This week, we saw continued positive earnings news across the board. Google Cloud revenue jumped 45%, Amazon AWS revenue grew 39.5%, and Dynatrace reported 9% customer growth and a 29% increase in annual recurring revenue.
Paraphrasing Microsoft’s Satya Nadella during the company’s earnings call the week before, digital technologies seem to be the only game in town when it comes to improving productivity while reducing costs.
The unsurprising result is that enterprises are investing heavily and creating a rising digital tide that is floating most boats.
The challenge, however, is that these investments remain rooted in various elements of the technical stack, with the vast majority of growth reported by Google, AWS, and Microsoft last week primarily centered around core cloud and data infrastructure.
Even this week’s news from HPE about their selection by German soccer club SV Werder Bremen was a case in point. While the project is ostensibly part of a “comprehensive digital transformation initiative” focused on the fan experience, much of the project seems focused on the underlying data infrastructure.
Laying the Foundation
There are two big takeaways from this week’s news. The first is that physical, cloud, and data infrastructure plays a critical role in enterprise digital transformation efforts — and most organizations are still playing catch-up and remain in the process of modernizing their infrastructure to stay competitive. This fact should continue to produce solid and growing results for all the major infrastructure players.
The second takeaway, however, is a word of caution. While investments in infrastructure will remain critical to laying the foundation to compete in an experience-driven economy, merely updating your infrastructure will do nothing to improve competitiveness or differentiation without commensurate investments in ExTech that you deploy to transform the experience.
And a recent report from Salesforce seems to indicate these investments are lacking.
Workers Left Behind
This week also saw the release of Salesforce’s Global Digital Skills Index. This detailed report identified several critical gaps in worker preparedness to compete in a digital-first economy. One of the most striking findings was that 76% of workers do not feel prepared for a workplace that “prioritize[s] tech savviness and a digital-first mindset,” according to the report.
And while it might be tempting to chalk this up to an aging workforce population, it was shocking to find that even 69% of Gen Z’ers, the youngest workers, feel ill-equipped in advanced digital skills, such as coding and artificial intelligence.
We can attribute part of this gap to broader educational issues. But part of it is also directly linked to the lack of investment that organizations have made in both improving the employee experience (to make it easier for workers to utilize technology) and in educating workers on how to best leverage these new technologies (the source of the burgeoning digital adoption domain).
Taken together, these data points indicate that organizations are still not fully recognizing the importance of looking at the experience as the driver of value and seeing it from an end-to-end perspective.
An End-to-End Experience Bright Spot
One bright spot this week from a digital experience perspective was some acquisition news. Skuid announced that it was acquiring InFlight and its employee experience platform. Skuid is a design-centric, low-code platform that is already heavily focused on helping its clients create solid digital experiences.
However, its acquisition of InFlight is a clear indication of the importance of delivering a cohesive, easy-to-use and understand end-to-end experience to create differentiation — in this case, for the employee. At first blush, this seems to be a smart move that will raise the stakes for anyone competing in either the low-code or employee experience domains.
Lay a Foundation, But Have a Vision
As I reflected on this week’s developments, it is clear that there will be continued investment in the foundational underpinnings of ExTech for some time to come. This is a good thing.
It’s nearly impossible to create the type of experientially-driven differentiation necessary to develop a Digital Experience Value Engine if you’re relying on slow and monolithic legacy technologies.
The concern is that too many enterprise executives — particularly IT executives — are merely following the crowds on the march to all things cloud and digital native, but not genuinely grasping their why (with all due credit to Simon Sinek).
While modernizing your infrastructure may deliver short-term value and ROI in terms of cost reductions and productivity gains, its real value is as an enabler of a digital experience that allows you to compete in the experience economy. However, realizing that exponential value requires a vision of the experience you want to deliver, how it will create value, and what you will need to create, sustain, and support it.
Investments in infrastructure are a necessary start — but only a start.