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Are you ready for social + mobile + Big Data + Cloud?

Those who had the opportunity to attend the 2013 IDC Directions conference saw  IDC Senior Vice President & Chief Analyst, Frank Gens, talk about how business technology is migrating to the 3rd Platform.  He defined this 3rd platform as the intersection of mobile, social, big data and cloud.   He predicted that these technologies will change how business gets done and enable the customization of intelligent industry solutions.  It was clear from his talk that the changes that will be brought about by these technologies may exceed those ushered in by the 2nd Platform of client servers/PCs or the 1st Platform of mainframes/terminals.

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Are we ready for this future?  A recent report from McKinsey Global Institute seems to suggest that we are still on a learning curve in terms of how we can best implement these technologies.  Their 2012 report, “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies”, showed that 90% of companies using social technologies derive some business benefit from them but that only 3% of companies derive substantial benefit across all their stakeholders.

There are many ways in which social technologies can create value.  They can enable peer-to-peer communications and provide a means for content creation, distribution, and consumption.  They can also facilitate innovation and provide unprecedented market and client insights.  However, any technology that provides a means to break down barriers can also serve as a challenge to the existing power structure.  It is not hard to imagine that the leadership of an organization might be concerned about creating an employee community or a customer forum if they do not understand that these communities usually self regulate.   While engagement, collaboration and crowdsourcing can be great enablers, there is legitimacy to the argument that sometimes crowds become mobs and misinformation can be transmitted at lightning speed.

Given the enormous rate of adoption of mobile technologies and the fact that approximately 1 billion people are now connected on Facebook, it is unlikely that we are going to give up our devices and social networks anytime soon.  But, unless we learn to use them effectively and introduce them in a thoughtful manner in our business environments, it is just as likely that these technologies will continue to be underutilized.

As I speak with business leaders, I sense that they want to do the right thing and that they are entering into a world that is uncomfortable to them.  They realize that change is afoot, but are not sure what to do.  The Marketing folks are pushing SEO, SEM and social media, the HR folks are pushing guidelines and restrictions, and the finance folks are still trying to figure out the return on investment of the new digital investments.

The businesses leaders who prevail will be the ones that bring the factions together and understand that while change is difficult, it is coming and the best thing is to plan for it and have the organizational silos work together to make it happen.  These transformational business leaders understand that employees as well as customers need to learn about and use these new technologies and that social media is not something only millennials can utilize.  Yes, there will be a resistance and some chaos, but in the end the benefits will be great.   I do believe that Frank Gens is correct and that the 3rd platform is here.  Whether we are ready or not remains to be seen.

How is your organization dealing with adoption of the 3rd platform?  What is working and what is not?  Please comment below or @digitalcultured on Twitter.  You can also contact me at  Watch for my future postings, we need to head into our future together!



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