The Stories that Matter: 2015 Technology Trends that Most Impact Our Species

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Bigstock

It’s January, and that means by now most pundits have shared their predictions around the biggest technology trends that will emerge this year. A few months ago, Gartner shared its list of the most transformative technologies of 2015, along with the ones that should command the most budget among B2B buyers. Prognostications abound around consumer digital trends, and many others have shared what they think 2015 holds for digital marketing.

If we look at some of the biggest tensions, opportunities and dynamics going on where all these technology trends intersect—and if we look at where many of the largest marketing war chests are already being spent—it isn’t all that difficult to see where some of the most compelling narratives are going to emerge around technology in 2015. Here are a few of the overarching technology storylines that will unfold this year—and that will give technology companies of all sizes an opportunity to ride along with these rhetorical trade winds.

The Changing Face of Privacy: Whose Data Is It, Anyway?

The merging of digital and physical worlds, along with the intersection of analytics, mobility, pervasive computing, ubiquitous applications and the proliferation of everything-as-a-service, means our information is everywhere. That means there are no more secrets. Somebody is always watching everything we do, and after events like Target, Sony and last week’s hack of the US Central Command’s Twitter feed, everybody now knows that there’s no such thing as complete security anymore. It’s not a question of if, but when, we’re going to get hacked. And while security analytics companies profit from the shifting game of security—moving from preventing attacks to recovering from them quickly—the new question that will emerge is, what about privacy? Security is a technology. Privacy is a policy. More accurately, privacy is an agreement—who gets my information? Do I have a right to know who’s watching? How much should I care? There is a potent, latent tension between the benefits of all-automated world and the yet undiscovered human impact of a world without secrets—and that’s a storyline that will play out as hackers continue to do what they do, and as social networks and digital marketers continue to do what they do—trade on our information.

Guidance: Focus on the human decisions, policy considerations and attitudinal shifts as much as the security systems and technologies that play out in this story. Engage in viral questions that challenge people to re-examine their attitudes about privacy, and spur discussion that reveals what value remains in personal data and where the responsibilities lie to protect what little privacy yet remains.

Humans vs. Machines: The Race to Learn

Last year, Stephen Hawking, arguably the smartest man on the planet, said AI “could spell the end of the human race.” Machine learning, AI and all of its various manifestations, including the Internet of Things, wearables, and self-driving cars, are outpacing the ability to learn. Machine connectivity, social networks and communication technologies are, in some cases, beginning to degrade rather than enhance authentic human connection. And it’s ironic that we now begin to talk about the glories of “connectivity” when in fact clinically diagnosable addictions to devices, applications and virtual experiences are threatening to stunt the personal and social development of an entire generation. But what’s most at stake is the ability to learn and adapt to constantly shifting environments. This is the new Darwinian race afoot: how quickly can humans learn and thrive in shifting environments on the one hand, and how much faster can machines do the same on the other. It’s progressed far beyond the cost savings and profit-boosting of industrial automation. It’s about who’s on top—people or things?

Guidance: Focus on promoting technologies that are in service of rather than in place of human learning, human collaboration and human development. Position them as the ones to watch in 2015, and raise the stakes beyond financial ROI or consumer experience. This is the context for narratives around human-first technologies such as digitally enhanced education platforms, data visualization, unified communication 2.0 and collaboration platforms, and many others.

The End of Consumerism

Looking at some of the technologies that have dominated our attention at the past few CES shows, it’s easy to shift in our attitudes about technology. It’s no longer about merely consuming things like content via amazing screens or music via amazing audio equipment. It’s about our ability to produce things and create our own experiences. 3D Printing, self-publishing online, citizen journalism, virtual world-building, application development by the masses, and even digital enhancements to everyday tools all give us the ability to build things, make the most of existing resources, and share them with each other. Even the rise of what many last year called the “sharing economy” is a function of this shift away from thinking of ourselves as consumers toward thinking of ourselves as producers.

Guidance: As technology storytellers, focus more on what your audience can create and do with your product or service. Focus on what they need to invent and build. And if necessity is the mother of invention, begin your story with their necessities, and offer them a new way of looking at their challenge—one in which they become the hero of their own story. And position yourselves as the ally who equips the hero to meet their own need. Most importantly, challenge the myth of scarcity in your storytelling. We have enough fear and greed in the world. The time has come for marketers everywhere to shift from using the stick to using the carrot to motivate behavioral change. It’s time for our desire to create to trump our fear of not having enough to consume.

Marketing + Breaking Through the White Noise

If 2014 was the year marketers everywhere realized that the race was on to become content marketing experts, 2015 is the year we figure how the heck to execute against a vision we’re just beginning to understand. Most brands seem to have figured out that everybody’s a publisher. But if that’s the case, then who does that leave to be the readers? People are now more inundated than ever with content, thought leadership, infographics, and yes, even viral stories. And with most storylines coalescing around a pyramid of analytics, mobility, social technologies, security and IoT, there’s more white noise than ever in the world of tech PR. So the question in 2014 was, what’s my story and what model can I use to create an awesome one that goes viral. But the question has now expanded in 2015 to how to get that awesome storyline to get noticed and rise about the din of similar-sounding stories. (Even story models themselves have proliferated to the point that every agency seems to have their secret sauce. Truth be told, all of us—B&O included—owes all the credit to Joseph Campbell for making the Hero’s Journey accessible to all of us.)

Guidance: Whatever storytelling model you wind up choosing (and naturally, we highly recommend our own Viral Storytelling model as a starting point), make sure you reverse-engineer your story creation process to break through the noise. Start with an analysis of the story arcs, influencers and media cycles that already exist. Sometimes it makes sense to ride a wave. Sometimes it makes sense to invest in creating a new wave. And sometimes the best strategy is simply to question the myths, misperceptions and overabundance of hype generated by your competitors.

These are just a few of the big storylines of 2015. There are several more, and we will continue to explore them together in our XTC column as the year unfolds.

XTC 12/10: The Biggest Tech Stories You Won’t Have to Pitch in 2015 (Part 1)

Our Crystal Ball of Buzzwords predicts equal amounts of innovation and disruption next year. (Thinkstock)
Our Crystal Ball of Buzzwords predicts equal amounts of innovation and disruption next year. (Thinkstock)

‘Tis the season for 2015 trends. Each December we’re treated to a veritable cornucopia of content around hot technologies, spending forecasts, innovative marketing bets, and disruptive business models.

But for those of us in tech PR, one of the most precious commodities in 2015 is time, followed closely by budget. So this year, B&O is proud to share our view on the biggest tech stories of 2015 that will get written whether or not you spend any time or budget on them. For those of us from the old school of PR, this is called “drafting”. For those of us from the new school, I believe the term is “trend-jacking”. And for those of us into Kanye West, you could call this being an “SEO gold-digger”.

Let’s start with a summary of what we already know from the plethora of predictions and prognostication from pontificating pundits and pollsters:

B2B Tech

The B2B tech market is predicted to grow in low single digits in from 2014 to 2015, with the most spending coming from industries facing extreme disruption—those who no longer have a choice and face a mandate to either disrupt or be disrupted.

According to Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015, the biggest areas of disruption fall into three categories: the merging of real and virtual worlds (which includes mobile computing, the Internet of things and 3D printing); intelligence everywhere (which includes data analytics, context-rich systems and smart machines); and the “new IT” (which includes cloud computing, software-defined IT architectures, web-scale IT and security). And interestingly, all of these are technologies that have been around in some form or other for quite some time.

Consumer Tech

Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap between the consumer tech predictions and B2B tech predictions this year.

Take, for instance, the Consumer Electronics Association’s 5 Technology Trends to Watch, 2015 Edition. It showcases data analytics, the Internet of things, digital health, immersive entertainment, and the acceleration of business model disruption. Meanwhile, actual device innovation is reported to be reaching a plateau—it’s about services more than gadgets now. Again, many consumer technologies aren’t necessarily new. They’re simply achieving global scale thanks to better pricing, packaging or evolving human behaviors.

The Pattern That’s Emerging

When you look at these trends more closely, a common theme emerges: 2015 is the year we as individuals, businesses and marketers figure out how to use the technologies that already surround us more intelligently.

Think about it. As a species, we’ve seen a dizzying array of technological advancement over the past few years. Mobile tech means what we can do is no longer limited by where we are. Social tech means that we always have the power of the crowd (which is more powerful than the cloud) at our disposal. Analytics means we never have to guess at anything, ever. So being isolated, being alone and being ignorant—some of our most defining human challenges—have basically been erased within the past decade.

That’s a big deal.

Because much of this innovation has outpaced our ability as humans to absorb it all. So the big tech winners of 2015 will be the ones that help people catch up with these innovations and put them to good use. The other big tech winners of 2015 will be those who help prevent us from doing more harm than good with technologies we don’t quite yet understand or know how to control.

This is the central tension that will define the biggest technology stories of 2015—the ones you’ll never have to pitch because they are the technology story for next year.

What exactly do those story lines look like? What are the PR challenges we’ll have to overcome in 2015? And how do we get our signal through the deafening noise of tech innovation PR? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series … when we come back from the holidays!

IDC 2015 Predictions – Navigating the Digital Opportunity: A Bridge CIOs Must Cross

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Thinkstock

Research firm IDC recently ran a webinar explaining its CIO agenda for 2015. The call discussed long-term industry trends that have been reshaping the role of CIO and IT shops around the world. I was impressed with both the high percentages that IDC called out as well as the relative immediacy of the predictions – 2016 is not that far off in the future. Some of the more intriguing IDC predictions included:

  • By 2017, 80% of the CIO’s time will be focused on analytics, cybersecurity and creating new revenue streams through digital services.
  • By 2016, 65% of global competitive strategies will require real-time 3rd Platform IT-as-a–Service (ITaaS).
  • By 2016, security will be among the top 3 business priorities for 70% of global enterprise CEOs.
  • By 2016, 80% of CIOs will deliver a new architectural framework that enables innovation and improved business decision-making.
  • By 2015, 60% of CIOs will use DevOps as their primary tool to address the speed and sprawl of mobile, cloud, and open source applications.

IDC framed the discussion around three overarching drivers that are impacting the enterprise, namely Business, Social and Technology:

  • Business: It’s clear that CIOs and their IT shops need to shift from the maintenance and operations model to become brokers of services in support of business objectives. Agility is the order of the day, and the shift to a service model will empower businesses to spin up new offerings in response to customer needs.
  • Social: The workplace has become elastic, in both a temporal and physical sense. CIOs need to support workers throughout the day and night. This is forcing IT to move from a “fortress” or “lockdown” view on security to one that protects assets and individuals. The choice is stark between having a proactive and reactive security plan.
  • Technology: The proliferation of connected ‘things’ is going to create a deluge of data and opportunities for CIOs to place themselves at the center of business conversations. Smart and active analytics will replace what IDC cleverly calls ‘passive analysis and interrogation.’ Also, the ‘everything-as-a-service’ model will oblige IT to restructure ‘everything.’ The pending rate of change cannot be sustained without robust architecture.

Like the other big research firms, IDC sees digital transformation as key for businesses, including the disruptive influence of cloud computing and Big Data (data analytics, social computing, and the ubiquity of smart mobile devices). IDC describes this phenomenon as the 3rd Platform, while Gartner refers to it as the Digital Business Advantage brought about by the Nexus of Forces, and Forrester calls it Digital Business. What is consistent across all of these views is how disruptive this digitalization of business will be in the coming century. Gartner predicts that “By 2020, 75% of businesses will be a digital business or will be preparing to become one.”

The opportunity to re-invent ourselves is breathtaking, and I’m reminded of the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If you haven’t already broken ground on your digital transformation, there is no better time than now.

In a digital world things move even faster, so keeping ahead of your competitors is critical. And market intelligencehas never been more central to staying competitive.

  • Analyst relations professionals should be pulling all the levers possible on their inbound AR toolkit, constantly distilling insights from running inquiries, strategy days and events to support market intelligence efforts.
  • Product management teams should be constantly listening to analyst feedback on what customers are prioritizing when it comes to digital. Digital requires a different approach and analyst opinions on what clients are struggling with can be a great source of insight when it comes to refining roadmaps.
  • Public relations teams have a perfect opportunity to leverage digital transformation as the heart and blood of their story. Industries are transforming themselves overnight and PR is the perfect discipline through which to communicate the benefits and disruptive power that this entails.

How are you changing your business model and communications approach to take advantage of the digital opportunity? We’d love to hear your perspective. Please feel free to contact me at: jandersen@blancandotus.com.