Category Archives: SAP

Health Vs. Hackers: Cloud-Connected Cardiac Care

If you’ve ever checked your Fitbit to monitor how you slept or consulted your phone to see how many steps you’ve taken, then you understand the role technology can play in your physical health. Today, that connection is more important than ever, as cloud-connected technology promises to connect our bodies to the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve health outcomes.

High-tech heart health

One pioneering area where this is happening is cardiac care.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Many people with chronic cardiac conditions live with a pacemaker to maintain a healthy heart rhythm. These patients may have heart damage from previous heart attacks, ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation, or shortness of breath due to heart rate abnormalities.

Pacemakers are relatively easy to implant and maintain, and they could soon provide doctors with much more feedback and data about a patient’s cardiac activity.

For example, many pacemakers already supply patient location data. This information may not be set to upload continuously, but it is tracked along with other heart activity data and uploaded to a secure server during medical appointments.

The combination of cloud-connected devices such as pacemakers and patient data could make patients vulnerable to hackers. It’s important for healthcare professionals and patients alike to understand how we use these tools and how patients are protected.

Disciplining data

A pacemaker isn’t the first medical tech tool to raise data security concerns, but it is a leading example of an IoT-connected device that involves bodily access. Hackers who gain access to patient files, as happened during the WannaCry attacks, is certainly committing a breach of privacy, but rest assured—so far they can’t short-circuit a heart.

Still, medical IoT forces us to reckon with digital security in new ways. Consider, for example, the increasing use of algorithms and AI in cardiac diagnostics and care, such as the new eye-scanning technology that can assess cardiovascular health by studying the veins of the retinal fundus, an area at the back of the eyeball. This tool doesn’t simply scan the eye and leave the interpretation to doctors; it uses an algorithm to reach conclusions based on past cases and sophisticated machine learning.

This kind of non-invasive study could provide patients with countless benefits, but outside interference with the algorithm could also result in falsified results. Many types of diagnostic equipment today have arrived at this juncture between care and risk.

In general, the benefits of medical IoT far exceed the risks. This is true of pacemakers, MRI machines, insulin pumps, and many other devices. But patients and healthcare professionals should keep in mind that the more data collected, the greater the security risk. For patients, that may mean questioning whether to enter sensitive medical data into a smartphone, for example, or whether to use the latest popular healthcare wearable device.

While healthcare technology could pose security risks, it doesn’t mean we should reject these potentially life-saving devices. Every interaction with a computer or smartphone will be a balancing act in the era of Big Data.

For more on this topic, see Stitching Up Your Healthcare Data.

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The New Art Of Intrapreneurship

I come from a family of successful entrepreneurs. As the eldest son, it would have been the easiest path for me to continue our family business like generations before me. After all, my siblings and I had learned the ropes of our family business since childhood. Our grandparents and parents taught us what it takes to be a savvy businessperson. Our business was part of the fabric of our daily life.

Thus, when I became enamored with the technology industry at university and decided to pursue a career at a large global IT corporation instead of running our family business, it was not an easy choice.  At first, it felt like crossing a chasm from the very familiar entrepreneurial world to a more structured corporate world where more organizational management skills were required.

My grandfather, an astute and wise businessman, gave me three ingredients for success to guide my career path in the corporate world: nazar (foresight), jigar (toughness of character), and khabar (awareness). His wisdom has not only helped me pursue a successful career at SAP, but it also opened my eyes to entirely new possibilities: Driving technology and business innovation at a new scale by instilling the same entrepreneurial spirit and mindset to all employees within the corporation. We can create the best of both worlds by encouraging employees to think like an entrepreneur within the company.

Gifford Pinchot was credited to be the first to define the term intrapreneur, defining it as “dreamers who do. Those who take hands-on responsibility for creating innovation of any kind, within a business.” The American startup author Guy Kawasaki called the ability to innovate in large corporations the “art of intrapreneurship.

The early approaches recommended to create a microcosm of intrapreneurs within the company, often purposely separated from the rest of the company so that the intrapreneurs can innovate without the limitations of existing corporate structures. “Find a separate building,” recommended Kawasaki in his 2006 blog post. “Ideally, it’s between 440 yards and one mile from the main corporate campus—that is, close enough to steal stuff but far enough so that management is seldom in your face.”

Those closed-door approaches have limitations. When confining intrapreneurs to a division, innovation cannot happen across the entire organization. You also put a cap on the organization’s innovation capital. In my experience, the better approach is to innovation is openness, making it part of the corporate culture. Every employee should be able to participate.

That’s where my grandfather’s wisdom comes in. Being entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial at a large corporation is not just about creativity or infusing new ideas. It is also about having the market insights, business acumen, and the ability to identify the right opportunity for new products and services or new markets. Having a group of intrapreneurs is good, but having an entire organization with an entrepreneurial mindset that uses nazar, jigar , and khabar is golden. It catapults a company’s ability to innovate to an unprecedented scale.

And there is more. Technology can help open up doors for employees to be entrepreneurial.

Here’s an example of how SAP Labs in India accelerated product innovation for the entire company. In 2016, the SAP Labs India team created a global crowdsourcing collaborative platform called SAP Blue. Using the crowdsourcing platform, employees could start sharing ideas for innovation projects and ask colleagues from across the company to contribute to the development of these projects. For employees, Blue is a tool to pursue their individual interests beyond their classic job description. It empowers them to share their creativity, expertise, and industry insights.

There is one caveat: To stay focused as a company, all ideas contribute to the overall goal and mission of SAP. The ability to share ideas and have ownership of innovation projects caught on like wildfire globally.

Another way we foster entrepreneurship is by connecting SAP employees with startup companies. As part of our SAP’s Startup Accelerator program, SAP employees have the opportunity to become mentors for startups and help these early-stage companies to go to market successfully—at true startup speed and within the economic constraints of a startup—by sharing their expertise in product development, marketing, finance, and operations.

Today intrapreneurship means opening the doors to entrepreneurial thinking to all employees. If you can achieve it globally at scale, you have truly mastered the art of intrapreneurship today.

For more lessons on entrepreneurial thinking, see Tim Ferris’ Top 5 Startup Lessons.

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Top Five Finance Blogs Of June 2018

Top Five Finance Blogs Of June 2018

Jean Loh


7523 Top Five Finance Blogs Of June 2018

About Jean Loh

Jean Loh is the director, Global Audience Marketing at SAP. She is an experienced marketing and communication professional, currently responsible for developing thought leadership content that is unbiased and audience-led while addressing market challenges to illuminate and solve the unmet needs of CFOs, CIOs, and the wider global finance and IT audience.

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Women In Enterprise Cloud Computing. Part 3: To See Opportunities, Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

For most organizations, the measure of success of diversity and inclusion initiatives has become merely a matter of numbers. However, creating equal opportunities for female leaders and challenged persons is more than a numbers game. Diversity and inclusion must not be enforced – but embraced as an important pillar within the human resource strategy. This multi-part series shines a light on how women in leadership positions at SAP P&I Enterprise Cloud Services have risen to the top within their field. Each portrait shares insights, lessons learned, and tips for the next generation of female leaders in cloud computing.

In part three of this series, Baerbel Haenelt, a manager in development at SAP Application Innovation Services (AIS), raises awareness of the importance of disability inclusion as a rather unexpected source of business success and mutual benefit. (Read part 1 and part 2.)

Part 3: Baerbel Haenelt: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see new opportunities

Barbara Haenelt Women In Enterprise Cloud Computing. Part 3: To See Opportunities, Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more,” is Baerbel Haenelt’s favorite quote. The quote is from Robert M. Hensel, an international poet and the Guinness World Record holder for the longest non-stop wheelie in a wheelchair.

The saying also mirrors Baerbel’s approach to leadership and creating a culture of inclusion in teams. “We have to focus on everyone’s unique ability, as opposed to perceived limitations. Every person’s skill set and viewpoint is unique. Together we can bring a broad spectrum of perspectives and skills to the company. It’s what makes us see new possibilities and stay innovative, “said Baerbel.

Part of Baerbel’s role as a manager in development at Application Innovation Services (AIS) at SAP in Germany is providing mentorship to teams who integrate differently abled employees and provide mentorship for them.

Embracing cultural change has become an imperative for companies on their way to becoming an intelligent enterprise. The digitization of the workplace has also changed the parameters for leadership. The new generation of leaders promotes an open mindset, adaptability, and empathy to navigate the digital transformation. They also have a broader definition of talent. In a PwC report, 73% of CEOs cite skill shortages as a business threat, and 81% state they are looking for a wider mix of skills when hiring. It is crucial for managers to understand how to focus on people’s skills, abilities, and experience to be attractive employers.

Digital transformation is also prompting the creation of a range of new roles within organizations, which require new sets of skills. Encouraging managers to build a highly diverse team is not a nice-to-have strategy, it is a critical component to stay competitive and define the future of work.

However, finding and recruiting new talent can be challenging. About two years ago, Baerbel had to quickly refill 12 positions within a short timeframe due to organizational redeployments. Despite her vast personal network and experience as a people manager, filling these job vacancies was initially difficult. “Recruiting for 12 positions at once on a tight deadline was one of the biggest challenges in my 24-year-long career at the company to date. What saved me was my knowledge of and belief in an untapped market: a pool of differently abled people who are highly skilled but don’t always apply to positions. I knew that they have a lot to bring to the table, if given a chance.”

Baerbel seized the opportunity to hire multiple persons with disabilities for the job vacancies. The move not only filled the positions with the right candidates, it also increased overall workforce diversity.

“It is important to foster a diverse, inclusive, and bias-free culture. Embracing diversity means bringing employees of different capabilities into the team. Drawing from as many different sources as possible in the recruitment process helps nurture a highly diverse company culture. Every person should be recognized for what he or she has to contribute,” stated Baerbel.

Knowing everyone’s strengths is not always easy. To identify how team members approach tasks and problem-solving, Baerbel recommends putting yourself in their shoes for one day. Experiencing a person’s world for even one hour can be eye-opening, based on Baerbel’s experience.

Last year, Baerbel’s team went on a field trip to SRH Neckargemünd, a vocational training center in Germany that specializes in training disabled youth for the workplace. The team spent an entire day at the center to explore how its program facilitates social integration and prepares graduates to compete in the business world. After walking a mile in the trainees’ shoes, Baerbel and her team came to greatly respect and appreciate the unique way they successfully master their everyday life. The team observed that challenges opened up new perspectives and ways of doing things. The students were always thinking of creative ways to overcome mundane tasks.

“Rethinking routines and questioning traditional paths is the foundation of innovation. The inclusion of differently abled colleagues is a huge asset for all. We are challenged and inspired to think in new directions,” stated Baerbel.

Baerbel’s team is encouraging departments across the company to follow their example and integrate team members with different abilities. They rely on the guidance of the corporate representative body for disabled employees, which helps with the integration of team members and putting a barrier-free work environment in place.

For Baerbel’s team, adapting the physical work environment was easy because it was already barrier-free and catered to different types of disabilities. “There were no major adjustments necessary for the workspace for our team. All we needed were cozy office chairs and desks with adjustable height,” said Baerbel.

By understanding employees with disabilities and listening to their ideas, companies can unlock enormous potential. The first step on that path is to encourage people with disabilities to apply for jobs. “People with disabilities often don’t dare to apply for a vacant position, although they have the qualifications for the job. We have to strongly encourage people with disabilities to apply for positions that they feel are out of their reach – they may be in for a positive surprise! And we may learn new ways to look at the world as a team and become more competitive,” concluded Baerbel.

For more about business beyond bias, learn about SAP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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Top Ten Digitalist Magazine Posts Of The Week [July 2, 2018]

 Top Ten Digitalist Magazine Posts Of The Week [July 2, 2018]

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Should You Hire For Experience Or Potential?

Have you ever applied for a job and been rejected due to lack of experience?

Traditionally, recruiters have focused on candidates’ background and experience of rather than talent or potential. The assumption is that if you’ve done ABC somewhere else, of course you can do ABC just as well here too.

But experience does not equal performance. It’s possible to do the same job year after year without significant change or growth. So five years of experience might actually equate to one year of learning. It’s also possible to do a job for many years without doing it well!

This approach doesn’t always work in today’s job market

People without “direct” prior experience succeed all the time. When someone is promoted, made a manager, transferred to a new role or industry, or is hired as an undergrad, they usually adapt and overcome any shortcomings in experience. And in today’s technology-driven, digitally disrupted world of work, what has worked in the past may not work in the future. Products, processes, experiences, and even education quickly become obsolete, especially in fast-moving fields like technology, finance, medicine, and retail.

And in new, emerging industries, experience is less important than creative thinking, adaptability, and communication skills.

Where do rookies outperform veterans?

Author and leadership educator Liz Wiseman’s research revealed something surprising – experienced people outperform inexperienced people at work only by a small margin. Even more surprising, if you look only at knowledge industries, rookies actually outperform veterans on average. Inexperienced people outperform experienced people when:

a) The work is innovative

b) Speed is important; rookies are faster than those with a lot more experience

Interview questions that focus on talent rather than experience

There are some simple interview questions that help reveal potential. Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, author of It’s Not the How or the What but the Who, suggests a few cues that can reveal potential.

Business growth expert Royston Guest advises asking the following three questions at the start of an interview:

  1. What do you know about our business?
  2. What questions do you have for us?
  3. Why you?

These questions reveal how well prepared the candidate is, how they deal with the unexpected, and how they take control of the interview to demonstrate why they’re a great fit.

Leveling the playing field

An individual’s performance and potential are not always apparent from a resume or even an interview. Sometimes a resume can represent circumstance and luck more than talent.

And one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to recruiting – talent comes in many forms. The way a role is advertised and the way someone is interviewed and screened can limit who can be successful during the hiring process. For example, unconscious bias can limit our focus on who we consider for a particular role.

To help combat this, recruiting technology using machine learning algorithms predicts and flags language that may be biased. This helps customers avoid unconsciously making jobs more or less attractive to candidates with a specific background or profile, especially when the wording is gender-biased.

Another example is that people on the autism spectrum find themselves locked out of opportunities in the workplace, with 80%+ being unemployed. They often lack the traditional social skills to make it past an interview, even though they may be highly qualified for the position. An Autism at Work program helps mitigate this with non-traditional recruiting processes that counteract the typical challenges people with autism face. People on the spectrum are recruited for roles that tap into their specific skills and talents such as exceptional analytical skills and high conscientiousness. In addition, some companies are trialing a new recruiting approach that minimizes bias by using anonymous evaluations from a network of expert screeners. The result is a faster, more inclusive hiring process focusing on what candidates can do, not what they write on their resume.

Does your organization hire for potential or experience?

Hiring for potential rather than experience can be a leap of faith. But the payoffs can be significant. I think the right mix of talent vs. experience depends on the situation but, at the very least, we should be aware of when each works best and make a conscious decision rather than leaving it to chance.

I hope that if nothing else, this article has prompted you to give a second look to candidates who may be a perfect fit except for their credentials.

When does your organization prioritize potential over experience? Do you have a standard way to decide which approach will work best? Click here for a more in-depth guide on how to encourage diversity, drive referrals, and find the perfect fit when acquiring talent.

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How Innovation Is Changing Natural Resource Companies

 How Innovation Is Changing Natural Resource Companies

In my previous two blogs “Natural Resources Companies Ignore Data At Their Peril” and “How Changing Consumer Buying Patterns Are Going To Impact Natural Resource Businesses,” I identified the five impacts of modern technology trends on individuals:

  1. How we socialize and what we want to be associated with
  2. How we learn and explore
  3. What we buy and how we buy
  4. How we do things
  5. Who and what we trust

I made the point that natural resources companies are challenged at comprehending the second, third, and fourth order effects of how technology trends might impact their industry. In this blog, I will explore how the way we do things will impact the natural resources industry.

Maintenance will become augmented by robotics and then disposable

When did you last try servicing a washing machine, a TV, or a microwave at home? It’s fascinating that in our personal lives, it seems that it is usually cheaper to replace our appliances than to try to service them.

By contrast, natural resources companies spend huge amounts of money on maintenance. There are no two processing plants that are the same and, for the most part, equipment is custom-built to deal with the industry’s scale and remote operations. The impact is the high cost of maintaining and operating this equipment, requiring large workforces to exist in conditions that no human really wants. Many companies are focusing on automation of this equipment to remove humans from these environments, improve safety, and decrease costs. While this is good, it has not delivered a true step change yet, as the equipment hasn’t fundamentally changed. It’s still big, heavy, and bespoke.

The real question is, does it need to be?

Take, for example, the large, yellow truck, an icon of the industry. The reason we had big trucks in the first place was that, with older technologies, bigger was more efficient, with the added benefit that bigger trucks meant we needed fewer people on mine sites to drive them. As these trucks become autonomous and technology (like electric drive) improves their efficiency, the question is, can they become smaller?

What would happen if we used standard, commercial, autonomous trucks, a 10th of the size?

All of a sudden, we would be in the world of trucks produced at mass scale for the transportation industry, plummeting prices of purchasing, maintaining, and servicing them. In addition, smaller commercial trucks are faster. A limitation of large trucks is that their speed is limited by their large tires that overheat. A larger fleet of smaller commercial trucks could become more economical and faster than large trucks built specifically for the industry.

We could have the same situation with things like crushers and conveyors, which are big because they are filled by big trucks. What would happen if we made them smaller and had more running in parallel? This would spread the failure risk and likely reduce the impact of downtime and increase overall availability. The same thing applies to conveyors. Other industries, like manufacturing and baggage handling, have millions of more miles of conveyor systems, so by making mining conveyors similar to those industries, we can take advantage of mass manufacturing and equipment is more likely to become highly commoditized.

In the future, mining equipment will likely be smaller, mass-produced, and recyclable. Equipment won’t be bought with the expectation that it must survive for the life of the mine. It will be replaced frequently, allowing mining companies to keep up with rapid advancements in technology.

Back-office automation will leave more time for value-adding activities

History has proven that, as technology evolves, so do humans. During the first industrial revolution, workers were concerned that machines would replace farm laborers. They did, yet society prospered. The second industrial revolution’s factory lines proved craftsmen’s fears true about being replaced, but these factories also created more jobs. The third industrial revolution saw electronics enter the manufacturing world, and again workers despaired. But we adapted and society thrived.

Here we are at the fourth industrial revolution where the cyber and physical worlds meet. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation have become a reality, and again we worry that technology will replace our jobs. The reality is that it probably will.

There are a lot of studies trying to predict which jobs are likely to stay and which jobs likely to go. I think it will be very difficult to predict. Will artificial intelligence, natural language processing, chatbots, and virtual reality allow robots to adopt human-like qualities, making it difficult to differentiate us from robots in the future?

When I talk to resources companies about the business benefits of back-office automation, the conversation often leans towards efficiency, which by implication means we will need fewer people to benefit. What companies often miss, though, is that the real benefit of efficiency is not created by reducing heads but rather by increasing effectiveness. I estimate that the benefits of efficiency are about 1/10th of the benefits created by higher effectiveness.

Efficiency, in isolation, normally only focuses on bottom-line improvement, while effectiveness creates new ways to improve the top line while also reducing the bottom line. Imagine if resource companies could free up minds normally trapped by mindless, repetitive tasks and focus them on “opportunity and effectiveness thinking”?

As an industry, we have hopelessly underinvested in R&D. Not because we don’t have some of the smartest minds, rather because we have been focused on improving efficiency and reducing the cost line. Opportunity thinking is the driving force behind innovation, and this is what differentiates us from machines.

Machines learn by following trends and thinking logically. Humans learn by doing and thinking differently.

We should not forget that, in order for artificial intelligence to exist, it required human intelligence to create it. It’s this type of thinking that develops disruptive new ideas that can radically change a company. In the face of the changing power mix, as well as the challenges coming from things like recycling and the changing commodity mix, natural resources companies need to use the efficiencies they are gaining from technology to free up the minds of their employees to focus on effectiveness or opportunity thinking. If they don’t do this they are leaving the door wide open to disruption. In the words of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, “Your margin is my opportunity.”

At SAP, we are actively developing new technologies, such as SAP Leonardo, that help natural resource companies manage their supply chain, trade commodities, and deliver smart manufacturing.

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How To Drive Blockchain Technology Value In Life Sciences

 How To Drive Blockchain Technology Value In Life Sciences

Blockchain: Everywhere you turn in life sciences digitization, this ledger system is involved. Fully 83% of executives in life sciences expect blockchain integration in healthcare within five years. Last year’s proof of concept study clearly showed strong results using blockchain in identity trust. PC Magazine mentioned the use of blockchain for legal proof of ownership of unique cannabis strains.

How to drive blockchain technology value In life sciences

Life sciences companies are just starting to invest in digital ledgers technology (DLT) like blockchain. A 2017 survey from IDC showed that a quarter of IT professionals in the industry were already using DLTs or implementing it. Another third was evaluating or planning on evaluating the technology. But why have DLT systems started to become so popular for life science?

DLTs can provide instantly verifiable accountability to the research and development process. Beyond that, it also helps record accurate shipment data. This is important in an industry where environmental control is vital to success. It’s expected that the use of DLTs will rise as investment in digitization increases. But how do we know that this process is happening in life sciences?

Digitization increases the use of Big Data, analytics, cooperative work, and transparency. DLTs such as blockchain improve these aspects without compromising data integrity or security. It’s expected that supply chain, regulatory compliance, and product safety are probably the first blockchain projects for many life sciences companies. Sterilization processes or cold storage and transport of biologics are expected to lead the way for DLT options. Providing irrefutable documentation of this information builds trust between shareholders.

Using blockchain in clinical trials

Let’s look at an example of blockchain use in clinical trials. A pipeline drug can have a number of supply chain issues. Shipping and receiving of the experimental drug and test samples need to be tracked. Proper security, global payment management, and data sharing must also be managed. Smart contracts help improve payments to suppliers and research organizations. Internet of Things sensors can be implemented with shipping processes to update blockchain records. This helps catch potential environmental variances in medications during shipping.

Tracking document exchanges, data sharing, loT genealogy, and internal manufacturing processes can be monitored through DLTs. Now imagine adding this to current track and trace regulations for medications. Electronic product code information service requirements are much easier to manage using systems like blockchain. It provides an unforgeable ledger record that minimizes reaction time to public health crises resulting from medication problems. At the same time, it protects patient privacy by providing limited access to blockchain records.

Measuring overall DLT performance

What kind of metrics can be used to measure performance changes using DLT systems? One option is to look at reported errors compared to the overall process volume. Comparing the existing numbers against a blockchain system can often help your company locate and identify specific discrepancies and issues in the system. Because DLT systems have a unique signature with each transaction, it cannot be modified. This builds trust between supply chain parties, making the reconciliation process faster, easier, and more secure.

To implement blockchains into an organization, stakeholders must first decide which information should fall in a public versus a private blockchain. Sensitive, proprietary, or private information should be kept on a private blockchain so that it is protected. At the same time, data access and sharing must be considered. Who is allowed access and who has the responsibility to read and write to the system needs to be determined prior to starting the conversion process. Before the process goes live, your audit trails will also need to be tested.

By connecting clinical trial management programs to distributed ledgers, your organization’s supply requests, test results, and sensor data can be automated. This process can help speed up and improve the efficacy of the clinical trials. The level of transparency for the data can also help with your patient recruitment. The blockchain ledgers make it easier to improve contract payments and fair compensation while limiting overpayment risk.

How do you successfully add blockchain to your operation? Make sure you benchmark your current business processes. Map that process both before and after adding a DLT system to your operation. Take care in management of ownership and access to both internal and outside information. Ensure that patient and critical data is protected securely. Above all, before starting, figure out whether you have the expertise and resources to set up the system in the first place.

The advantages of using blockchain in life science ensure that this part of digitization is here to stay. DLT systems will help speed up and improve the quality of clinical trials. Companies that take advantage of these benefits will reap great rewards.

Learn how DLT systems can work with your business through SAP Leonardo.

Learn more about this topic in the IDC whitepaper: The Value of Blockchain Technology in the Life Sciences Industry.

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Digitalist Flash Briefing: Artificial Intelligence: From Novelty To Practical Workplace Application

Digitalist Flash Briefing: Artificial Intelligence: From Novelty To Practical Workplace Application

Bonnie D. Graham

Today’s briefing looks at how businesses have pondered what an intelligent workplace powered by artificial intelligence (AI) might look like. The day is finally here, and it’s not as daunting or as intimidating as many might have anticipated.


  • Amazon Echo or Dot: Enable the “Digitalist” flash briefing skill, and ask Alexa to “play my flash briefings” on every business day.
  • Alexa on a mobile device:

    • Download the Amazon Alexa app: Select Skills, and search “Digitalist”. Then, select Digitalist, and click on the Enable button.
    • Download the Amazon app: Click on the microphone icon and say “Play my flash briefing.”

Find and listen to previous Flash Briefings on Digitalistmag.com.

Read more on today’s topic


About Bonnie D. Graham

Bonnie D. Graham is the creator, producer, and host/moderator of Game-Changers Radio series presented by SAP, bringing technology and business strategy discussions to a global audience. Listen to the series flagship, Coffee Break with Game-Changers.

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STEM: Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes

 STEM: Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes

In a recent survey, people were asked to name female tech leaders. Many said “Alexa” and “Siri.”

Alarming, isn’t it? When LivePerson asked a representative sample of 1,000 American consumers to name a female technology leader, 91.7% of respondents weren’t able to think of any. Of the remaining 8.3%, only 4% actually could name one, and a quarter of those cited Siri or Alexa.

When we break down the numbers, this represents only about 10 people in the survey group. But that’s 10 people out of 1000 for whom the most famous woman in tech is a virtual assistant. How many more people could that be when you expand the sample size?

Meanwhile, more than half of the respondents were able to correctly identify a male leader in tech, with Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg topping that list. Not only do these results highlight a lack of high-profile women in tech leadership roles, but it also reflects the tech industry’s persistent problem with gender inequality. While there are many reasons and arguments as to why STEM fields are male-dominated, the underrepresentation of women in STEM roles is a real problem, with only 24% of jobs in STEM fields held by women, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Arguments such as “women wouldn’t be interested in science or tech jobs anyway,” and “if they really wanted to work in STEM roles, they would” (yes, these are actual arguments that I have heard people say) are narrow-minded and miss the point.

One factor is the general perception that many people have of STEM fields, gleaned largely from media portrayals. A survey of films made between 1931 and 1984 showed that most portrayed scientists as villains (fewer than 1% portrayed them as the hero). Since then, teenagers interested in STEM have often been portrayed as nerdy social outcasts, ridiculed by the “cooler” kids at school. In a phenomenon often referred to as an “accidental curriculum,” people do learn from film and television, whether or not they are aware of it.

If you asked people to close their eyes and describe what they picture when they think of a scientist, an engineer, a programmer, or even a physics professor, most would probably describe a male. In fact, since 1983, repeated studies have shown that when children are asked to draw a scientist, they overwhelmingly draw old white men. Children usually cited film or cartoon characters as their main source of inspiration, and in the original research, children drew these stereotypical characteristics more and more frequently as they grew older.

Fortunately, this often-misguided perception of STEM professionals is changing for the better. One study found that adults in 2001 were much less likely to hold negative stereotypes about scientists than they were in 1983. They were also more likely to consider a STEM career a good choice for their children or themselves.

This is also starting to improve in the film and television industry also. For example, the popular Marvel movie franchise has not only sought to provide more scientifically accurate references by consulting with actual scientists, but also the films also promote a more diverse culture in an effort to change the perception of the STEM field.

For example, the original “Thor” comic had Natalie Portman’s character, Jane Foster, portrayed as a nurse. The writers and physicists consulted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe version thought it would make more sense if her character was actually a physicist who was studying the wormhole that brought Thor to Earth. It’s a good place to start breaking down gender stereotypes, along with cultural, ethnic, and societal ones.

Plenty of evidence shows that organizations and industries with a more diverse workforce enjoy better reputations, but they also see advantages such as increased profitability, greater innovation, and a broader talent pool. In fact, some research also suggests that many consumers would trust big tech companies to be more ethical if women were at the helm.

While the gender gap is slowly closing, STEM industries have a long way to go to create an environment that welcomes all types of workers.

For more on women in technology, see Women In Tech: Taking On The Gender Divide On Their Terms.

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