Tag Archives: Business

Duplicated Entity Names when Creating Business Process Flows in Dynamics 365

CRM Blog Duplicated Entity Names when Creating Business Process Flows in Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics introduced Business Process Flows (BPFs) in their 2013 version and they have been improving them ever since. They are an easily configurable feature that can seamlessly guide your users through YOUR business processes. Our own CRM Nerd wrote a great blog recently that outlines how awesome BPFs are, especially for end user adoption.

The out-of-box solution is delivered with several BPF that meet a lot of customers’ needs with little or no additional configuration. However, one of the best features of Dynamics is that you can easily add new entities to meet your business needs and create BPFs that use these new entities.

Congrats!  Twins!

If you find the need to do this for your organization, you will quickly realize that Dynamics creates an additional entity with the same Display Name as your custom entity. This is standard functionality and it’s what helps make BPFs so powerful and able to track the time in and between phases, among other things.

Entities with the same display name can cause your end users confusion, for example, when they use Advanced Find, they will see the same entity listed twice. Let’s say that you have a custom entity called “Projects”.  When you turn on and create a BPF for this entity, you will see it listed twice – once as Project and then as Projects.  Which one is your custom entity and which one is the BPF entity?

If you’re familiar with configuring Dynamics, you’ll quickly realize that you are not able to change the Display Name of the entity that was created. When you go into your Default Solution and find the entity in the list, you’ll see that the Display Name field is grayed out. I suspect that Microsoft may change this one day and allow you to edit the display name, but until then, there is an easy way to update this field.

Quick and Easy Fix

This is a supported change as it used Translations to update the Display Name. All you have to do is create a solution and add the entity that was created from the BPF. You don’t need to add any assets or add required components. Once you have the entity in your solution, use the option to Export Translations. This will export a zip file.

Upzip the exported file and open the file called CrmTranslation.xml. You can open and easily edit this file using Excel without having any xml knowledge. Once you open the file, you’ll see a tab called “Localized Labels”. In the Object Column Name column, towards the top of the list, you will see LocalizedCollectionName and LocalizedName. To the right of these fields, in the 1033 column, you will see the current Display Name. Change both of these to the Display Name that you would like. Just to note, 1033 represents the code used for the English language. If you’re default language is not English or if you use multiple languages you may have a different column heading or even multiple columns. You will have to update all of the columns accordingly.

Once you make the change, save the Excel xml file. Rezip the two files that were exported. Go back to your Solutions and use the option to Import Translations. It is recommended that you use Publish All Customizations after importing your translations. If you are not able to do this, you should be able to adopt the change by simply publishing just the entity.

Once the translations are imported and you’ve published, refresh your solution and view the entity to make sure that the Display Name changed. You may have to use Ctrl+F5 to refresh if you do not see the change. You can also open an Advanced Find window and look at the Entity drop-down list to confirm the entity name change.

Bonus Side Note

When you exported the Translations, you may have noticed that it included all of the entity components such as the views. If you’ve ever changed the name of a system entity, such as Cases, then you’ll appreciate the process to change the names of all of the system views. You can easily do that through Translations as well.

Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution. We also provide expert Managed IT ServicesBackup and Disaster RecoveryCloud Based Computing and Unified Communication Solutions.

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

“Gotchas” with Business Rules in Dynamics 365

people 3370833 960 720 300x225 “Gotchas” with Business Rules in Dynamics 365

Business Rule functionality was a welcome addition to the arsenal of customization tools in Microsoft Dynamics 365. It allows greater flexibility on entity forms without the need to completely rely on JavaScript development. However, there are some less known pitfalls that may leave you scratching your head wondering why the Business Rule you created had no effect.

In this blog, we share a list of “gotchas” for Business Rules in case you are stuck.

JavaScript interference

Before designing a Business Rule for a particular entity, make sure to check if any existing JavaScript on the form will interfere with your Business Rules. JavaScript may accidentally trigger your Business Rules prematurely or cause other unexpected behavior. If JavaScript already exists on the form, it may make sense to continue leveraging JavaScript instead of Business Rules to manage behavior on the entity form. This can avoid any conflicts from the get-go, but it may also be easier to support going forward since all the behavior is managed in one place. Just remember to take into account the expectations of form behavior for users on mobile devices.

OnChange behavior is not triggering

Do not use Business Rules to trigger an OnChange event. This is by Microsoft’s design, so the system does not accidentally get lost in an infinite loop.

Mismatch of field properties

If you have a Business Rule that is supposed to take a field’s value to update another field, it may not work. There may be no obvious indication of why it didn’t work (e.g. error message).

In this scenario, check the properties of the fields in question. If there is a mismatch in field data type, or if one field does not match the field length of the other, then the Business Rule will not work. Simply update one of the fields to match the other field’s data type and length and test the Business Rule again.

Check if all fields are on the entity form

If you are encountering issues with your Business Rules, it makes sense to check if all the fields involved in the conditions are present and published on the entity form. This may happen in a scenario where you are hiding a supporting field that shouldn’t necessarily be displayed to the user.

Check the scope of the Business Rule

Make sure to verify the scope of the Business Rule before activating it. This setting can be found in the top right corner of the Business Rule creation window. There may be scenarios where you do not want the Business Rule to trigger for multiple entity forms.

Conclusion

Hopefully the above tips may have resolved an issue with your Business Rules. Be sure to share your tips in the comments below if you have any other experiences with Business Rules!

For more helpful Dynamics 365 tips, be sure to subscribe to our blog!

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

ANNOUNCING! Our incredible speaker lineup for Microsoft Business Applications Summit

Get ready to connect, collaborate and pack in as much learning as possible at Microsoft Business Applications Summit, the event for Dynamics 365, Power BI, Excel, PowerApps and Flow users, July 22-24 in Seattle. We’ve just announced our featured speaker lineup – you won’t want to miss these experts, plus three amazing keynotes. Check it out!

Three inspiring keynotes

Malcolm Gladwell – Special guest closing keynote

New York Times bestselling author and like-minded analytics aficionado Malcolm brings new clout to analytics and intelligence through his captivating narratives about the data behind pop-culture. Come see one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People explore how data and analytics can drive large-scale change, and how business intelligence can help you positively disrupt your org.

James Phillips, CVP, Business Applications Group, Microsoft

James leads more than 5,000 team members worldwide, driving the new and next for Microsoft’s Business Applications Group development organization. His teams build and operate a complete set of business applications and developer services, including Dynamics 365, Microsoft Stream, the Business Applications Platform, and a robust range of Azure services. You won’t want to miss this keynote.

Alysa Taylor, CVP, Business Applications and Industry Marketing, Microsoft

Leading the product marketing teams responsible for Dynamics 365 and the Business Applications platform, Alysa has deep roots in Microsoft marketing – previous roles include leading the Cloud & Enterprise business marketing in the U.S., as well as GM for developer and platform evangelism marketing. Catch her keynote and to hear more about the products’ global reach, now and in the future.

Awesome featured speakers

Muhammad Alam, General Manager, Dynamics 365, Finance and Operations + Enterprise Group, Microsoft

As a GM in R&D, Muhammad is responsible for product strategy and product development of Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations, focused on streamlining, simplifying and improving the Dynamics customer experience.

Marko Perisic, General Manager Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft

Marko and his team recently launched Dynamics 365 Business Central as the next generation of the Dynamics NAV product for the age of digital transformation – taking it from a great desktop, on-premise product, to a mobile and cloud-first world-class solution for SMBs.

Shelly Bakke, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

A longtime Microsoft employee, Shelly knows the ins and outs of customer and partner needs – and currently leads Customer and Partner Experiences for Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations. Prior to joining the R&D, organization she provided support for customers and partners using the Dynamics solutions.

Will Thompson, Program Manager, Power BI, Microsoft

Will is a self-confessed data geek who helps translate customer and market requirements into new features as a Program Manager on the Power BI team.

Adi Regev, Principal Group Product Manager, Microsoft

Adi is committed to planning and developing large-scale products in the BI space that generate and visualize valuable business insights for organizations, via a platform for low-code/no-code big data ingestion and transformation.

Stephen Siciliano, Principal Group Program Manager, Microsoft

When his SaaS company MetricsHub was acquired by Microsoft in 2013, Stephen joined the Microsoft Azure team to develop monitoring, management and automation experiences for Azure customers.

Julie Strauss, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

With 15+ years of experience ranging from hands-on technical engagements to roles in product marketing, leadership and program management, Julie drives the ISV product investments for the Citizen Application Platform, Microsoft’s low-code application development services for the technical business user.

Brian Jones, Program Manager for Excel, Microsoft

Brian is passionate about building services and tools that help teams make better decisions – including building intelligent ML-backed services that dramatically increase tracking and analysis capabilities in Excel across devices.

Shakun Grover, Program Manager for Visio, Microsoft

Shakun leads product strategy and development of Visio Visual for Power BI, bringing real-world visualizations to otherwise limited dashboards, and making diagrams like process flows and floorplans available on all devices.

It doesn’t get much better than this lineup of business applications experts! Also, be sure to check out our full session catalog. You can explore 140+ sessions, workshops, breakouts and networking opportunities the event has to offer, and start outlining your best conference experience.

We hope to see you there!

7e94c29c 499f 4834 bdbd f3394ce9095b ANNOUNCING! Our incredible speaker lineup for Microsoft Business Applications Summit

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Microsoft Power BI Blog | Microsoft Power BI

How IKEA Builds Sustainable Innovation Into Its Business Model To Improve Lives

 How IKEA Builds Sustainable Innovation Into Its Business Model To Improve Lives

Most people think of a discarded plastic bottle as waste. But at IKEA, it’s a resource.

The IKEA brand has a set of commandments for doing business, and not wasting resources is one of them.

For example, every year, about 100 billion plastic water bottles are used worldwide, but only 30 percent are recycled, the rest ending in landfills or polluting the ocean. The furniture giant is committed to proving that recycled plastic can be used in the large-scale production of household goods. One example is a new line of kitchen fronts made of plastic and reclaimed industrial wood. The result is a product line that’s not only durable and beautiful, it’s sustainable.

Thanks to some of IKEA’s other business commandments, such as thinking differently and taking responsibility, the company is showing the world how a circular economy can function at scale in every part of their business.

“We’re even looking into circular solutions for our hardware equipment so it won’t end up in a landfill,” says Kristin Grimsdottir. As sustainability manager at operations & shared services at IKEA Group, she is responsible for a team that runs and enables sustainable IT solutions for IKEA Group.

Democratic design

When asked to describe IKEA’s vision for the future at the recent ThinkX event in Stockholm co-sponsored by SAP and Singularity University, Kristin Grimsdottir responds with passion.

“We are not merely a home furnishing company; we focus on life at home and how we can make it better for people. For instance, we’re already helping customers generate their own energy with home solar panels and battery storage options and exploring the area of urban organic farming so you can grow your own food in your kitchen,” she explains.

It is one of IKEA’s core beliefs that everyone has a right to a better everyday life. IKEA’s business idea is to offer well-designed furniture at an affordable price for the many people. One of the big movements going forward is about becoming even more affordable so that many more people can enjoy a better life at home– without compromising on sustainability, quality, or design.

This is possible thanks to the company’s principles of Democratic design. For every new product, the design team first sets the price and then works from there to create functional, attractive, high-quality items from sustainable materials.

Purpose-driven growth

A circular IKEA that reuses or recycles all materials is one way to prepare for the future, another is to drive efficiency through digitalization.

Clearly, there is no lack of innovation in the company. What’s missing is the seamless experience for customers that is a must in the digital world.

While IKEA is actively rolling out its e-commerce solution, Grimsdottir admits that they still have areas of improvement on the e-commerce front. But IKEA is embracing digital technologies elsewhere too. “For example, we’ve implemented IKEA Place, an augmented reality app that helps you decorate your home virtually”, she says.

For IKEA, continued growth requires the transformation of business and IT to implement a more modern IT landscape, develop advanced analytics capabilities and implement more efficient end to end processes. But more importantly, it also requires full buy-in from employees.

“Change is the new normal,” says Grimsdottir, “so it’s important that all of us try to embrace it. We are not implementing automation technology/AI in order to get rid of people but to streamline processes in order to reduce waste and increase efficiency and precision. It is important to be better to meet our customers’ expectations. And that gives our co-workers the opportunity to grow and develop more human, less robotic skills that are believed to be even more critical in the future.”

Every company has a purpose. For IKEA, it’s about creating a better everyday life for the many people without compromising on price, form, function, quality, or the environment.

After all, as IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad said, “To design a desk which may cost $ 1,000 is easy for a furniture designer, but to design a functional and good desk which shall cost $ 50 can only be done by the very best.”

This story also appears on SAP Innovation Spotlight.

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Digitalist Magazine

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Overview

Dynamics 365 business central 625x331 Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Overview

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Overview. I attended a 2 day deep dive on Business Central at Microsoft in Manhattan and wanted to share an overview of this new offering. Microsoft Business Central is a full, cloud-based ERP & accounting application. It is the cloud version of Microsoft Navision which has been available for many years. The market for Business Central is companies that need much more than QuickBooks but are not an enterprise organization (or those who don’t need Enterprise ERP functionality). The solution is great for organizations who need robust sales (quote to cash), accounting, purchasing, warehouse and light manufacturing capabilities.

There are 3 levels of licensing, Team Member, Essential, and Premium each with different price points.

Main areas of functionality:

  • Invoicing
  • Purchasing
  • Opportunity Management
  • Budgets
  • Finance
  • General Ledger
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Accounts Payable
  • Project Management
  • Fixed Assets
  • Purchasing Order Management
  • Resource Management
  • Workflow
  • Contact Management
  • Simple Inventory
  • Advanced Sales (SO)
  • Advanced Inventory (stock)
  • Distribution

Team Member – $ 8 – light use, approve Time & Expense, read business reports, lookup customer and inventory data

Essential – $ 70 – All main features except manufacturing and service order management

Premium $ 100 – All main features including manufacturing and service order management

Microsoft nailed the user interface, it is clean, easy to navigate, simple to personalize and offers powerful features like Excel integration on list views. The documents like invoices, quotes etc. are all based on Microsoft Word, easy to maintain.

One of the big “WOW” factors is the Outlook email integration. When you send or receive an email in Outlook you can click the Business Central icon to display information like sales, open orders etc. The Outlook integration works in the full desktop version of Outlook as well as Outlook Web Access. You can perform end-to-end workflow without ever leaving Outlook. For example quote to cash. A sales rep receives an email asking for a quote, without leaving the email she can generate a quote and send it. If the recipient replies and asks to place the order you can click one button “Convert to Order or Invoice”. Very powerful and will become the gold standard in my opinion.

You can invite your accountant to use Business Central as well without additional costs. The downside is that most accountants will not yet be familiar with Business Central like they are with QuickBooks.

The mobile app does not disappoint, it is a full use application designed for mobile devices supporting Apple, Android and Microsoft mobile devices.

There is solid integration with PowerBI and even free content packs available with a lot of prebuilt dashboards and reports. You can easily add a PowerBI chart to many areas of Business Central.

Intelligence is also at work in Business Central. An example of this is when quoting an item, if the quantity quoted would exceed the available stock a warning is displayed. Quick Insights is a component of Power BI which provides additional insights based on trends, historical and provides forecasts. The insights feature is built on a growing set of advanced analytical algorithms developed in conjunction with Microsoft Research that we’ll continue to use to allow more people to find insights in their data in new and intuitive ways. I love the send to PowerPoint function. If you are going to a meeting and need to present reports/charts this is a great feature. It pushes chart data right to PowerPoint and makes the charts live so if you have Internet access you can drill from PowerPoint right to Business Central. There is even an image analyzer tool. The image analyzer will scan an image of an item and recommend substitute items along with a confidence score. This is part of the Cortana intelligence integration.

PowerApps and Flow can be used to build simple apps (like a mobile inventory app) or to connect Business Central to other systems/cloud services. Of course, there is integration with Dynamics 365 for sales to share Account, Quote, Order, Invoice, Product data and other data elements.

Microsoft is unifying business applications in Dynamics 365 enabling organizations to reduce the number of systems in use. This solves a lot of challenges around better management of workflows/business processes, better ability to market and much better business intelligence capabilities. You will see this platform take off and grab large chunks of market share over the next few years.

I am very impressed with this offering, if you have not seen Business Central yet and are thinking about replacing your current ERP/accounting system I would be happy to show it to you. Contact us to schedule a live demonstration.

About the Author: David Buggy is a veteran of the CRM industry with 18 years of experience helping businesses transform by leveraging Customer Relationship Management technology. He has over 14 years experience with Microsoft CRM and has helped hundreds of businesses plan, implement and support CRM initiatives. In 2017 he founded Strava Technology Group, a firm that is focused on helping businesses achieve success with Microsoft CRM and Dynamics 365. To reach David connect with him on LinkedIn. To learn more about Strava Technology Group visit www.stravatechgroup.com

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Transform Your Business with Low Code, APIs, and Microservices (Even if You’re Not a Developer)

iStock 872677410 e1527101356925 Transform Your Business with Low Code, APIs, and Microservices (Even if You’re Not a Developer)

























Integration

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The TIBCO Blog

Voices carry, but is business ready for where Alexa will carry us?

alexa conference room Voices carry, but is business ready for where Alexa will carry us?

Brent Leary is not only one of the foremost influencers and experts in CRM but also has become equally as expert and influential in the world of conversational interfaces. One of the reasons that he took interest to begin with was his expertise in Amazon’s daily doings, to the point he and his bud John Lawson, another influencer in his own right, began the very popular Watching Amazon show on Facebook Live. Even more than Brent’s influence is his general outlook on life which is to be as good a person as possible and he succeeds wildly. He’s one of the most likable human beings you will ever run across and a genuinely great person to be able to call a friend. He’s one of the best.

So, pay attention to what he says because as many Tuesdays as he possibly can, you will be seeing him here in addition to my content as always, doing a regular post on conversational interfaces and it will be called “Voices Carry” because as the 21st century continues to wind its way, they do and will do for a long time to come. So welcome to the first in the series.

Take it away, Brent. And Alexa, listen up.


I’ve been fixated on smart speakers since I got my first Amazon Echo device in November of 2014. And three and half years (and four echo devices) later, I’m even more fixated on the potential they have to change the game from a CRM/customer engagement/ customer experience perspective.

I can bury you in stats and figures to show you just how quickly AI-driven voice-first devices like the Echo and Google Home and others have captured the attention of consumers. In fact, I’ll do that starting next week as I get further into this weekly series Paul has graciously allowed me to do here. But for now, here are some things I think are important to consider about where we are with this stuff, and more importantly where I think we’re going with this…and how quickly we’re moving.

Customer adoption is the most disruptive force in digital transformation

At the heart of most digital transformation projects being undertaken today is the need for companies to better position themselves to stay connected with tech-happy customers — whether those customers are retail consumers or other businesses. And as fast as new technologies are being introduced today with the potential to disrupt the status quo, it only really happens when customers adopt it at scale…and at speed. And the technology that customers adopt at scale and speed tends to be things that make it easier to do things easier — things that should have been easy to do all along.

And nothing is easier for us than to use our voices to ask for things, to make requests, and to communicate what’s truly on our minds. This is one of the reasons why smart speakers – and the digital assistants that live in them – have come out of nowhere in just over three years to be in millions of homes already.

They’re Not Smart Speakers – They’re Interaction Platforms

I got my first Echo before it was generally available back in November of 2014 when it was offered to a few lucky Amazon Prime members. I didn’t have a clue as to what it was, but it looked interesting and it was 50 percent off of the eventual list price. And after setting it up and trying it out a bit, I got hooked quick, fast and in a hurry… as illustrated in the YouTube video I made the day I got it.

Now, people can and are doing do so many things with their smart speakers, but it’s because of the smarts in the speakers. And those smarts – aka the intelligence coming from AI/machine learning platforms in the cloud connected to the speakers – are being put in more and more devices all the time. And those devices are getting smarter and smarter all the time, because interactions between us and these devices is growing exponentially. And those interactions are more important to the usefulness of the devices than the number of woofers and tweeters in them.

Amazon gives Alexa a memory, better conversational skills

This explains in part why speakers from Amazon and Google are selling like hotcakes, while Apple’s HomePod – which does have a higher level of quality when it comes to the traditional aspects of a speaker – is struggling to catch people’s attention. People are buying smart speakers for their smarts much more so than for high fidelity sound. Ironically, adding high fidelity to a speaker is also more expensive than adding the “smart” part. Even more ironic: Siri was the first voice assistant to hit the masses, long before Alexa or Google Assistant, but she has fallen well behind the other two in terms of capabilities.

It wasn’t that it was great right from the start in answering a ton of questions, because it wasn’t. But the promise was there to eventually be able to get quick answers just by asking, and not by clicking, typing or swiping. And the more time went on, you could see it getting smarter, and able to do more things. And also, as time went on, I found myself asking and doing more through it.

The bottom line here is that smart speakers are members of a growing smart ecosystem of connected devices that we’ll be able to talk to wherever we are that are designed to make it easier for us to get more things done more easily. And if that happens, it will lead to increased interactions between customers and vendors through these devices.

Conversational Interfaces is the Peanut Butter to AI’s Jelly

For the better part of the past two years, everybody is talking about AI. (As a side note I’ve been talking about AI since 1995, because Allen Iverson literally was the reason I bought season tickets for the Sixers back in the day, when he was talking about practice. But I digress…)

Every industry event has focused on what AI will do in terms of improving a company’s ability to create customer experiences and extend/improve relationships with them. And with billions of dollars being invested in AI/machine learning, in order to gain the biggest bang from the bucks invested in this you need a way to communicate those insights back and forth between vendors and customers.

Also: How smart are Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri in answering your questions?

As easy as swiping, texting and clicking are, nothing is easier for humans than using their voices to ask for what they want. This is why the advancement in accuracy of providers of natural language processing/understanding technologies is helping to accelerate the translation of AI-driven insights to human understanding/consumption.

Think of this way: How many times have you wished you had a translator with you at a doctor’s appointment when you’re told what ails you. Or when you’re given a legal document to read. Basically, the more natural the interface between the requester and the AI delivering the insight-driven response, the more likely the insight will be appreciated and used to create a more meaningful/positive experience. So, AI and voice conversational interfaces go together like me and Cherry Coke, or like peanut butter and jelly to make it more relatable to the rest of the world.

The Most Disruptive Forces in Tech Today are Fueling This Disruption

When you think of the most disruptive forces in business and technology of the last couple of decades, two companies that immediately jump to my attention are Amazon and Google. They have been primarily responsible for some of the most basic functions we carry out on the web – like searching for information, shopping, reading email…reading books, etc.

7 must-have devices for your smart home office

But these two are the undisputed driving forces in the fast rise to prominence of smart speakers/voice assistants. Amazon started the ball rolling with the Echo in late 2014 and has put the pedal to the medal ever since. Google got a late start to the party, but they have done a really good job playing catch up. Between the two of them – with their incredible resources, talent, and ability to shape entire industries – they have led a movement from ground zero less than four years ago to what will soon be a category that could impact almost every type of interaction we can have.

And the sharp rise of the category has forced Apple (who ironically started this whole thing with Siri in 2011 but for some reason almost completely dropped the ball) and other major players to quickly react and add even more fuel to the fire. And niche players are already building out platforms that will allow third parties to build devices and applications that can tap into these voice-first architectures to extend and further accelerate voice-as-an-interface computing even more. If it felt like this voice-first stuff has been moving rapidly and gaining traction, in my opinion you ain’t seen nothing yet.

CRM Vendors, Objects in Your Rear View Mirror are A LOT Closer Than They Appear

I think it’s safe to say that voice-first computing is rising with a vengeance. But, according to some of the vendors I’ve spoken with recently at various industry events, it’s not on the front burner for them. In fact, a good number of them didn’t have anything official they could point to in terms of this even being on their roadmap. Many of them point to a lack of urgency coming from their customer base as the reason for not moving this up on their development lists.

Also: The promised Cortana-Alexa integration is getting closer

But the potential is there for a voice-first led digital disruption scenario to impact digital disruption projects now under way that didn’t take this area under consideration during their planning stages. And yes, voice is a channel like text and messaging apps, which are also underneath the conversational interface umbrella. But I think voice adds a completely different dimension that might be hard to account for (and take advantage of) if you aren’t specifically planning for it. Vendors who are able to anticipate the direction voice can take customer engagement and create as friction-free a development environment as possible for customers to quickly build experiences with…these vendors will have an advantage over those waiting for serious cues from customers before acting.

For example:

Oracle showcased an Alexa integration with their HR app they are working on with a large telecom customer (not mentioned during the demo) at their recent Media Day. The demo showed how employees can ask Alexa about how much leave time they have, how they can request time off, and how they can ask questions about why they got paid a certain amount during a pay period. To see more, watch the following video I took at the event:

Zoho has introduced Zia, their conversational AI interface focused on helping sales teams, that earlier this year debuted a voice interface. Pegasystems introduced their intelligent assistant platform that has voice capabilities. And I suspect you’ll see CRM vendors pick up the pace as Amazon and Google plow even more investments into the voice-first foundations and ecosystems they have created. And niche players will begin making even more noise and help to infuse new dimensions into digital transformation efforts.

Early Days Mean Voices Can Carry Where They Shouldn’t

With most technologies in the early adoption phase, some bad stuff is gonna happen, especially at the speed this voice-first stuff is moving. And just last week a report came out of a couple’s Echo device mistakenly recorded (according to Amazon based on a perfect storm of events that took place) their private conversation and emailed it to a person on their contact list. Now that’s about as wrong as you can go with this stuff. But, just like it happened before, I suspect the interest and demand for this from consumers will still hit the mainstream – as long as these types of situations are handled openly and honestly, and are completely fixed.

Amazon proves the smart home is as halfwitted as we are

Thanks to Mr. Greenberg for allowing me to share my observations and experiences here as I dive even further into what’s happening in this area, and the potential it has for shaping customer engagement over the near and long term. As the old ’80s song from the group ‘Til Tuesday says, voices carry. And that’s especially the case with the voice of the customer, which is quickly becoming the main interface of the voice-first computing era.

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ZDNet | crm RSS

Early Adopter Use Case: Blockchain Energizes Solar Company’s Business

Posted by Emily Houghton, Industry Marketing Lead

Blockchain may be one of the most hyped technologies around, but forward-thinking organizations are already finding ways to take advantage of the distributed ledger, and not just in the most commonly cited industries like financial services and supply chain.

Solar Site Design provides a collaborative platform built to gather information about solar projects. It’s been a NetSuite customer since 2007 and is one of the first companies to take advantage of the integration between NetSuite and Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service.

“Energy is going through what we call the next industrial revolution,” Jason Loyet, CEO of Solar Site Design, said. “We are driving down the cost of equipment, engineering and design, resulting in more energy projects and more competition.”

Loyet and Nathaniel Enders, Co-Founder of the Energy Blockchain Network, a blockchain consortium, demonstrated how they are innovating in the solar industry using distributed ledger technology in the final installment of NetSuite’s Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Webinar Series, “Using DLT to Scale.”

When is blockchain the right fit?

Enders urges companies considering blockchain or distributed ledger technology to think of them just like any other IT infrastructure.

“You need to look at the business and understand what the problem is, who the user is and what the network needs to look like,” he advised, adding that blockchain will not be right for everyone, but, “If you have multiple parties across organizations or countries that all need to have visibility into a set of transactions on a common ledger…then it might be a fit.”

Why blockchain for Solar Site Design

Solar Site Design helped found the Energy Blockchain Network in 2018 to solve a unique challenge. With its collaborative platform, Solar Site Design works with multiple parties that work independently, but each party delivers value at different stages and is compensated for that value on different terms.

“We needed an immutable record for the state of a project, so that everyone—all the stakeholders in that ecosystem—could go to one place and see where that project was at,” Enders said.

Immutability, one of the key characteristics of the blockchain, is the idea that records are tamper-proof and cannot be changed once stored on the blockchain. When working in an ecosystem of independents, this is essential. With blockchain, the trust that is established between Solar Site Design and any of its sub-contractors is controlled by the system rather than any of the individuals involved.

“What we can do with the blockchain is precisely program in what each state of the project is and what is required to help move that state forward so that the next party can participate,” Enders explained. “Then, we can automatically program in reward distributions for the value contributions. The ability to reward and incentivize participants earlier for the value they deliver is critical to efficiency.”

NetSuite and the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service

Solar Site Design’s blockchain application is built on the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service (OBCS), a private and comprehensive distributed ledger cloud platform. OBCS features a turnkey administrative console that allows users to set up a blockchain without being forced into the open source community. Moreover, the solution is delivered by Oracle as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), so that customers are not burdened by infrastructure maintenance or security.

“We are really happy how the [NetSuite] SuiteCloud platform enables easy integration with our Blockchain apps on OBCS,” Loyet said. “It’s really exciting how we can leverage the existing ways that we are using NetSuite to explore new ways to develop smart contracts and manage the projects and reward programs within blockchain.”

Inherent features of the cloud have been essential to Solar Site Design’s model as well.

“The anytime, anywhere access allows for anyone on our team or any of our engineers to access full details of a project and update statuses,” Loyet said. “That’s been really important for us and it’s very scalable.”

The promise of blockchain 

Setting aside cryptocurrency, blockchain growth in the enterprise market across various industries looks encouraging. Indeed, Gartner predicts that blockchain will create $ 176 billion of business value-add by 2025.

“There is a whole myriad of energy applications and downstream use cases that [blockchain] can unlock," Enders said.

Early adopters like Solar Site Design recognize the value of distributed ledger technology and are paving the way for other companies and industries. However, Loyet recognizes the importance of having a flexible infrastructure in place to innovate on.

“We have really aggressive aspirations and we know NetSuite is the right architecture to build our platform on and scale,” he said. “We’re looking at the global ways we can manage the projects and set up the trust and smart contracts to enable our next phase of growth.”

To see the demonstration of Solar Site Design’s blockchain solution and learn more about their use case, watch the webinar.

Interested in viewing the other webinars in the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Series? Follow the links below to watch the on-demand recordings!

Part 1: What Every Executive Needs to Know, featuring Andy Brown, CEO, Sand Hill East and Jason Maynard, SVP of Strategy and Marketing, Oracle NetSuite

Part 2: Maximize Potential, Minimize Risk, featuring Ray Wang, Principal Analyst and Founder, Constellation Research Inc. and Ranga Bodla, Head of Industry Marketing, Oracle NetSuite

Part 3: Perspectives from R3, featuring Carlos Arena, Director of Business Development, R3 and Scott Derksen, Sr. Director of Business Development, Oracle NetSuite

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Why Integration is a Key Component of a Digital Business Platform

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Sarah Jessica Parker: How To Start A Business

In a future teeming with robots and artificial intelligence, humans seem to be on the verge of being crowded out. But in reality the opposite is true.

To be successful, organizations need to become more human than ever.

Organizations that focus only on automation will automate away their competitive edge. The most successful will focus instead on skills that set them apart and that can’t be duplicated by AI or machine learning. Those skills can be summed up in one word: humanness.

You can see it in the numbers. According to David J. Deming of the Harvard Kennedy School, demand for jobs that require social skills has risen nearly 12 percentage points since 1980, while less-social jobs, such as computer coding, have declined by a little over 3 percentage points.

AI is in its infancy, which means that it cannot yet come close to duplicating our most human skills. Stefan van Duin and Naser Bakhshi, consultants at professional services company Deloitte, break down artificial intelligence into two types: narrow and general. Narrow AI is good at specific tasks, such as playing chess or identifying facial expressions. General AI, which can learn and solve complex, multifaceted problems the way a human being does, exists today only in the minds of futurists.

The only thing narrow artificial intelligence can do is automate. It can’t empathize. It can’t collaborate. It can’t innovate. Those abilities, if they ever come, are still a long way off. In the meantime, AI’s biggest value is in augmentation. When human beings work with AI tools, the process results in a sort of augmented intelligence. This augmented intelligence outperforms the work of either human beings or AI software tools on their own.

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AI-powered tools will be the partners that free employees and management to tackle higher-level challenges.

Those challenges will, by default, be more human and social in nature because many rote, repetitive tasks will be automated away. Companies will find that developing fundamental human skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, within the organization will take on a new importance. These skills can’t be automated and they won’t become process steps for algorithms anytime soon.

In a world where technology change is constant and unpredictable, those organizations that make the fullest use of uniquely human skills will win. These skills will be used in collaboration with both other humans and AI-fueled software and hardware tools. The degree of humanness an organization possesses will become a competitive advantage.

This means that today’s companies must think about hiring, training, and leading differently. Most of today’s corporate training programs focus on imparting specific knowledge that will likely become obsolete over time.

Instead of hiring for portfolios of specific subject knowledge, organizations should instead hire—and train—for more foundational skills, whose value can’t erode away as easily.

Recently, educational consulting firm Hanover Research looked at high-growth occupations identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and determined the core skills required in each of them based on a database that it had developed. The most valuable skills were active listening, speaking, and critical thinking—giving lie to the dismissive term soft skills. They’re not soft; they’re human.

Q118 ft2 image2 softskills DD Sarah Jessica Parker: How To Start A Business
This doesn’t mean that STEM skills won’t be important in the future. But organizations will find that their most valuable employees are those with both math and social skills.

That’s because technical skills will become more perishable as AI shifts the pace of technology change from linear to exponential. Employees will require constant retraining over time. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is already outdated by the time students graduate, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The WEF’s report further notes that “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist.” By contrast, human skills such as interpersonal communication and project management will remain consistent over the years.

For example, organizations already report that they are having difficulty finding people equipped for the Big Data era’s hot job: data scientist. That’s because data scientists need a combination of hard and soft skills. Data scientists can’t just be good programmers and statisticians; they also need to be intuitive and inquisitive and have good communication skills. We don’t expect all these qualities from our engineering graduates, nor from most of our employees.

But we need to start.

From Self-Help to Self-Skills

Even if most schools and employers have yet to see it, employees are starting to understand that their future viability depends on improving their innately human qualities. One of the most popular courses on Coursera, an online learning platform, is called Learning How to Learn. Created by the University of California, San Diego, the course is essentially a master class in human skills: students learn everything from memory techniques to dealing with procrastination and communicating complicated ideas, according to an article in The New York Times.

Although there is a longstanding assumption that social skills are innate, nothing is further from the truth. As the popularity of Learning How to Learn attests, human skills—everything from learning skills to communication skills to empathy—can, and indeed must, be taught.

These human skills are integral for training workers for a workplace where artificial intelligence and automation are part of the daily routine. According to the WEF’s New Vision for Education report, the skills that employees will need in the future fall into three primary categories:

  • Foundational literacies: These core skills needed for the coming age of robotics and AI include understanding the basics of math, science, computing, finance, civics, and culture. While mastery of every topic isn’t required, workers who have a basic comprehension of many different areas will be richly rewarded in the coming economy.
  • Competencies: Developing competencies requires mastering very human skills, such as active listening, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
  • Character qualities: Over the next decade, employees will need to master the skills that will help them grasp changing job duties and responsibilities. This means learning the skills that help employees acquire curiosity, initiative, persistence, grit, adaptability, leadership, and social and cultural awareness.

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The good news is that learning human skills is not completely divorced from how work is structured today. Yonatan Zunger, a Google engineer with a background working with AI, argues that there is a considerable need for human skills in the workplace already—especially in the tech world. Many employees are simply unaware that when they are working on complicated software or hardware projects, they are using empathy, strategic problem solving, intuition, and interpersonal communication.

The unconscious deployment of human skills takes place even more frequently when employees climb the corporate ladder into management. “This is closely tied to the deeper difference between junior and senior roles: a junior person’s job is to find answers to questions; a senior person’s job is to find the right questions to ask,” says Zunger.

Human skills will be crucial to navigating the AI-infused workplace. There will be no shortage of need for the right questions to ask.

One of the biggest changes narrow AI tools will bring to the workplace is an evolution in how work is performed. AI-based tools will automate repetitive tasks across a wide swath of industries, which means that the day-to-day work for many white-collar workers will become far more focused on tasks requiring problem solving and critical thinking. These tasks will present challenges centered on interpersonal collaboration, clear communication, and autonomous decision-making—all human skills.

Being More Human Is Hard

However, the human skills that are essential for tomorrow’s AI-ified workplace, such as interpersonal communication, project planning, and conflict management, require a different approach from traditional learning. Often, these skills don’t just require people to learn new facts and techniques; they also call for basic changes in the ways individuals behave on—and off—the job.

Attempting to teach employees how to make behavioral changes has always seemed off-limits to organizations—the province of private therapists, not corporate trainers. But that outlook is changing. As science gains a better understanding of how the human brain works, many behaviors that affect employees on the job are understood to be universal and natural rather than individual (see “Human Skills 101”).

Human Skills 101

As neuroscience has improved our understanding of the brain, human skills have become increasingly quantifiable—and teachable.

Though the term soft skills has managed to hang on in the popular lexicon, our understanding of these human skills has increased to the point where they aren’t soft at all: they are a clearly definable set of skills that are crucial for organizations in the AI era.

Active listening: Paying close attention when receiving information and drawing out more information than received in normal discourse

Critical thinking: Gathering, analyzing, and evaluating issues and information to come to an unbiased conclusion

Problem solving: Finding solutions to problems and understanding the steps used to solve the problem

Decision-making: Weighing the evidence and options at hand to determine a specific course of action

Monitoring: Paying close attention to an issue, topic, or interaction in order to retain information for the future

Coordination: Working with individuals and other groups to achieve common goals

Social perceptiveness: Inferring what others are thinking by observing them

Time management: Budgeting and allocating time for projects and goals and structuring schedules to minimize conflicts and maximize productivity

Creativity: Generating ideas, concepts, or inferences that can be used to create new things

Curiosity: Desiring to learn and understand new or unfamiliar concepts

Imagination: Conceiving and thinking about new ideas, concepts, or images

Storytelling: Building narratives and concepts out of both new and existing ideas

Experimentation: Trying out new ideas, theories, and activities

Ethics: Practicing rules and standards that guide conduct and guarantee rights and fairness

Empathy: Identifying and understanding the emotional states of others

Collaboration: Working with others, coordinating efforts, and sharing resources to accomplish a common project

Resiliency: Withstanding setbacks, avoiding discouragement, and persisting toward a larger goal

Resistance to change, for example, is now known to result from an involuntary chemical reaction in the brain known as the fight-or-flight response, not from a weakness of character. Scientists and psychologists have developed objective ways of identifying these kinds of behaviors and have come up with universally applicable ways for employees to learn how to deal with them.

Organizations that emphasize such individual behavioral traits as active listening, social perceptiveness, and experimentation will have both an easier transition to a workplace that uses AI tools and more success operating in it.

Framing behavioral training in ways that emphasize its practical application at work and in advancing career goals helps employees feel more comfortable confronting behavioral roadblocks without feeling bad about themselves or stigmatized by others. It also helps organizations see the potential ROI of investing in what has traditionally been dismissed as touchy-feely stuff.

Q118 ft2 image3 automation DD Sarah Jessica Parker: How To Start A BusinessIn fact, offering objective means for examining inner behaviors and tools for modifying them is more beneficial than just leaving the job to employees. For example, according to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, introspection, which is how most of us try to understand our behaviors, can actually be counterproductive.

Human beings are complex creatures. There is generally way too much going on inside our minds to be able to pinpoint the conscious and unconscious behaviors that drive us to act the way we do. We wind up inventing explanations—usually negative—for our behaviors, which can lead to anxiety and depression, according to Eurich’s research.

Structured, objective training can help employees improve their human skills without the negative side effects. At SAP, for example, we offer employees a course on conflict resolution that uses objective research techniques for determining what happens when people get into conflicts. Employees learn about the different conflict styles that researchers have identified and take an assessment to determine their own style of dealing with conflict. Then employees work in teams to discuss their different styles and work together to resolve a specific conflict that one of the group members is currently experiencing.

Q118 ft2 image5 talkingtoAI DD Sarah Jessica Parker: How To Start A BusinessHow Knowing One’s Self Helps the Organization

Courses like this are helpful not just for reducing conflicts between individuals and among teams (and improving organizational productivity); they also contribute to greater self-awareness, which is the basis for enabling people to take fullest advantage of their human skills.

Self-awareness is a powerful tool for improving performance at both the individual and organizational levels. Self-aware people are more confident and creative, make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. They are also less likely to lie, cheat, and steal, according to Eurich.

It naturally follows that such people make better employees and are more likely to be promoted. They also make more effective leaders with happier employees, which makes the organization more profitable, according to research by Atuma Okpara and Agwu M. Edwin.

There are two types of self-awareness, writes Eurich. One is having a clear view inside of one’s self: one’s own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses. The second type is understanding how others view us in terms of these same categories.

Interestingly, while we often assume that those who possess one type of awareness also possess the other, there is no direct correlation between the two. In fact, just 10% to 15% of people have both, according to a survey by Eurich. That means that the vast majority of us must learn one or the other—or both.

Gaining self-awareness is a process that can take many years. But training that gives employees the opportunity to examine their own behaviors against objective standards and gain feedback from expert instructors and peers can help speed up the journey. Just like the conflict management course, there are many ways to do this in a practical context that benefits employees and the organization alike.

For example, SAP also offers courses on building self-confidence, increasing trust with peers, creating connections with others, solving complex problems, and increasing resiliency in the face of difficult situations—all of which increase self-awareness in constructive ways. These human-skills courses are as popular with our employees as the hard-skill courses in new technologies or new programming techniques.

Depending on an organization’s size, budget, and goals, learning programs like these can include small group training, large lectures, online courses, licensing of third-party online content, reimbursement for students to attain certification, and many other models.
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Human Skills Are the Constant

Automation and artificial intelligence will change the workplace in unpredictable ways. One thing we can predict, however, is that human skills will be needed more than ever.

The connection between conflict resolution skills, critical thinking courses, and the rise of AI-aided technology might not be immediately obvious. But these new AI tools are leading us down the path to a much more human workplace.

Employees will interact with their computers through voice conversations and image recognition. Machine learning will find unexpected correlations in massive amounts of data but empathy and creativity will be required for data scientists to figure out the right questions to ask. Interpersonal communication will become even more important as teams coordinate between offices, remote workplaces, and AI aides.

While the future might be filled with artificial intelligence, deep learning, and untold amounts of data, uniquely human capabilities will be the ones that matter. Machines can’t write a symphony, design a building, teach a college course, or manage a department. The future belongs to humans working with machines, and for that, you need human skills. D!


About the Authors

Jenny Dearborn is Chief Learning Officer at SAP.

David Judge is Vice President, SAP Leonardo, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President and Internet of Things Evangelist at SAP.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

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