Just as the digitization of virtually every piece of information and every process altered the way we live and work, so too will realtime. And though realtime is a hot topic among techies, it’s time for it to be THE topic in business, government and not-for-profits. Because in realtime, value is both created and destroyed in the moment. This changes everything. So what do you do about it? Read on.
Realtime is more than live search and Tweeting. Its impact goes well beyond websites. Realtime is about real life. Real, physical and spatial experiences, enhanced and altered by live and socially-generated information. Continuous transparency. The constant aggregation and delivery of social opinion. Radical personalization. Context-relevant information. Perishable demand. (If this jargon makes your head spin, you can download and read our Ideapaper “Welcome to Realtime” for a more thorough definition.)
Your organization won’t become realtime overnight, nor will the next winners be those who are content to let change happen incrementally. Those best prepared to seize the opportunity of realtime will take the following four steps.
Like any transformation process, it starts with understanding that things really are changing, whether we want them to or not. And understanding the implications of this change. Sure, the world is always moving — but this particular shift is different. To use a hackneyed expression: we’re at a tipping point. Why? Because a number of technologies and societal expectations are converging. Ignore it at your peril. No matter what business you’re in (or think you’re in.)
Learning about realtime isn’t hard, but it does take some attention. A realtime workshop, a guided tour of emerging technologies, services and social trends, and some hands-on experience playing with realtime capabilities tend to open peoples’ eyes to what’s happening. And most people come away more excited than anxious about realtime possibilities.
Once you — and ideally your organization — have gotten the wake-up call, it’s time to re-think what it is you do — to re-imagine your very identity. The process is pretty straightforward: you build scenarios, based upon what you now know about the near-term and long-term future.
For example, in realtime, perhaps Conde Nast is no longer a print publisher, but instead becomes a service provider. One that’s uniquely and deeply qualified to understand people’s passions, from cooking and fashion to sport and travel. In realtime, perhaps Nokia is no longer a mobile phone company, but instead it morphs into a life support provider, offering personalized and automatic connectivity to people, information, transactions, fun — everywhere.
For Conde Nast, the shift from publisher to service provider would be historic and probably painful, but what’s the alternative? For Nokia, scale and openness would be their unique advantage in realtime, but as for Conde Nast, the core competencies required to pull it off are fundamentally different from those that comprise the company today. And that’s where the next step comes in.
Now that you’ve innovated the potential new you, it’s time to validate the business opportunity and to analyze the internal competencies and external partnerships required to take advantage of realtime. We’re not going to shy away from saying it: in some cases, a near-total organizational overhaul may be required. But before that, new business models that emerge from the innovation process in the previous step can be quantified, prioritized and road-mapped. Clear winners will emerge.
A credible and financially sound strategy is the foundation for your realtime vision. Change won’t happen all at once and it certainly won’t get off the ground without leadership buy-in. The rallying cry needs to come from the top — and if the top is you, you will need to make some noise — but not just with inspiring words. You will need to share what you’ve validated. People within and beyond your organization will engage with your strategy — so it must be solid. What you’re going for is a sense of urgency and possibility, not fear, or even more deadly: complacency.
Up until this stage, the process can be contained within a smaller team tasked with planning for realtime transformation. But now it’s time to embark on the journey and get the message out — in your organization (see above) and in your industry. Just talking about your intentions is a start, but even better is to engage your constituents in collaborating to extend the realtime vision beyond the c-suite or core strategy team.
You can do this through virtual and physical forums, team conversations, workshops, social media platforms.
Industry conferences are good environments for engaging the broader business ecosystem in your vision. It’s also smart to connect with peers in companies that seem to be in vastly different businesses. Realtime requires this kind of lively cross-pollination, between manufacturers and media companies, between service providers and content creators, between social enterprise and business enterprise.
By now you may have noticed that the first four steps form an acronym: LIVE. We couldn’t resist. Because we want it to be easy to remember.
The next four steps in the journey form another acronym, but we’re not giving that away yet…