The Sky’s the Limit

Luke White didn’t actually lug an entire piano onto the New York City subway. There was no bona fide drum in Tobias Smith’s hands. And guitarists Eric Espiritu and Philip Galitzine weren’t even close to real, tangible strings. Yet the rock band Atomic Tom didn’t need instruments to launch itself to stardom. Instead, it reached its key demographic with four iPhones, a battery-powered speaker, and a YouTube video.

This is why connected technologies are changing the world, says entrepreneur Kent Parker. Because even if you’ve never heard of Atomic Tom, it’s likely that you do know about smart phones, YouTube, and the cloud that connects the two. These technologies are what allowed White to use two, and what sometimes looked like three, fingers to play the keys of a simulated piano on a tiny iPhone on the B line in New York City. They are why Smith was able to use another iPhone to drum the beats to that same song, “Take Me Out,” which now has more than 5.4 million views on YouTube. These connected technologies are why the band landed a spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! the same month it uploaded that video. And these technologies are a significant reason why the world will be very different 20 years from now.

“The reality is that business leaders must endeavor to understand (connected technology) … before it is too late for them and their employees and investors,” Parker says. “At the very least, understanding how to operate more effectively and efficiently in this new connected world is crucial (in) hiring, managing people talent, marketing, sales management, supply chain management, financial management, and more.”

Parker has a unique vantage point. A Gibson County, Ind., native, he grew up on a farm. He has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Evansville and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. He’s worked in business commerce and software; in coffee; in strategic sourcing and procurement; as an engineer; and in sales. Parker is also an avid lover of the arts and history, and he’s involved in numerous economic development ventures as well.

But the 51-year-old is probably best known for his recent retirement from Ariba Inc., a leading provider of business commerce network, software, and services solutions based in Sunnyvale, Calif., after the company was purchased by SAP AG. From that experience and others, Parker is intimately aware of what’s happening in Silicon Valley, how insiders there view the intersection of technology and innovation, and how business leaders and employees here in the Tri-State area can use that information to their benefit.

That’s what he did when he spoke at the Rotary Club of Evansville on March 5 to give his speech, “The World in 2033.”

One of Parker’s key points is that people are more connected by technology and mobile devices than ever before. At the heart of this connectedness is cloud computing, in which computing resources (hardware and software) are delivered as a service over a network, typically the Internet. Rather than being dependent on hardware and software installed in a particular location or on users’ own equipment, users of cloud computing services are able to connect and access computing resources and information remotely, often from a variety of devices and locations. And savvy upstarts like Atomic Tom are using the cloud and technologies that share information through the cloud to circumvent established business models. What’s even more important is that it’s working, because radio and record companies aren’t nearly as powerful as they once were. “The record industry is really in a state of disarray,” Parker says. “Artists and musicians can disintermediate radio and record labels to find each other.”

That’s what Generation Z has done by making YouTube — and not the radio — its main source for new music. Rock bands like Atomic Tom that are looking to succeed know this. They are getting their product directly to their customers at all times and almost anywhere their customers go. The cloud makes that possible.

The cloud is impacting other industries, too, Parker says. Beyond the notion of cloud computing, Parker defines a broader concept he calls the cloud community effect: the realization of a “community” consisting of the hardware, software, information, knowledge, capabilities, and human participants, all connected by the Internet. Under this notion of a cloud community, the access to and impact of technology is becoming embedded in our lives in a ubiquitous way, and it’s actually changing the way we live our lives. And these cloud communities can be very powerful. Take Maker’s Mark. It took less than a week for the company to reverse its decision in mid-February to lower the proof of its whiskey from 90 to 84. The reason? The public hated the idea. It flooded the company with emails and phone calls. “This is the cloud community telling (Maker’s Mark), ‘Bad idea,’” Parker says. “They changed … very quickly.”

Companies that want to be successful in the future are going to have to be comfortable using the cloud and in managing their cloud communities, Parker says. They can’t stick their heads in the sand. Instead, they will have to be experts at managing their cloud community experiences in at least three areas: with customers; with employees and management; and in their relationships with their commerce partners, investors, and others who are involved in those businesses but who are not employees.

In other words, the cloud has created a community of people who are constantly sharing data. In the future, companies that are able to analyze that data and use it to help their businesses have a greater chance of success. Additionally, data culled from the cloud could be used to solve problems that have never been solved before, Parker says.

“When you get this community that’s driven by these cloud communications … all of a sudden we can start to make sense of behavioral or social or economic activity in a way that we couldn’t before,” he says.

In the future, people will have much shorter memories. The old adage of “people never forget” will disappear, Parker says. Instead, that will be replaced with some form of “What have you done for me today?

“Here is one of the new rules: There are no secrets,” he says. “In the era of the cloud, there is no hiding from the crowd. You are going to have to understand the communities that dictate how your customers make decisions, and you are going to have to listen and be responsive to those decisions.”

That’s happening now, and it will continue to happen in the future — largely because of Generation Z, which is very comfortable with technology, connectedness, and the ability to multitask.

“Their expectation of honesty and straightforwardness is going to be very high,” Parker says. “It’s going to redefine how we as business leaders, or business leaders in that era, are going to have to relate to them. Cloud technologies are at the root of this.”

Entrepreneur Kent Parker may be reached at

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