Blog with CTM

Thumbnail

Welcome to the CTM Blog Page

Please feel free to tell us what is on your mind.  You can comment on problems that you, and your industry, find particularly vexing.  You can describe how you are approaching and thinking about creating and solving problems so that others can adopt similar problem solving skills to other areas.  You can ask for advice and guidance.  It is our intent that this blog becomes a place to look for creative ideas in one space that might be applied to another space to create something disruptive.  It is a place where dissimilar people and industries can go to to inspire others and to find the inspiration that evolves to become a eureka moment.   

Smart Cities are Cities on a Transformational Journey

Jerry Power

7/4/19

As cities start to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) technology they begin the process of transforming themselves to become a Smart City/Community.  This enabling technology, when used in concert with other systems presents a monumental opportunity to improve citizen experiences while also reducing operational expenses and the same time. 

The first generation of IOT Smart City Systems were based on a series of focused application silos.  In these systems, an application is deployed to collect data from an associated series of IOT devices, analyze the data, and, as appropriate, direct control signals back to the devices.   These deployments were justified based on that single application’s ability to reduce a city’s operating costs or improve the lives of the citizens.  For many cities, the results from these high value applications make good economic sense.  However, in many situations, the benefits did not justify the costs and as a result many excellent projects were deferred until technological advances would allow the prices to come down or the benefits from the applications could be increased.  These first-generation systems created an environment where applications that were viable in one city would not be logical in another because of city specific differences; as a result, no two cities have the same tactical approach to making their city smarter.  

Furthermore, within the city’s IT infrastructure, this siloed approach resulted in the creation of a series of application specific operational structures within each city.  IT silos are notoriously difficult to support and maintain because each structure is unique, operational staff may have to visit multiple applications and many IOT devices before a systemic policy change can be implemented.  As the number of silos increases over time, the costs to maintain these systems begins to increase.  Eventually, these costs will reach a point where they exhaust the capacity of the IT staff; no matter how talented, a relatively fixed IT staff cannot contend with an exponentially growing number of IOT devices and applications.  When this plateau is reached, resource limits will inhibit the city’s ability to consider newer technologies and as the devices continue to age, the level of service could even atrophy. 

Luckily, solutions to this conundrum are on the horizon.  This coming generation of smart-city systems will not be associated with a vendor specific walled garden, but instead based on the communities that coalesce based on common social needs.  These communities of IOT data generators and consumers can be considered as a data-centric ecosystem that exists to serve its participants.  In such an ecosystem, participating partners will work together to eliminate redundancies that are associated with dedicated systems.  In many ways, this evolutionary progression mirrors the evolution of the Internet, which began its life as a series of environment managers such as Telenet and Tymnet which curated Internet experiences on behalf of the user. Eventually these gateways gave way to a more open and democratic network structure that allowed the users to connect to the network and makes use of its resources at will.  Managed IOT application silos will similarly give way to create an environment where an IOT device can provide data to any application interested in the data that it generates.

This next generation of IOT networks will reshape the economic forces that serve to inhibit the nature of today’s smart cities.  Instead of an IOT deployment project being justified by the benefit of a single application, deployments will be justified based on the benefit of a series of applications.  This is a more powerful economic model and one that will enable the deployment of a whole new class of IOT systems – systems that could not have proven on the basis of a single application.  

In such IOT networks, the IOT device owners will be more actively involved in managing the IOT devices they own.  Instead of simply configuring the devices communications parameters, the device owner will be actively involved in determining the level of networking they wish to allow their devices to participate in.  This is a much more different paradigm than the current situation, where device owners cede IOT data control to a specific application that must be trusted to manage the data distribution process on behalf of the device owner.  

In a siloed environment, security, privacy, and trust become key points of discussion once an IOT application has been approved for deployment.  In the next generation of networked IOT environment, these issues become the foundational issues upon which the network is built with selection of the applications becoming the secondary consideration.  In an IOT network, the ability for the device owner to directly manage their own data governance represents the difference between an IOT communications network and an IOT cognizant network.

Advances are being made daily in the area of artificial intelligence (AI), distributed data management, and advanced communications networks (5G).  These systems stand to bring significant benefit to the smart-cities world, however, additional attention is needed to create a network from the IOT devices that serve as a foundation for many of these advances.  It is fitting and logical that the next area of focus for smart-cities would be in distributed and networked IOT device management, an area that characterized by its ability to manage IOT device streams on behalf of the IOT device owner.

The I3 Consortium (i3.usc.edu) is an example of an open, member driven effort that is working to create such a next generation IOT network fabric designed to support smart cities and other IOT communities. The I3 environment was developed to create framework by which diverse IOT device owners can come together to create an enhanced networked environment where it is easy to connect IOT devices to applications under the guidance of the IOT device owners.  The opensource nature of these IOT efforts reflects the original intent of the Internet founders to create a democratized fabric that facilitates the open exchange of data among parties within the community.  As an open consortium, other companies, government agencies, academic institutions, and non-profits are welcome to join a growing consortium that includes participants like The City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, Verizon, Oracle, the University of Southern California, Korea University, and many others as we move toward a next generation vision of IOT networking.

An More Holistic View of the Marketing Function

Jerry Power

5/17/2019  

Many people think of marketing as being a sales support function.  The truth is that there are some marketing functions that are indeed designed to support sales; in some companies this function is integrated within the Sales organization and in some companies this is a separate and independent organization within the company.  However, the larger definition of marketing goes well beyond this narrow view of marketing.  A key marketing role is to develop an understanding of the market (customers and competitors) so strategists and product development teams have the information needed to respond to current and market threats and opportunities.  Additionally, is a world when current customers drive a significant or repeal business, when customers use social media to drive new customer awareness and interest, and when business models are beginning to shift to long term customer relationships (leasing, subscriptions, and pay-as-you-go) customer support becomes a key contributor to the larger marketing understanding  In the end, we have to expand our view of what marketing means and accept that everyone in the organization is a member of the marketing team. 

Forbes recently posted an excellent article about the role of customer service in shaping the customer's experience.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbevis/2019/05/16/the-decline-of-customer-service-in-america  Many of the take aways from the article can be reapplied to other areas of the business that directly or indirectly impact the customer's relationships that exist to support them.

 

Your Next Cocktail Might be Premixed

Jerry Power

4/2/2019  

Forbes is reporting that bartenders are increasingly turning to premixed cocktails (much like restaurants often use premixed spice blends).  This cuts down customer wait time and that translates to increased sales for the bar (more drinks served per hour).   And, complicated specialty drinks are difficult to make consistently so this trend also improves drink consistency.  Improving the customer experience by making the process more efficient is a win-win for everyone. 

Time is Money and Speed is Profit 

Steve Shepard

3/29/19

Einstein once observed that ‘Nobody knows as much as everybody.’ In this age of ecosystems, and of the partnerships required to drive those ecosystems, it has never been more apparent that a commitment to knowledge-sharing within the enterprise can mean the difference between a secure competitive position and organization oblivion. At CTM, one of our favorite mantras is that ‘Time is money, but speed is profit.’ The faster an organization moves, the more rapidly it is able to respond to a competitive threat, opportunity, or directional shift in the market, the more efficiently and effectively it can maintain its position above the white noise of competitive messaging.  And, while technology is the great enabler in this scenario, it is the human factors that determine the magnitude of the impact or the severity and the hurdles to be overcome.  Time and again, experiences has taught us that it often comes down to a few great leaders, a few people who can nimbly bridge the issues in order to convert a well-intentioned project into an operational success.   

This is exactly why AMP was created! This is a need for a program that looks at how business people can use the power of digital technology to create (and defend) opportunities and technologies can modulate their thinking to create synergistic business value.    At a time when there are many business programs and technology programs, there nothing that sits between the two that has been developed for today's busy professional.  The AMP program was designed to drive home the importance of functional ecosystems, ecosystems that exist both within and outside of a company. By harnessing the intellectual, cross-functional power of professionals in the collective technology, media and telecommunications industries, as well as in the vertical industries that those three serve, we have created a learning opportunity that is unique—and never more relevant.   Initially a program that targeted the telecom industry (the first truly digital industry), today it attracts professionals from telecom, media, IT, aerospace, city and state government, regulatory agencies, and a plethora of others that have transformed themselves or are in the process of transforming themselves for the digital age.  It truly is a cross-functional experience—and one that brings value to all attendees.

 We look forward to seeing you at the next AMP program which is scheduled for May 6-10, 2019 in Los Angeles.  You or a deserving colleague can register via the CTM web site or via this Eventbrite link).

Transforming Your Organization to Value Customer Time

Jerry Power

3/23/19

Jerry Power and Thomas Ferratt have finished the final edits to their upcoming book "The Real-Time Revolution: Transforming Your Organization To Value Customer Time."  The book is not moving into production and can be pre-ordered from Amazon and other on-line book sellers.  If you are interested in talking to the authors or wish to organize a talk on this important business topic, please send us a query through this blog page and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  

Remember, Transformations to make your organization more competitive are essential AND should be structured and prioritized based on their ability to optimize the time a customer invests in your organization.  It is not just about the price but about transforming the customer experience. 

Three Different Business Skills

Jerry Power

3/10/19

Business is not about being timid and it is also not about being reckless. In today’s world, business first about knowledge.  There are those that would argue it is about data, it is about opportunity, or that it is about customers but I would argue that that these are all specific kinds of knowledge and that they are all important.  But knowledge in itself is not enough in that knowledge is a tool that has to be wielded according to a strategy. These strategies describe how to convert the knowledge we have developed into a plan of action. While such a plan might describe the desired outcome and even the path forward, too many plans stay sitting on a shelf or fail to deliver on the desired end-result. Business endeavors are not solo enterprises, they often require complicated interactions among team members, partners, and customers. Realization requires inspired communications from leaders and coordinated groups of leaders that work together to move organizations in new directions. The conclusion being that success requires that all three legs of the stool are needed to support the endeavor; knowledge, strategy, and leadership. 

The skills needed to excel at knowledge development and acquisition are very different from the skills needed by a strategist or even those needed by a strong leader. I would content that while there are people with a natural ability in one of these areas, people are not naturally gifted in all three areas. Organizations need and should prize people who are proficient in all three areas but these skills need to be developed and reinforced over time by some kind of formal or informal training program. Complicating the situation, while there are a myriad of training opportunities that focus on building knowledge about a technology, leadership, or strategy, I would argue more time is needed to bringing these three forces of change together as a cohesive concept. 

The University of Southern California is one of our premier research institution and home to a number of top ranked schools including the Marshall School of Business. The Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM) within Marshall periodically runs its highly regarded Advanced Management Program (AMP) to enrich the knowledge, strategy, and leadership skill of people striving to help their organization as it evolves to meet the challenges of tomorrow. If you, or some of your employees, are preparing to take your organization to the next level, open enrollment for the May 6-10 session, which will be held in Los Angeles, is currently open. Interested participants are encouraged to register at for the week long program via EventBrite. For more information on CTM and the AMP program, feel free to browse the, the CTM web site or to send us an email at ctm@marshall.usc.edu.  


 

New Leadership Skills Needed to Sustain Technology Success

Jerry Power

2/28/19

Here’s the reality: We are all working harder and harder. Each day presents us with a new challenge or a new opportunity that cannot be ignored. The truth is, it’s an exciting time to be working in technology or in a business sector that is being changed by technology. And while there are challenges and hurdles we all must face, we do so knowing the opportunities are there to reward us for our efforts.

Part of the reason we live in such challenging times is that we’re going through a period when many disparate technologies are achieving break-throughs at the same time. Advances are being made in the Internet-of-Things (IoT), in next generation communications (5G), in management of big data and analytics, in Artificial Intelligence (AI), in robotics and automation, and in man-machine interface technologies (MMI). The advances in one area have a magnifying impact and serve to drive changes to the others. Many have started referring to this confluence of change as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

It is important to realize that these technology changes are, at their core, a change to the tools we have in our toolbox. Technology change provides no assurance of success for any organization or individual. You cannot simply buy a new tool and expect that benefits will magically appear. Like any other tool, these technologies have to be applied to a known problem with skill and care before any value can be derived from the investment.  Organizations have to understand that a technology enabled transformation must be coupled with a change in the organization’s culture to unlock the value of that new technology. By the same token, as individuals, we must realize that we have to learn new skill and techniques before we can consider ourselves adept at using the new technology, and we may have to rethink our role in the organization before we can consider ourselves to be craftspeople. 

Organizations that are heading into or already in the maelstrom of the Fourth Industrial Revolution know that the demands they place on leadership is profound and changing. For organizations to survive in such a rapidly evolving space, they need leaders that are able to look beyond the tactics of using any specific tool, they need leaders who are both agile AND strategic. The organization will want leaders that can balance privacy, risk, and ethics for a host of different technology-tool options so that they can define the best possible path to turn the challenges they face into opportunities.  

The mandate for this next cohort of leaders goes beyond that. Armed with the right game plan, the organizations will expect their future leaders to be effective at communicating to management, employees, partners, and customers alike to realize their objectives. In the complex ecosystems, that defines the current business climate, the era of the demanding autocrat has given way to leadership style that demands on the individual’s ability to aspire, inspire, motivate to drive action.

Given the University of Southern California’s history as a premier research institution and home to leading schools of both business (Marshall) and engineering (Viterbi), we have opened the CTM Advanced Management Program (AMP) to enrich the leadership skill of people striving to take on a more significant role in their organization as it evolves to meet the challenges of tomorrow. While the class can be offered on site for a specific organization, open enrollment for the May 6-10 session, which will be held in Los Angeles, is also an option. Interested participants are encouraged to register at for the week long program via EventBrite

For more information on CTM and the AMP program, feel free to browse the, the CTM web site or to send us an email at ctm@marshall.usc.edu.