we are engaging prospects in a buyer’s journey and nurturing their engagement through to a purchase, or we are working with a community of passionate brand advocates (and yes, they do exist), it’s important to remember that the brand – our brand – never really sits at the centre of our customer’s lives. They sit at the centre of ours.

Increasingly, the experience of engaging with a brand occurs online. When you map out a customer or buyer’s journey, it soon becomes clear that the majority of brand touchpoints are digital. It could be a banner or Facebook ad that kicks off the process for a buyer. It could be an Instagram photo or associated hashtag. It is estimated that around 60% (or more) of the purchase decision is made before customers engage a brand – so that is a significant percentage of non-owned brand experience that is taking place.

Moving your customer from unknown to known

One of the simplest ways of moving your potential customer from unknown to known, is for them to share some information with you. It could be their name, an email address or a Twitter handle. They may leave a comment via Facebook or Instagram. Or they may even call your call centre. But as soon as they do, it means you have an opportunity to engage them more directly. It’s a great opportunity for personalisation or targeted content/engagement.

BUT there are also risks.

Cyber security is about brand trust

When storing customer’s details, you have a duty to do so securely. Not just because of privacy policies or even local laws. Your duty is to protect the TRUST that has been bestowed upon you. And we will hear more about this through 2016. As I write, books are being printed on the subject of “trust” by thought leaders, analysts and marketers around the world. It’s a hot topic because it has a direct impact on our ability to deliver our brand promise. This flows on to brand reputation and even market capitalisation.

Trust is also a hot topic because we are now seeing far more sophisticated digital attacks that are difficult to detect and fix. Take, for example, the strain of malware that impacted the Melbourne Health computer networks in early January 2016. Malware is a type of malicious software that is used to gain access to computer networks to gather information, show unwanted information/advertising and to generally disrupt computer operation. In more extreme examples, we are seeing a type of malware called ransomware encrypting whole networks and hard drives and demanding a ransom to unlock the system.

As IT News reported:

The malware downed the hospital’s pathology systems and forced staff into manual workarounds.

It made its way into the health department through an unnamed zero-day exploit in Windows XP computers, past the agency’s full enterprise antivirus suite.

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The Melbourne Health attack has been programmed to “self mutate” which means that it is constantly changing its own internal software structure, writing and re-writing itself as a way of escaping detection. Three weeks after the infestation, it seems that the Melbourne Health IT Team is starting to come to grips with the challenge.

But ask yourself – could your business cope with three weeks of business disruption? How would your new “autonomous vehicle” product team deal with the kind of challenge that Fiat Chrysler encountered last year? Would your new “internet of things” startup cope with a security breach due to something like the Heartbleed bug?

Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from the Ashley Madison hack is about the importance of trust and fidelity. To paraphrase Ashley Madison’s tag line – “Customer attention is short. Have good security”.

The Slow March of Digital Disruption

The editing work that started my career was laboriously done with pen and paper. Each day, I would literally cut and paste strips of text from one printed book over a new version, proofread and check the flow of the text, package it up in a large yellow envelope and send it “downstairs” for typesetting. That’s where the magic happened.

The typesetters, using specially-designed keyboards (not qwerty mind you), they would enter the changes into the publishing database and spit out “proofs” for proofreading. Those yellow envelopes would be sent back upstairs and, after another round of checking, I’d approve them and request “camera ready art”. I can still remember the smell and fell of those warm, thick, slightly sticky pages that would be carted off for photographing and printing.

Even in my earliest years, however, I could see the massive opportunities offered by what we now call “digital disruption”. I helped my company lead the digital charge – moving my products out of the production line and into online coding. This meant coding up changes on floppy disks and sending the disks down in the yellow envelopes.

From there, I pushed into desktop publishing, tapping directly into the data warehouse to edit and produce the proofs for printing. These changes produced massive changes in a highly competitive business. Our publishing cycles improved by 66%. Costs fell dramatically.

By 1995 I was hand-coding websites for clients. I had fallen in love with the speed of digital and the ease of online publishing. Sure it was still technical, but it was also democratising an ancient process that had been slow to change.

But that was 1995. Twenty years later, the forces of digital disruption are still playing out in the publishing and media industries, and it is not over yet.

Often when we talk about digital disruption, we do so from a point of fear. We fear for our jobs and our careers. We fear for the changes that we expect will overwhelm us.

But in reality, these massive changes take time to work through an economy. They take time to reach mainstream acceptance. And they take time for the legal system to catch, hold and support them.

Digital disruption is coming, but it’s a slow march for most of us. The question is, can you hear the drums?