If you’ve ever read the much loved Dr Seuss book you will know that the main messages centred around the perceived hollowness and commercialisation of the Christmas season and also the huge amount of waste that modern society casts aside once their passing fancies have been fulfilled. You would also know, therefore, that it all culminates in a – spoiler alert - happy ending where the Christmas spirit shines through and the Grinch gets to understand what Christmas is all about and is happily accepted into the bosom of the Whoville folk for a truly memorable festive holiday.
But what of the waste? It is true that now more than ever we live in a world where everything appears disposable, food, clothes and electrical goods through to razors and nappies or we have exhausted materials to the point where we are looking for new ways to extract gas (fracking), ways to create new stuff from old stuff (recycling) and even when we have exhausted that we create from design (3D printing).
With this going on it can really feel like the developed world is awash with excess and abundance, but some clever people are seeing this as a way to turn that surplus into business and, in effect, efficiency. It is clever initiatives like this, driving new levels of disruption which I find really interesting.
We continue to see technology driving disruption in an effort to produce more efficient distribution methods. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully away that the digitisation of music and movies wasn’t driven by eco-friendly executives at companies, this was driven by a desire to get more product out more quickly, to more people and with reduced cost. But the very welcome green side-effects come from the reduction in manufactured plastics in those industries – VHS, CDs or DVDs, anyone?
This is great and will continue to evolve. The games manufacturers are also in on the act, first pushing demos over the internet and now full-blown titles (if you are lucky enough to have fibre connectivity) down to hungry consumers. We have new titans of the home viewing world in Netflix, Amazon and Sky replacing the old Blockbuster stores, Kodak beaten down by digital rivals – evolve or die has always been the message, but it’s the ever-increasing pace of change that has been catching people out for years now.
But what about the stuff you cannot digitise? Consumer demand and manufacturing efficiencies mean we live in a world of abundance that is only going to get worse. What can we do to manage this? How do you address your customers’ satisfaction without over-production? Basically, how do you know enough is enough, but not too much or too little? What if that can never be quantifiable?
The internet giants and the ‘bricks and mortar’ stores saw this challenge. Amazon allows people to sell used items and these are advertised alongside new, giving the consumer a full pricing spectrum. Gaming stores have for a while encouraged the principle of trading games in as credit against newer titles. Some clothing stores, whilst not offering money back on old clothes, do provide clothes banks so that you can donate your cast-offs and feel a little bit better about yourself by clothing the less fortunate.
Challenges start to arise when you think of good that are more perishable. Excess food is an interesting angle as it usually has a shortened shelf-life. Take as an example, Too Good To Go (www.toogoodtogo.co.uk). This is an app that enables cafes, restaurants, takeaways, etc to sign up freely and sell their unused produce at a fraction of the standard cost, aimed at reducing food waste. The concept is socially conscious, you can also donate money to give meals to people in need, and is proving hugely popular having started in Denmark and expanded to the UK, Switzerland and France with restaurants across the world looking to get involved. A business with a conscience, borne out of superfluous production.
It really seems the only thing we don’t have enough of is time. Which brings me neatly to my final example. Ziferblat (www.ziferblat.co.uk) has a great concept where you can use their premises, whether you be a mother with a child and not much space at home, an accountant in a large firm looking for a place to work away from the office where people won’t interrupt or a design team looking for a table larger than you have in your single office space. They provide premises, considerable space, coffee, cake, snacks, warmth, chairs and tables and you head along and pay for nothing…Except the time you spend there. What a great way to bring the consumption model into the physical world.
It all seems that the faster we run, as a species, the more we create. The more we create, the more we innovate. Some of the ways that businesses are dreaming up to handle or take advantage of surplus are truly inspiring and, given the very welcome bi-product of a socially responsible approach by many of these companies, it is refreshing to see the more human side of business presented. Particularly at this time of year. It’s enough to make the Grinch misty-eyed.
Where this takes me and one of the reasons for loving the job that I do is getting involved with our many clients around how we can help them. Virtualisation and cloud technologies have enabled us to offer client solutions which make the most of the resources they use. And switch off what they don’t. Much like smart meters at home, these technologies can be expertly monitored to make sure our clients are getting the best value service for their needs.
Providing the platform and support is only the beginning. When you are able to expand that efficiency beyond into how you deliver applications and how you create business process and policies to streamline your workforce and customer engagement, that truly is making the most of what you have and not paying for what you don’t need or use.
I am frequently talking to clients who are asking for some or all of the above…Those that have just started on this journey – moving from end-of-life infrastructure - and are bewildered by the array of options through to those who are some way down the path and wish for some expert guidance around specific challenges for business process or application enhancement, we can and will help them all. And not just at Christmas.
So, all that remains for me to say is, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy a fantastic festive period, with your nearest and dearest in attendance. Eat, drink and be merry, but do spare a thought for those who may not be as blessed. There are ways to spread the Christmas cheer to those less fortunate. Sharing your good fortune with others is part of what Christmas is about, after all.