There have been some recent and new developments in the field of voice as the medium that we can use to connect with technology. Whilst speech recognition has been around for a long-time now (Bell Labs first experiments were conducted in the 1950s), its now improved and beginning to find its way into popular consumer devices.
For brands, the implications are huge.
Firstly there is the need to integrate with popular voice products (Siri, Cortana, Alexa) so that a pizza can be ordered, an Uber booked, or a text message sent all by voice.
Secondly brands may need to develop smart consumer devices or channels that can respond to voice commands. No longer will I need to answer questions very carefully on automated call centre systems, I’ll just be able to say exactly what I need. A context aware system can then go and deal with that action whether it’s booking cinema tickets to compiling presentations.
When we consider that 40% of brands are still struggling to personalise in digital channels, there’s a long way to go before brands are going to be personalising in the speech channel. AI and Machine Learning will have a big part to play in making this happen.
Peter Diamandis said the following about the future applications of this technology:
“Artificial intelligence research will make strides in the next decade. If you think Siri is useful now, the next decade’s generation of Siri will be much more like JARVIS from Iron Man, with expanded capabilities to understand and answer. Companies like IBM Watson, DeepMind and Vicarious continue to hunker down and develop next-generation AI systems. In a decade, it will be normal for you to give your AI access to listen to all of your conversations, read your emails and scan your biometric data because the upside and convenience will be so immense.”
Here are a couple of videos that demonstrate what’s happening in this space.
I’d be interested in hearing about any other cool applications of speech technology. Please share anything else in the comments below or get in contact directly.
Zapier’s new multi-step workflows have created a simple low cost method to carry out marketing orchestration. Amazingly, despite the low entry price, Zapier (pronounced like happier with a z) is also incredibly powerful.
This is important for marketers as it provides a means to test new ideas quickly and cost effectively.
The idea is simple. An event happens, data is loaded, filters are applied and then multiple actions are triggered.
All of this is unlocked through a simple web based interface that can connect to any web-exposed service or app.
The use cases opportunities are huge and it’s a tool I’m using with Storm81 to automate elements of my marketing.
For instance, I want to add any of my MailChimp subscribers who have a large follower base to a list on Twitter. My opening trigger is a new subscriber, I then load the count of their Twitter followers by looking them up using FullContact. If they have more than 1,000 Twitter followers, I add them to a list.
The most obvious benefit I see for marketers and technologists is the ability to quickly prototype ideas that are often just talked about. Crucially, it will involve prototyping without the need for developers and database analysts.
Marketing Orchestration Platforms are something I’ve talked about in the past and I think Zapier have brought a very viable option to the table.
You can find out more about Zapier’s multi-step Zaps on their blog:
Why hasn’t the UK (or for that matter Europe) been able to create a significant number of tech companies? Both the US and China have created tech companies with staggering valuations.
This week, legendary Silicon Valley investor, Michael Moritz, took a sharp jab at the UK’s failure to build unicorn (valuations of $1bn+) tech companies.
In light of recent press and governmental anger over the aggressive – yet legal – tax avoidance schemes employed by the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook; Moritz suggests that we ought to be more concerned with building our own big businesses, not trying to scrape more tax from Uncle Sam’s successes.
It’s unfair to say that the UK Govt has done nothing. Change is happening in this space with the Government backing entrepreneur’s tax relief, founding catapult funds for incubation of high growth business, and creating great hype surrounding Silicon Roundabout.
Will favourable taxation and pots of growth funding provide the fertile ground for a £1bn+ UK business to emerge? Possibly, but I personally feel that there are two major blockers that sit in our way. The first is our somewhat reserved culture; the second a gap in business and finance education.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker
Nothing defines British culture better than the Very British Problems Twitter account. We are cripplingly polite, avoid open confrontation, emotional expression and excessive promotion (particularly of one’s self).
"Not bad" – Perfectly adequate
"Not too bad" – Surprisingly good
"Not too bad at all" – Best thing ever
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) May 10, 2015
Our rebellious cousins on the other side of the Atlantic, share our language but certainly not our culture. To avoid offence to the American reader, allow me to quote from Harvard Business Review:
“Americans aren’t shy talking up their accomplishments and selling themselves. We do it all the time — at job fairs, interviews, sales calls, performance evaluations, and when vying for prized internal assignments and positions. The overall point is that self-promotion is clearly a necessary and useful skill for getting ahead in the U.S. professional world.
“In the U.S., it is culturally acceptable — even admirable — to show enthusiasm. When arguing for a point in a meeting, for example, it is quite appropriate to express your opinions enthusiastically. Or when speaking with a potential employer at a networking event, it is appropriate to express your interest enthusiastically. In fact, in this particular situation, the employer might interpret your interest as real and genuine because of the enthusiasm you express.”
All of these characteristics are vital elements in creating and raising funds for a fledgling business. Not only are they vital for the founders, but they are also required by all of the team who are genuinely excited and not ashamed of evangelising their company.
I’d contend that Brits either need to find a new means of raising funds, one that doesn’t require pitching to VCs or we need to become more comfortable with outward enthusiasm and self-promotion. Either way our reticence to toot our own trumpet may be off-putting to potential investors who want to place their bets on the next big thing.
“Nothing happens until a sale is made” – Thomas Watson Sr (Founder of IBM)
Sales and commercial astuteness are absolutely crucial in business.
More needs to be done in the UK to train and educate business students at an under and post-graduate level on the selling skill set. A quick analysis of the top 10 European MBA programmes reveals that the topic barely features on the curriculum. It may get a mention as an element of supply chain dynamics or as marketing’s poor relation but it isn’t taught outright as an essential part of business life.
Those who have worked in the field know that there are very specific skills that can be taught to improve both education on the topic and academic research on it.
Personally I’m pleased to see the development of business and computing apprenticeships. These I hope will be the grounds from which a UK Zuckerberg, Gates or Jobs can emerge. There are also other new education initiatives (Alacrity based in Newport is the best example that I’m aware of) that could provide the perfect incubation environment for a big UK tech company.
So whilst politicians can huff and puff about tax avoidance, ultimately the result will be determined by our ability to throw off the shackles of Britishness and ensure that we’re training the future generation of business leaders with skills to help them compete on a global level.
How long do you think it will take to build each of these Lego kits?
Lego set A should be easy to do; let’s assume it will take around 20 minutes. Set B is perhaps more challenging; maybe an hour. Perhaps two?
Now let’s add some real-world complexity:
Considering all of these conditions how would this effect your estimates?
Whilst I understand the need to estimate and to set plans, it is difficult to do, inaccurate, and complicated by commercial interests. So with all this in mind, perhaps its time to consider new approaches to commercial management of technical build projects.
The main point for me, is not to expect perfection of estimates. In fact, create plans for estimates to be wrong. Create plans that enable the builder and manager to collaborate in open discussions without risk of blame or fault finding.
Ultimately when we’re trying to build amazing things, we should work with positivity and energy to do a good job. If our motivation is only to get it done in the window of time that was – despite the pseudo-science – a guess, we can wave goodbye to any idea of fun and expect quality to suffer too.
For a final mental exercise, why not try to estimate the time required to build this Lego monstrosity:
In my LinkedIn post on Halfords’ new customer strategy, I set out an eight stage plan to maximise customer lifetime value. Read more ›
Can digital transformation be accelerated by rapid and continual iterations of building, measuring and learning? Read more ›
A lot of businesses are stuck at the point of execution. After the ideas have been generated and the plans laid; change grinds to a halt and the hoped for strategic transformation is never fully realised.
So how do you strike forward positively with strategic change? Let me provide six ideas:
PS These aren’t my ideas – go read John Kotter’s article Accelerate at HBR for the full guide on how to drive strategic change.
To whom it may concern,
It’s this simple; you need to write emails that start with the conclusion and use no more than three sentences.
Recipients – who like me are drowning in emails, texts, Inmails and so forth – are far more likely to appreciate and respond to this approach.
Attachments, meetings or even a phone call are better methods for communicating more indepth or complex messages.
Finally, be prepared to break the rules for impact.
David “too many emails, not enough hours” Sealey