The International Future Computing Association (TIFCA) is very excited about supporting the remote work and play industry and wants to contribute to its future by working together to find and solve problems alongside the CORA (Create Once Reach All) ecosystem.
Before I discuss TIFCA’s excitement for the remote work and play industry, let’s talk about industry consensus. Industry consensus is powerful: It shows strength to customers, it can help grow businesses across the industry even among competitors, and it can enable adaptability when needed most. Still, as powerful as industry consensus is, it can also be challenging.
I want to share some lessons I learned about how industries reach consensus. I hope these perspectives will clarify why TIFCA's efforts are essential to helping our industry readers overcome problems and contribute to their growing futures.
Understanding our environment
Let me open up with a question. Have you ever wondered how seemingly out of nowhere, companies from across the ecosystem speak the same language and are excited about the same types of products? How is it possible for certain buzzwords to spread across the Internet and conference stage floors seemingly at the same time? Why does it happen this way?
As someone who invested his career in bringing the industry together, I'm going to say something shocking. So many industry vendors—especially competitors—do not enjoy speaking together or hanging out in the same room.
When I worked in the stereoscopic 3D gaming industry, one leading vendor commiserated that they were under strict instruction to only talk to other industry members in a standards workgroup. And the moment they leave the room, they were forbidden from talking further. The punch line was that he knew a married couple who worked for competing vendors.
Another colleague spoke more plainly. He said, “Think of company X. Company X is a multi-, multibillion-dollar conglomerate. Company X does not want equal voting rights with countless other vendors that are a fraction of their size or expertise. Some even have shareholders to answer to.” In other words, it could be perceived as a vulnerability for some organizations to feel beholden to the wishes or needs of smaller entities or competitors with different interests.
Then you've got the listeners. I was at an industry meeting for a different organization, and one of the vendors seemed to laugh it off. I didn't understand, so I asked him why he was there and spending money if he didn't take it seriously. He explained that he just wanted his logo on the website to be seen alongside the others, and he kept an ear out for what was happening.
Lastly, we've got the “last-line-of-defense vendor.” The company will only participate with other industry members in a standards group or forum when they conclude they can't own the ecosystem alone. If you can't beat them, join them as a last resort.
Keep in mind that there are leading vendors of all sizes that engage and want to engage with shared industry interests. However, the above factors strongly influence if and how industries work together.
How an industry reaches consensus
Going back to my original question, vendors still need to find ways to communicate with one another and share the same intentions to achieve consensus. So, how do they do it?
Let me tell you the story of “Farmer Brown’s Pickles.” There are three ways to get competing and complementary industry members to sell pickles: osmosis, disruption, and public agreement.
I’m told the most prominent method for getting consensus among industry leaders is osmosis.
Farmer Brown wants to know what crop to farm for the next five years. He doesn't necessarily want to talk to the other farmers, and his vendor suppliers may not want to talk to each other either. What's the solution? Private one-on-one interviews.
Farmer Brown calls up his short list of influential contacts and vendors every few years. Tractor makers, spice makers, seed sellers, fertilizer companies, etc.
“What are customers going to be excited about next year?” asks Farmer Brown. “Pickles,” says the tractor maker. “I've got a cucumber tractor for you!”
“Pickles,” says the seed seller, “and I’ve got cucumber seeds for you!”
“I'm hearing pickles,” says the spice maker, “and we're getting spices ready for the cucumbers in the market. Your customers will love them!”
Before you know it, farmers and vendors have all gone through their interview process, and pickles are the hottest thing on earth.
Farmer Brown doesn't interview every seed maker, tractor maker, or fertilizer company. While it could be all of them, it’s more likely a handful; a short list of names deemed industry leaders and influencers in the field. As a result, a limited number of people have any real decision power in this model.
Sometimes things happen entirely unexpectedly. For example, innovation is so surprising and impactful that the industry is left scrambling to find ways to message and support it. In scenarios like this, a single vendor could have unprecedented power to decide the specifications and language choices that the industry follows and adopts.
Maybe Farmer Brown is the innovator. Instead of growing bland cucumbers first, he's figured out how pickles come out of the ground pre-pickled. Then Farmer Brown tells the world, “This is a pickle, and that sour green thing is not a pickle. Buy my pickle, or you're wasting time soaking those cucumbers, while I'm producing pickles faster and selling them cheaper. Join my pickle army. Let's redefine the pickle, and we’ll make lots of money together with my pickles!”
Virtual reality is a good example. Seemingly overnight, a particular Kickstarter in the VR market resulted in all kinds of decisions on what is considered good virtual reality, who is recognized as part of the VR industry, the ease at which VR content is marketed and available, the capabilities of development tools, general compatibility, and if there is support for open standards.
There are a few ways this method can take hold.
Customers are king, and sometimes they have a requirement so great that the industry has to move in a direction to meet their clients’ newly found needs very quickly, even without talking to one another directly ahead of time.
So maybe there is an unforeseen drought, and there are stockpiles of cucumbers that are going to go to waste. To feed the nation and keep their businesses open, Farmer Brown and all his suppliers quickly make efforts to convert their cucumbers into long-lasting pickles that won’t perish and still sell until the weather clears for the next harvest.
We’ve experienced this in real time with the remote work/remote work and play industry. When Covid struck and society was in a shared lockdown, there was a natural need for remote work and play tools and services across the client, cloud, and network ecosystems. Someway, somehow the term “remote work” took hold, and here we are.
The second method is leadership through example. In one case, a colleague of mine was thrilled when a multinational several times his company’s size was releasing directly competing technology products. He explained that the success and leadership of that more prominent and dominant company justified the existence and value of his much smaller start-up and what they do.
Lastly, you've got the conferences and events—the willingness for industries to share the stage, talking about their work, and showing collective strength. When stereoscopic 3D took off as an industry, I enjoyed attending the 3D Entertainment Summit each year. Something was in the air that vendors of all sizes saw it necessary to gather as an industry and talk about what they do and how stereoscopic 3D entertainment is here to stay. I have fond memories of direct competitors eating lunch across from one another—it was just positive and productive energy all around.
Why this matters to your business
For members of the technology ecosystem, there are limited opportunities to influence the road map of the industry around us because:
- It is exceedingly rare to be members of the interview osmosis group.
- As valuable as many innovations are, few approach the point of true industry disruption.
- By the time we’ve reached the public conference circuit, many of the big decisions about an industry’s future have already been made.
For argument’s sake, if any given industry sector has 50 companies and maybe the top three are the influencers through osmosis or disruption, then it means a lot of industry growth opportunity and valuable perspective could be missing. The interests of companies 1, 2, and 3 may not share your interests or build on the needs that drive your company or your organization. It's not nefarious or purposeful—there just isn't enough time for everyone's input to be accounted for.
How could you influence a road map?
This article isn’t just about Farmer Brown. It's also about Farmer Grey, Farmer Wilma, and Farmer Joe and their fried green tomatoes. They should have an important role in this story, too. How? With leverage.
Leverage is achieved through numbers: a diverse group of companies or organizations with a willingness to share or contribute to a position. While each may have unique solutions or ways to contribute to a solution, it begins with agreeing on a problem or something that is important to all of them.
In my opinion, this consensus earns the right to be on the osmosis interview list. This consensus communicates industry strength and confidence to future customers on a shared industry stage. Moreover, this consensus could enable the birth of new disruptive techniques and technologies that could grow industries further.
So how could this be achieved?
What TIFCA adds to Farmer Brown’s story
If TIFCA was in Farmer Brown's story, we'd be the county fair and the town hall. The fair is where all the farmers get together and show their stuff. The place where the tractor makers, seed sellers, and fertilizer makers meet and talk and agree that farming pickles will be an essential harvest this year. Maybe Farmer Joe needs help meeting the right suppliers so he can harvest pickles, too. Maybe Farmer Wilma wants to show the shiny new thing in her barn, and she’s looking for the best contacts to show it to.
The town hall is where the problems are discovered and hopefully solved. The farmers and suppliers gather regularly and figure out what’s important for next year’s harvest—maybe some other town halls need to be reached. Maybe the challenge is too big for any one town to handle alone.
TIFCA believes there should be regular opportunities for all the farmers and suppliers to be in on the big decisions as the climate changes so that everyone’s harvests can adapt, grow, and feed.
At TIFCA, our mission is to develop frameworks and initiatives that enable technology adoption. We support this mission through an ecosystem called CORA (Create Once Reach All). The goal of CORA is for content to be distributed to the best of its ability across diverse client devices. CORA comprises industry and thought leadership across the client, cloud, and network industries.
TIFCA is driven by industry collaboration, and the CORA ecosystem is an important contributor to the remote work and play industry. This industry is a use-case direction for TIFCA, and we are looking for challenges that TIFCA could contribute to solving.
In the Farmer Brown spirit, on December 6, we’re holding a “county fair” for the remote work and play industry and CORA ecosystem. The summit will focus on the industry's future and its challenges and solutions for meeting the needs of employers, team leaders, and users wishing to engage and support this lifestyle.
The International Future Computing Summit welcomes speakers and participants from the remote work and play industry and the CORA ecosystem.
Be seen, be heard, and grow your influence. Join TIFCA.