22. July 2013
Source: The Economist
Banks big and small are embracing cloud computing
“I’VE only got one IT guy,” says Segun Akintemi, the chief executive of Renaissance Credit, a Nigerian moneylender that opened for business in October 2012 and signed up about 3,000 customers in its first six months. “Whenever I walk past his desk he is surfing the web.” That the firm has just one bored computer specialist is not a sign of backwardness. On the contrary, Renaissance Credit is ahead of its time when it comes to technology. Its information processing takes place in the “cloud”, the term for software and services delivered over the internet.
The emergence of cloud-based banking promises to affect banks big and small. Banks are expected to spend almost $180 billion on IT this year, according to Celent, a consultancy. For the moment cloud-based services make up a tiny fraction of this amount, but by some estimates spending by financial-services firms on the cloud will total $26 billion in 2015. This increase should lower barriers to entry for newcomers, which can rent modern IT infrastructure at monthly fees of less than $10,000 rather than having to invest tens of millions of dollars upfront to build their own secure data centres. And it should also enable big banks to become much more cost-efficient. Read the rest of this entry »
5. March 2013
Source: The Financial Times
The obvious threats are the crowd and the cloud
In Jo Nesbo’s thriller Headhunters, “king of the heap” search consultant Roger Brown has to fund his extravagant lifestyle by stealing art from the walls of candidates’ homes while his colleagues are interviewing them.
Real-life headhunters are also diversifying. Heidrick & Struggles, seeking to offset falling revenue and volumes in its search business, recently bought Senn Delaney, a “culture-shaping” consultancy. Heidrick’s US rival Spencer Stuart offers “board counsel” and executive assessment alongside search. Egon Zehnder, which in the 1960s pioneered the business in Europe, also sells advice to family businesses and newly hired CEOs. I also detect a surge in self-justifying comments from search consultants, the sort that begin: “There will always be a role for face-to-face advice?.?.?.”
Sound the disintermediation klaxon! Technological tools, new rivals and structural change have swallowed travel agents, insurance brokers and brick-and-mortar retailers. Executive search is next. Read the rest of this entry »
9. January 2013
An Amazon.com fulfillment center in Ridgmont, U.K.
January in retail is a little bit like the off-season of a professional sports league. Teams dust themselves off from the grueling holiday season playoffs, evaluate their coaching staffs, and assess the balance of power in their divisions. In this month’s period of exhausted self-reflection, one of the industry’s broad conclusions is clear: Amazon.com is on its way to establishing a dangerous dynasty.
Amazon recently said it had its best holiday season ever in 2012, selling 26.5 million products around the world at a record-breaking pace of 306 items per second. Earlier this week, Amazon stock hit an all-time high, buoyed by a Morgan Stanley report that predicted the global e-commerce market will hit $1 trillion by 2016, with Amazon poised to capture nearly a quarter of that. The company is madly adding such customer freebies as new movies and television shows to its Netflix -slaying Prime Instant Video program, and its commitment to having the lowest price anywhere is increasingly exerting a gravitational effect on the strategies of rivals.
On Tuesday, Target announced a new policy of matching competitors’ prices year-round—a tactic geared toward slowing the emergence of “showrooming,” the practice by which shoppers browse in a store and then buy online, often from Amazon. Target, whose stock is also near an all-time high, is the second-largest retailer in the country, behind Wal-Mart. But if current growth rates continue, it will soon lose that title to the upstart from Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »
9. October 2012
Computers are leaner, meaner and cheaper than ever before. With computing power no longer at a premium, we’re swimming in numbers that describe everything from how a small town in Minnesota behaves during rush hour to the probability of a successful drone strike in Yemen.
The advent of so-called “big data” means that companies, governments and organizations can collect, interpret and wield huge stores of data to an amazing breadth of ends. From shoe shopping to privacy concerns, here’s a look at five ways big data is changing the world:
1. Data as a deadly weapon: The traditional battlefield has dissolved into thin air. In the big data era, information is the deadliest weapon and leveraging massive amounts of it is this era’s arms race. But current military tech is buckling under the sheer weight of data collected from satellites, unmanned aircraft, and more traditional means. Read the rest of this entry »
18. June 2012
At 71, Dave Duffield ought to be retired. He’s spent a half-century starting technology companies and is worth billions. He has a $35 million Dassault Falcon 900EX jet, homes in the Bay Area and Palm Springs, and a seven-building vacation compound on Lake Tahoe with plenty of space for his wife of 28 years and their 10 children, the youngest of whom is an adopted daughter, age 2. On a sizzling June afternoon, Duffield stands in his hangar at an airfield east of San Francisco before a flight to Reno-Tahoe International Airport. “I just bought this Chevy Camaro,” Duffield says, gesturing to the black car parked next to his jet. “It’s probably the only one around with a baby seat in the back.”
Duffield did take a break from the tech game, briefly. After his most successful company, PeopleSoft, was acquired in 2004 for $10.3 billion, he unofficially retired. With his thin frame and rich head of silver hair, he’d sit in a rocking chair on his porch in Tahoe overlooking the lake. The relaxing, family-filled glide into his golden years lasted about three months. “I was rocking away and getting bored,” Duffield says. When he told his wife, Cheryl, that he was starting another business software company, later named Workday, she cried, but didn’t try to stop him. “She understood the higher calling,” Duffield says. Read the rest of this entry »