Over the past few months, I had several opportunities to engage in the conversation about the role of Intellectual Property (IP) in the new world of Digital, and in so doing, I’ve managed to tease out certain key questions and concerns surrounding this topic, e.g.: What challenges and opportunities does IP bring to the Digital feast? How does the ‘sharing’ economy affect established notions of IP, and how effective are current efforts to update and harmonise IP in the digital age? The answers are slowly revealing themselves, but the following observation points will hopefully highlight the way.
What is Digital?
The term “Digital” means different things to different people, (including those that consider it an extremely irritating term for something old repackaged as a new ‘buzzword’). In my opinion, the term Digital can be used to describe various new and emerging products / services / processes / user behaviours etc., that are enabled by digital technology. It works equally well in describing innovative, disruptive trends (e.g. big data and predictive analytics) and / or re-imagination of pre-existing technologies (e.g. Cloud).
How does IP figure into it?
Intellectual property is the concept and mechanism through which creators and owners of “works of the mind” may derive economic benefits from their works (e.g.: inventions, designs, works of art, and trademarks). By its very nature, IP is constantly challenged by those self same things for which it was designed – e.g. printing press, audio-visual capture, playback and distribution technologies, and even this new fangled 3D printing. The Digital world merely amplifies an age old problem which reappears with alarming regularity with each new shift or breakthrough in technology. However, this particular incarnation also begs the question of whether the concept of IP is intrinsically flawed in a digital universe
Key Trends in society / technology / business
In any discussion on this topic (i.e. IP and the digital economy), you’ll invariably pick upon certain trends as key catalysts for change, which typically fall into any of following groups: socio-economic trends, technology trends and business trends. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and give it a try with any of the following trends e.g.: social media, aging population, real-time dynamic pricing, predictive analytics, digital transformation, 3D printing, and even “sharing economy”. Such trends are redefining how we live and do business in a digital world, but are they all merely symptoms of the same phenomenon?
How will law and regulation keep up?
Not very well, I’m afraid. How can we best apply governance to emerging phenomena such as Digital? To say it is very difficult would be an understatement, considering that these changes also affect the law, and law makers, too. This is a perfect example of what city planners and business school professors consider to be a “wicked problem”. Existing rules of society and international law struggle to encompass the global reach and impact of digital technologies whereby information can spread, at the speed of light, to all corners of the world heralding the lofty dawn of unified global thought, sentiment and action, or anarchy. In order to remain relevant and useful, the concept of IP needs a major rethink and rework to align with a dynamic digital landscape. However, this is not the preserve of a few sovereign governments, and more needs to be done (at an international, collaborative level) to even begin nursing any hope of having an impact on Digital and human cultural evolution.
Digital transformation and business model innovation
In my opinion, the future of business lies in the ability to reinvent itself and take best advantage of the constantly emerging game-changing technologies, products, services, and usage paradigms. One such avenue is via business model innovation – a technique that makes use of a simple business model canvas to articulate any business model, in a fast and dynamic way. Technology is no longer a barrier to entry, therefore the true measure of fitness must have to do with a business model’s flexibility and adaptability (for competitive advantage) in the digital universe.
In summary, and regardless of where I’ve held these conversations (e.g. at the Copyright and Technology Conference, or Digital Economy and Law Conference, and even at the BCS, Chartered Institute for IT), these same questions and concerns have become a recurring theme.
Ps. I will look to delve into these topics at my next speaking event, on the 22nd of January 2014, and hope to provide further insight and provocative questions on digital economy and IP. Also, we’ll get to hear a speaker from one of the world’s foremost organisations at the forefront of Digital. Don’t miss it (or at least come by and say hello), if you happen to be in London on that day.
Back in 2011, I wrote a post about business model innovation in which I waxed lyrical about how a simple, straightforward business model canvas could be the perfect tool for any organisation to use in tackling the complexities of today’s business environment. So what has changed since then?
Absolutely nothing, and I still stand by what I said. If anything, ample proof exists in the growing number of user communities and tools (e.g. here and here) that employ this amazing technique to simplify and facilitate business model innovations. However, the one missing piece for me was how to easily translate valuable insights gleaned from using the business model canvas into something tangible, practical and immediately applicable to the actual work of business transformation. That problem appears to have been solved with the introduction of tools that can automate and facilitate the execution part of business model innovation.
Figure – The missing piece: executing business model innovation
Don’t get me wrong, the above missing piece is achievable by manually translating business model changes into the enterprise architecture (EA) and business process (BPM) landscape, but this implies hefty overheads in terms of people and effort required to implement even a simple change. Also, the evolving nature of the role played by EA and BPM functions, (within a dynamic and fast changing business environment), demands a more seamless interface with changing business models. Thankfully, the afore-mentioned tools should help to automate and provide such seamless linkage.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a vendor webinar which actually prompted this blog post, because they described how their software suite was designed to deliver this capability, and below are some of my impressions from that event, including:
- The promise of business model canvas as the right approach to address the challenge of a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (aka VUCA) world.
- The shift away from products to business models as key differentiators
- Seven applications of the Business Model Canvas, including various business model innovation journeys and perspectives (e.g. offer / customer / revenue driven models)
- Business Model Mountain was the term used to describe how business model innovation falls over halfway between ideation and execution, (see diagram below).
Figure – Business Model Mountain (source: BizzDesign Webinar Slides)
According to the presenter, their software suite provide a more compelling way to engage business stakeholders with the end-to-end transformation process, by using business model canvas as the reference model for communication between business, process and technology stakeholders. It was also great to see a demo of the software suite, which allayed some of my fears about tools that attempt to do too much, by featuring different aspects (i.e. business model canvas, EA and BPM) as distinct tools that work well in their own right, but which can be combined to deliver end-to-end translation of the business model into real system components and processes.
Health Warning: Not having used this tool yet, (due to very busy day job, believe it or not), I’m unable to say more about real hands-on capabilities, but in terms of its potential to help realise the huge promise and benefits of business model innovation, this is certainly a step in the right direction, in my humble opinion.
Note: this is another post in the innovation topic series, and more specifically, “tools for innovation”. Watch out for more on this and related topics, over the next few months.
Some relevant links:
- Blogpost: “The Innovative Art of Business Model Generation” – https://www.capgemini.com/blog/capping-it-off/2011/07/the-innovative-art-of-business-model-generation
- BizzDesign Webinar: “Business Model Innovation Webinar” – http://www.bizzdesign.com/blog/serviceline/business-model-management
- Bright talk Webinar: “Innovation and EA”- https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/679/32551
- Blogpost: “Developing a tradition for change” – http://www.bcs.org/content/conBlogPost/2204
- Blogpost: “Capabilities for Sustainable Innovation” – https://www.capgemini.com/blog/capping-it-off/2013/08/capabilities-for-sustainable-innovation
You might be forgiven for thinking that these make rather strange bedfellows, especially considering as they don’t often appear together in the same sentence; at least not as frequently as Architecture and Governance, or perhaps Innovation and Start-ups. In my view, this sad state of affairs is all set to change.
I recently did a BrightTalk Webcast on just this topic, and although the research for it was rather daunting at first, it eventually became clear, from talking to experts on both topics, that the key challenge was how to identify the best role, or sweet spot, for Enterprise Architecture (and all it can bring to the table) in a fluid and dynamic business context / environment. In my opinion, this sweet spot is nestled right between the more forward looking aspects of business model innovation and agile development.
When taken together, rapidly changing business models and agile development techniques do not necessarily make for the most robust, repeatable and best-governed business / technology processes or environment, and this is precisely where certain key aspects of Enterprise Architecture could bring much needed value. These and other issues were the focus for this webcast, and the slides can be found on the Slideshare website. Enjoy…