As I write this the world’s fastest computer, The Chinese Tianhe-2A super-computer, can make around thirty-four thousand trillion calculations per second (or for the initiated – operates at 33.8 PetaFlops) – Incredible, isn’t it? However the critical part of this statement is the term “as I write this…” because, what is more incredible still is that by the time you read it, this number will undoubtedly have risen. Such is the pace of technological progress.

I can remember being hired by the first company I had worked for that had a computer. It occupied a room, comprised towers of reel-to-reel tapes and all it did was the accounting for a modest independent advertising agency. Prior to that, accounting tasks like this were undertaken by rooms full, not of electronics, but men and women with thick books and sharp pencils. Today anybody can do the same thing on a smartphone.

DunnHumby, the company that manages the data for the international supermarket chain Tesco, record millions of transactions a day, comprising tens of millions of individual items that DunnHumby can cross-reference to define the profile of individual customers and accurately predict their grocery shopping needs. This in turn enables them, theoretically, to make a unique, tailored offer to each of their customers every week with a reasonable expectation that the customer will buy it.  Thirty years ago, no retailer on earth had as many customers as the big players have today and there was certainly no expectation of ever knowing what they were buying with any degree of certainty, let alone predicting what they would buy next week.

Right now it’s possible to order the product of your dreams. From cars to clothing we can dictate colour, size and other features without even having a conversation with a human being. The tennis racket manufacturer Head already offer, not just a choice of colour and shape of our racket, but the stiffness at different points in its construction, so you are directly involved and influence the manufacturing process. Yes, we’ve come a long way in a short time, but hang on to your seats, it’s going to get a whole lot faster

We haven’t even begun to exploit the capability that technology currently affords us and already someone, somewhere is working on a way to increase that potential.

Just to get a better appreciation of how far we have come, here are five things that we now consider “everyday” that we couldn’t even do ten years ago:

  1. Order your weekly grocery shop for home delivery at a specified time
  2. Play just about any music track you wish on subscription without actually buying it.
  3. Pin-point any address in the world on a map and have the quickest route from your present location to that point plotted and dictated to you as you travel by foot, public transport or automobile.
  4. Back-up all your computer files, operate applications that you don’t have installed on your machine and share files via a cloud.
  5. Make a list of thousands of people just like your best customer and send them all a personalised e-mail about your product.

So, what does this mean for your business and how are you adapting to keep pace with this change?

In Part Two of this editorial, I’ll look at what this means for the shape of organisations and in particular marketing and marketing services businesses around the world.

Phil Darby
January 27, 2015

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