My oldest daughter turned 14 last week.  This has led to two startling revelations. (1) I am now starting to consider all males in her social circle to be devious, deeply untrustworthy, walking bags of testosterone  (2)  I have absolutely no clue who any of them are.

I’ve never met her male friends. They exist on planets I don’t inhabit: Planets Instagram, Snapchat and Viber.  When I smugly joked that I could find them on Facebook she laughed, “Facebook is for your generation, Dad. Let it go.”

Ouch. Nothing like being called a ‘generation’ to make you feel old. Still,  we’ll see how smart she is when I change the Wi-Fi password.

Internet of Things
This all goes to show of course that times change, as beautifully demonstrated in this video and it’s hard to keep up especially for my ‘generation’.  I just came back from a two-day conference in Holland where a key theme running through the event was the “Internet of Things.”

I always thought that name was a placeholder. Something someone had thought up that would suffice until a better one was needed in the future when ‘things’ were important but it turns out that I was wrong. The IoT is already here.

From cars that can be remotely instructed to alter suspension stiffness on certain road types to reduce wear, to fridges that can automatically order groceries based on current levels, we are moving rapidly into a world where cloud connected devices are not so much changing the rules, but creating a new game.

Changing business models
Michael Porter and James Heppelmann in the Harvard Business Review this month present a brilliant summary of the challenges business will face. And the changes are seismic. Corporations are being restructured and new business models are emerging continuously.  A world of smart, connected products is already fundamentally changing the way businesses operate: from HR, to logistics, from manufacturing to R&D and from marketing to sales and after-sales.

Take a seemingly simple issue like communication. These business functions can no longer get by with the occasional quarterly meeting: that simply won’t cut it. With massive volumes of data coming in real-time from smart products in the field, the communication between departments, and even the structure of those departments is going to have to alter radically.  Porter and Heppelmann argue, convincingly, that the product is no longer the end in itself, but the means to which value can be created longer term between supplier and client but only if the supplier is ready to take advantage.

The sales function is clearly going to have to change the way in which it operates with other aspects of the business, and who knows, in the not-too-distant future perhaps the role of sales itself will change? Maybe in less time than we think, a salesperson at a conference will walk into a networking event, wearing glasses that can automatically scan faces, and pull up detailed information from a vast ‘data lake’ so that before you even approach them for a chat you are guided on whether they are potential or existing clients, topics of likely interest to discuss, relevant social media feeds, company news, and your own CRM data so you know why you won or lost the last bid. You’ll probably be able to find out from thirty yards whether they’ve even been to the event before so you’ll need a different opening line. Whatever you choose, I’d advise not following this man’s lead.

The IOT is changing the way the world works and I’m running fast just to keep up with stuff that’s already happened in the time its taken me to write this so I’m going for a lie down.

It’s a generation thing.

Darren Whitehouse, Client Director, Huthwaite International