Whether it’s a clash, a calm combination or through organic growth CIOs enjoy being involved in and discussing the impact of technology on society and its institutions, one of which is our business community.
The theme of the 2013 CIO Summit was digital revolution with CIOs from a wide variety of organisations discussing how their organisations and CIO strategies dealt with the clashes, growth opportunities and challenges they faced. Amongst these James Whittaker, technology evangelist at Microsoft touched on a series of points I know the CIO community focuses on.
“Wherever you have an intent we have trained our users to go to the web or to an App and go figure it out,” Whittaker challenged the CIO community of 140 present. The premise of his presentation was that the applications and processes of our organisations have become too engrained with the idea that information is on the internet and a process is within an application. “Why?” the highly enthusiastic technologist asked.
Using email, calendar and social networks and the communications between co-workers and family, Whittaker asked why the above applications are disconnected from the knowledge of the internet. A good point given they rely on the internet to operate. His proposal, using these examples, was that the intention for something to happen, be it a purchase, social occasion or family commitment begins in one of these applications, but if the user then intends to find more information or make a purchase they have to head onto the web.
“What is it about one piece of technology that knows stuff and the other doesn’t?” he asked.
Looking at his own organisation, Microsoft, Whittaker pointed out that with tools like spell check in Office, the Redmond company has been offering additional help to users in one application. Now, Whittaker plans to extend that theory to its email and calendar applications by joining the Bing search tool to traditional applications. His reason being, than if an intent to do something starts in email or calendar, to simplify the life of the user, keep the process in that application. It makes a lot of sense.
“Every time you want to take knowledge from the web you have to pick it up and move it into the calendar,” he says of the need to “free” knowledge that is on the web and put it into the applications “where the intent occurred”.
Whittaker is a Microsoft man, so well versed in the needs of the enterprise and his intent model stretches beyond merely make the lives of individual Outlook users easier. A demonstration of how holiday bookings, originally mooted in an email or Calendar application can create a new form of direct marketing. Because the application knows of the intent, knows of the transactional activity, it can release data that organisations can use to target market their services. In the holiday example a family going on holiday will receive offers of hotels or activities because the organisations offering those services knows that the family is travelling. This is far more accurate than the scatter gun marketing methods currently used and as Whittaker pointed out, removes agencies and middle-men to create direct relationships that offer both parties real “value”.
He describes this burgeoning model as a “magazine quality experience”, something lost in recent years.
There are of course challenges because this intent model will rely on a lot of personal data being exchanged by consumers and organisations. But when you consider the levels of personal data today’s users already exchange and share on social networks, is this really such a big change? I don’t think it is.