Last week I was running a visioning workshop for a client, looking at future opportunities in the marketplace. An interesting discussion took place around the virtualization of some of their offerings. Beyond this particular case, an interesting point to look at, as technology evolves, is whether to offer some products/services over the internet, rather than implementing physical installations.
Internet has become more or less ubiquitous. Look at the disaster in Haiti, and how the world keeps updated through the internet. Facebook pages, twitter messages, e-mails, you name it, they describe the misery and the urgent needs, they provide information about the ones who are safe. This really asks the question about the future of many of our offerings.
Cloud computing, virtual environments (e.g. second life), VoIP, instant messaging and many other techniques are available today.Could we use them to deliver our products and services. For example, could we imagine a remote doctor visit or diagnostic. You will tell me that already exists for sailors, but at what pricepoint. Could people residing in remote areas access their doctor over the internet, could specialists been involved remotely etc.
Obviously, this requires a complete rethinking of the approach taken. It may need new tools (e.g. automated measurement devices). But it would develop new markets, provide quality healthcare in remote markets, help third world countries to improve their healthcare etc.
A supply chain thinking is needed to achieve such transformation, starting with defining the business processes that need implemented. Combining technology and business thinking is of the essence in such situation. The cloud, and in particular the community cloud I talked about previously, may serve, if we can build the appropriate levels of security, as information backbone for such approach.
Now, healthcare is one example of how digitization may help transform the delivery of a service, but many other examples could be taken. Creativity and innovation are required. The sky is the limit.