When work began on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1924, it wasn’t built for the 3 horsemen, 2 pigs and a donkey that would regularly use it upon completion. Like any good infrastructure built to last, the bridge was built sufficiently strong and wide enough to be the main artery across Sydney Harbour for many years to come.
In fact, from just under 11,000 vehicles per day that used the bridge in its first year, the very same bridge that recently celebrated its 80th birthday carried more than 160,000 vehicles per day in 2001, and closer to 250,000 vehicles per day now, with the inclusion of traffic through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.
With Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott announcing yesterday their radical plan to save money on the National Broadband Network by relying on current technology such as copper wire instead of the optic cables to each household that provide the higher Internet speeds, they’ve basically made an assumption that the Internet and dependant technologies will not continue to grow in demand in coming years. In fact, by relying on current technology such as copper wire connections to the household, the cost-saving political assumption here is this: this country, one of the greatest adopters of Internet technology in the world, with the most to gain for low-populace regional connectivity of any place, will not increase its reliance on the Internet.
That’s an unfortunate assumption to make in an election year, unless of course you think that we should curb our continuing reliance on the world wide web?
After jotting these thoughts down, I found out that the copper wire network is 100 years old. Neat infrastructure to have lasted so long and ben able to carry the Internet into homes thus far, don’t you think? Nevertheless, a technology not designed to sustain the connected world we now live in.
The policy decision is all the more disappointing as until now I have always viewed Malcolm Turnbull as one of the Australian politicians who has a better grasp of 21st century technology than others. I see him as a politician who actually understands innovation, rather than just using the word a lot. You don’t get to run Goldman Sachs without having some understanding of the need to invest for future gains and to meet future demands of customers.
I’m all for making sure the money we spend – taxpayer, business, or personal – is as effective and efficient as possible. Don’t waste money, food, or water I say. But when it comes to investing for the future – you’ve got to be able to cope with what lies ahead. When planning for retirement – plan for medical bills. When planning to win an Olympic medal – get the best coaching and training resources. When planning the infrastructure by which your country will become more connected than ever before – make sure you think ahead.
Deliriant Isti Romani – These Romans are Crazy!
It’s only been about a year since Australia Post announced it was going to spend an additional $2 billion to get its parcel delivery network up to scratch with the ecommerce economy. This was widely greeted positively by online retailers and consumers alike. Making it easier for consumers and businesses to connect was a common sense approach for the national postal service to follow.
Unfortunately, today’s 30% price increases on parcel delivery kind of negate much of that goodwill. In fact, according to Sarah Whyte from the SMH, the cost of collecting a signature on delivery will triple, from $1 to $2.95, cutting into the margins of online retailers.
Not that I have a problem with Australia Post trying to recoup their $2B investment, but perhaps what they’ve failed to realise here is that they just made it easier for someone to disrupt their business model. I mean, seriously. They already attributed a $148 million loss last year due to the decline of regular mail volumes. Was this not a leading indicator enough that a behemoth with outright market power is ripe for disruption? Have they really demonstrated any innovation other than being the first in Australia to copy Amazon’s model of putting lockers into convenience stores?
By hiking up parcel delivery prices by 30%, Australia Post have unwittingly created the most lucrative of startup opportunities: consumer and retailer side demand for an alternative.
Enter the entrepreneur.
Just like a startup bubble, the investment hype on big data worries me. As investors and companies race find ways to implement, manage and draw insight from big data, slowly but surely I’ve come to realise something: there’s too much value being placed on the data and not enough on what you can do with it. And, I’m not just talking about business intelligence tools either – they can be part of the problem sometimes too.
To put it simply: data is only as valuable as the actions that one can take as a result of information they receive.
At an operational level, there are a finite number of decisions that we can make on a regular basis to adjust the ebb and flow of our business each day. I’m a firm believer in the old ‘I can remember 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information at any one time’ concept. I tend to think the same applies to how many metrics we can effectively juggle at any one time, too.
Big data dashboards that show us dozens of leading indicators at a time are only helpful if it is of value to act on these on a regular basis.
Isolating customer segments or daily performance metrics to smaller and smaller chunks is only of value if you have the capacity and know-how to extract enough value that you can pay off your overwhelming technology and analytics costs.
And of course, the more detailed you want to go into isolating, understanding and knowing everything about every customer, past, present and future, the more resources you’ll need to be able to do all of that.
At a strategic level, having oodles of data is nice in theory, but how much of it is really going to form the guidelines for how you’ll operate your business and find a unique market position? Strategy is about doing just enough diagnosis to figure out that there’s something that customers want that no one else is delivering, and realising that you can do so at a reasonable return (or cost, for all the government folk out there who don’t need to make profit). There’s a lot of hard work in achieving good strategy that a data management tool, or decent analytics just won’t solve for you.
So in the end, big data is just data. You can invest heavily in understanding it, getting insight from it, putting technology around it, and generally speaking, overwhelming yourself with data. That situation hasn’t changed since we added the word ‘big’ to the concept of data. No doubt anyone who’s ever looked at a big data tool has had more than a few moments of utter confusion in trying to understand what they’re looking at and what to do with it.
For a digital native, I’m still a bit old school. Make sure you have the ability or resource to find meaningful, actionable insight from your data sources before investing too heavily in bringing more data in house!