The end of tech companies
For a few years now, we have heard it said everywhere that tomorrow all companies will in one way or another be technology companies. Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric does not say anything else:
“If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up this morning as a software and analytics company.“
“If you went to bed like an industrial company you will wake up like a software and analytics company.“
Tesla like Apple
And yet …
It went unnoticed by many, but in early February Tesla Motors announced its future name change to become Tesla Inc.
Does that remind you of anything? At the beginning of the 2000s Apple Computers had discreetly abolished the “computers” to become Apple Inc. An anecdotal change at the time but which took on all its meaning through Steve Jobs’ digital hub strategy. This logic was subsequently reinforced with the sale of music, then the foray into the telephone market, then the sale of Apps.
If IT becomes above all a matter of use, we can no longer be just a computer manufacturer unless we accept to find ourselves relegated to the bottom of the value chain, where investments are heavy and the low margin. Talk to telcos who took a long time to figure out that mastering the pipes and leaving the contents and the experience to others was suicidal.
Technology is a way of life
Remember Nicholas Negroponte and his “information is no longer a matter of computers. It’s our way of life“.
The same can be said today of the Internet, software and technology in general. Technology is consumed, disappears behind its uses and the services it supports, behind experiences. It is commoditized to such an extent that it no longer matters as such insofar as it is no longer the goal but the means.
Today, therefore, technology companies are seeking to fit into a larger goal. Tesla is reinventing mobility, Uber is also in another way, in the same way that Apple has reinvented our relationship with our leisure activities and our way of life.
“Great transformative goal”, chain of experience and task at hand
Today, no business can simply define itself as a software or hardware company. It must include what it does in a larger objective, closer to the use or even the societal.
Remember Kodak. There are many reasons for the decline of the Kodak Empire. One of them is that Kodak has focused on its product while ignoring its core mission. As the company tried to make the best movies, it forgot that what the client wanted was “to keep track of the moments that matter.” In one case we continue to make films, in the other the digital shift is a logical continuation.
We come back to the need to know the “task to be accomplished” by the client, essential in a world of disruption. There is a world between taking pictures and keeping traces of the moments of his life. This is the famous “Job to be doneThat many companies neglect in favor of a product culture. Starbucks has also understood that the “Job to be doneOf his customers was not having coffee.
Above the “Job to be doneThere is often the will (or the need) to have an impact on the world and on society. Since some enlightened leaders have posted such objectives as the raison d’être of their business, it is now a necessary step for any leader who wants to be in the air. To succeed you need not only a vision, but a vision that impacts the world, society, by transforming things. Then it can be translated into technology.
Finally comes the question of the experience chain which is gradually replacing the value chain. The experience of technology does not come from technology but, once again, from its uses. Technology companies tend more and more to invest not only vertically in their value chain but horizontally to go to related sectors that allow their technology to be transformed into a vector of experience.
The non-technological technology company
Technology is everywhere, the geek has become a consumer (for better or for worse) and therefore the tool is no longer an end in itself. The customer is not satisfied with an intrinsically efficient machine or software, at the height of the state of the art, if the uses do not follow. In the end he expects it to improve (at worst) or change (at best) his life, and his awareness of the social utility of technology (and a bit of good conscience pursuit) also creates expectations in more societal terms.
The tech company is not dead, and indeed, technology is the core business of just about every industry. But unlike not long ago, technology can no longer be the cause and the raison d’être of a company.
The Geek must now register in the world in which he lives.
Bertrand Duperrin is Digital Transformation Practice Leader in Emakina. He was previously consulting director at Nextmodernity, a firm in the field of business transformation and management through social business and the use of social technologies.
He regularly deals with social media news on his blog.
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