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    Entries in Technology (360)

    Thursday
    May182017

    Google and the interface of everywhere

    Google's big I/O event happened this week, and in customary fashion the search and technology giant made a bunch of interesting product announcements and made public for the first time some brand new solutions and innovations. Folks in the HR/Recruiting space will largely be most interested in and perhaps concerned by Google's announcement that it intends to launch 'Google for Jobs', a consolidated job search tool (powered by Google's search technology at the core), for job seekers that will surface job listing from a number of sources like LinkedIn, Facebook, and CareerBuilder. And while that announcement certainly was interesting, and needs to be top of mind for folks who run or heavily promote their jobs on job boards like Indeed, to me, it was not the most interesting thing to come out of I/O.

    First, Google announced the forthcoming Lens app, a tool that essentially makes a smart phone camera more intelligent by allowing you to learn about a product by taking a picture of it, find out information about a performance by taking a photo of the name of the band, or connect to a wifi network by snapping a photo of the login and password information. This app is a nod to the increasing use of the camera/photo as not just a means of recording an image, but as a method for navigating the world and its objects and experiences around us.

    Second, Google announced additional places (beyond its Home device and its Pixel phone) and tools where its 'Assitant' app will be available - on iPhones for the first time, on more Android devices, and soon, in cars, refrigerators, and more. Google's near-term vision is to make Assistant available essentially everywhere, and to (ultimately), disconnect or break the bond between the smart phone, (and Android for that matter), and the Assistant capabilities.

    These two announcements combine to form the basis and the beginnings of a powerful service (Assistant), that eventually will seem "interface-less", or said differently, will be accessed via a variety of devices and methods - voice, images, touch screens, and sure, if you must, by typing commands into a keyboard. Who knows, maybe the next iteration of Google Glass, (remember that?), will be to largely function as a lens and continuous input stream to the Assistant. As you stroll around with Glass you can ask it for advice and information about where you are, the restaurant you are walking by, and who knows - maybe see a list of open jobs at the Cafe you are sitting in having a coffee.

    What is interesting about all this, to me, is the longer term implications it has for the tools and technologies that we use at the workplace. Consumer-driven technology innovation has been driving enterprise tech for a while now. You were using a smart phone or a tablet at home, before you ever did so for work. And I think the same thing will become true for this future world of the 'everywhere' interface to smart tools and services designed to help us navigate the world, and get things done.

    Smart phones exploded for work applications because (in part), we didn't want or need to be trapped to a desk and a computer in an office in order to get things done. Now, we are beginning to see what is coming 'next' - after the smart phone, when the technologies are all around us, in our ears, in the devices we interact with, and never more than a spoken 'Ok Google' away. What will be the first HR system to be fully integrated and accessible via voice, image, and even wearable tech? 

    I think it is tremendously exciting and fun. And way more interesting and powerful than a new website that aggregates online job listings. But if you have to talk about that, it is ok. I get it.

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    May162017

    The half-life of technology-based advantage

    ... keeps getting shorter and shorter.

    Take a look at the chart below which tracks the daily active users of the most recent 'next big thing', Snapchat, against the DAUs for a slightly older 'next big thing', Instagram - specifically Instagram's "Stories" feature, one designed as a pretty blatant copy of Snapchat's core use case.

    Here's the data then three quick points about what it reminds us about technology-driven competitive advantage.

    The chart is a couple of months old, especially for the Snapchat data, but the trends are holding up. Instagram essentially was able to surpass the DAUs of Snapchat's primary feature in less than one year. It is kind of hard to say what this means for Snapchat in the longer term, I imagine they will try and continue to innovate, (and I confess to not being a user of Snapchat, I tried two or three times and could never understand it), and perhaps reverse or at least slow these trends.

    But bigger picture, what does this 'story' (pun intended), remind us of?

    1. Almost every technological advantage can be copied by competitors, and sometimes copied very quickly. Snapchat had a 5-year or so head start and within months that advantage or distinction has disappeared. Technology, consumer or enterprise, is moving, adapting, innovating faster than ever.

    2. When considering/selecting/implementing enterprise tech, (like a new HR Tech solution), "features" or capability probably should not be the most important differentiating criteria. The HR solution providers across a wide range of domains are developing similar capabilities and features and even user experiences. I probably saw demos of four or five new enterprise learning management solutions in the last 18 months and they all look, feel, and act really similarly. In fact, if I had to do a 'blind' test, like the old Pepsi Challenge, I am not sure I would be able to tell them apart. 

    3. So if technological advantage, i.e. features should not be the most important criteria when evaluating technology then what should it be? Well, I know I have opined on this before, but I still submit HR leaders should be carefully evaluating the things that can't be as easily copied across providers. Elements like the implementation experience, customer service and support, the provider's vision of the future, and the extent to which the solution provider sees you as a true partner - in innovation and in business success. These are all critical elements, hard for competitors to copy, and admittedly, harder to assess on an RFP than a list of feature/functions.

    Ok, that's it - I'm out. Going to fire up Instagram. I heard today they copied the 'koala ears' filter from Snapchat. 

    That's what my selfies have been needing.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    May152017

    HR Tech China #2 - Five Things I'm Looking Forward To

    In a few short weeks I am heading back to China to host and speak at the 2nd Annual HR Tech China event, this year being held June 6 - 7 at the Shanghai International Convention Center in Shangai, China.

    Last year's first HR Tech China event was incredibly memorable, interesting, and valuable, especially for the US-based folks that attended, as I don't think you can even begin to understand a place, business and organizational challenges, and its people without visiting in person. And even that, in a place as large, dynamic, and complex as China only gives you a first step towards really knowing a place and your opportunities there.

    And of all the places in the world where opportunity is present, I can't think of any one with more potential than China. The economy continues to grow and modernize, the appetite for new and innovative technologies are endless, and the desire by many US companies to expand both into the Chinese market, and out of the Chinese market by local firms, is dramatically expanding. 

    If you really, truly, expect to be a global company, then you almost have to be in China, I think.

    That said, I am incredibly excited to be heading back to China and for the 2nd HR Tech China event. And since no one asked, here are the five things I am looking forward to the most about the event and the trip.

    1. HR Tech China (the event) - last year's event was really incredible, and I am sure Year 2 will be even bigger and better. With an array of local Chinese HR leaders and experts, business and economic officials, and a wide variety of both local HR tech and services providers, as well as many of the large, global HR technology companies you know well, this event is perfectly suited for the Chinese and greater Asia HR leaders. The event is first-rate, and quickly becoming a leading event in the global HR tech space.

    2. The Food - Where to start? Easily three of the top ten 'best things I have ever tasted' have been on my trips to China. Peking Duck in Beijing, Hot and Sour Soup in Hong Kong, and spicy sea snails in Zhuhai I still dream about. I am going to eat everything on this trip. 

    3. Shanghai Disneyland - C'mon who does not love Disney? On the trip back from last year's HR Tech China I had the chance to stop in Hong Kong and visit the Disney theme park there. It was really fun and a great experience, and luckily on this year's trip I am going to make time to visit the newest Disney park, this one right in Shanghai. Everything I have seen and heard about Shanghai Disney is that it is really incredible and I can't wait to see it.

    4. The Flight - So a 14 or 16 hour flight might not sound like so much fun. But think of it this way - no emails, no text messages, no one bugging you for anything for the better part of day. A book, a movie or two, a glass of wine, a little sleep - sounds like a night you can only dream of having at home these days. Enjoy the solitude while it lasts.

    5. The People - I have met and look forward to seeing again, so many great people that are a part of HR Tech China. Nowhere have I felt more welcomed. Incredibly nice, generous, curious, motivated, and smart - that is how I would describe the people I have had a chance to get to know a little. Can't wait to see them again and make some new friends. Add me on WeChat!

    I know China seems like a far away place, and it kind of is, but each time I go, (and I hope that it will be more often than once a year in the future), it seems a little closer, and a little less far away each time.

    I know this blog does get readers from Asia and Australia and New Zealand, if anyone is interested in coming to the event in June in Shanghai, send me a note via the contact form on the left side bar and I will make sure you get the information you need.

    Have a great week! 

    Tuesday
    May092017

    Never gets tired, never stops learning

    Sharing another dispatch from the 'robots are coming to take all our jobs away' world with this recent piece from Digiday, "Who needs media planners when a tireless robot named Albert can do the job?".

    The back story of this particular implementation of AI to replace, (or as we will learn, perhaps just augment or supplement human labor), comes from advertising, where the relatively new concept of programmatic digital advertising has emerged in the last few years. Part of the process of getting things like banner ads, Facebook ads, display ads, and even branded video ads in front of consumers involves marketers choosing the type of ads to show, the content of those ads, the days/times to show the ads, and finally the platforms upon which to push the ads to.

    If it all sounds pretty complex to you, then you're right.

    Enter "Albert." As per the Digiday piece once the advertiser, (in this case Dole Foods), set some blanket objectives and goals, then Albert determined what media to invest in at what times and in what formats. And it also decided where to spend the brand’s budget. On a real-time basis, it was able to figure out the right combinations for creative and headlines.  For example, once Albert determined that Dole’s user engagement rate on Facebook was 40 percent higher for mobile than desktop, Albert shifted more budget to mobile.

    The results have been impressive; According to Dole, the brand had an 87 percent in increase in sales versus the prior year.

    Why bring this up here, on a quasi-HR blog?

    Because it highlights really clearly, a real-life example of the conditions of work that are most ripe for automation, (or at least augmentation). Namely, a data-intensive, detailed, and heavy data volume environment that has to be analyzed, a fast-moving and rapidly paced set of changing conditions that need to be reacted to in real-time, (and 24/7), and finally, the need to be constantly assessing outcomes and making comparisons of choices in order to adjust strategies and execution plans to optimize for the desired outcomes.

    People are good at those things. But AI like Albert might be (probably are) better at those things.

    But in the piece we also see the needed and hard-to-automate contributions of the marketing people at Dole as well.

    They have to give Albert the direction and set the desired business goals - sales, clicks, 'likes', etc.

    They have to develop the various creative content and options from which Albert will eventually choose to run. 

    And finally, they have to know if Albert's recommendations actually do make sense and 'fit' with the overall brand message and strategy.

    Let's recap: People - set goals, strategic objectives, develop creative content, and "understand" the company, brand, context, and environment. AI: executes at scale, assesses results in real-time, optimizes actions in order to meet stated goals, and provides openness into the actions it is taking.

    It sounds like a really reasonable, and pretty effective implementation of AI in a real business context.

    And an optimistic one too, as the 'jobs' that Albert leaves for the people to do seem like the ones that people will want to do.

    Friday
    May052017

    CHART OF THE DAY: The Decline of the Landline

    Really interesting data from your pals at the National Center For Health Statistics on the long, slow but seemingly irreversible decline of the home landline phone. Turns out, if you have dropped your landline to go mobile only, you are not all that odd any longer.

    Here's the data and as you constantly demand, some FREE comments from me after the chart.

    Some really interesting data for sure. The key points or takeaways for me:

    1. More folks than not have ditched the home landline. Just over 50% of households are now mobile only. Pretty soon it will be kind of odd and weird to still have a landline. Additionally, more than 70 percent of adults between 25 and 34 were wireless only. 

    2. Being wireless only, as a majority of households are now, means, (as if you didn't know this), that our mobile phones are constantly powered on, are always within reach, and have become probably the most indispensable piece of technology we own. What could you go without with longer, your mobile phone or your car? Or your TV? Or your coffee maker? I might choose the coffee maker, but the car and the TV I would give up. Why not? I can request an Uber with my phone and stream the NBA playoffs on my phone. Once my phone can make coffee, well...

    3. Since the mobile phone is the most important piece of technology most of us use, then gaining 'share' of people's phpne time, no matter of you are in marketing, recruiting, sales, or even HR, is the most impactful thing you can do to advance your agenda. I would posit that at least half, if not more like 75%, of the efforts you are making to reach people should be focused on how you are reaching them on their mobiles. We all know this but when I see data about the usage and penetration rates of mobile technology for HR I am not so sure we are really applying what we know to be true. 

    Anyway, that's it for me. I'm out, have a great weekend!