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The “Digitalized” Era in Product Innovation Begins

By Michael Shanler | December 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Wow. The turnouts at “Industry Sunday” in Orlando and Barcelona was quite impressive. For those who aren’t familiar, “Industry Sunday” is a day of dedicated IT tracks for some key verticals at the intergalactic Gartner IT Symposia. The benefit of attending for me was interacting on IT topics that are contextualized for the verticals. I respect the Eagle-Scout level of dedication as the tracks add on an extra day to an already intense Four-day experience. Tip for next year: bring aspirin, throat lozenges, extra deodorant, and Dr. Scholls.

I kicked off my presentations by talking about how new business models are essential to drive innovation and competitiveness. I also mentioned that new technologies are going to change the way products are developed and keyed in on how everything..and I mean absolutely everything is going to become “digitalized.” However, lots of folks are a bit confused by what is “electronic” vs “digitalized.” Weren’t we just in the electronic age three iPhones ago? Come on, Gartner, what are you doing to us? It took me awhile to wrap my head around “digital” as a concept. Here is how I think of it:

• “Electronic” is what has really defined the last few decades. It represents a massive “lift and shift” from paper pushing activities to activities executed in software. Automated work-flow capabilities that were previously performed in meetings rooms, factory floors, and office cubes could now be done on systems (with variable effectiveness).

• “Digitalized” represents the next 20 years. It includes the convergence of the real and virtual worlds for just about every entity in both the personal and business world with the nexus of forces playing a lead role. The “X of everything” will be fueled by a massive amount of sensors, real-time analytics, and smart machines with the ability of systems to “think” rather than “process” transactions without humans knowing or caring. It may ultimately have deep impacts on how we live, think, and act.

This new “digitalized” world is a little scary, but also terribly exciting. This is for sure: in the future, Cloud won’t be talked about much. Mobile will be redefined. Gartner will have archived all the BigData and Social research notes, and a few of today’s “mega-vendors” will be on life support.

But, back to 2013 and product development. Today, you may be riding into the “digital” age on a horse at a slow trot. After all, most of us do not have WiFi lightbulbs, wearable health monitors communicating with doctors, or cars that communicate with crowds… But in a few short years, we will be hanging on for dear life. Your beast will be digitally snarling and foaming at the mouth. Life will change so drastically once as the next crop of new services and products are deployed, that many old products will become obsolete. More importantly, your customers will not really have an option to “opt out” of the digital age.

If you cannot design in the product features that are necessary for the new “digitalized” world order, then your products will become relics faster than the next iOS update. It will take a while to integrate new design process, new ways of thinking, and new value streams, but if you are still thinking “electronic,” you will lose your competitiveness. Producers and inventors of products need to think “digital,” starting now.

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