Daily Tech Digest - April 28, 2019

It’s all about people: Dispelling the five myths of process automation

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In a memorable scene from the movie “The Founder” about the origin of McDonald’s, the McDonald brothers plot the layout of their restaurant in a life-sized mockup drawn in chalk on a parking lot. This example of process optimization was certainly “lean,” but it involved no software whatsoever. Today, in contrast, optimizing business processes almost always means automating them – at least in part. And when we say automation, we mean with software. Just what software, however, is an open question, as today’s frothy software marketplace has spawned several contenders. From the business process automation or BPA of the last decade to today’s robotic process automation or RPA to the latest entrant, digital process automation or DPA, information technology decision makers have a plethora of options to choose from. Be warned: This is a clear-cut case of caveat emptor. With the help of the big IT analyst firms, the providers in these overlapping categories have stirred up massive confusion. Let’s clear up the biggest misconceptions.


Confronting the risks of artificial intelligence
Because AI is a relatively new force in business, few leaders have had the opportunity to hone their intuition about the full scope of societal, organizational, and individual risks, or to develop a working knowledge of their associated drivers, which range from the data fed into AI systems to the operation of algorithmic models and the interactions between humans and machines. As a result, executives often overlook potential perils or overestimate an organization’s risk-mitigation capabilities. It’s also common for leaders to lump in AI risks with others owned by specialists in the IT and analytics organizations. Leaders hoping to avoid, or at least mitigate, unintended consequences need both to build their pattern-recognition skills with respect to AI risks and to engage the entire organization so that it is ready to embrace the power and the responsibility associated with AI. The level of effort required to identify and control for all key risks dramatically exceeds prevailing norms in most organizations. Making real progress demands a multidisciplinary approach involving leaders in the C-suite and across the company; experts in areas ranging from legal and risk to IT, security, and analytics; and managers who can ensure vigilance at the front lines.



In a joint session at the NCSC's CYBERUK 19 conference in Glasgow, the NCSC and the ICO outlined how the two organisations work together and create a better understanding for cyberattack victims who need to contact them with the aim of making it easier to deal with the right one at the right time. "It's important organisations understand what to expect if they suffer a cybersecurity breach. The NCSC has an important role to play in keeping UK organisation safe online, while our role reflects the impact cyber incidents have on the people whose personal data is lost, stolen or compromised," said ICO deputy commissioner for operations, James Dipple-Johnstone. "Organisations need to be clear on the legal requirements when to report these breaches to the ICO, and the potential implications, including sizeable fines, if these requirements aren't followed." In the event of a cyberattack, the NCSC will engage directly with victims to understand the nature of the incident and provide free and confidential advice to help mitigate its impact in the immediate aftermath.


5 Ways AI Is Already Being Used to Transform Business Operations


As machine learning and AI tools are allowed to digest bigger troves of data, an endless swarm of insights is being made available. Many of them can be used to improve existing operations, but there’s more, too. Some of that information can be used to identify and explore all-new opportunities. For example, data related to a particular product might reveal how customers are using the item, particularly in ways that were not originally intended. Extracted insights might also reveal desirable features and functions, which price points are most desirable, or even which additional products and services can be delivered to augment the experience. It’s about a whole lot more than just conventional business operations, however. AI technologies are being deployed in new ways, too. iCertis, for example, is leveraging AI to build smarter static contracts. More specifically, its AI solutions are designed to overcome enterprise contract management challenges through the power of enhanced data capabilities.


Statistically speaking, here’s how your SaaS company can succeed


The good news is that although there are higher expectations, the quality of customer engagement becomes stronger because you have a wealth of data to personalize experiences and customer interactions. And because there are more interaction points with your customers, you can make more informed decisions on how to drive loyalty and where to find more of those loyal customers to drive overall lifetime value. The upfront spend that subscription businesses invest to acquire customers is paid back over time. In order for subscription business to sustainably grow, it’s essential to increase that lifetime value. And over the lifetime of the customer, you’re paying back that customer acquisition cost until you reach ‘economic loyalty,’ earning back a multiple return on the cost of acquiring and serving your customers. “That’s the ability to optimize how you monetize through pricing and plan structures,” Clark explains. “Price optimization is one of the few ways where you can increase revenue, increasing lifetime value from your subscribers without also correspondingly increasing your cost of acquisition or your cost of goods and services.”


Uncovering the hidden talent on your staff


Tech companies have led the way in fostering creativity by using an agile approach. Teams break projects down into sprints, focusing intensely on solving one specific problem at a time in a short, set period. This can lead to quick, outside-the-box thinking and risk-taking, and gives staff the ability to pivot to new ideas as short-term findings become clear. And, as with hackathons, these methods can be adapted to work in any industry. Experimenting with an agile approach — and not just in your IT department — can reveal which individuals on your staff have the right mind-set for innovation and are most likely to be able to learn and adapt with your company’s needs.... Another way to find the innovators hiding in plain sight at your company is to create teams tasked specifically with coming up with new ideas. This responsibility isn’t in most employees’ job descriptions, so they might not be prioritizing it. But you can create formal innovation programs, or even tie a pilot to an existing project, to give employees the time and space they need to show what they’re capable of.


Bringing cloud services to the edge

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What cloud users haven’t been able to overcome are the physical limitations imposed by centralized infrastructure, particularly the delays imposed by transporting data hundreds or thousands of miles between an application user and the application infrastructure provider. While these seemed minute when people were already accustomed to waiting seconds on database transactions in a Web form, they become significant in an era of 5G wireless connectivity delivering streaming media and interactive multiplayer games. The speed of light quickens for no one, not even Einstein, meaning that data cannot travel 1,000 miles faster than about 5ms; add in the latency of the network equipment along the way and the round-trip time, even to the nearest regional cloud location becomes noticeable, if not intolerable for many applications. The curse of latency is a primary argument for edge computing, but it’s not the only one as companies have long known the benefits of offloading popular content and workloads to geographically distributed locations closer to users.



CIOs can make the most of artificial intelligence by applying it to strategic digital business objectives. Artificial intelligence (AI) can augment or automate decisions and tasks today performed by humans, making it indispensable for digital business transformation. With AI, organizations can reduce labor costs, generate new business models, and improve processes or customer service. However, most AI technologies remain immature. “To overcome this hurdle, CIOs must ensure that applications intended to serve a strategic business purpose, such as increasing revenue or scaling services, are designed for strategic plans,” says Jorge Lopez, Distinguished Vice President Analyst, Gartner. Lopez outlines six design principles that will help CIOs and organizations evaluate all proposed AI applications with strategic intent — that is, applications intended to help achieve business results, not just operational improvements. Applications do not have to follow all six principles; however, designs that show two or fewer principles should be reconsidered.


Three out of five IT workers share sensitive information by email


The report shows that the current digital landscape within the companies surveyed is not meeting the needs of employees. And compared to last year, some problems are even getting worse. Over a quarter (28 percent) use instant messaging to share sensitive or private information, creating a major security risk for enterprises. Two thirds of tech workers (66 percent) use use non-approved communication apps because they are less likely to be monitored or tracked. Secure methods that track user access and support the use of watermarks are rarely used. Unsanctioned apps and software, referred to as shadow IT, can lead to information being shared on unsecured systems, and cause communication to be fractured and siloed in the enterprise. These communication challenges go beyond security risks — the report also highlighted restrictions in knowledge-sharing. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of IT professionals said that they work remotely at least one time per week. Over two thirds (68 percent) say remote work presents challenges that could be solved by better technology solutions, and a digitally centric work culture.


Continuous architecture combats dictatorial EA practices

To encourage an Agile enterprise architecture, software teams must devise a method to get bottom-up input and enforce consistency. Apply tenets of continuous integration and continuous delivery all the way to planning and architecture. With a dynamic roadmap, an organization can change its planning from an annual endeavor to a practically nonstop effort. Lufthansa Systems, a software and IT service provider for the airline industry under parent company Lufthansa, devised a layered approach to push customer demand into product architecture planning. Now, the company can continuously update and improve products, said George Lewe, who manages the company's roster of Atlassian tools that underpin the multi-team collaboration. "We get much more input from the customers -- really cool ideas," Lewe said. "Some requests might not fit into our product strategy or, for technical reasons, it's not possible, but we can look at all of them." Lufthansa Systems moved its support agents, product managers and software developers onto Atlassian Jira, a project tracking tool, with a tiered concept.



Quote for the day:


"Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader." -- General George S. Patton, Jr.


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