Tech World: Uber’s colossal hack, a $1.8bn court battle and more

Welcome to Tech World, your quick roundup
of some of the top technology news stories from across the globe. This month, we bring you the latest on Uber’s colossal hack, Alphabet’s $1.8bn court battle
and much more. For this episode’s Hot Topic interview,
we spoke to Des O’Connor about digital selling and the opportunities and challenges for technology
startups and scaleups. First though, here are your top international
stories. UK authorities are looking into a hack suffered
by popular ride-sharing app Uber. The breach, which exposed the information
of more than 50 million users from across the world, was concealed by Uber, which paid hackers $100,000 to erase all the stolen taken last year. The Independent Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said Uber’s concealment raised “huge concerns around its data protection policies and ethics”. Uber has so far estimated that approximately 2.7 million people in the UK were affected by the breach. Overall, it hasn’t been a good month for Uber, after accusations implying it has been operating a sophisticated unit to steal trade trade secrets surfaced this month. The new revelations were made in a $1.8bn
court battle with Alphabet’s self-driving unit, Waymo, in which Uber is accused of stealing
confidential tech for its own autonomous car projects.
The testimony, offered in court during a pre-trial hearing, suggests the dispute with Google’s
parent company may be part of a wider effort by Uber to improperly draw on work done by
its rivals. Social media giants Facebook and Twitter have
said they will cooperate with a UK probe into Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum to find out exactly what happened on their platforms in the run up to and following the referendum. Siemens, Airbus and Rolls-Royce have come
together to develop hybrid electric engine plane technology in a bid to push towards
a cleaner aviation industry. The E-Fan X programme, as the project is known,
will place an electric engine with three jet engines on a BAe 146 aircraft.
The firms say they want to fly a demo version of the plane by 2020 and a commercial application
would follow by 2025 Last but not least, bitcoin has been at it
again. The cryptocurrency made headlines yet again
after it hit an-all time high of $10,000, and went over the $11,000 mark on 29th November. That’s it for our top global tech news roundup but keep watching to see this episode’s
Hot Topics interview. We spoke with Des O’Connor from EY about digital
selling and the opportunities and challenges for technology startups and scaleups. Hi Des, welcome and thank you so much for joining us. Just to start off, and to give the interview
a little bit of context, can you tell me a little bit more about what you do at EY. Yeah, sure. So, I sit within the strategy
team and our advisory practice. At the moment, I’m the EY Wavespace lead. EY Wavespace is
a new, global initiative of 16 innovation centres based in the hottest cities throughout
the world and I’m here in London looking after our London centre, which is the focus for
customer experience and innovation. The idea behind Wavespace is that we can co-create
new solutions with our clients and leverage off the strength of our network and each centre
focuses on a different area of disruptive technology such as blockchain, artificial
intelligence, Internet of Things, data analytics. Our London centre is the customer-centric
side of things, so for the digital selling side of it, is really important that we help
our clients understand the importance of social selling and the impact that is happening on
the traditional way that we engage but also sell to our clients. So, you’ve just mentioned digital selling
and it’s actually what we are here to talk about today. It’s such a broad topic, can
we just break down a little bit and perhaps, would you be able to define what it actually
is. Yes, so digital selling is the process whereby
organisations can leverage professional networks to engage with their clients using platforms.
There’s a number of different platforms that are out there in the marketplace that people
can leverage the strengths of that and as a result there’s been a fundamental shift
in consumer behaviour patterns. Consumer loyalty from a B2C perspective is on the decline because
people can move around more responsive organisations and see the opportunities and products that
are available to that via social. As mobile technology is becoming more prevalent in our
day-to-day lives, people are able to research and gather information really seamlessly,
which is now resulted in a multi-omni channel experience for the consumer. What we’re seeing
in EY is that the consumer patterns that are happening from a B2C perspective is now starting
to impact the B2B selling side of things and organisations are starting to struggle with
the grapple and the understanding of how they can remain relevant in the marketplace but
also use these platforms to sell these products to clients as well. So, it is a really interesting
and exciting time as organisations and consumers alike are really interested in the topic. So, clearly there are a lot of opportunities
for startups to harness, but what are the specific challenges that they’re up against? So, I think brand loyalty is down, right,
so people will shift quite quickly. The consumers are more informed now as well so they expect
a lot more out of the sales person and there is a statistic out there that between 50 to
80% of the consumer journey is already completed before they make contact with an organisation
or a sales person. So that can be a bonus as well because cold calling is now practically
non-existent. The leveraging of the social networks is more appropriate, more targeted,
so people are expecting a lot more now from organisations in pushing information, rather
than organisations having to pull that information from consumers. So, there’s a lot more elements
of engaging the people now at the right stage of the customer journey buying process but
as a result of that, the marketing and sales departments need to be more closely aligned
to ensure that they are getting that seamless interaction between both of them so that they
can get the right customers and the appropriate amount of customers into the organisation
at any given time. It sounds like the lines between and commercial
are blurring and even more so, but I just wanted to pick up on something else that you
said. So, you’ve mentioned the different channels and specifically B2C sales and B2B sales,
but what are the different approaches that people need to bear in mind when they’re trying
to target other businesses and customers? I think that it is actually the opposite effect
because we are so connected as consumers now to organisations and we have it on the move
24 hours a day, we are starting to see that millennials are the largest proportion of
the workforce at the moment and are bringing their experiences into work. So, people are
starting to blend their personal side of things, with regards to research for products, into
work and then as a result the behaving patterns, the purchasing patterns are actually shifting
now as well. So, this is actually then resulting in organisations having to fundamentally think
of their social strategy and start listening more to how consumers are using social platforms
and then adapt that to the organisational perspective as well. So, for startups there
is a huge opportunity there to actively gather and proactively engage with their clients
through the uses of social media. And social media has changed so much over
the past 10 years, even five years, where do you foresee the industry going in the next 12 months? Well, I think over the next 12 months it’s
going to be an interesting one, right. I think for startups and organisations that are on
the early journey of adapting this, it’s really important that they create a culture that
is safe for people to experiment and try things differently by using live streaming or by
actually putting content on the web that can enhance the organisational offering. But I
think over the next couple of months, we are going to see a bigger push from the social
platforms in driving new forms of activity. So, there’s filters now available, tags, there’s
live streaming, but over the next 12 months to 24 months, I think the augmented reality
side of things is going to become even more prevalent and the user experience is going
to become more tantalising for people purchasing products online. So, like for startups there
is an opportunity to leverage the data that’s available and to enhance their offering is
really, really important because there’s so many free tools online that you can understand
how your hashtags are working, where your purchasing patterns are coming from, where
your enquiries are coming from. It’s scraping all that data and actually making into a tangible
output that can benefit the organisation. So, I think there is a huge opportunity for
organisations and startups alike to actually invest in getting the ability right at the
beginning so that they can have a broad spectrum and a strategy in place. It’s not just one
element. I think it’s important to leverage your ecosystem and think about how you can
create the end-to-end customer journey. I think, you know, it’s really important to
put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about that engagement. If you are fresh and
heard about the product straight off the street, how would you go about that, how would you
engage with it, what social media channels are you on, how do you go about building your
social presence, and the impact that’s having within that space as well, that’s really important. So, the opportunities are vast but it’s surely
to businesses to harness them responsibly. Yeah. So, I mean, I always think, you know,
when things go well, it’s great because the organisation is making sells from it, we’re
getting the products out there, right, but there is an element that you need to remember
and I think in a lot of social context the organisation, especially startups, can forget
about that. When things go wrong, you need to have a policy and a procedure in place
that you will then protect your brand. You want to create a culture of innovation and
opportunity for your sales team to go and explore that. I think I mentioned earlier
on the gamification of it and creating that little competitive advantage within the organisation,
but I think it’s also about risk and governance and having the understanding around what can actually,
what the firm can do when things go wrong and how they can leverage the brand name because
I think as consumers we are very responsive in doing research and actually going from
that end-to-end element, but the whole peril of the social network as well is that if things
go wrong, and we’ve seen a number of instances over the last two years, that can severely
impact the organisation’s bottom line, right. You need to have a strategy in place as well
around trust and governance and the PR side of how to protect your brand, which is critical,
right. There’s clearly a lot of things for people
to think about and consider, but what’s your top-level advice for people to sell online? Yeah, so I think there’s a couple of things
that are really important, right. The ability to know your customers, and anticipate their
needs and stay relevant. There’s nothing more, there’s nothing worse than having a platform
that is not active, that’s set up, that’s quite out of date. Refreshing it and make
sure that you’re updating it with content from the firm or content from your industry
and do a market scan, see what your competitors are doing and try and do things a little differently
and stand out in that perspective. But utilise the power of the network, there’s so much
there that you can do but build on that and actually engrain it in your overall strategy
on how you are getting the product out there. And just out of interest, have a look, gamify
it within the organisation if that needs to happen, right. And reward people within the
company that are using social to engage with clients and see the impact that it has because
we are seeing from our EY perspective that it is really prevalent for the larger organisations
to get on board with that. I think it’s really, really good use of different tools. So you
can do your freemium model, or you can actually go and actually invest in some proper hardware
to get the data and prove to yourself that it is a worthwhile investment on that one. So, definitely sounds like it is about getting
the data, harnessing that data and understanding it and then utilising it. A lot of food for thought there. Thank you
very much for your time Des. That’s all for this episode. For more of
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