I'd never been before, but here I am. It's a surprisingly rich and colorful city -- definitely on my list of gotta-get-back-here-some-time destinations.
I took a quick picture from my hotel balcony. That's the Bosporus behind me, connecting the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea.
My side of the water is essentially the end of the European land mass -- across the water is the beginning of the Asian continent and the Middle East.
Kind of cool when you think about it from a geographical, historical and cultural perspective.
It's even more cool when you think about why I'm here -- it's for EMC's annual Middle Eastern Telecom Summit.
So, What's So Special About This Event?
I made a point of coming here for several reasons.
The first reason is telcos and service providers themselves -- no matter what part of the world.
If you follow my blog, you'll know that I and EMC believe that they're positioned for a wonderful world of new opportunities in the information economy -- everything from providing virtual private cloud services to enterprise IT, to being the repositories for all that personal information that's being created.
So, any time I can get in front of a group of these folks, I make every effort to do so.
Second, in this expanded geography (which actually includes Africa, Turkey and more), there's an entrepreneur spirit -- there's smart people with smart business ideas who aren't afraid to try something a bit out of the ordinary.
EMC does extremely well not only in this industry, but in this geography -- so I had every reason in the world to get myself over here.
In case you were wondering, this is not some second-rate marketing event. Not only are we fortunate to get the best-of-the-best in the industry here, but it's most definitely a discussion forum rather than product pitches -- which I really like. Not to mention that I'm staying in a fabulous hotel.
I thought you might be interested in an annotated version of the presentation I gave them. People told me that there were a lot of interesting ideas in it, which I'll take as a complement ...
Thriving In The information Economy
Now, when I get in front of the telco and service provider crowd, I think this broad topic is especially relevant to them as it's positively ripe with business opportunities.
I mean, if you think about it, these people have the required infrastructure in place, trusted relationships with customers and enterprises, solid processes and methodologies -- and, best of all, they know how to price and bill for their services. And as information inevitably moves into the cloud, these people are in an enviable position to make the most of it.
The Global Environment
I guess I did bring good news -- sort of.
I put up a slide that stated the obvious. Global GDP was going to be down in 2009. Just how far down was anyone's guess -- there was absolutely no consensus from the forecasters -- we were in uncharted territory.
As a result, global IT spend was also forecasted to be significantly down as well. Again, no one really could offer up a confident answer for how much down and how long. EMC's stated view is that the first half of this year was going to be tough, but we'd probably see some improvement in the second half of the year. Again, no specifics here.
What I did point out is that -- by comparison -- the information economy continued to thrive. Good financial situation or not -- we all were churning out information at an unprecedented rate, with no slowdown in sight.
Where From -- And Where To
I then shared some interesting statistics you've probably heard before from either me, or someone else at EMC with the details as to where this information is being generated, and where it's going to end up.
About 70% of all information is now being generated by individuals -- people like you and me -- as we go through our work and personal lives.
Yet 85% will eventually be entrused to some organization to store, protect, manage, preserve, etc.
I made a key point -- the telco and service provider industry was very well placed to be this "information banker" for both individuals and corporations -- they had significant advantages.
To make the point, I pulled my debit card out of my wallet, and waved it around. I said that this card gave me access to my money, 24 hours a day, in most any country in the world.
I then pulled out my cell phone, waved it around, and said that this device gave me access to my information, 24 hours a day, in most any country in the world.
And that the winners in this coming shift would learn to think of information like money.
The Big Thoughts
And, with that preview, I laid out my core premises.
First, we're becoming an information world. More and more human activity intimately involves this ethereal stuff called "information", and it showed no sign of slowing down. Information about things in many cases were becoming more important than the things themselves.
Second, we needed to start thinking of information like money. Now, of course there are key differences between money and information, but we needed a handy starting point for wrapping our collective heads around the dynamics of this information stuff, and our perceptions and behaviors around money were as good a starting point as any.
Third, the changes required in our thinking were going to have to be profound. As a society and as an economy, we're slowly awakening not only to the potential of information, but the perils as well. And, like most radical shifts, we were collectively learning it the hard way -- one bump and one bruise at a time.
And finally, as in other radical shift, there were opportunities everywhere if you chose to go looking for them. And, given our audience of aggressive telcos and service providers, they would be well-served to be thinking about what their businesses might look like in a few years.
Consider The Informationist
I shared that during my undergraduate work, I got a degree in macroeconomics as well as computer science. And, frankly, the effort I put in to that econ degree wasn't particularly serving me well these days.
Not only had economics lost its basic predictive value, but the new currency was becoming information. And I shared the thought that maybe future university students might have the opportunity to become "informationists" rather than economists.
I tried to keep the definition of an informationist relatively simple -- someone who understands the value, costs and risks associated with information. And -- more importantly -- knew how these were changing, and what it might mean.
An economist would ideally create value by predicting change, and helping their client capitalize on this change in the economy. An informationist -- logically speaking -- would do pretty much the same for information.
I then wanted to use my time to share how "informationist thinking" could create an interesting lens to view new business opportunities for my audience.
Example #1 -- Information Governance
You've probably heard me talk about this before at length -- that many organizations were coming to the realization that the didn't have good governance boards in place to handle their information portfolio.
Sure, these companies had good financial governance, and good HR governance (two other important corporate assets, if you think about things that way), but -- information governance? -- well, that was a rather new problem to go solve.
That being said, I shared that we were seeing more and more organizations realize the challenge, and create these new executive oversight groups. Even at EMC, we've recognized to do this in our own business.
This inevitably leads to the pushing down of governance policies that attempt to balance risk, cost and value -- and the gathering of compliance information that measure the results. Same is true for other forms of corporate governance -- in one sense, information governance is not all that different.
Information Governance Leads To New Frameworks
The inevitable consequence of this sort of activity leads to new technology frameworks that capture policy, enforce it throughout the infrastructure, audit compliance and effectiveness, and report back the impacts -- both positive and negative.
Since the starting point for most information governance discussions is risk avoidance, this means that there's now starting to be intense interest in end-to-end models and systems that do this across the modern enterprise.
And then I wanted to make it very clear why I thought this sort of stuff was important to them.
First, we'd already seen that most enterprises want to consume this sort of information risk management stuff as an external service -- not only for the usual economic reasons, but more from a risk arbitrage perspective.
No one tries to do modern financial governance without external services (e.g. auditing). Why would information governance be any different? And, besides, if something goes wrong, it's always nice to have some external vendor to blame :-)
In particular, we'd seen strong interest in DLP (data loss prevention) and SEIM (security event information management) as services to enterprises -- we had a few partners who were offering these services based on RSA technology, and -- well -- business was good for them.
Second, if they wanted to go to customers and say "trust us with your most sensitive applications and information", they'd have to invest in end-to-end information security frameworks that were arguably better than the ones their customers had.
Turning again to the financial world, every financial institution had strict controls in place regarding the handling of money.
Why would "information bankers" have to do any less?
Example #2 -- The New Knowledge Worker
One of my favorite "informationist" trends is how the nature of work is changing -- and how that is mandating new ways of capturing, managing and presenting information for this important new crew of value-generators in our economy.
I really didn't have time to do the topic as much justice as I would have liked, but I hope I was able to communicate the basics.
I tried to make the point that the nature of value-added work is changing in our economy to information workers, and -- sadly -- corporate IT is way behind the curve in providing platforms that extend and enhance this new working style.
I tried to summarize "what's different" in four key areas.
Those of you who live in the email / SMS / Google / RSS / IM/ Twitter world -- you know what I'm talking about -- and it's only getting more challenging to swim with the tide and extract the useful nuggets you need.
Second, it's all about the "big conversation" -- meeting and connecting with people who can help you, or you can help in return. The bigger the conversation, the better.
Third, these conversations are happening inside and outside your company -- don't think in terms of only inside-the-firewall interaction.
Fourth, if you're really into this stuff, you do it all the time -- on any device, in any location.
Most people focus on the platform and infrastructure issues. I tend to believe that those issues only get in the way of the real challenge: teaching your organization new skills and behaviors for the 2.0 world.
I tend to be rather proud regarding how EMC went from zero to hero in 2.0 effectiveness in a relatively short time thanks to the efforts of myself and several other passionate people. So I wanted to share a bit.
Building Proficiency Inside The Firewall
I shared with them the now-popular story of how we built EMC|ONE -- our internal social media proficiency platform -- and all the good things that have resulted from it and continue to result from it.
I also highlighted that -- if I were doing it over again -- I would have paid a premium to put this up as a hosted service.
Not that our internal IT experience was unusually difficult -- far from it. It's just that all we wanted to do was run a standard off-the-shelf piece of software in a standard way, and we could have gotten where we were going far faster and far more efficiently if we could have just stood something up through a service provider for our 33,000 users in a matter of days.
Again, the hard part is getting people to use this stuff proficiently, and using a proven service would have been a godsend at the time. Boy, if some telco or service provider had some internal 2.0 proficiency SaaS offering, we would have taken a *very* close look at it.
Extending To Outside The Firewall
Shortly after we had become comfortable with internal 2.0 skills and behaviors, we formed a team to go outside the firewall on behalf of the scads of potential communities EMC could support.
The result was the EMC Community Network -- even though it's relatively early days, the approach is paying off -- community formation is accelerating rapidly, user traffic is way up -- we're on our way to a wonderful destination portal for anyone and everyone who wants to connect up on one topic or another.
But, again, if I was doing it all over again, I would have wished for some sort of telco or service provider to offer us up a platform so we could get on with the business at hand rather than standing up infrastructure, figuring out integration points, worrying about scalability, etc. etc.
I told the audience that I would have had a big checkbook in hand had someone had an offering for EMC at the right time -- and I thought there would be many more companies looking for the same before too long.
Bottom line -- I felt that these sorts of IT services would be very attractive to many organizations with mobile workers -- like ours -- and we'd spend good money for it if it was there. Not to mention spending money on cool cellphones to access all this stuff.
Example #3 -- The Transformaton of Enterprise IT
My apologies in advance -- if you've been following the privte cloud series on this blog, this is a bit of a repeat.
For the rest of you, this is a big topic if you're invovled in enterprise IT, and it's an especially important topic if you're a telco or service provider trying to figure out what your next major strategic move might be in the enterprise space.
The presentation starts with examples of familiar infrastructure that's changed to become dramatically more effective.
Telephony -- well, the audience understood that one. Power generation. Distribution and logistics changed by the invention of the shipping container, and so on.
I shared with the attendess EMC's long term view of "shift and move" around enterprise IT. Most enterprise IT was going to shift and move to telcos and other service providers in the future -- but the real question was "how?" -- and we had some very firm thoughts about that topic.
And the telcos and service providers in the room could play a major role in this shift -- if they chose to.
I then ran through the basic sequence about what people liked about data centers -- things like control, security, reliability, etc. -- all the usual attributes.
And then we quickly went through why the cloud was just so darn attractive to so many people: the flexibility, the dynamic nature, the efficiency and so on.
What if we could blend the two models and end up with data centers that behaved like clouds, and clouds that behaved like data centers?
That was the opportunity -- not only for enterprise IT, but for telcos and service providers that want to play as well.
Building The Private Cloud
I shared how -- across the IT landscape -- enterprises were aggressively putting as many applications as possible into virtual machines with VMware, and -- in the process -- creating an entire new opportunity to run the "shipping containers" that were being created by the millions.
I also offered EMC's opinion that the ability for enterprises to flexibly leverage an open marketplace of compatible service providers was turning out to be exceptionally intriguing for most enterprise IT thinkers.
In one sense, this was no different than how other forms of modern infrastructure worked today -- IT was next in line to go through this sort of transformation, and virtualization (specifically VMware) was leading the charge.
I also pointed out that how we believed -- in many parts of the world -- many organizations would find it far more attractive to rent their IT infrastructure to run applications, rather than stand up their own small data centers, hire staff, worry about backup and DR and security, etc. etc.
If the people in the room could stand up compatible infrastructure ahead of the wave, so to speak, they'd be in a good position to capture significant IT spend that otherwise would have landed in thousands of smaller data centers across the region.
I think a number of them got what I was trying to communicate ... at least, it seemed so.
Example #4 -- Personal information Management
And, finally, I wanted to finish with what was perhaps the biggest opportunity in front of their industry -- at least, in my humble estimation -- becoming "information bankers' for billions of consumers around the globe.
I usually start this idea with a simple comparison between how we all view our personal money, and how there's really no difference in how we'll eventually feel about our personal information.
The real questions was -- who were we going to trust with our personal information?
Telecommunication operators and service providers are in an enviable relationship to play this role -- they've got the infrastructure and the connectivity, they've got the customer relationship, and they know how to bill for services.
Hard to argue with that logic. And if the telcos don't do it, the banks may eventually figure it out.
Does It Start With Backup?
I wanted to show how an incredibly simple service -- Mozy for personal information backup on PCs and cellphones -- was an inevitable step towards telcos and service providers becoming "personal information bankers' rather than fighting it out over who has the best handset.
Whereas many telcos are battling on pricing or fancy phone features, personal information backup is based on an entirely different value proposition -- trust.
You're handing all your most important personal stuff over to an organization -- and, if you don't trust them, it's a non-starter.
Are you listening, Carbonite et. al.?
Owning a consumer's personal information is what us marketing types would call an 'incredibly sticky relationship".
And It Can Expand From There
Before you cringe, this simple idea is at the basis for an amazing number of business models.
In this case, I was thinking about PI -- not quite GA yet -- but I shared with them a screen shot of what a personal information management portal might look like from one of our prototypes.
The same view of my personal information from any device, any time. Everything nicely organized, findable and preserved for eternity if I choose. And I get to control who sees what and when.
I don't know about you, but I wish this damn service would get out of beta -- I've needed something like this for years!
From a telco and service provider perspective, this is an entirely different relationship with their customers -- these companies have a good shot at becoming "personal information bankers" rather than simple connectivity providers.
Time To Wrap It Up
One of the things I've learned about keynotes is to keep it short -- get your best ideas out there, and let people digest them. It's a big mistake to throw too much at people too fast, and getting the balance right can be hard -- not too simple, but not too complex.
Sure, there was a lot that we as EMC do in this industry -- infrastructure for back-end billing systems, large-scale analytics, web and device security, etc. etc. -- all of that is great.
But I wanted to use my limited time to share what we thought would be really, really interesting from a business model perspective coming down the road.
I don't know if everyone agreed with everything I said, but I certainly tried to make it interesting and entertaining.
I wanted to end on a simple theme -- that the people in the room were perhaps best positioned to capitalize on the shift to an information economy, and -- if they could -- developing an "informationist" perspective might serve them well as they lay their plans for the coming years.