The theme of the keynote centered around the topic of his latest book "The Four," which examines how four technology companies are dominating the planet: Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google. Rather than try to summarize his presentation, that was equal parts fascinating and depressing, here are some highlights:
We pray to a modern, man-made god known as Google.
- Want to live to be 100? Here are the three factors that can make that possible, in order: genetics, lifestyle and the No. 1 reason? How many people you love. The more people you care for, the more likely you are to hit triple digits.
- The reason we love Amazon so much, and why we feel the need to have so much stuff, is because it's ingrained into us for survival. Too little used to mean starvation and death so now we massively overcompensated.
- Digital marketing has grown 103 percent solely thanks to Facebook and Google. Facebook has more active users than the population of China.
- Apple has pulled off the impossible -- simultaneously being a low-cost producer for a premium price product. It's like having Ferrari's margin with Toyota's supply chain. It has more cash on hand than the gross domestic product of Denmark
- Amazon is a force to be reckoned with because it has the ability to infiltrate any industry. It is a major player if not THE major player in commerce and cloud, but its massive research and development budget lets the company try its hand at any industry -- most recently, groceries and digital marketing. Netflix is already on high alert and if it goes after sports media, it could be devastating networks.
- We used to source the greatest minds from all over the world to solve humanity's biggest challenges. There was the Manhattan Project and the moon landing. Now they come together to figure out the best way to sell you things. As Scott said early on in his presentation, he didn't come here with a message of hope.
After eating our feelings during lunch over the bleak prospects of the future (was that just me?) Matt Webb, chief technology officer of Mirum, kicked off the afternoon sessions with innovation. More specifically, what makes a good innovation project? Mirum's answer is to enable meaningful outcomes from customers, partners, stakeholders and society with purpose-driven innovation.
Historically, client IT teams have spent years commanding and controlling platforms. But now we are seeing multi-functioning departments building platforms that embrace modularity. Cloud technology and APIs have made this a reality and early cloud adopters are spearheading the charge into things like microservices and headless to make it all move faster.
So what does purpose-driven innovation look like exactly? It's putting together progressive internal teams while also cultivating collaborative client teams. It's working on multiple project streams, not just one. It's establishing a "North Star" (a common goal that everyone strives for) and it's creating an organization engrained in the culture of "think, make, and test."
Closing out the partner presentations was Jeff Geheb, CTO of VML, to discuss the human dynamic of transformation. Brand transformation is in a state of flux, in which loyalty is sacrificed for price and convenience. Consumer engagement is changing the face of many organizations with demands for frictionless experiences. Infrastructure and product are powering the aforementioned experiences but product needs to go beyond. How can we build an ecosystem that improves and extends the experience?
Despite all the take of innovation, the odds of successful transformation initiatives still feels shockingly low.
The challenge? It takes a village. Success for VML is a group of people working together under a common purpose. Jeff had a great sports metaphor for this. If you think about a baseball team, when you're on defense, everyone is specialized. You have your shortstop, your outfielders, your pitcher, etc. But as soon as you're on offense, you're all batters. It no longer matters what your position is, you have one goal: hit the ball and score runs.
Jeff's last bit of advice was to always be aware of desirability, viability and feasibility when it comes to a project and keeping those three things aligned.
After Jeff's presentation, Acquia Chief Marketing Officer Lynne Capozzi returned to the stage to moderate this year's “Big Ideas in Digital” panel featuring:
- Romy Bolton, director of enterprise services development, integration and delivery at the University of Iowa
- Ron Myers, corporate vice president of digital marketing and operations for Advanced Micro Devices.
- Natalie Kerrigan, director of digital technology development for Whole Foods Market.
Natalie said security is top-of-mind because the Whole Foods brand was built on trust.
"As we built our digital strategy, we will use customer information in the right way. It's all part of what we call conscious capitalism,” she said.
Natalie also said she’d like to see more work with the internet of things (IoT) and wearables, an area she sees as having an impact on a healthy lifestyle.
Advanced Micro Devices is always looking to better understand the customer journey, so they can engage with their customers in a different way, Ron said.
"It’s about getting technology out of the way of innovation," he said.
One of those technologies he's most excited for is artificial intelligence, calling it a game-changer for the way it can bring all the pieces of the customer journey together.
For Romy, the main focus is how to weave digital into the daily lives of students. Flexibility is key because sometimes the way students access information is a surprise. A couple years ago, Romy's team realized that multiple students were trying to get transcripts via Xbox. The journey for them is their education, which makes guiding them to completing that journey all the more important.
When asked specifically about their work with customer journeys and what they were excited for, Ron said that as digital has shifted how they market to their customers, it's important to be purposeful with digital. Keep your mission whole and your vision consistent.
Romy said she looks forward to new opportunities to personalize and present information to students and help them discover things they might not have found on their own.
For Whole Foods, the customer journey can be very different from person to person, as healthy eating means different things to different people.
"Historically, colleges and universities have been incubators and open source has always been important,” Romy said. “What’s changed is having cloud providers. Before it was all on premise. Now we can still do what we need to on the front end but have a reliable platform."
One example she gave was digital signage. Across the University of Iowa campus, they use digital signage for alerts. When there is an emergency, they can easily update the signs and let people know what is happening and where to go.
Natalie said open source ties right back to their corporate culture at Whole Foods. The principles align with having a higher purpose than just turning a profit; it's about giving back. This cultural alignment also helps Whole Foods attract the right kind of technical talent.
Ron said open source is part of the Advanced Micro Devices DNA. It has allowed them to challenge the status quo. Ron also said he's happy about their recent move to Drupal 8 and how the community has been helping them to solve problems.
Lynne ended the panel with a two-parter: What tech do you wish was never invited and what are you most excited for?
Natalie: Not a fan of smoke detectors not having self-charging batteries but very excited for in store augmented reality experiences.
Ron: Despises malware (don't we all...) and is looking forward to more connectivity.
Romy: Has a love-hate relationship with smartphones (again, don't we all?) and is looking forward to the maturation of personalization.
After a few closing remarks from Dries, Acquia Engage honored its tradition of ending the conference with a tasting. This year, sommelier Christopher Hoel walked the audience through a selection of fine wines as the day; a fine end to a fine day.
And that's it, that's a wrap, folks. Another Engage has come and gone. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
If you just can't get enough, fear not; we'll have number of posts covering the breakout sessions over the next several weeks.