We are seeing lots of clever stuff around IT/Digital, particularly in the areas of marketing and apps.
A lot of apps are staggeringly pretty, fun and sassy – Saasy even. But if the beauty is in the building, then the devil is in the distribution.
Forgive me if I have missed a layer of sophistication but for the most part apps distribution seems to me like casting a thousand seeds up into the air in the hope that happenstance and random breezes might lead one or two to fall on fertile ground.
Marx once railed against what he called “surplus labour” – the factory owners’ regime of absolutely minimum pay to thus get rich through the value created by the endless toils of their workers. But at least they got paid – there are vast numbers of apps producers who live in blind hope.
Hardware providers have a rather wonderful time in that 1,000s of apps producers compete to add value to their devices with absolutely no guarantee of any reward. Would it be an overstatement to suggest that this is to some extent a free market verging on a fools’ market?
Whatever, as a financier I would find it incredibly difficult to commit large sums into this free-for-all (or unpaid for most) marketplace.
This funding impasse is compounded by the difficulty of modelling success. It is often the case in many sectors that one can analyse successful companies and extract the key traits that have made them successful. Financing and company growth thus, to at least some extent, become a case of reverse engineering.
But this approach doesn’t really seem to work with apps. It’s too much about fashion, time and a place, going viral etc.
And yet lighter, user friendly, highly functional and, yes, fun apps are the building blocks of a new IT. Away from the closed, clunky and data-centric enterprise systems is a new world of functionality, direct utility and user accessibility.
We have a major initiative currently underway, seeking to use the disruption of the coming of the
cloud to port some of the functionality and flexibility of apps into the enterprise world.
The commercial quest is around overcoming diffused cleverness and non-boundaried product. Despite the freedom clamour from the Digirati punters (the types who usually earn a steady living in the public sector, quangos or the media), it is very difficult to monetise good ideas and features alone. There need to be commercial imperatives and boundaries where a saleable product starts and finishes.
These are important lessons best learned before you invest 100s, or even 1,000s of hours, on projects which may be cute but which are woefully short on realistic connection.
Another area currently blowing up big waves of digital froth is marketing, particularly what may be done to leverage the potential of ever smarter phones. The babble at the moment is quite deafening (every bit as much as on a rush hour Manchester tram!).
But so much of the self-proclaimed commercial positioning in this area is little more than claimsmaking, feature creep and buzzword bingo.
Something we are currently seeking to do oursleves is to anchor practical and effective marketing messaging around a superior multi-channel capability – watch this space, the Marketing Technology Platform is fast approaching formal launch.
The general invitation of this piece is to invite everyone else out there who is innovating in exciting digital spaces to think very carefully about what is they are making and where it can fit into an already very cluttered landscape.
That calls for sharp boundaries, not just sharp thinking. The trick is to harness compelling cleverness within commercially recongisable shape.