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Intelligent Sales Lead To Cash

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.

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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 Intelligent Sales Lead To CashIn 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 Intelligent Sales Lead To CashHow 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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In-Depth Cash Flow Analysis and Forecasting Webinar

CRM Blog In Depth Cash Flow Analysis and Forecasting Webinar

Having enough cash flow to keep your business going is a primary focus for a business owner who wants a successful business. That’s why we developed a series that will provide you with all the accounting tools you’ll need to run a successful business. In this webinar, the following topics will be covered.

-In-Depth Cash Flow Analysis
-Cash-Flow Forecasting

Time: 12:00PM EST – 12:30PM EST
Date: Thursday May 24, 2018

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Four Ways To Improve Cash Application With Machine Learning

In 2013, several UK supermarket chains discovered that products they were selling as beef were actually made at least partly—and in some cases, entirely—from horsemeat. The resulting uproar led to a series of product recalls, prompted stricter food testing, and spurred the European food industry to take a closer look at how unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients were finding their way into the food chain.

By 2020, a scandal like this will be eminently preventable.

The separation between bovine and equine will become immutable with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will track the provenance and identity of every animal from stall to store, adding the data to a blockchain that anyone can check but no one can alter.

Food processing companies will be able to use that blockchain to confirm and label the contents of their products accordingly—down to the specific farms and animals represented in every individual package. That level of detail may be too much information for shoppers, but they will at least be able to trust that their meatballs come from the appropriate species.

The Spine of Digitalization

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Keeping food safer and more traceable is just the beginning, however. Improvements in the supply chain, which have been incremental for decades despite billions of dollars of technology investments, are about to go exponential. Emerging technologies are converging to transform the supply chain from tactical to strategic, from an easily replicable commodity to a new source of competitive differentiation.

You may already be thinking about how to take advantage of blockchain technology, which makes data and transactions immutable, transparent, and verifiable (see “What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?”). That will be a powerful tool to boost supply chain speed and efficiency—always a worthy goal, but hardly a disruptive one.

However, if you think of blockchain as the spine of digitalization and technologies such as AI, the IoT, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones as the limbs, you have a powerful supply chain body that can leapfrog ahead of its competition.

What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

Here’s why blockchain technology is critical to transforming the supply chain.

Blockchain is essentially a sequential, distributed ledger of transactions that is constantly updated on a global network of computers. The ownership and history of a transaction is embedded in the blockchain at the transaction’s earliest stages and verified at every subsequent stage.

A blockchain network uses vast amounts of computing power to encrypt the ledger as it’s being written. This makes it possible for every computer in the network to verify the transactions safely and transparently. The more organizations that participate in the ledger, the more complex and secure the encryption becomes, making it increasingly tamperproof.

Why does blockchain matter for the supply chain?

  • It enables the safe exchange of value without a central verifying partner, which makes transactions faster and less expensive.
  • It dramatically simplifies recordkeeping by establishing a single, authoritative view of the truth across all parties.
  • It builds a secure, immutable history and chain of custody as different parties handle the items being shipped, and it updates the relevant documentation.
  • By doing these things, blockchain allows companies to create smart contracts based on programmable business logic, which can execute themselves autonomously and thereby save time and money by reducing friction and intermediaries.

Hints of the Future

Q118 CoverFeature img2 future Four Ways To Improve Cash Application With Machine LearningIn the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, we had no idea that the internet would become so large and pervasive, nor that we’d find a way to carry it all in our pockets on small slabs of glass.

But we could tell that it had vast potential.

Today, with the combination of emerging technologies that promise to turbocharge digital transformation, we’re just beginning to see how we might turn the supply chain into a source of competitive advantage (see “What’s the Magic Combination?”).

What’s the Magic Combination?

Those who focus on blockchain in isolation will miss out on a much bigger supply chain opportunity.

Many experts believe emerging technologies will work with blockchain to digitalize the supply chain and create new business models:

  • Blockchain will provide the foundation of automated trust for all parties in the supply chain.
  • The IoT will link objects—from tiny devices to large machines—and generate data about status, locations, and transactions that will be recorded on the blockchain.
  • 3D printing will extend the supply chain to the customer’s doorstep with hyperlocal manufacturing of parts and products with IoT sensors built into the items and/or their packaging. Every manufactured object will be smart, connected, and able to communicate so that it can be tracked and traced as needed.
  • Big Data management tools will process all the information streaming in around the clock from IoT sensors.
  • AI and machine learning will analyze this enormous amount of data to reveal patterns and enable true predictability in every area of the supply chain.

Combining these technologies with powerful analytics tools to predict trends will make lack of visibility into the supply chain a thing of the past. Organizations will be able to examine a single machine across its entire lifecycle and identify areas where they can improve performance and increase return on investment. They’ll be able to follow and monitor every component of a product, from design through delivery and service. They’ll be able to trigger and track automated actions between and among partners and customers to provide customized transactions in real time based on real data.

After decades of talk about markets of one, companies will finally have the power to create them—at scale and profitably.

Amazon, for example, is becoming as much a logistics company as a retailer. Its ordering and delivery systems are so streamlined that its customers can launch and complete a same-day transaction with a push of a single IP-enabled button or a word to its ever-attentive AI device, Alexa. And this level of experimentation and innovation is bubbling up across industries.

Consider manufacturing, where the IoT is transforming automation inside already highly automated factories. Machine-to-machine communication is enabling robots to set up, provision, and unload equipment quickly and accurately with minimal human intervention. Meanwhile, sensors across the factory floor are already capable of gathering such information as how often each machine needs maintenance or how much raw material to order given current production trends.

Once they harvest enough data, businesses will be able to feed it through machine learning algorithms to identify trends that forecast future outcomes. At that point, the supply chain will start to become both automated and predictive. We’ll begin to see business models that include proactively scheduling maintenance, replacing parts just before they’re likely to break, and automatically ordering materials and initiating customer shipments.

Italian train operator Trenitalia, for example, has put IoT sensors on its locomotives and passenger cars and is using analytics and in-memory computing to gauge the health of its trains in real time, according to an article in Computer Weekly. “It is now possible to affordably collect huge amounts of data from hundreds of sensors in a single train, analyse that data in real time and detect problems before they actually happen,” Trenitalia’s CIO Danilo Gismondi told Computer Weekly.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, will change Trenitalia’s business model, allowing it to schedule more trips and make each one more profitable. The railway company will be able to better plan parts inventories and determine which lines are consistently performing poorly and need upgrades. The new system will save €100 million a year, according to ARC Advisory Group.

New business models continue to evolve as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable, making it possible to move the end of the supply chain closer to the customer. Companies can design parts and products in materials ranging from carbon fiber to chocolate and then print those items in their warehouse, at a conveniently located third-party vendor, or even on the client’s premises.

In addition to minimizing their shipping expenses and reducing fulfillment time, companies will be able to offer more personalized or customized items affordably in small quantities. For example, clothing retailer Ministry of Supply recently installed a 3D printer at its Boston store that enables it to make an article of clothing to a customer’s specifications in under 90 minutes, according to an article in Forbes.

This kind of highly distributed manufacturing has potential across many industries. It could even create a market for secure manufacturing for highly regulated sectors, allowing a manufacturer to transmit encrypted templates to printers in tightly protected locations, for example.

Meanwhile, organizations are investigating ways of using blockchain technology to authenticate, track and trace, automate, and otherwise manage transactions and interactions, both internally and within their vendor and customer networks. The ability to collect data, record it on the blockchain for immediate verification, and make that trustworthy data available for any application delivers indisputable value in any business context. The supply chain will be no exception.

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Blockchain Is the Change Driver

The supply chain is configured as we know it today because it’s impossible to create a contract that accounts for every possible contingency. Consider cross-border financial transfers, which are so complex and must meet so many regulations that they require a tremendous number of intermediaries to plug the gaps: lawyers, accountants, customer service reps, warehouse operators, bankers, and more. By reducing that complexity, blockchain technology makes intermediaries less necessary—a transformation that is revolutionary even when measured only in cost savings.

“If you’re selling 100 items a minute, 24 hours a day, reducing the cost of the supply chain by just $ 1 per item saves you more than $ 52.5 million a year,” notes Dirk Lonser, SAP go-to-market leader at DXC Technology, an IT services company. “By replacing manual processes and multiple peer-to-peer connections through fax or e-mail with a single medium where everyone can exchange verified information instantaneously, blockchain will boost profit margins exponentially without raising prices or even increasing individual productivity.”

But the potential for blockchain extends far beyond cost cutting and streamlining, says Irfan Khan, CEO of supply chain management consulting and systems integration firm Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company. It will give companies ways to differentiate.

“Blockchain will let enterprises more accurately trace faulty parts or products from end users back to factories for recalls,” Khan says. “It will streamline supplier onboarding, contracting, and management by creating an integrated platform that the company’s entire network can access in real time. It will give vendors secure, transparent visibility into inventory 24×7. And at a time when counterfeiting is a real concern in multiple industries, it will make it easy for both retailers and customers to check product authenticity.”

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials. Although the key parts of the process remain the same as in today’s analog supply chain, performing them electronically with blockchain technology shortens each stage from hours or days to seconds while eliminating reams of wasteful paperwork. With goods moving that quickly, companies have ample room for designing new business models around manufacturing, service, and delivery.

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Challenges on the Path to Adoption

For all this to work, however, the data on the blockchain must be correct from the beginning. The pills, produce, or parts on the delivery truck need to be the same as the items listed on the manifest at the loading dock. Every use case assumes that the data is accurate—and that will only happen when everything that’s manufactured is smart, connected, and able to self-verify automatically with the help of machine learning tuned to detect errors and potential fraud.

Companies are already seeing the possibilities of applying this bundle of emerging technologies to the supply chain. IDC projects that by 2021, at least 25% of Forbes Global 2000 (G2000) companies will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale; 30% of top global manufacturers and retailers will do so by 2020. IDC also predicts that by 2020, up to 10% of pilot and production blockchain-distributed ledgers will incorporate data from IoT sensors.

Despite IDC’s optimism, though, the biggest barrier to adoption is the early stage level of enterprise use cases, particularly around blockchain. Currently, the sole significant enterprise blockchain production system is the virtual currency Bitcoin, which has unfortunately been tainted by its associations with speculation, dubious financial transactions, and the so-called dark web.

The technology is still in a sufficiently early stage that there’s significant uncertainty about its ability to handle the massive amounts of data a global enterprise supply chain generates daily. Never mind that it’s completely unregulated, with no global standard. There’s also a critical global shortage of experts who can explain emerging technologies like blockchain, the IoT, and machine learning to nontechnology industries and educate organizations in how the technologies can improve their supply chain processes. Finally, there is concern about how blockchain’s complex algorithms gobble computing power—and electricity (see “Blockchain Blackouts”).

Blockchain Blackouts

Q118 CoverFeature img5 blackout Four Ways To Improve Cash Application With Machine LearningBlockchain is a power glutton. Can technology mediate the issue?

A major concern today is the enormous carbon footprint of the networks creating and solving the algorithmic problems that keep blockchains secure. Although virtual currency enthusiasts claim the problem is overstated, Michael Reed, head of blockchain technology for Intel, has been widely quoted as saying that the energy demands of blockchains are a significant drain on the world’s electricity resources.

Indeed, Wired magazine has estimated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin network alone will require more energy than the entire United States currently uses and that by February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

Still, computing power is becoming more energy efficient by the day and sticking with paperwork will become too slow, so experts—Intel’s Reed among them—consider this a solvable problem.

“We don’t know yet what the market will adopt. In a decade, it might be status quo or best practice, or it could be the next Betamax, a great technology for which there was no demand,” Lonser says. “Even highly regulated industries that need greater transparency in the entire supply chain are moving fairly slowly.”

Blockchain will require acceptance by a critical mass of companies, governments, and other organizations before it displaces paper documentation. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue: multiple companies need to adopt these technologies at the same time so they can build a blockchain to exchange information, yet getting multiple companies to do anything simultaneously is a challenge. Some early initiatives are already underway, though:

  • A London-based startup called Everledger is using blockchain and IoT technology to track the provenance, ownership, and lifecycles of valuable assets. The company began by tracking diamonds from mine to jewelry using roughly 200 different characteristics, with a goal of stopping both the demand for and the supply of “conflict diamonds”—diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance insurgencies. It has since expanded to cover wine, artwork, and other high-value items to prevent fraud and verify authenticity.
  • In September 2017, SAP announced the creation of its SAP Leonardo Blockchain Co-Innovation program, a group of 27 enterprise customers interested in co-innovating around blockchain and creating business buy-in. The diverse group of participants includes management and technology services companies Capgemini and Deloitte, cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos S.A., and Moog Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control systems.
  • Two of Europe’s largest shipping ports—Rotterdam and Antwerp—are working on blockchain projects to streamline interaction with port customers. The Antwerp terminal authority says eliminating paperwork could cut the costs of container transport by as much as 50%.
  • The Chinese online shopping behemoth Alibaba is experimenting with blockchain to verify the authenticity of food products and catch counterfeits before they endanger people’s health and lives.
  • Technology and transportation executives have teamed up to create the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for developing blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

It’s likely that the first blockchain-based enterprise supply chain use case will emerge in the next year among companies that see it as an opportunity to bolster their legal compliance and improve business processes. Once that happens, expect others to follow.

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Customers Will Expect Change

It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain becomes a competitive driver. The question for today’s enterprises is how to prepare for the shift. Customers are going to expect constant, granular visibility into their transactions and faster, more customized service every step of the way. Organizations will need to be ready to meet those expectations.

If organizations have manual business processes that could never be automated before, now is the time to see if it’s possible. Organizations that have made initial investments in emerging technologies are looking at how their pilot projects are paying off and where they might extend to the supply chain. They are starting to think creatively about how to combine technologies to offer a product, service, or business model not possible before.

A manufacturer will load a self-driving truck with a 3D printer capable of creating a customer’s ordered item en route to delivering it. A vendor will capture the market for a socially responsible product by allowing its customers to track the product’s production and verify that none of its subcontractors use slave labor. And a supermarket chain will win over customers by persuading them that their choice of supermarket is also a choice between being certain of what’s in their food and simply hoping that what’s on the label matches what’s inside.

At that point, a smart supply chain won’t just be a competitive edge. It will become a competitive necessity. D!


About the Authors

Gil Perez is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

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

Hans Thalbauer is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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The Insider’s Guide To Improving Payments And Cash Flow: Evaluate And Select A Partner

The title of this post was inspired by the 1996 documentary “When We Were Kings,” about the heavyweight fight of 1974 between two boxing legends, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. In the not-so-distant future, it will also be a fitting phrase for many in the banking and insurance industries.

Readers may ask why I am talking about banking and insurance in such doomsday terms. My bleak forecast does not stem from the notion behind the common fintech (financial technology) and insurtech (insurance technology) industry pitch that they will change their respective industries with innovation and better customer experiences, although I firmly believe that some of the startups will cause significant pain to the incumbents and will indeed change their respective industries. One day, some of the existing and as-yet-unlaunched fintech and insurtech companies will also become incumbents that other startups aim to disrupt.

The real threat to the financial industry will come from a radical approach to penetrate the financial market—an approach that I believe has not yet been addressed or even conceived by the competition. The emphasis is clearly on “yet.”

What is this new concept? It is simply this: offering financial services at or below cost. I have mooted this idea at many think tank events, and I thought I should write it down to share it more broadly. It is, and should be, a terrifying thought for many, and I strongly believe this approach will be implemented in the near future. It will bring many of the incumbents to their knees, unless they prepare for what is to come by investing in technology and adapting radical business models.

People talk about the limited impact of fintech and insurtech on the incumbent business model. I must agree that at this point many startups have little influence, if you look only at the customers they have taken away from incumbents. What the startups are already doing, however, is forcing many incumbents to lower their fees to better match what the smaller players offer to their clients.

Moreover, startups have also changed customers’ expectations of the user experience. Startups will also use artificial intelligence and machine learning to compete against the established financial players that have more resources—such as money, data and clients—at hand to compete. There is no way around investing in AI and machine learning to compete successfully against tech-savvy competitors. Many startups and large companies already use machine learning algorithms to build better credit risk models, predict bad loans, detect fraud, anticipate financial market behavior, improve customer relationship management, and provide more customized services to their clients. Arguably, the biggest effect of startups is that they continuously put pressure on incumbent profit margins. Startups will continue to try to change the status quo because they smell blood in the incumbent water.

The real and biggest threat to incumbents will likely originate from tech giants, such as Amazon, Apple and Facebook, and other big non-tech companies that have large customer and employee bases. These organizations will use their customers and employees to sell banking and insurance solutions, and the big financial institutions will become at best dumb pipes. The technical approaches to doing business within the fintech and insurtech industries may provide some of the tools tech giants and other large companies need to execute this strategy.

I know some readers will say that regulators will stop any attempt by non-traditional players to provide many banking and insurance services. However, I do not think regulators can or will stop the new competitors, because these companies will either obtain the necessary licenses to operate or have a bank or insurer provide third-party financial services to them. This strategy is not unlike the way some fintech challenger banks use the licenses of an existing bank to operate.

Why should we expect this scenario of financial industry disruption to happen? In our case, we all seem to agree that the tech giants are the ones to fear because of the Big Data platform and technology knowledge they possess. In addition, tech giants have several advantages, such as the trust factor and the constant interaction with satisfied customers. Furthermore, studies have shown that millennials would prefer to bank with tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, or Google than with the existing banking players. And last but not least are the tech giants and startups that keep setting the bar higher for exceptional customer experience (for instance Apple’s simplicity or Amazon’s instant gratification) and shape the client behavior and expectations, not the incumbents.

All that speaks to tech giants’ favorable circumstances as serious competitors that are not yet ready to come in at full speed and hit the financial industry broadly, but it does not point to the need to fear an extreme disruption as I projected. I do not believe we will see those tech giants providing whole-spectrum financial services anytime soon, but they have the potential to offer services in certain segments, such as providing payment, lending, or insurance options for their customers and employees.

What is terrifying to imagine is a situation in which tech giants or other big companies provide financial service solutions at or below production costs. No, that is not a typo; I mean providing financial services for nothing—for free.

If we take this scenario to its extreme—that is, selling banking or insurance services for nothing (yes, for zero pounds, euros, dollars, or renminbi)—then we have a situation in which financial institutions in their present forms will die or be reduced to shadows of their current selves.

That can and will happen, and here’s why: Large companies could do exactly that—sell at or below cost—to win or keep customers. The new competitors would not need to earn money and could even afford to lose money in offering financial solutions if these features entice customers and new potential clients to use the companies’ core offerings. Remember that Facebook, for instance, earns the biggest portion of their profits through advertising because they have created a great platform through which people love to interact. Financial solutions would be just another great offering (especially if they are offered for free) to entice many people to join the tech giants’ ecosystems.

Alternatively, car companies such as GM could provide their employees and customers with very cheap or no-cost (no cost to customers, at cost for the company) banking or insurance solutions. Don’t forget that banking and insurance solutions can be provided at very little cost as white-label services from third parties that already have all the necessary licenses, technology and infrastructure.

All is not lost for banks and insurers, but it will be very hard for them to compete against savvy tech giants on their technological home turf. The financial industry must think fast to find ways to compete before their business oxygen runs out.

One solution that banks and insurers should pursue aggressively is to embrace the fintech and insurtech industries for their innovative business spirit and fast, direct execution approach to new ideas. That means financial institutions should buy what they can or partner with startups to make up for all the shortcomings that legacy brings. Size and regulation will not be enough to protect incumbent financial institutions against new competitors, as we have seen in many other industries.

Another idea might be for financial institutions to place advertisements on their websites or apps to compensate for loss of profit margins. I do not think this is the only solution, but financial institutions must innovate beyond their core areas of expertise and standard industry practices. Why do you think Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb have been so successful at disrupting their industries? Because they thought and acted as if they had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The “at or below cost” approach to financial service solutions is not a far-fetched scenario for tech giants and other companies that are trying to find new ways to attract and keep clients. The banking and insurance industries must at least get very comfortable with the idea that low-cost or free financial services are coming.

A tsunami is often unnoticed in the open sea, but once it approaches the shore, it causes the sea to rise in a massive, devastating wave. The financial industry needs to determine if the threat by tech giants and non-tech companies is a small wave or a tsunami and prepare accordingly. My recommendation to all financial institutions is this: You’d better prepare for a tsunami, even if all you see is a small wave on the horizon.

Read more in my new white paper “Machine Learning in Financial Services: Changing the Rules of the Game.”

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When It Comes To Rewarding Employees, Is Cash Really King?

The September issue of the Harvard Business Review features a cover story on design thinking’s coming of age. We have been applying design thinking within SAP for the past 10 years, and I’ve witnessed the growth of this human-centered approach to innovation first hand.

Design thinking is, as the HBR piece points out, “the best tool we have for … developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.”

This means businesses are doing more to learn about their customers by interacting directly with them. We’re seeing this change in our work on d.forum — a community of design thinking champions and “disruptors” from across industries.

Meanwhile, technology is making it possible to know exponentially more about a customer. Businesses can now make increasingly accurate predictions about customers’ needs well into the future. The businesses best able to access and pull insights from this growing volume of data will win. That requires a fundamental change for our own industry; it necessitates a digital transformation.

So, how do we design this digital transformation?

It starts with the customer and an application of design thinking throughout an organization – blending business, technology and human values to generate innovation. Business is already incorporating design thinking, as the HBR cover story shows. We in technology need to do the same.

SCN+SY When It Comes To Rewarding Employees, Is Cash Really King?

Design thinking plays an important role because it helps articulate what the end customer’s experience is going to be like. It helps focus all aspects of the business on understanding and articulating that future experience.

Once an organization is able to do that, the insights from that consumer experience need to be drawn down into the business, with the central question becoming: What does this future customer experience mean for us as an organization? What barriers do we need to remove? Do we need to organize ourselves differently? Does our process need to change – if it does, how? What kind of new technology do we need?

Then an organization must look carefully at roles within itself. What does this knowledge of the end customer’s future experience mean for an individual in human resources, for example, or finance? Those roles can then be viewed as end experiences unto themselves, with organizations applying design thinking to learn about the needs inherent to those roles. They can then change roles to better meet the end customer’s future needs. This end customer-centered approach is what drives change.

This also means design thinking is more important than ever for IT organizations.

We, in the IT industry, have been charged with being responsive to business, using technology to solve the problems business presents. Unfortunately, business sometimes views IT as the organization keeping the lights on. If we make the analogy of a store: business is responsible for the front office, focused on growing the business where consumers directly interact with products and marketing; while the perception is that IT focuses on the back office, keeping servers running and the distribution system humming. The key is to have business and IT align to meet the needs of the front office together.

Remember what I said about the growing availability of consumer data? The business best able to access and learn from that data will win. Those of us in IT organizations have the technology to make that win possible, but the way we are seen and our very nature needs to change if we want to remain relevant to business and participate in crafting the winning strategy.

We need to become more front office and less back office, proving to business that we are innovation partners in technology.

This means, in order to communicate with businesses today, we need to take a design thinking approach. We in IT need to show we have an understanding of the end consumer’s needs and experience, and we must align that knowledge and understanding with technological solutions. When this works — when the front office and back office come together in this way — it can lead to solutions that a company could otherwise never have realized.

There’s different qualities, of course, between front office and back office requirements. The back office is the foundation of a company and requires robustness, stability, and reliability. The front office, on the other hand, moves much more quickly. It is always changing with new product offerings and marketing campaigns. Technology must also show agility, flexibility, and speed. The business needs both functions to survive. This is a challenge for IT organizations, but it is not an impossible shift for us to make.

Here’s the breakdown of our challenge.

1. We need to better understand the real needs of the business.

This means learning more about the experience and needs of the end customer and then translating that information into technological solutions.

2. We need to be involved in more of the strategic discussions of the business.

Use the regular invitations to meetings with business as an opportunity to surface the deeper learning about the end consumer and the technology solutions that business may otherwise not know to ask for or how to implement.

The IT industry overall may not have a track record of operating in this way, but if we are not involved in the strategic direction of companies and shedding light on the future path, we risk not being considered innovation partners for the business.

We must collaborate with business, understand the strategic direction and highlight the technical challenges and opportunities. When we do, IT will become a hybrid organization – able to maintain the back office while capitalizing on the front office’s growing technical needs. We will highlight solutions that business could otherwise have missed, ushering in a digital transformation.

Digital transformation goes beyond just technology; it requires a mindset. See What It Really Means To Be A Digital Organization.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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Turning Comments Into Cash

I am a child of the on-premise world. I grew up learning BASIC on an Apple II+ clone with 48K of RAM. When my dad gave me a 16K RAM expansion card for my birthday, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

I didn’t get my first modem for another 7 years (a  2400-baud Hayes!). I learned assembly language, made my own games, and typed in pages of code from computer magazines. I didn’t need to get connected to anything; I found an entire universe inside that little box in my bedroom.

How on-premise was I? I could place my hand on the disk drive, and from the sound and vibrations emanating therein, I could tell you whether or not the disk had an error about 10 seconds before any error messages popped up.

I stayed with IT through the rise of the Internet, and in tech support roles early in my career spent my fair share of time hanging around server rooms, swapping tapes, typing cryptic Unix commands, and waiting out long-running scripts as I performed weekend production upgrades for various customers. I was proud of that time in my life, as I felt I was in the forefront of an IT revolution that was changing the world.

If you’re an IT professional in your 30s or 40s, you’ve probably also done some or all of the above. Perhaps you and other readers are wondering why there is skepticism about the cloud. The decision-makers grew up in an on-premise world. Happiness is a warm server.

Let me try to convince you, fellow children of the 70s and 80s, of the benefits of a cloud solution. If I could cross the divide to the cloud realm, you can too.

1. You have better things to do

Most likely, your organisation is not an IT infrastructure company. Running data centers is probably not your core business. Many companies, however, are forced to have their own data centers and server rooms because of the lack of reliable services out there. This is a bit like having to dig your own well because there is no water service at your house. Things have changed, however—now, instead of dedicating personnel to non-core functions, you can let somebody else do the menial work and let your employees focus on things that are more relevant to your bottom line.

2. It costs less

Aside from the obvious shift from capital expenditure to operating expenditure when you move to the cloud, you must also take into account many other factors that go into running your own infrastructure. Perhaps the following graphic, which popped up on my LinkedIn feed the other day, describes it best:

iceberg Turning Comments Into Cash

I love this illustration because it illustrates many aspects of how your cost structure will change by moving to the cloud.

First, your most visible cost (the tip of the iceberg) will change from an up-front license fee to a subscription fee. If you simply look at this visible cost, it’s pretty clear that after a few years, the subscription cost will be higher than the one-time license cost. However, it’s important to remember that beneath the surface are the hidden ongoing costs that go into maintaining your own infrastructure.

In the cloud, that becomes somebody else’s problem (just as you wouldn’t need to worry about well maintenance once water is hooked up to your house). This is one of the true savings of moving to the cloud, so it is important not to overlook what lies under the surface when considering your TCO savings.

3. You’ll remove risk

Let’s go back to the well analogy again: If you use a well, you are responsible for making sure that the water is clean, that no feral possums get into it, and the pump is rust-free. When you are a water subscriber, you have only one risk: if the water supply stops.

That risk is mitigated by the fact that the water company has thousands of other water customers to whom it is also responsible. Same with the cloud, so you can stop worrying about whether your server room will catch fire or a mouse will nibble through your cables and just use the software you need.

And much like the water company likely does a better job of managing the water supply than you can, moving to the cloud with the right company enables you to take advantage of best practices such as automated backups, built-in redundancies, and automated software updates.

4. You’ll be more agile

Most on-premise software projects start with the selection and procurement of hardware, followed by installation of that hardware and software. Only then can you finally begin implementing and configuring your business solution. With cloud solutions, you can cut straight to the chase without worrying about potential infrastructure problems.

Furthermore, five or seven years down the road, you will not need to worry about what to do with that old server that can no longer run the latest release of your software.

All of the above factors are valid arguments for organisations of any size, but they are especially relevant for the small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which do not have the luxury of large IT departments and generally have more limited budgets.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, it’s time to start drinking the water without worrying about the well—consider how moving to the cloud can shrink your iceberg.

For more on why your business should consider moving to the cloud, visit our new cloud content hub.

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Yixia Tech's Latest Cash Infusion Will Spur Social Media Videos

Short videos are becoming a mainstay of Chinese social media, especially on Weibo.com. A new investment in the company behind two of the biggest platforms is set to grow the market further.

Weibo Corporation has completed a US$ 120 million investment in Yixia Tech, a Beijing-based developer behind short video mobile app Miaopai and Xiaokaxiu. The deal follows a US$ 200 million series D funding round Yixia competed in November 2015 led by Weibo, with participation from Sequoia Capital, South Korean entertainment firm YG Entertainment and others.

To date, Weibo has invested an aggregate of US$ 190 million in Yixia, while the two strengthened their existing partnership.

Miao Pai and Xiaokaxiu lets users shoot, edit, and share 10-second videos on Weibo and other social media platforms. It has registered users of 15 million and facilitates over one million video uploads daily, according to its official releases.

Launched in September 2013 with the help of Sina Weibo, Miaopai received venture funding in multiple rounds from Morningside Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) China, Sina Corp. and StarVC.

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Salesforce Ponies Up $340M Cash for Krux Data Management

Salesforce has agreed to acquire its Marketing Cloud partner Krux, which offers a data management platform.

Salesforce will pay US$ 340 million in cash and issue between 3.4 million and six million shares of common stock to consummate the deal, according to documentation filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. That’s worth an estimated $ 700 million in all.

Benefits to Both

Krux will extend the Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s segmentation and targeting capabilities to power consumer marketing with even more precision at scale, said Krux CEO Tom Chavez.

Further, Krux will feed Salesforce’s new artificial intelligence system, Einstein, with billions of new signals, providing corporations with more data about their users.

Krux will continue supporting its partner ecosystem.

“The acquisition was absolutely needed and expected,” said Sheryl Kingstone, a research director at 451 Research.

“It’s a great addition to not just the data cloud, but also the marketing cloud, as the world demands contextual 1:1 intent-driven engagement,” she told CRM Buyer. “It’s all about the data for the future of intelligent business applications.”

Salesforce is making a big push into AI, having developed Einstein to integrate AI into all of its products and serve as a nervous system across its entire business.

Einstein includes product recommendations; Predictive Sort, which turns up sort and search results based on how likely customers are to make a purchase; and Commerce Insights, which helps retailers understand product purchase correlations to help improve their store planning and merchandising.

Data lies at the heart of those efforts, and that is just what Krux offers. Through its data management platform, it serves as an intelligent marketing center that corporations can leverage to deliver media, content and commerce experiences to deepen customer engagement, strengthen

At the Crux of Krux

Every month, Krux interacts with more than 3 billion browsers and devices, supports more than 200 billion data collection events, processes more than 5 billion CRM records, and orchestrates more than 200 billion personalized consumer experiences.

Krux uses AI to analyze all of those signals to identify audiences for targeted marketing and advertising efforts.

Clients include Kellogg, ConAgra, JetBlue, Time Warner and Peugeot-PSA.

Happier Together

When Salesforce unveiled its next-generation marketing cloud last year, Krux was one of the partners in its digital marketing and digital advertising ecosystems.

Krux earlier this year deepened its integration with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, empowering advertisers to match third-party data with customer information on their Salesforce instances.

Krux also entered the Salesforce independent software vendor partner program, which enables customers of both firms to use their customer data to target consumers on the open Web, while also enriching their customer profiles with online engagement data.

The resulting two-way data exchange between the data sets let Salesforce clients consistently increase the value of both their online and offline data.

It made sound business sense for Salesforce to extend the partnership by purchasing Krux.

“Krux’s technology has real-time access to extensive customer data, which is crucial to understanding the process a consumer goes through when making a purchase,” said Anne Moxie, a senior analyst at Nucleus Research.

“Salesforce will be able to leverage this data with its artificial intelligence offering, Einstein,” she told CRM Buyer, “to potentially either make its marketing campaigns more dynamic, so that it can respond to consumer actions in real time, or … for highly granular customer segmentation.”

It will “make targeting more accurate,” Moxie noted, “because the neural networks and deep learning models in Einstein can use the real-time data that’s collected from Krux for improved campaigns.” end enn Salesforce Ponies Up $340M Cash for Krux Data Management


Richard%20Adhikari Salesforce Ponies Up $340M Cash for Krux Data ManagementRichard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it’s all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon’s Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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Cash or Credit: A Millennial Story

Last year Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the U.S. (Pew Research, 2016). Millennials (those born between 1997-1981) now number 75.4 million, just pipping the Boomers at 74.9 million. The Millennial generation came of age during the Great Recession and some studies from Bankrate and others, have shown they are credit averse, and favor debit cards over credit cards. However, new FICO research points to just the opposite.

Yes, I’d like a Credit Card.

There is no doubt that the Card Act of 2009 reduced the number of credit card carrying adults under the age of 21 which was its intended impact. Indeed, FICO’s research shows that just 64% of Millennials 18-24 have credit cards. However, older Millennials 25-34, now own cards at a higher rate (83%) than Generation X or those 50 and older.

percentages 300x144 Cash or Credit: A Millennial Story

So what do Millennials want in a credit card?

Millennials are particularly cost-conscious when choosing a card. They are most interested in transparency and lower fees and rates. FICO’s research also found that they are more interested than other generational groups in receiving notifications from their card provider on upcoming or missed payments, suspicious account activity and credit limit warnings. This is in contrast to older, wealthier consumers (earning >$ 100k per year) that are seeking travel or cash-back rewards, no foreign transaction fees and strong security features. Segmentation and analytics are the key for matching the right consumer with the right offer.

Segmentation

FICO has worked with a number of credit card issuers to help them segment and deliver the right analytic offer. Helping to build a base of new Millennial clients is of the first critical step in those efforts. We feel that a single solution that spans both the marketing and origination processes will deliver the best results. By connecting the underwriting and marketing decision, with strong analytic tools, card issuers can get the following benefits:

  • ROI forecasting – Before going to market they can simulate the effectiveness of different offers not only from the marketing uptake standpoint, but also from a risk view.
  • Customized Offers – With the simulation results, firms can segment customers and pre-approve the most profitable prospects with an tailored offer .
  • Continuous Improvement – Using market data to create a continuous feedback loop sharpens both marketing and credit decisions for increased revenue and profits.

To learn more about FICO research into Millennials and Credit Cards download our ebook or to learn more about our Bank Card Solutions visit fico.com

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OVH gets $327m cash for data center expansion

12 December 2014 by Drew Amorosi – Datacenter Dynamics

OVH Presse Datacentre RBX1 0004 OVH gets $327m cash for data center expansion

OVH’s RBX-1 data center in Roubaix, France (OVH Group)

France-based web hosting provider OVH Group announced this week that it plans to raise $ 327 million to extend its cloud services business and add to its data center fleet. The company said its goal is to expand its business into previously untapped international markets.  

The company announced via its official blog that the cash infusion will come from a combination of bank loans ($ 196 million) and private bond issues ($ 131 million).

Solid financial results
Via twitter, OVH founder Octave Klaba cited “solid financial results” as the driver for a $ 490 million investment in international business development by the end of 2017, including the $ 327 in debt raised to fund the expansion.

“The goal is to provide the means to become a key player in the global cloud, able to compete with the big American companies”, said Nicolas Boyer, CFO of OVH, in a statement. Boyer confirmed that the debt raised would be part of an overall $ 490 million international business development plan, with the remaining amount to be self-funded.

“We can then intensify the deployment of our data center and network infrastructures, supporting our customers in the cloud while capturing new markets”, he added.

The financing deal may be a pre-cursor to OVH going public, according to Le Figaro. “This transaction has allowed us to vary our sources of financing and test the appetite of private investors”, Boyer commented. He told the French daily this week that an IPO would be the “next logical step.” 

OHV operates 17 data centers, with three in Canada and the rest in France. The company currently serves its North America-based customers from three data centers in the Montreal area. This geographic limitation prevents OVH from expanding its US-based business outside of the Midwest and East Coast. 

Although there are no official expansion plans, an OVH spokesperson told DatacenterDynamics the company would target the West Coast of North America, but whether this will be in the US or Canada is uncertain. The same spokesperson said the company would also look to expand into Asia, but that no specifics on location were available at this time.

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