Fifteen years after the dotcom bubble collapsed, we now find ourselves in an emerging post-dotcom era known as the dot cloud boom. Characterized by a new type of born-in-the-cloud company with no on-premise equipment, using only cloud-based servers, software development done with simplified platforms, a virtual workforce and customers you never see face-to-face, the new “dot cloud” company offers entrepreneurs a lower barrier to entry than ever before.
Business at lightning speed
The cloud model that allows cloud-based servers to be up and running in less than five minutes, and sourced with just a monthly subscription fee, makes it possible to launch a viable business with a minimal physical footprint – or sometimes no footprint at all. Innovations like development platforms-as-a-service make creating full-featured applications simpler than ever, and the fact that you can launch quickly also means you can pivot quickly in response to new customer demands.
These new facts of business makes certain things easier – but at the same time, makes competition a greater challenge. Today’s entrepreneur needs more than insight – they need foresight, to ensure that they are not only competitive today, but that they remain competitive in six months when other startups emerge to copy what you’ve done and your great innovation has turned into an also-ran.
The one thing you need to dot-cloud
The dotcommers who got rich overnight in the nineties made it seem easy, but today’s dotcloud entrepreneurs have made simplified startup launches an art form. A great idea, a half dozen or so cloud services, and a website – and you’re in business. But, there’s one ingredient missing, and that one is not so simple – and that is foresight.
Having insight into your industry, your customer base and your product mix is just the cost of having a seat at the table. Getting real-time information about customer trends, competitors and the many macroeconomic factors that may impact your business gave dotcommers the competitive edge, but today, those things don’t mean much because everybody has it. Today, staying in business and succeeding requires that you go beyond insight, to foresight. You need to know what’s coming next before anybody else.
Creating a business based on the latest trends and up-to-the-minute intelligence? So is everybody else. To join the dotcloud revolution, you need more than that.
“You can have all the insight in the world, but if you’re not leveraging it to look at what’s coming in the future, then it’s fundamentally less valuable,” said Eugene Roytburg, managing partner at growth and foresight analytics and consultancy 4i. “Knowing what the future looks like helps you design products that meet those future needs, as opposed to the needs that are happening right now. And only by designing for the future can you be the first to market and gain true economic advantage.”
The new foresight that businesses so desperately need to survive is really about creating knowledge that didn’t exist before. “It’s analogous to canoeing white water, with or without a map,” explains Roytburg. “Either requires split-second decisions, both require creativity and using subjective judgment, but one guy doesn’t have the map. Everything he sees is completely new to him and he has to decide whether there is danger ahead, or a fun opportunity. The person with the map can better avoid all the pitfalls and go to the sweetest hot spots in the river.”
Data and the path to success
Even today, new product development, opening up new markets, and revenue growth is dependent on creativity and personal insights, and corporate knowledge that exists mostly inside of peoples’ heads. Even companies with deep pockets that ought to know better still rely on historical data to predict the future – but that only tells half the story. Insights derived from historical performance tell you what worked yesterday, and in the breakneck speeds typical of today’s dotcloud, what worked yesterday is completely meaningless.
When we think of big data and analytics, we tend to think of massive data warehouses that are costly to deploy. “Foresight analytics is very accessible to small and midsize companies,” said Roytburg. “There is a huge amount of data out there on the Internet, that you can use for product development, in your operations, forecasting, and running of your business. These are all things that require foresight. Wouldn’t it be great to know that you were going to make ten percent more or less than you planned at the end of the year, giving you an opportunity to change your financials and how you spend your money?” Roytburg says that there are specific things that even a small business or startup can do to peer into the future. “One is to get publicly available data,” said Roytburg. “You can get data from the census, from the IMF and other sources. You can download this data and start to understand where the pockets of opportunity and growth exist but more importantly will exist in future. If you can download the data and use some simple analytics to identify where the future is going, it will help you prioritize your investments for what types of products to invest in, and what channels to get in.” And while there are sophisticated predictive analytics tools on the market, you can begin to tap into the foresight you need with something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet and publicly available data.
Post dotcom success in the dotcloud world means moving past the paradigms of what made the dotcom era so exciting and vibrant, and embracing the born-in-the-cloud movement of the current era, and understanding not only the present, but the future.