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Why Steely Dan still matters to Technology

 

Long before Steely Dan released their seminal album “Katy Lied” in 1975 containing the track “Black Friday” and even before this term came to denote the shopping frenzy taking place on the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday “Black Friday” had a darker meaning.

 

The song relates to Friday, September 24th, 1869, when a failed plot left many wealthy investors broke. The investors conspired to "corner" the gold market, buying as much of it as they could, driving up the price. When the government discovered the scam, it released $4 million worth of gold reserves into the market, driving down the price effectively "clobbering" the investors and returning order to the market. 

 

Fast forward 148 years and a very significant change is taking place which will potentially concern investors, albeit in a different way in today's world.

 

Black Friday now has a real relevance to the technology sector with the unprecedented adoption of powerful handheld devices giving consumers 24/7 always on shopping and the rise of the cloud. Organisations now need to ensure they can respond to this opportunity making use of all available technology to ensure they increase the ‘wallet share’. Until a few years ago, in the UK few had even heard of Black Friday. Its relevance pivoted around the Thanksgiving Holiday in the USA with a massive number of the population using the holiday as a shopping opportunity for both Thanksgiving and in preparation for Christmas, now this is a key point in the global retail calendar.It is only 15 years since Amazon set up its online book selling service, no one could have possibly foreseen the impact that they would eventually have on the established high street retailers. So how have they achieved this?

 

Well in simple terms they have absolute mastery of logistics combined with the adoption of burgeoning technology. When coupled with an enviable reputation for customer service the "no ifs, no buts" repayment strategy, they are growing in strength minute by minute, hour by hour, year on year. It's an amazing story of one man's vision coupled with a relentless use of all technology, has re-defined supply chains and changed, fundamentally, the way people shop. This has happened so quickly and comprehensively that the more established retailers have simply been unable to respond and has resulted in ultra-growth fuelled by agility and vision.

 

However, this phenomenon is not isolated to retail. In other sectors such as Banking, wholesale change to the landscape have been "enabled" by modern technology. The most common tactic tends to be: focus on a specific element of the overall proposal, which is most commonly chosen for its potential profitability, enhanced user experience and it being free of complexity driven by legacy. PayPal and Apple Pay have chosen to take advantage of the payments business and focus on the high value return and ignoring the more complex legacy banking business.   A subsidiary effect of this has been profound change in the traditional banking sector with a significant charge towards “online banking services” as an attempt to offset the threat. As a consumer, this has been “Game Changing” and has changed forever my relationship with my bank, in a positive way.

 

The availability of "Smart" portable devices has simply changed the world. This happened as recently as a decade ago, in 2007 when the original iPhone launched. This meteoric change could not have been envisaged by most of the current crop of "Contender Companies", so heavily reliant upon them and without their existence the service they offer, would simply not be viable. Harnessing the Smart Phone has enabled a whole world of new business models in addition to banking and retail, other offers are now realities from booking holidays to ordering a taxi, from the comfort of your own Smartphone.

 

Under analysis these changes have not only relied upon the ubiquity of the Smartphone but also on the change in the available range of IT consumption options that are broadly referred to as "The Cloud".

 

This second element of the story that has impacted the consumer is less tangible, however perhaps more game changing, “The Cloud". Once entrepreneurs were faced with a massive "Barrier to Entry" provided by the relative capital intensity, of setting any new service up from scratch. In most cases in addition to the development of the application that supports the business, it would be necessary to procure, systems, software, networks and data centre space as a start point and then staff would be required to manage the platform. In many cases, this ensured that the opportunity would never be viable.

 

In today's "Cloud World" much of that problem has gone away, it is a relatively simple option to take some cloud-based resources, that are both cheap and immediately available, and focus their efforts and attention on developing the proposal. Once the solution is created and goes into production, it can scale, be highly compliant, resilient and global with a cost model that can track revenue. This has caused much of the original “barrier to entry” to have simply been removed. Once scale is achieved, other operating options such as "on platform/ in-house" can be considered if cost optimisation is required. The fluidity and range of options is remarkable and gives a level of commercial agility and access to revenue that previously companies could only dream of.

 

It is both exciting and impossible to consider, the massive range of solutions that these two key technology areas have already enabled and the probably unimaginable range, that becomes apparent in coming years. The cloud has already, truly changed the landscape for the consumer and will continue to do so for many years to come.

 

Companies need to work with companies that have the vision to realise these opportunities but also the proven track record to deliver the ‘nuts and bolts’ and understanding of the consumption models for your business. It is not surprising that my own company has adopted the tag line ‘Make the difficult feel easy’ to reflect this approach.

 

We have the ability to exploit "Black Friday" and help you towards your "Happy Mondays"! Sorry for the final music gag.

 

About the authorDavid Leyland is a Mechanical Engineer and prior to joining Bell, was Head of Services with Glasshouse Technologies, Head of Next Generation Data with Dimension Data and Director of Business Development for Accordant Solutions. Today he is the Solutions Director with Bell Integration | W www.bell-integration.com

Email David to david.leyland@bell-integration.com | Twitter handle is @DavidLeyland  

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