Like many gadget-lovers around the world, the products unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas were, for me, the highlight of a gloomy early January. From snore-busting beds to fat-busting trainers, from robotic flying insects to window-washing robots, what went on in Vegas definitely didn't stay in Vegas. We laughed with John McAfee ("I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet"), cringed with Michael Bay as the autocue failed during his moment of glory, and loved every hyped-up, whoop-whooped moment.
But I wonder if I was alone in feeling the tiniest twinge of envy? I don't mean I was envious of the chance to spend time in the Nevada's glitzy metropolis, although a few days there wouldn't go amiss. It was the fun, the humour, the silliness of the consumer tech world that I coveted, and the fact that despite this light-heartedness, some of the inventions will become must-have products of the year. I'm not suggesting these businesses are frivolous: far from it. They have talented staff, inspirational leaders, unique product sets, and a sense of humour.
I'm from the corporate tech world, by which I mean that we don't make robots that can light barbecues - although a few of our staff might work on such creations in their spare time. I'm part of an organisation which, I think, has all the traits I listed above: great staff, a strong leadership team and a personality. We provide businesses with corporate networks, with cloud computing, with clever methods of managing applications. If a business is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on IT, it wants a partner which takes itself seriously. And yet I sometimes wonder if the corporate tech world has the reputation of taking itself too seriously.
Tablets and smartphones, BYOD and mobility trends have blurred the lines between our home lives and our working lives. It began in the 1990s when office broadband sparked demand for better, faster home broadband. Now, with superfast broadband, devices and cloud storage, we can connect, access information, work and play anywhere. It's no longer about 'us and them', corporate v. consumer. Consumer tech may be the glamorous big sister, corporate tech the nerdy younger brother, but the worlds of consumer tech and corporate tech have collided, and there are lessons we must learn from each other if we're to live in harmony.
CES2014 was a global stage for innovation. Products beyond the reasoning of most of us mere mortals were demonstrated, laughed at, lusted over. This is where the success stories start, the journeys begin for many. These businesses push boundaries, take risks, possess an unwavering belief in their products and people and have a huge passion for what they do. They are backed by investors who sense an excitement in these products. The corporate tech world should be no different. Innovation, passion and excitement must run through the heart of a business. It's up to the organisation and its products or services to create this buzz, and businesses must foster a culture of innovation which recognises and rewards original thinking, unusual ideas and the ability to do things differently.
Gamification takes areas inherent to gaming - competitiveness, goal-setting, point-scoring - and the emotions created by gaming, such as motivation, engagement and fun, and applies it within a business setting. It might apply to a campaign to improve engagement, encourage customer feedback and increase customer loyalty, for example. It's a great example of the consumer world influencing the corporate world, and we're going to see a lot more of it, even if we don't realise it (that email from Feefo calling for your customer feedback? There's an example).
3. Customer experience
The customer experience is just as crucial to a corporate tech company as to a consumer tech organisation. Revenues and reputations are at stake, and all businesses are susceptible to a hammering across social media if they don't meet expectations. This is where some consumer tech businesses can learn from corporate tech organisations. The volumes of customers may be smaller, but corporate tech businesses nurture relationships with their customers, many of whom have been with them for years. Because business objectives don't tend to be about the growth of customer numbers, they can invest in making sure their customers get a really great experience, and they can provide the channels to make sure this happens: customer advisory groups, social media communities, networking groups, tailored communications. Take heed, consumer tech giants!
So, the planets are aligned, business and consumer tech worlds soon to unify. And in my world? Corporate tech may be about infrastructure not insects, data storage not drones, but everyone knows it's not what you've got, but what you do with it that matters. Our corporate customers do some amazing, inspiring things with our technology. Budge up consumer tech - this is our moment to shine. Viva Las Vegas.