CIOs exist in order to help their companies do more things and do them faster. The person in the CIO position has the responsibility of marshaling all of the company’s IT talent and using the importance of information technology to work on projects that are going to help the company to do a better job of competing. However, there’s a very interesting question that comes up when it turns out that this simply is not going to be enough. What should the person with the CIO job do then?
The Problem With Smartphones
A great example of what I’m talking about has been happening in the market for smartphones. Although it still seems like it was just yesterday, it turns out that it was roughly about ten years ago that Apple introduced the first iPhone. This single event served to create the smartphone market. After the iPhone came out, sales of smartphones soared for years while everyone got one. In fact, in 2010 sales grew by 76%. However, by 2015 sales growth had slowed to just 10% and in 2016 it was 0.6%. What’s the problem here? Everyone already has a smartphone!
There are other factors at play in the slowing of the smartphone market that CIOs have no control over. In 2016, 1.45 billion smartphones were sold worldwide. What this means is that the market is saturated – everyone who wants a smartphone now has one. At the same time, at least in the U.S., wireless providers have now moved away from offering phone subsidies to their customers who sign a long-term contract. Customers are now required to pay full price for the phones that they want. These prices cans start at US$649 for a new iPhone 7. The result of this change is that consumers are putting off upgrading their phones. Now they wait 31.2 months before buying a new phone when in the past they’d buy a phone every 24 months.
Another problem that CIOs of phone manufactures are facing is that there are few compelling reasons for someone to go out and buy a new phone. There are a few new features that are attractive such a dual cameras and waterproof phones. However, these by themselves are not enough to motivate people to spend the money needed to upgrade their phones. Fancy new features like a foldable display or augmented reality are still years away.
The Next Step In Smartphones
All of this leads us to where CIOs in the smartphone industry now find themselves. The growth of the market for smartphone has stalled because everyone already has a smartphone and there are no new hardware features that are compelling everyone to go out and get a new phone. Try as you’d like, as a CIO there is very little that we can do in a situation like this to help our company out.
In the world of smartphones, there may be a silver lining that CIOs can use to assist their companies. Advances in hardware have slowed to an incremental rate; however, the development of smartphone software and services is one area that is rapidly growing. This area of innovation is being driven by advances in artificial intelligence. The addition of features driven by new software is helping to make smartphones a critical tool that are being used by everyone.
A lot of the changes in smartphone software are being driven by how computers are now able to process very large amounts of data using artificial intelligence techniques. The result of all of this is that smartphones have become better at things like speech recognition and vision. Almost all smartphones now come with some sort of virtual assistant (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant). We are also now seeing the growth in easy-to-use devices that combine applications with devices and may make use of a smartphone to deliver a handy feature.
What All Of This Means For You
The role of a CIO in any company is to provide ways for the company to accomplish more. The CIO has the task of using the IT department to find ways for the company to move quicker and outpace its competition. However, in the smartphone industry, this has become hard to do.
CIOs in the smartphone industry have run into a significant problem. Smartphones have become so popular over the past 10 years that virtually everyone already has one now. What this means is that the growth in sales of smartphones has started to significantly slow. With no new revolutionary hardware features on the horizon, this trend is anticipated to continue for some time. The one bright spot in all of this is that the software that drives smartphones continues to evolve and change at a rapid rate. Software is allowing smartphones to do things that they’ve never been able to do before. Recent advances have added virtual assistants to smartphones and allowed them to work with other devices.
Even in the smartphone market, CIOs still have an opportunity to play a critical role. As the growth in hardware sales starts to slow, the rapid changes in software require the steady hand of the CIO to keep things moving forward. There will eventually be changes in hardware that cause people to want to get a new smartphone; however, until then it’s going to be up to CIOs to deliver the software features that will cause people to decide that they need to upgrade their smartphone!
Question For You: Do you think that smartphone virtual assistants could be worked into other devices to make smartphones even more valuable?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As the person with the CIO job, it’s your responsibility to put in place systems that will allow the company to use the importance of information technology to get the most out of each and every IT employee. This sounds like a fairly classical management responsibility. However, in a recent poll by the research firm Gallup they have found that the old management techniques that are being used in a lot of IT departments just aren’t working with today’s millennial workers. What’s a CIO to do?