Yahoo, AT&T, Cisco, Salesforce at Davos: 7 Key Takeaways

Marissa Mayer, Randall Stephenson, Marc Benioff, John Chambers and Gavin Patterson agreed that 2014 will be a “tipping point” year.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Cisco CEO John Chambers, CEO Marc Benioff and BT Group CEO Gavin Patterson participated in the opening panel at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, where they talked about disruption, mobility, security, privacy, the speed of change, the Internet of things, transparency and much more.

Below are a few interesting excerpts from the hour-long discussion between industry leaders whose businesses—and so our world—are being radically changed by technology.

Marissa Mayer, on what to expect in 2014:

“2014 … is a tipping point. When you look at mobile, when you look at bandwidth, when you look at the Internet of things, it’s going to change everyone’s daily routines really fundamentally. And I think what it really comes down to is apps. Because it’s not just how you connect, how it inspires you, how it entertains you, but there’s really fundamental things happening.

For example, on a recent Friday night, 150,000 people let strangers stay in their houses—through Airbnb and the sharing economy. More than 1.5 million people have hired strangers to do daily errands for them on Task Rabbit. Fifty-six percent of people would consider renting out their car to a stranger, because when you have the Internet of things, and you know where your car is and what’s happening in our home … it makes connecting and trusting those people that much easier. It’s going to change everything, really, very fundamentally.

John Chambers, on how to make your company a disruptor:

You catch market transitions, you listen to customers, and then something I believe in, you tie these together in a way that gives you architectural advantages to move fast. But you have to build that into your DNA. You have to tell your teams you want to take risks, and by definition you’re occasionally going to fail. But you have to create that culture to do it.

Marc Benioff on the new service culture:

I look at what General Electric is doing … and it’s a broad, fundamental disruption of their business and their technology model. … They listen to all of us and they say we make aircraft engines and locomotives and turbines and CT scanners, and they’ve said [all of these machines we make] will have APIs, and we’ll provide analytics out of every machine, and all of these things will have predictive capabilities, all of them will be collaborative, so that the engineers who run these machines can share between our engineers and the customers’ engineers, and every machine will have a help button on it … so the customer can talk to us in real time. And the customer is never going to buy another machine from us again. Instead, we’re going to go to the model … of pay-as-you-go service. And we’re going to be a huge service company, and we’re going to provide all of our machines pay-as-you-go, coupled with all of the professional services, collaboration services and analytics services, and everything you need to run the machines and make them successful. …

Today, if you’re not listening to your customers more deeply than ever before, and responding to them more rapidly than ever before, then you are probably making a mistake.

John Chambers, on what request he would make to President Obama:

We need some rules of the road that everybody can live with, especially among countries that are very closely allied. It’s been the wild, wild West around the world, and we need all countries to come up with, ‘Here are some general guidelines,’ starting with transparency.

Marissa Mayer, on transparency in government:

When you look at various governmental programs, usually when you’re making a trade-off with privacy, it’s very clear what’s being looked for and how the information is being used. When you go through security at the airport, when you get a driver’s license—you know exactly what you’re disclosing to the government and you know exactly what you’re getting in exchange. I think what’s murky about some of what’s happening is people don’t necessarily know what’s being collected and how it’s being used. That’s the transparency we’re looking for and trying to awaken a debate on.

Randall Stephenson on the areas that technology has yet to transform:

[Health care, government services] and education have escaped the productivity miracle of the last 30 years. … We at AT&T are competing for computer science capabilities and specialists, and getting the numbers we need is really, really hard. So we partnered with Georgia Tech. At Georgia Tech, if you want a Masters in Computer Science degree … it’s $40,000. We launched and started this January, a Masters in Computer Science degree, fully accredited from the state of Georgia, from Georgia Tech, for $6,700. And we don’t think we’re scratching the surface here. … I think a lot of industries that have escaped productivity … are not going to escape the next five years.

John Chambers on emerging markets:

Almost every government leader I’ve talked to … understands that this technology can change their countries. And they’re not going to play catch-up. Many emerging markets will skip a generation or two. Watch what China is doing on health care. Sichuan Province. They already take people who have never seen a doctor and connect them with the best doctors, video-conferencing wise … You see this understood in India, you see this understood in Brazil, you see it clearly understood in Russia. … I’m very optimistic about how quickly [these markets will develop]. And competition will not be between countries but more between cities, which has a whole separate implication.