Mark Raskino

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark Raskino
VP & Gartner Fellow
12 years at Gartner
27 years IT industry

Mark Raskino is a vice president and Gartner Fellow in the Executive Leadership and Innovation group of Gartner Research. Mark researches CEO priorities and attitudes to IT and major business technology trendsRead Full Bio

Will the internet of products need digital ownership certificates?

by Mark Raskino  |  September 19, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Recently, some suspicious cell phone towers were discovered in the United States.  It is believed they are spy towers – listening in on calls and or tracking people. It’s not known who put them there. At the same time, in Australia, Russia, the UK, India, South Africa and many other countries – innovators are working as fast as they can to develop delivery and other drones.  If you are in an airport right now, there’s a chance it is tracking your movement via your WiFi device, as Copenhagen does. If you are in the vicinity of a person vaping on an electronic cigarette, there’s a chance it’s trying to contact others nearby.  This is the world of connected, smart and powerful things.

Cars are also becoming part of that connected world. One day they will be doing limited self-driving – for example parking themselves without a driver. They are supposed to be very safe and incapable of running a person over – but how comfortable will we feel about them? (I’ve read that book Robopocalyse)  Of course all of these things will be valuable to us, but sometimes they will go wrong. When they do, we will want to know who is liable for any damage they cause. We will want to know who abandoned them – if they end up as rubbish on our streets. We will want to know who they belong to if they start to re-order their own supplies – as agricultural robots might.  In general – I don’t think we will accept an urban or rural environment full of smart connected devices buzzing around if they are anonymous.

Every significant object on the internet of things will be some company’s product.  Either that company will be liable and accountable for what it does, or the customer who bought it will be. Either way, any insurer will want an unambiguous record of to whom the thing currently belongs.  So I’m thinking some kind of digital certificate and ownership register probably needs to evolve.   Developing that system of registration and tracking might be a golden commercial opportunity for someone.

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South Africa has Digital Officers too.

by Mark Raskino  |  September 15, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Last week I attended Gartner’s annual Symposium in Cape Town. It’s always one of the most enjoyable events on our global circuit. The thoughtfulness and positive energy of South African IT leaders is inspiring, as they continue their journey to forge the systems of an emerging great nation.


This year it was interesting to note a few chief digital officer business cards starting to appear.  It’s a trickle not a flood but it shows that this new job role is now reaching all corners of the earth.  These few were not just digital marketers. They were the more strategic kind of CDO – looking at the whole of the firm and where digital shifts can make the most difference.

Digital business was of course the main subject of the conference. We had many intense conversations with CIOs about what digital really means in practice and how they should adapt.  A change of title is certainly not always needed – it’s more a change of perspective and posture. I have no doubt that the most successful CIOs and CDOs of the future will be creating the business technology agenda of their organisations, not just servicing it.

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A big strategy question for CEOs: how many cloud places will consumers need?

by Mark Raskino  |  September 10, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

Recently I took a photo of Copenhagen airport on a beautiful sunny morning, shortly after take-off. I used my phone of course.  When I landed and the device connected again, that photo joined all my others in the Apple iCloud. My music also lives there. My ebooks could live there, but they reside with Amazon. There is some natural clustering of entertainment and media. I am happy for those things to live with Amazon or Apple.  However I have also started generating other kinds of data and that lives elsewhere.

My calorie tracking data lives with some company called MyFitnessPal. My cycling data lives with another app provider. This kind of data is all related to personal health – some people call it ‘quantified self’. But what if I were an e-cigarette user and that device started connecting? What if my home capsule coffee maker starts connecting?  Is that quantified self or some other category?  If my car connects and starts saving all my driving  journey data, should that join my walking data or is it separate? In Denmark, all citizens have a government email inbox where they get messages about government services, taxes, social payments, speeding tickets and the like. But is that the way people will always want it – in one place because it is data from government, rather than in some other thematic space?

It’s not yet clear how many separate cloud or cloud-like places consumers will want to hold their data in, or what the natural theme boundaries will be. A race is on – many places will bubble up. Over time they will aggregate. Our initial ideas about the likely categories will probably be wrong. The natural categories and boundaries might vary by country, culture and other segmentation features. Those who make fairly good early bets now, then learn to pivot quickly, will end up controlling the big cloud places consumers trust. They will have huge market power in decades to come.

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Is Digital vs IT a generational leadership divide?

by Mark Raskino  |  September 7, 2014  |  1 Comment

Recently I was interviewing a couple of digital leaders about what drives them and what digital means. They mentioned several things that separate digital from IT but one surprised me. It was a sense that the current, ageing generation of CIOs still don’t really “get” the web. The old client-server guys never adapted to internet thinking but they are still occupying the CIO seats..   that was the accusation.

I was quite taken aback by this. The divide they point to was certainly very visible in the dot com / e-business era of the early 2000s – but it’s a sorry state of affairs if it still persists over a decade later. Indeed the digital leaders  raising  this with me are not so young themselves now- more Gen X, in their 40s – certainly not Zuckerberg contemporaries ( full disclosure:  this analyst is 52 – at the tail end of the baby boomers ).  I know plenty of CIOs who have moved on, but I do agree – some seem stuck with a repetitive playbook developed in the late 1990s and narrow perspective on what kind of IT matters.

I have never believed there’s a good excuse for technology professionals to get stuck on a particular generation of technology thinking.  We would not tolerate an old but still practicing medical doctor using outdated harmful techniques on us would we?  So why should we be comfortable with CIOs applying outdated concepts that might damage our enterprises? If you are a CIO, you have chosen to be a leader in one of the fastest advancing areas of human endeavor.  Keeping up is a professional obligation. Becoming a stick-in-the-mud is not really acceptable.

IT isn’t athletic. Muscles degrade, but our minds remain sharp well into retirement. There’s no fundamental reason why you should not keep up with the latest thinking and methods. So do cloud, do social, do mobile apps, do startup science, do data science. You can get up to speed with these things. You have the capability to reshape and redefine organisational capabilities. You have the power to block requests for incremental, low business value return changes to old systems – that end up consuming all your budget. That’s why you are the designated leader. If you don’t have time, then delegate more. Nobody is stopping you. It’s all about your choices.

If you are a tail-end baby boomer  – don’t be the CIO who held on to his preferred old way of doing things for too long and ended up strategically limiting of even damaging his firm, as the last act of his career. It’s time to do digital business full force; get with the program or get out of the way.


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The digital disruption of tobacco. Part 1: all CEOs must learn from this.

by Mark Raskino  |  August 4, 2014  |  1 Comment

My son is currently reading “Being Digital” by Nicholas Negroponte. He’s already impressed by how well it predicted the digital disruption of the media and music industries. But that is now a very old story (the book was published in 1995) and it’s a story mostly limited to things that were always inherently information goods. News is data – bits not atoms. A more recent and  tangible business history example – the disruption to Kodak and the other old chemical photography kings – has already been analysed to death.  Mention it and people’s eyes glaze over. The problem is that old stories of disruption are easily ignored or marginalized. That doesn’t help you get your people alter, thinking and acting.

So If you are trying to understand and explain what the future of digital business disruption might look like for your own industry – where should you look for examples?  There are several good ones, but my current  top recommendation is that you keep a close eye the tobacco industry. It’s an example that is providing a great deal of learning opportunity as it gets disrupted at astonishing speed.

Here are 7 key learning points so far. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll expand each one.

1)  A physical goods industry can be digitally disrupted.
If it can happen to tobacco – it can happen to anything

2) Product digitalization can be hard to believe and easy to deny and ignore.
It’s just an ‘electronic’ cigarette right? So where’s the digital?

3) Digitalization can progress at breakneck speed by sidestepping regulation.
Evading existing regulation, at least for a while, is turning out to be one of the biggest strategic plays in digital business disruptions.

4) Digitalization can kill an existing industry model within a decade.
The growth rate of e-cigarettes is huge; the tobacco cigarette is flat. The forward projection is easily calculated.

5) Disruption can come absolutely anywhere. Adaptability beats prescience.
The e-cigarette arrived suddenly, from China. What matters most is how existing tobacco companies react – not whether they predicted it.

6) Disruption creates great opportunities for incumbents, not just the entrants.
For example, the tobacco companies can use e-cigarettes to reinvent distribution channels, revenue models and customer relationships.

7)  Existing old industry players can end up winning  if they move smart and learn fast.
Book publishers didn’t learn from the iTunes case, so they got ‘Kindled’. The tobacco industry isn’t making the same mistake.






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CEOs take note: it’s an Internet of Products too.

by Mark Raskino  |  July 18, 2014  |  1 Comment

The Internet of Things is a curious name for what happens when objects other than computers, start to become electronically networked. With this capability we might take sensor data from them, to monitor our world and optimise things more effectively.  We might be able to control objects remotely from afar.  We might might send software updates to objects in order to upgrade their performance or add new functions.

To call this wonderful new world an Internet of Things is entirely accurate. It helps us discriminate a phase of innovation that is genuinely new, from that which has already happened. First we had an internet of connected computers – our PCs, laptops and servers. Then, via technologies like Smartphones, Facebook and Twitter we created an internet of connected people.  Now, because of Moore’s law and its continuing miniaturising and cost reducing effects, we can start to embed processing power, memory and connection directly into everyday things. What things?  Cars, wind turbines, tennis raquets, lamp posts, trash bins, dresses.. the list of things being connected is in fact endless.

Though the term Internet of Things is accurate, it is rather detached and it omits a key ingredient: a sense of ownership.   It makes it sound as if this will all just happen, as a result of some exogenous force. However there is no Fairy of the Silicon Valley,  flitting around the world with her  magic wand connecting things. It won’t happen unless we make it happen. Technologits have made it possible, but you have to make it happen. Becuase every single thing, in the internet of things – is some company’s product. The CEO of that company must decide when the time is right to start connecting his or her products, then create the capability to do so.

For now, the market has decided it likes the term Internet of Things, so that is what we all be reading about and saying for the next couple of years.  However, when you hear those words, make a point to correct them in your mind. It is an internet of products.  Doing that, will gently remind you there is an action point  pending on your strategy ‘to do’ list.  Sooner or later it will need to be an internet of your products too.


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CEOs – if the “Googazon” can reinvent your industry’s products and services, are you really in control?

by Mark Raskino  |  July 17, 2014  |  1 Comment

Some news items from this year,  so far:

From movie making to medical devices and from mobile payment systems to cars, Google and Amazon seem to be very comfortably entering multiple industry sectors.  This isn’t IT service support like you are use to getting from your favorite old school technology provider. In many cases its potentially the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. What might the thick end look like?  Well how about product reinvention, business model change, IP control, core competency substitution, repricing, and distribution platform control.

This is part of a process I have been referring to in my research as the digital ‘remastery’ of industries – where products and services are fundamentally re-engineered for the digital age. The shocking thing is how easy it seems to be for these new outsiders to enter so many sectors and reinvent their products. I now believe that no industry is truly safe from this. So shouldn’t some business leaders be just a little more shocked, embarrassed and reactive?

Imagine I’m a Warren Buffet style long term investor and you are the CEO of a company that claims to “lead its industry”, or aspire to, as so many do.   Can you really convince me you are in control of your destiny, if companies like Google or Apple are busy reinventing the  future of your service or product?  For sure – partnering with them might help you learn and stave off the problems for a while.  That’s what Marks and Spencer did, using Amazon as its retail e-commerce platform provider for 7 years. But in the end, your industry is your business. Whatever core is, you must be master of it. That new competency might be what you need to remaster your own industry. The question you should ponder is this: why isn’t it evolving from within your own R&D and innovation capacity – and when will you fix that?

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Three examples of the future cost of being a digital business laggard

by Mark Raskino  |  July 15, 2014  |  2 Comments

Nobody is a digital business laggard yet. True digital business as Gartner sees it, involves blurring the physical and virtual worlds in ways that have only recently started to become possible as a result of mobile, cloud and the internet of things.  So why take the risk of being an early mover?  The answer is because it will be a long, hard and complex move into a new world, with different core competencies. It’s not just a matter of installing technology You must develop new culture, method and capabilities. These things take time to evolve and instill. They are hard to copy quickly. Its a marathon race, not a sprint.

To understand the risks and costs of being late, you have to look back a decade of more. Examine the companies that could have, or should have acted more aggressively on prior waves of internet enabled change such as e-business and digital marketing. Here you find out what the pain of playing catch-up can look like. Three examples have caught my eye lately. In each case you can’t blame the current executive teams and boards of directors alone. It has taken 10 years or more of relative sloth to leave the companies struggling to catch up.

Marks & Spencer – in its last quarterly results, admitted “our new M& site will take four to six months to settle in and, as a consequence, will have some impact on General Merchandise performance”.  They have a new platform to replace a previous 7 year dependency on Amazon’s.  As their head of e-commerce said when they decided to end the partnership: “We’ve been renting the car rather than owning it”. Quite. She might also have said – its too much of a strategic risk to be dependent on such a powerful competitor.  M&S moved onto Amazon in the first place because the M&S platform before that was under-invested and did not meet the kind of customer promise expected of a firm in their league.  From about 1996 to 2004 M&S leadership simply did not take e-commerce seriously enough. They could have, after all – Tesco did.

Lesson:  what you do NOW in the early years of (physical) digital business matters more than you know. If you procrastinate, you are setting up deep problems later on. The market experiments, learning and capability development you need to do are not expensive or risky – compared to the long term health effects of inaction

Bed Bath & Beyond has also had to share bad news in its latest quarterly results, with revenues below last years, below analyst expectations and sub par for its sector. Financial analysts have pointed to its relative weakness online as a key factor in its performance. An article on influential consumer financial investor Motley Fool sums it up thus: “its online channel is woefully inadequate according to some analysts, while Restoration Hardware’s online sales, for example, are booming. Despite investments in this channel, there isn’t much notable improvement to be seen.”  

Lesson:  ignoring your industry peers is a mistake. Maybe all of you ignored the trend at first, but once some of the others get going you must move with the pace setters. That’s because you can’t catch up quickly later just by throwing money at the problem. Its not just a matter of tech investment.  Hearts and minds must be won and shifted. Processes and organisation structure must change. New methods and driving metrics must be created and believed in. Ideas like the end of the bricks and mortar ‘space race’ take a long time to seep into the consciousness and actions of all the line managers in a large organisation.

Morrisons  sold its Kiddicare business for just £2m,  writing off £163m of value in the online baby products business it acquired only 3 years ago. Morrisons now has a tie-in with online only grocery retailer Occado to help provide its e-commerce capability.

Lesson:  you can’t catch up by just acquiring your way into new capabilities. Often the acquisitions will be a poor fit or will fall apart in your hands.

These lessons all hark back to the dot com / e-business era. Some management teams back then, didn’t take the industry transformation power of information technology seriously. They under invested, or did so only half heatedly for PR effect (and then often pulled back quietly).   We are now facing another great wave of change, and quite probably a bigger one. This time it applies to many more industries, not just the consumer facing ones. This time it impacts the products you make and serve, not just the way you sell them

Today’s digital business strategists must raise examples like these with executive teams and ensure they learn the lessons of  e-business history.


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My new camera illustrates digital business issues

by Mark Raskino  |  May 8, 2014  |  2 Comments

Last week, I went out and bought a new camera for myself. I’m a frugal kind of guy – this doesn’t happen often. Once a decade really.   I knew what I wanted, did my homework and I was very pleased with my purchase.  This episode provided strong examples of at least 4 major issues going on in digital business strategy today.

1) The end of the camera shop

I’m old school – I wanted to talk to a camera guy in camera store. For me that’s part of the enjoyable shopping experience.  I found one – and the service was great, but of course there aren’t many camera shops anymore – even in London.  In 2013 the last major UK chain shut its 137 stores  (the brand name was bought from the liquidator and a handful of new stores were opened).  The power of e-commerce to replace most of the physical stores in some categories of goods, is most visible in electronics and white goods.  Its not all bad news. This year (appliances online) floated on the stockmarket  (“IPOed”) valuing it a £1.3Bn. This is the creative destruction effect of e-commerce, or e-business.

But e-business is not digital business. That’s the confusion. These e-commerce retail disruption effects are not new – they started over 15 years ago.  Gartner defines digital business as: The creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds. That physical aspect manifests itself in the digitalization of products as they become part of the internet of things.

 2) A digital product can be digitalized more

My old camera was a digital camera. So in some ways, my purchase was not a transition from the analogue to the digital product world – that already happened. But my previous camera was an SLR. It had a digital sensor rather than film – but it retained the old analogue method of looking directly through the image lens to frame my shots. That old method was a mirror, allowing my eye to see down the barrel of the lens until the last moment before the shutter opens. The mirror is then mechanically flipped up out of the way – allowing the light to fall on the sensor or film.  My new camera replaces that with an entirely digital alternative. The eyepiece contains a tiny, high resolution screen and the image from the sensor is continuously sent to it. I frame my shots just the same as an SLR – but the mirror has gone. Consequently – the whole camera is smaller and considerably lighter – even though it retains all the manual controls and interchangeable lens options you expect from an SLR system.

3) Digital products use smartphones as remote controls

My new camera can connect to an app via WiFi. I can use the app on my phone or tablet.  The app controls the camera. I can focus, zoom and shoot remotely from the phone or tablet. I can view images and send them on. The utility of the product is improved – but the camera maker does not have to provide a physical remote control device. The app is a free download to the consumer. More value, same price!  This idea is gaining ground in other categories. For example BMW offers an app that can ‘precondition’ your car – you use to it remotely start the aircon or heating, a while before you get in.

4) Digital products cry out for digital services – but, manufacturing companies struggle.

My camera is fantastic. It does lovely computational effects like “HDR“. The app remote control is cool. I have duly registered the camera with the makers website, for my extended warranty – but  there ends the relationship and probably, there ends the revenue stream.

Oh they might sell me one more lens, or a spare battery I guess.  But through the whole highly enjoyable un-boxing and registering process – not once did the camera maker suggest where I might store my photographs, or what services could be applied to them.   Maybe I’ll store the images with Apple, or Dropbox or Flickr  – why does the camera maker not seem to care?   I like the in camera HDR and I’m hooked – but its not the best possible. The camera’s little processor can never compare to the compute power of the cloud.  I want more advanced effects – I’d even pay a small fee to post process some images. How much would I pay? 5 us cents per image certainly; 25 – maybe.  I want to show off my new photos and to tell everyone how pleased I am with my new camera – yet the manufacturer provides no place for me to help celebrate and advocate.

Makers of products must learn to create and manage ongoing services that help the customer get value and add value through the usage life of the thing. If they don’t others will. Those others have the opportunity to control the bulk of the customer value experience over the useful life of the product. That gives them more mind-share and in the end they will use that to gain value chain control over the industry.

P.S.  We are often more obsessed with the technology, than the value it brings. That value is in information. So the question you want might to ask me – “what camera do you have?” is unimportant. Here’s the answer to the better question – “what kind of pictures can you get?”. The images are information and information is value. They will be around long after the camera model is a forgotten historical footnote.

camera images





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[Corrected] Six data points from the 2014 Gartner CEO and Senior Executive Survey

by Mark Raskino  |  April 25, 2014  |  3 Comments

 [fixed the broken graphic link!]

We have just about completed our collection of published research from the 2014 survey. Clients can find the various reports full of analysis and actionable advice, via this ‘top view’ report  

Here are a few headline data points, to spark your business and technology thinking.

CEO survey graphic


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