Why Static Stinks

Solution CTO, IBM

Imagine if Netflix never updated your movie preferences, or even worse, never asked what you liked in the first place. Imagine if your spam folder never adapted to the changing inbound spam. Or finally, imagine that your Internet radio station presented a fixed playlist that didn’t bother to ask you if you liked what it was playing. Imagine that these firms viewed you as a static entity. Crazy, right?

Yes, that would be crazy. It would have prevented Netflix, Amazon, and a whole host of other services that we take granted now from ever being successful. Their primary value proposition – delivering what you want – would have never happened. But in most – repeat, most - commercial enterprise interactions, outside of how the best retailers treat their customers, there is no concept of taste or dynamic profiling to present what people will find of interest.

As a sanity check, ask yourself, when was the last time your bank or airline made a suggestion to you (by way of material to read or a travel offer) that actually understood you and reflected your actual behavior? And did they do so in a way that did not feel generic? I’m not trying to pick on banks and airlines exclusively here, but you get the idea.

So given that this is so obviously wrong, why is it the case? Two reasons, really. First, organizations are not used to dealing with the concept of a "market of one." Second, the technology to do this effectively at a large scale has only recently come of age.

Of these two, I think the tougher one will be the organizational and technology underpinnings of coordinating around the idea of a "market of one." That’s because it really challenges a lot of fundamental assumptions and design patterns for how we built our systems over the past 20 years. In my experience, I can architect solutions to this faster than organizations can re-orient to align behind the concept.

There are some shortcuts to dealing with this that I will cover in future posts, but for now I am introducing the idea and hopefully getting a conversation going around the implications for you. Just think about how an organization can overcome static and leave your thoughts below.