Welcome to the Post-Information Age. Whether you’re happy to be here or not, it’s probably time to take stock of what this means for you personally and professionally. When we were in college in the ’90s, we were squarely in the Information Age. Moving from printed phone books to yellowpages.com was pretty exciting. Now it isn’t.
Our Facebook and Twitter feeds are no longer chronological — they’re adaptively created based on what’s going to keep us scrolling. A great customer relationship management system doesn’t make prospects available to inside salespeople — it gives them a prioritized call list. “Smart Compose” in Google Docs (an extended auto-completer) has gotten so good that we, the authors, wonder about how our own jobs will evolve.
Improvements in the design, development and deployment of software, along with AI/machine learning have reframed the definition of success for digital projects. In the ’90s and early ’00s, getting a new application done on time and on budget was a win. Now it isn’t. Beyond done, new applications and features should have testable hypotheses about what user behaviors constitute success vs. failure, and on that basis they should be revised or scrapped in favor of a new approach.
If you’re already overwhelmed by your IT backlog, the good news is that the community of practice around digital has learned a lot and done a fairly good job of making that work accessible to managers. In the spirit of linking ideas to action, here are our top three recommendations for the manager wanting to do more with digital:
- Increase Self-Service/Codeless Interfaces: Take a look at your IT backlog and ask: “How might we enable non-coders to do this for themselves?” It may take some initial investment, but the tools are out there. Companies like Airtable are ushering in a whole new general of “codeless” development opportunities.
- Invest in Digital Literacy: Take the talent you have and make them design-literate, digitally literate (able to code), and digitally numerate (able to do their own exploratory analysis and understand the fundamentals of data science).
- Build Less Custom Software: One of the biggest changes in the massive drop in how much it costs to get an application out the door is how little custom code it takes to deliver a given capability. Platform as a Service products like Salesforce’s Heroku, Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk and Google’s Cloud Platform all dramatically reduce the amount of “table stakes” infrastructure a team needs to build to get an application in front of users. Back End as a Service products like Google’s Firebase go even further, allowing developers to, for example, set up the whole infrastructure to create a new user with a single line of code.
Our call to action for the Post-Information Age is this: Step back, think about what could really impact your economics and focus on doing a few things well. Step away from your sunk costs for a minute and think about whether a clean slate might get you to a better outcome sooner.
If you’re interested in our take on how to prepare for the Post-Information Age, we both offer a collection of online courses. If you’re interested, you may find something that helps with your next steps on our course pages (Michael Lenox Page, Alex Cowan Page).