If there’s anything that makes me want to press the “mute” button on Twitter, it’s the Consumer Electronics Showcase, otherwise known as CES 2015. Smart laundry machines! Curved smartphones! Wearables everywhere! It would be impossible to keep up with, except that now I can just wait to see what CIOs make of it all.
There are at least a handful of CIOs I know who are in Las Vegas this week, walking the halls of CES to see some of the kinds of products and services that once would have been considered completely out of place in the enterprise. Except in a few highly controlled industries, you don’t have to do much to convince CIOs they should pay attention to what comes out of the show, even if they’re just watching from afar, like I am. If anything, CIOs should be looking at CES as an opportunity to get in front of technologies that could help employees and customers rather than have them foisted upon them later. This is their moment to act as master curators of everything IT — even IT that is aimed more at personal than professional use.
Here’s my suggestions on a few ways CIOs could sift through the barrage of CES news to find what’s most applicable to their organization:
- Spot the next-generation user experience. Yes, CES this year is full of smart watches, smart belts and all things Internet of Things. Many of these items will be mere novelties, and may not even get major distribution. What IT leaders should look for, though, is the way these things approach age-old problems of getting user’s attention, how they keep them engaged and how, in whatever they offer, they provide enough value to keep them coming back. These are the products and services CIOs should either invest in, if that’s appropriate, or to steal that user experience (UX) approach for their next enterprise app or customer-facing project.
- Play BYO Bingo: Even if the long-promised smart fridge never really catches on, it probably won’t be the kind of thing the average employee wants to connect to the corporate network. In many other cases, however, there could be a way to host apps or conduct other transactions that employees may consider important in a business setting. Rather than create challenging new variations on bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, think about what CES products you hear about what users may want to have at the office, and what scope you have to accommodate them or not.
- Avoid the next attack vector: The reason hackers are exploiting vulnerabilities in consumer storage systems such as Apple’s iCloud is because users typically employ weaker passwords (or avoid basic protections) when they use them. Some of what gets shown at CES could become wildly popular — not just with consumers but with cyber-criminals as well. Jump-start the security conversation with those making such products, if not just for their own good, but yours too.
- Steal a little showmanship: Intel opened its CES keynote this year with a dance performance that demonstrated the power of its 3D camera technology, among other things. Samsung used dramatic video and music. Probably even the weakest presentations were better than the usual PowerPoint CIOs and their firms use to launch a new product or initiative. Channel your inner critic and figure out what was moving, inspiring or just annoying, and lift the best stuff for the next time you’re in front of an audience of employees, customers or the senior leadership team.
- Solve the ultimate CES challenge: This is a great example of an event with so much going on that seems vital one minute, but can be quickly forgotten the next. In some ways, that’s a good example of a common information management problem. What kind of filter or curation tool could provide a more personalized, contextualized experience to help someone remember the biggest, most actionable learnings? Even if you’re working a firm far removed from the world of consumers, chances are there’s a little CES of some kind happening somewhere within your walls.