Fast Times at Ridgemont High

September 26, 2013

If you are old enough to remember this 1982 cult hit, starring Sean Penn in his break out role as “Spicoli”, than you have been around long enough to see Moore’s law in effect. Moore’s law states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years in our computing hardware. This means that computing memory and speeds could experience up to a hundredfold increase in transistor count per chip within a decade. The introduction of flexible / folding screens, wearable technology, ultra HD and 3D displays, and even touch screens images that can be projected and interacted with on any available surface are just the beginning. I recently served as COO for an education company based in Nairobi, Kenya where all of our business monetary transactions where done via mobile phones. We were one of the fastest growing companies on the continent, and ran on a completely cashless platform, sometimes inventing and always leveraging massive new technology in every phase of our business. For starters, we paid all of our vendors, collected all of our fees from tens of thousands of customers, distributed our payroll and even paid our bribes via a mobile phone text service called “M-Pesa”. M-Pesa is a mobile payment and micro-finance platform that already handles 70% of the cash transactions in that part of the world, and most Americans have never even heard of it. If you are wondering what all of this means to you and your business, than read on!

As Chili’s announced the national roll-out of table top tablets in all of their restaurants, we should all be aware that another sea change in the restaurant industry may be occurring right before our eyes. The restaurant industry has admittedly been somewhat slow to embrace technology changes, preferring to follow a “wait and see” strategy. Who among the nation’s top restaurant brands was going to be the early adopter and what would the competition do to respond has been a big question for some time? Well, the future is now, the early adopters are moving fast, and it’s definitely going to get interesting. Consumers have increasingly become more and more comfortable relying on technology to enhance their productivity and connectedness in their daily lives, no matter where they are or what they are doing. It wasn’t too long ago that airlines implemented self-service-check-in kiosks, which now greatly outnumber the live service agents. When a home services repair person shows up at your door with an IPad to help diagnose your repair or service issue, order the parts, calculate your charges, swipe your credit card, and sign you up for their respective service club all in one foul swoop, we think nothing of it. Almost every taxi I have taken in the last few months has had a hard wired screen in the cab where I could get on line, pay my fare, watch TV or check my emails.

I am a huge proponent of leveraging technology, transparency and data to enhance our customer experience and engagement at every level of our business. This goes for both our “business to business” and “business to consumer” relationships. The challenge is that many companies and business leaders today are still uncomfortable giving up the old “command & control” paradigm. Unfortunately, Moore’s law may mean that by the time they decide to get on board, the train may already be too far down the tracks to catch. New and nimble competition, game changing technologies, and rapidly shifting consumer trends require that we all be on top of our game, executing today’s tactics while simultaneously educating ourselves on tomorrow’s strategies and trends.