If you do a search for “Digital Transformation,” you will, no doubt, be overwhelmed by the sheer number of blogs, books, research papers, and trade conference presentations that cover some aspect of the topic. Experts and thought-leaders continue to share insights intended to help make sense of the many disruptive forces that are shaping the global economy. But with such a broad subject, it’s often difficult for any one article or discussion to give a comprehensive overview that’s easy to digest.
Chuck Martin has done just that.
Martin’s book, Digital Transformation 3.0: The New Business-to-Consumer Connections of the Internet of Things, brings together a wealth of research from a variety of respected sources to lay out a perspective on the digital landscape of today, including predictions about where things are heading in the next few years. In addition to being impeccably sourced, the inferences and conclusions that Martin draws from the aggregated research add thoughtful commentary that elevates the book from merely being a collection of observed trends to something that is, without a doubt, more than the sum of its parts.
The underlying premise of the book is that we are witnessing the third phase of digital transformation.
- The first digital transformation occurred with the advent of the Internet, forever changing the way people and businesses would interact with each other.
- The second digital transformation was mobile, with smartphones ushering in a new era where information, communication, and commerce all became portable.
- The third digital transformation, which is just upon us, is the result of the Internet of Things (IoT) enabling a level of connectivity and data collection that will fundamentally change things once again.
Just as digital transformation is a broad and deep topic, so is the discussion of the IoT. Martin provides a framework in which to segment the discussion, identifying what he sees as the seven technologically-driven forces that compose the IoT landscape: sensors, artificial intelligence, voice assistants, smart homes, virtual and augmented reality, connected cars, and drones and robots.
The author dives into each of these areas in detail, emphasizing the unique factors of each of these technologies that are shaping the way people interact with each other, with businesses, and with the smart devices around them. He also highlights the combinatorial effect that these forces have on each other. “Rather than being one cohesive, end-to-end phenomenon,” Martin writes, “the Internet of Things comprises differing silos of major innovation.” These silos interact and interoperate to propel user experiences forward, often by leaps and bounds.
The focus of the book, as the subtitle suggests, is largely about the consumer-to-business relationship. However, it seems clear that many of the observations that Martin makes could be readily applied to the relationship between employees and employers. The influx of IoT devices into people’s lives will likely, as Martin says, begin to change consumer expectations for how they interact with business. It stands to reason, however, that these expectations will carry over into the workplace, too. A careful reading of the book with an eye toward the evolution of the digital employee experience can yield insights that go beyond the explicit predictions and observations found in its pages.
Martin’s chapter on smart homes, for example, can be easily expanded to a discussion of smart workspaces, as some of the same opportunities for personalization, efficiency, and automation exist in both scenarios. Similarly, the discussion of VR and AR easily translates to an employee experience discussion, with the author actually referencing examples of employers using AR techniques to train their workers to perform tasks. The future of work will be impacted heavily by these forces, and businesses should pay attention to how these consumer trends inform new ways of working.
Such subject matter might seem somewhat dry and a bit dense to process, but this book shines when the author tries to imagine scenarios from the not-so-distant future, in which IoT devices significantly change our experiences. In one example, Martin lays out some theoretical (yet highly plausible) conversations with a digital assistant (such as Alexa, from Amazon) in which brief, natural conversations yield significant, complex outcomes beyond what are currently possible. It’s thought-provoking and engaging, and it enjoins the reader to consider what is now (or will soon be) possible in a way that’s interesting and fun.
Chuck Martin succeeds in covering a lot of ground in what amounts to a fairly quick, easy read. Digital Transformation 3.0: The New Business-to-Consumer Connections of the Internet of Things is well worth your time and will undoubtedly provide much food for thought.