10 highlights for IT leaders: Mary Meeker’s internet report

Tech sage Mary Meeker's annual look at industry trends is out: We distill items of note for IT chiefs
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Each spring, Mary Meeker delivers her highly-anticipated internet trends report. Only one problem: It’s too thick for mere mortals to digest. This year’s report clocks in at 294 slides. (By comparison, two years ago, Meeker’s presentation had “only” 213 slides.)

Meeker, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Beyers, notes plenty of macro trends and data points. Smartphone sales have officially plateaued, for example; for the first time ever, there was no growth in new shipments. New internet users are likewise harder to find, with more than half of the world already online.

But as for the more detailed trends, Meeker herself acknowledged in her presentation at the recent Code 2018 conference that she wouldn’t be able to cover everything in the allotted time. You might be similarly pressed for time, so we culled 10 highlights of particular interest for CIOs and other IT pros from Meeker’s report. Let’s dig in:

1. AI in the enterprise: Experiments grow

AI got some real estate in this year’s report, with a particular focus on the big players in this emerging space, as well as the increasing competition from and innovation in China. But Meeker also devoted a slide to AI in the enterprise, citing a Morgan Stanley CIO survey that indicates the category will see one of the biggest increases in IT spending in 2018. Acccording to that Morgan Stanley survey, 48 percent of CIOs are "installing or testing AI and machine learning systems this year, up from 33 percent in April 2017," as Investor's Business Daily reports.

[ See our related story: Artificial intelligence: 4 truths CIOs should know. ]

2. Consumer experiences driving enterprise software 

A series of slides late in Meeker’s deck (263-268) remind us of just how significant an impact consumer apps have had on enterprise software development, user experiences, and more. She highlights Dropbox and Slack as two examples of widely adopted apps that blur the consumer-enterprise divide – Dropbox as a consumer app that appealed widely to business users, and Slack as a business platform that looks and feels much like any popular consumer app. 

Take note of the “Enterprise Software Success Formula” on slide 268. Plenty of food for thought here for CIOs delivering products and services to internal users: They’re expecting these consumer-like experiences, too.

3. The digital age - years in the making - kicks into overdrive

Recode notes that it took consumers 80 years to adopt the dishwasher; it took the consumer internet about 10 to win us over.

Meeker’s presentation traces large-scale data gathering and optimization projects back to mainframe computer adoption in the 1950’s (see slide 177.) Such efforts have been rapidly accelerating due to the effects of cloud (ever-increasing compute power at lower and lower costs) and consumer mobile (massive data explosion from billions of connected people).

When you consider that public cloud (2006) and ubiquitous smartphones (often correlated with the 2007 debut of the iPhone) aren’t even teenagers, in human terms, we’re in an unprecedented era of innovation and disruption. Recode notes that it took consumers 80 years to adopt the dishwasher; it took the consumer internet about 10 to win us over.

4. We’re living in the next major economic period

Meeker notes that we’re in the midst of the next major phase of evolutionary economic growth drivers. For historical context, one of her slides describes the economic drivers of the pre-18th century period as “Cultivation & Extraction” and the 19th and 20th centuries as “Manufacturing & Industry.” 

The 21st century to this point? 
“We’re clearly in the period of compute power and human potential,” Meeker says.

5. Data drives customer satisfaction

Meeker notes (see slides 190-194) that the collection and optimization of massive amounts of user data, reflected in some of the largest consumer internet companies in the world, can mean higher rates of customer satisfaction. Amazon, Google, and Netflix all post higher-than-market-average customer satisfaction scores, according to ACSI.

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.


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