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Integrated Cloud And Analytic Solutions Are Driving IoT Adoption Rates

For nerds, the weeks right before finals are a Cinderella moment. Suddenly they’re stars. Pocket protectors are fashionable; people find their jokes a whole lot funnier; Dungeons & Dragons sounds cool.

Many CIOs are enjoying this kind of moment now, as companies everywhere face the business equivalent of a final exam for a vital class they have managed to mostly avoid so far: digital transformation.

But as always, there is a limit to nerdy magic. No matter how helpful CIOs try to be, their classmates still won’t pass if they don’t learn the material. With IT increasingly central to every business—from the customer experience to the offering to the business model itself—we all need to start thinking like CIOs.

Pass the digital transformation exam, and you probably have a bright future ahead. A recent SAP-Oxford Economics study of 3,100 organizations in a variety of industries across 17 countries found that the companies that have taken the lead in digital transformation earn higher profits and revenues and have more competitive differentiation than their peers. They also expect 23% more revenue growth from their digital initiatives over the next two years—an estimate 2.5 to 4 times larger than the average company’s.

But the market is grading on a steep curve: this same SAP-Oxford study found that only 3% have completed some degree of digital transformation across their organization. Other surveys also suggest that most companies won’t be graduating anytime soon: in one recent survey of 450 heads of digital transformation for enterprises in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany by technology company Couchbase, 90% agreed that most digital projects fail to meet expectations and deliver only incremental improvements. Worse: over half (54%) believe that organizations that don’t succeed with their transformation project will fail or be absorbed by a savvier competitor within four years.

Companies that are making the grade understand that unlike earlier technical advances, digital transformation doesn’t just support the business, it’s the future of the business. That’s why 60% of digital leading companies have entrusted the leadership of their transformation to their CIO, and that’s why experts say businesspeople must do more than have a vague understanding of the technology. They must also master a way of thinking and looking at business challenges that is unfamiliar to most people outside the IT department.

In other words, if you don’t think like a CIO yet, now is a very good time to learn.

However, given that you probably don’t have a spare 15 years to learn what your CIO knows, we asked the experts what makes CIO thinking distinctive. Here are the top eight mind hacks.

1. Think in Systems

Q118 Feature3 img1 Jump Integrated Cloud And Analytic Solutions Are Driving IoT Adoption RatesA lot of businesspeople are used to seeing their organization as a series of loosely joined silos. But in the world of digital business, everything is part of a larger system.

CIOs have known for a long time that smart processes win. Whether they were installing enterprise resource planning systems or working with the business to imagine the customer’s journey, they always had to think in holistic ways that crossed traditional departmental, functional, and operational boundaries.

Unlike other business leaders, CIOs spend their careers looking across systems. Why did our supply chain go down? How can we support this new business initiative beyond a single department or function? Now supported by end-to-end process methodologies such as design thinking, good CIOs have developed a way of looking at the company that can lead to radical simplifications that can reduce cost and improve performance at the same time.

They are also used to thinking beyond temporal boundaries. “This idea that the power of technology doubles every two years means that as you’re planning ahead you can’t think in terms of a linear process, you have to think in terms of huge jumps,” says Jay Ferro, CIO of TransPerfect, a New York–based global translation firm.

No wonder the SAP-Oxford transformation study found that one of the values transformational leaders shared was a tendency to look beyond silos and view the digital transformation as a company-wide initiative.

This will come in handy because in digital transformation, not only do business processes evolve but the company’s entire value proposition changes, says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the Center for Information Systems Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It either already has or it’s going to, because digital technologies make things possible that weren’t possible before,” she explains.

2. Work in Diverse Teams

When it comes to large projects, CIOs have always needed input from a diverse collection of businesspeople to be successful. The best have developed ways to convince and cajole reluctant participants to come to the table. They seek out technology enthusiasts in the business and those who are respected by their peers to help build passion and commitment among the halfhearted.

Digital transformation amps up the urgency for building diverse teams even further. “A small, focused group simply won’t have the same breadth of perspective as a team that includes a salesperson and a service person and a development person, as well as an IT person,” says Ross.

At Lenovo, the global technology giant, many of these cross-functional teams become so used to working together that it’s hard to tell where each member originally belonged: “You can’t tell who is business or IT; you can’t tell who is product, IT, or design,” says the company’s CIO, Arthur Hu.

One interesting corollary of this trend toward broader teamwork is that talent is a priority among digital leaders: they spend more on training their employees and partners than ordinary companies, as well as on hiring the people they need, according to the SAP-Oxford Economics survey. They’re also already being rewarded for their faith in their teams: 71% of leaders say that their successful digital transformation has made it easier for them to attract and retain talent, and 64% say that their employees are now more engaged than they were before the transformation.

3. Become a Consultant

Good CIOs have long needed to be internal consultants to the business. Ever since technology moved out of the glasshouse and onto employees’ desks, CIOs have not only needed a deep understanding of the goals of a given project but also to make sure that the project didn’t stray from those goals, even after the businesspeople who had ordered the project went back to their day jobs. “Businesspeople didn’t really need to get into the details of what IT was really doing,” recalls Ferro. “They just had a set of demands and said, ‘Hey, IT, go do that.’”

But that was then. Now software has become so integral to the business that nobody can afford to walk away. Businesspeople must join the ranks of the IT consultants. “If you’re building a house, you don’t just disappear for six months and come back and go, ‘Oh, it looks pretty good,’” says Ferro. “You’re on that work site constantly and all of a sudden you’re looking at something, going, ‘Well, that looked really good on the blueprint, not sure it makes sense in reality. Let’s move that over six feet.’ Or, ‘I don’t know if I like that anymore.’ It’s really not much different in application development or for IT or technical projects, where on paper it looked really good and three weeks in, in that second sprint, you’re going, ‘Oh, now that I look at it, that’s really stupid.’”

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

CIOs have always needed the ability to educate and influence other leaders that they don’t directly control. For major IT projects to be successful, they need other leaders to contribute budget, time, and resources from multiple areas of the business.

It’s a kind of horizontal leadership that will become critical for businesspeople to acquire in digital transformation. “The leadership role becomes one much more of coaching others across the organization—encouraging people to be creative, making sure everybody knows how to use data well,” Ross says.

In this team-based environment, having all the answers becomes less important. “It used to be that the best business executives and leaders had the best answers. Today that is no longer the case,” observes Gary Cokins, a technology consultant who focuses on analytics-based performance management. “Increasingly, it’s the executives and leaders who ask the best questions. There is too much volatility and uncertainty for them to rely on their intuition or past experiences.”

Many experts expect this trend to continue as the confluence of automation and data keeps chipping away at the organizational pyramid. “Hierarchical, command-and-control leadership will become obsolete,” says Edward Hess, professor of business administration and Batten executive-in-residence at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “Flatter, distributive leadership via teams will become the dominant structure.”

Q118 Feature3 img3 rock Integrated Cloud And Analytic Solutions Are Driving IoT Adoption Rates5. Understand Process Design

When business processes were simpler, IT could analyze the process and improve it without input from the business. But today many processes are triggered on the fly by the customer, making a seamless customer experience more difficult to build without the benefit of a larger, multifunctional team. In a highly digitalized organization like Amazon, which releases thousands of new software programs each year, IT can no longer do it all.

While businesspeople aren’t expected to start coding, their involvement in process design is crucial. One of the techniques that many organizations have adopted to help IT and businesspeople visualize business processes together is design thinking (for more on design thinking techniques, see “A Cult of Creation“).

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from better processes. Among the 100 companies the SAP-Oxford Economics researchers have identified as digital leaders, two-thirds say that they are making their employees’ lives easier by eliminating process roadblocks that interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Ninety percent of leaders surveyed expect to see value from these projects in the next two years alone.

6. Learn to Keep Learning

The ability to learn and keep learning has been a part of IT from the start. Since the first mainframes in the 1950s, technologists have understood that they need to keep reinventing themselves and their skills to adapt to the changes around them.

Now that’s starting to become part of other job descriptions too. Many companies are investing in teaching their employees new digital skills. One South American auto products company, for example, has created a custom-education institute that trained 20,000 employees and partner-employees in 2016. In addition to training current staff, many leading digital companies are also hiring new employees and creating new roles, such as a chief robotics officer, to support their digital transformation efforts.

Nicolas van Zeebroeck, professor of information systems and digital business innovation at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Brussels, says that he expects the ability to learn quickly will remain crucial. “If I had to think of one critical skill,” he explains, “I would have to say it’s the ability to learn and keep learning—the ability to challenge the status quo and question what you take for granted.”

7. Fail Smarter

Traditionally, CIOs tended to be good at thinking through tests that would allow the company to experiment with new technology without risking the entire network.

This is another unfamiliar skill that smart managers are trying to pick up. “There’s a lot of trial and error in the best companies right now,” notes MIT’s Ross. But there’s a catch, she adds. “Most companies aren’t designed for trial and error—they’re trying to avoid an error,” she says.

Q118 Feature3 img4 fail Integrated Cloud And Analytic Solutions Are Driving IoT Adoption RatesTo learn how to do it better, take your lead from IT, where many people have already learned to work in small, innovative teams that use agile development principles, advises Ross.

For example, business managers must learn how to think in terms of a minimum viable product: build a simple version of what you have in mind, test it, and if it works start building. You don’t build the whole thing at once anymore.… It’s really important to build things incrementally,” Ross says.

Flexibility and the ability to capitalize on accidental discoveries during experimentation are more important than having a concrete project plan, says Ross. At Spotify, the music service, and CarMax, the used-car retailer, change is driven not from the center but from small teams that have developed something new. “The thing you have to get comfortable with is not having the formalized plan that we would have traditionally relied on, because as soon as you insist on that, you limit your ability to keep learning,” Ross warns.

8. Understand the True Cost—and Speed—of Data

Gut instincts have never had much to do with being a CIO; now they should have less to do with being an ordinary manager as well, as data becomes more important.

As part of that calculation, businesspeople must have the ability to analyze the value of the data that they seek. “You’ll need to apply a pinch of knowledge salt to your data,” advises Solvay’s van Zeebroeck. “What really matters is the ability not just to tap into data but to see what is behind the data. Is it a fair representation? Is it impartial?”

Increasingly, businesspeople will need to do their analysis in real time, just as CIOs have always had to manage live systems and processes. Moving toward real-time reports and away from paper-based decisions increases accuracy and effectiveness—and leaves less time for long meetings and PowerPoint presentations (let us all rejoice).

Not Every CIO Is Ready

Of course, not all CIOs are ready for these changes. Just as high school has a lot of false positives—genius nerds who turn out to be merely nearsighted—so there are many CIOs who aren’t good role models for transformation.

Success as a CIO these days requires more than delivering near-perfect uptime, says Lenovo’s Hu. You need to be able to understand the business as well. Some CIOs simply don’t have all the business skills that are needed to succeed in the transformation. Others lack the internal clout: a 2016 KPMG study found that only 34% of CIOs report directly to the CEO.

This lack of a strategic perspective is holding back digital transformation at many organizations. They approach digital transformation as a cool, one-off project: we’re going to put this new mobile app in place and we’re done. But that’s not a systematic approach; it’s an island of innovation that doesn’t join up with the other islands of innovation. In the longer term, this kind of development creates more problems than it fixes.

Such organizations are not building in the capacity for change; they’re trying to get away with just doing it once rather than thinking about how they’re going to use digitalization as a means to constantly experiment and become a better company over the long term.

Q118 Feature3 img6 CIOready Integrated Cloud And Analytic Solutions Are Driving IoT Adoption RatesAs a result, in some companies, the most interesting tech developments are happening despite IT, not because of it. “There’s an alarming digital divide within many companies. Marketers are developing nimble software to give customers an engaging, personalized experience, while IT departments remain focused on the legacy infrastructure. The front and back ends aren’t working together, resulting in appealing web sites and apps that don’t quite deliver,” writes George Colony, founder, chairman, and CEO of Forrester Research, in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

Thanks to cloud computing and easier development tools, many departments are developing on their own, without IT’s support. These days, anybody with a credit card can do it.

Traditionally, IT departments looked askance at these kinds of do-it-yourself shadow IT programs, but that’s changing. Ferro, for one, says that it’s better to look at those teams not as rogue groups but as people who are trying to help. “It’s less about ‘Hey, something’s escaped,’ and more about ‘No, we just actually grew our capacity and grew our ability to innovate,’” he explains.

“I don’t like the term ‘shadow IT,’” agrees Lenovo’s Hu. “I think it’s an artifact of a very traditional CIO team. If you think of it as shadow IT, you’re out of step with reality,” he says.

The reality today is that a company needs both a strong IT department and strong digital capacities outside its IT department. If the relationship is good, the CIO and IT become valuable allies in helping businesspeople add digital capabilities without disrupting or duplicating existing IT infrastructure.

If a company already has strong digital capacities, it should be able to move forward quickly, according to Ross. But many companies are still playing catch-up and aren’t even ready to begin transforming, as the SAP-Oxford Economics survey shows.

For enterprises where business and IT are unable to get their collective act together, Ross predicts that the next few years will be rough. “I think these companies ought to panic,” she says. D!


About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer at SAP and Managing Director of SAP Labs.

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.

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Schedule More Sales Appointments with Integrated CRM Mapping

CRM Software Blog Mapping Graphic Schedule More Sales Appointments with Integrated CRM Mapping
Experience unprecedented productivity by seeing exactly where your best customers and prospects are located in relation to where you are calling, all without leaving CRM.

InfoGrow recently released its most popular CRM mapping solution with enhanced desktop functionality and new mobile capabilities, enabling account managers to schedule more appointments and make more sales.

With CRM Call Planner, account managers can plan highly efficient road trips, with more calls, before leaving the office, by locating customers, distributors, and prospects of interest near their primary appointment. They can also locate nearby parking, restaurants, and hotels to simplify travel planning and create detailed point-to-point driving instructions. All of this is possible from within Dynamics, without exporting records to a separate mapping application.

Once in the field, CRM Call Planner Mobile eliminates wasted time sitting in coffee shops between appointments. Account managers can find new call opportunities in the area, and arrange spontaneous meetings to improve productivity and respond to last-minute schedule changes. For added efficiency, they can use their smartphone to provide turn-by-turn directions to their call.

CRM Call Planner and CRM Call Planner Mobile are an integral part of the CRM SmartMap™ Sales Productivity Pack. Together with CRM Geocoder Plus, these applications turn CRM data into actionable maps to help account managers schedule more meetings with their most important customers and prospects.

According to Bob Sullivan, President of InfoGrow, initial feedback on the new release has been enthusiastic. “I’ve been showing sales leaders how easy it is to eliminate downtime in the field and set more appointments by integrating maps into CRM. Many have said this is just what they’ve been looking for to increase revenue from their sales territories and improve adoption of CRM. Salespeople love it!”

Sullivan asks organizations to project how much sales would improve if every rep scheduled just one more sales call per week. “If you do the math, one extra appointment for 50 weeks multiplied by your percentage of appointments converting to opportunities close rate can significantly improve your bottom line,” says Sullivan.

The CRM SmartMap Sales Productivity Pack is compatible with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Dynamics CRM 2015 and higher. All applications are bundled with a simple, per-user monthly subscription with no contract.

InfoGrow specializes in helping companies find and keep their best customers using Microsoft Dynamics 365/CRM. If your CRM is not living up to your expectations, then seek us out. Our No Results Missed pledge ensures your satisfaction with our carefully chosen processes that will improve sales and organizational growth.

Learn more and join a live group demo to discover how CRM Call Planner and the entire Sales Productivity Pack can improve customer engagement and boost sales. You can also call me at 330-929-1353, extension 224, or email me at [email protected] to talk further.

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Bob Sullivan – President, InfoGrow, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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The Best Professional Services Firms Leverage Integrated Technology, Collaborative Cultures

websitelogo The Best Professional Services Firms Leverage Integrated Technology, Collaborative Cultures

Posted by Terry Melnik, PSA Product Marketing Director, Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit

Many professional services organizations track key metrics such as net profit, billable utilization and more. The question is how those metrics stack up against peers and competitors in the industry at large.

The annual Professional Services Maturity Benchmark report provides some answers. Now in its 10th year, this definitive study by SPI Research, the leading independent technology services research firm, sheds light on a dynamic and growing industry facing changes and challenges.

For example, growth in both revenue and headcount dipped to new seven-year lows in 2016, according to SPI’s study, based on a survey of 416 PS firms employing more than 200,000 consultants. Employee attrition reached a 10-year high, while profitability dipped 8.4 percent.

On the other hand, 2016 saw improvements in other leading indicators. Revenue per consultant, project backlog, size of the sales pipeline and on-time delivery all moved in a positive direction.

“In the face of turbulence, the overall fundamentals of the professional services industry remain very strong with PSOs making tremendous strides in improving productivity,” SPI wrote in its report.

What’s particularly striking is the differential between the bulk of PSOs and the top 5 percent that make up SPI’s “best of the best” list of the 21 top performing services organizations. The chart below illustrates several key differences.

Metric

Best of the Best

All Others

Advantage

Net profit (EBITDA)

19.2%

13.6%

41%

YoY revenue growth

20.4%

8.4%

143%

YoY headcount growth

16.9%

5.9%

186%

Ave. revenue per project (K)

$ 255

$ 157

62%

Ave. revenue per employee (K)

$ 206

$ 160

29%

On-time delivery

89.3%

77.4%

15%

Jeanne Urich, SPI Research Managing Director, said that one characteristic distinguishing top performers is an emphasis on building collaborative, employee-centric cultures. Another is the use of professional services automation (PSA) software, often integrated with ERP and CRM applications.

“Top performing firms are more likely to have implemented a commercial [PSA] business application and much more likely to have integrated it with the core financial application,” the SPI study notes. “Likewise, top performing organizations are much more likely to have integrated their CRM and PSA applications to provide real-time visibility and collaboration between sales and service delivery.”

As in past years, a significant number of SPI’s “best-of-the-best” winners in the 2017 report rely on NetSuite to power operations. They’re among the more than 1,500 services organizations to use NetSuite Services Resource Planning (SRP), OpenAir PSA, ERP and/or CRM for more efficient and transparent services execution.

We extend our congratulations to these NetSuite customers named as 2017 “best-of-the-best” winners:

Aspect Software, a provider of contact center, self-service and workforce solutions.

Box, the leading enterprise content management and collaboration platform provider.

Centrify, a provider of identity management solutions across hybrid, cloud, mobile and on-premise environments.

Pariveda Solutions, a leading management consulting firm focused on performance improvement.

Integration among PSA, ERP and CRM delivers a distinct advantage, SPI Research finds. In 2016, integrated PSA and ERP was in place at 84 percent of the “best-of-the-best” organizations, compared to 52 percent of all others, the SPI study found. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of top firms had integrated CRM and PSA, compared to 38 percent at others.

For an industry that lives and breathes numbers, SPI’s quantified metrics make clear that bottom-line competitive advantages await those PSOs that make integrated cloud technology a centerpiece of their business strategy.

Watch the Webinar: Success Tips: 2017 SPI PS Benchmark Survey Results featuring Jeanne Urich, SPI Research Managing Director and Kenneth Ewell, SVP of Professional Services at Aspect.

Additional Reading:

Posted on Thu, March 16, 2017
by NetSuite filed under

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26 Examples to Prove Dynamics 365 is Designed for Microsoft Office – Not Just Integrated

Many applications claim that they are integrated to Microsoft Office. But Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Microsoft Dynamics CRM) is more than just integrated. It was designed BY Microsoft, FOR Microsoft Office. Here are 26 examples of ways that Microsoft Dynamics 365 connects to your favorite Microsoft technology.

MS office graphic 26 Examples to Prove Dynamics 365 is Designed for Microsoft Office – Not Just Integrated

Outlook and Dynamics CRM:

  • Full CRM in Outlook
  • Full Offline Sync
  • Flags and Categories
  • Advanced task assignment
  • Attach CRM Docs/Articles to emails
  • Use CRM managed templates

Power BI and Dynamics CRM:

  • Embed Power BI into CRM forms
  • Sales Analytic app
  • Pre-built template for service

Exchange Online and Dynamics CRM:

  • Multiple addresses, private notes
  • Advanced correlation
  • View and track email from CRM

Office 365 and Dynamics CRM:

  • Common health, billing dashboards
  • Integrated identity and provisioning
  • Office Groups integration

OneNote and Dynamics CRM:

  • Attach OneNote notebooks directly to records in CRM now. Sync rich format notes to your CRM from any device.

Yammer and Dynamics CRM:

  • Include CRM and non-CRM users into key conversations
  • Collaborate across CRM instances, applications, etc.

SharePoint Online and Dynamics CRM:

  • Full document library functionality including check in/out and versions
  • Create documents and folders right from CRM

Skype and Dynamics CRM:

  • Integrated presence now
  • Conversation archives in CRM
  • Connect over voice, share desktop , video right from CRM now

Excel and Dynamics CRM:

  • Export with ‘live link’
  • Open/Edit views in Excel online
  • One-Click re-import of changes

Do you use Microsoft Office and supporting Microsoft technology? Why not use the CRM system that was designed to make your life easier.

If you are interested in evaluating Microsoft Dynamics 365 contact us at 877-600-2253 or [email protected].

By Ryan Plourde, Crowe Horwath, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Gold Partner www.CroweCRM.com

Follow us on Twitter: @CroweCRM

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Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High Speed

These days it seems that we are witnessing waves of extreme disruption rather than incremental technology change. While some tech news stories have been just so much noise, unlikely to have long-term impact, a few are important signals of much bigger, longer-term changes afoot.

From bots to blockchains, augmented realities to human-machine convergence, a number of rapidly advancing technological capabilities hit important inflection points in 2016. We looked at five important emerging technology news stories that happened this year and the trends set in motion that will have an impact for a long time to come.

sap Q416 digital double feature1  1 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High Speed

Immersive experiences were one of three top-level trends identified by Gartner for 2016, and that was evident in the enormous popularity of Pokémon Go. While the hype may have come and gone, the immersive technologies that have been quietly advancing in the background for years are ready to boil over into the big time—and into the enterprise.

The free location-based augmented reality (AR) game took off shortly after Nintendo launched it in July, and it became the most downloaded app in Apple’s app store history in its first week, as reported by TechCrunch. Average daily usage of the app on Android devices in July 2016 exceeded that of the standard-bearers Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, according to SimilarWeb. Within two months, Pokémon Go had generated more than US$ 440 million, according to Sensor Tower.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), which immerses us in a simulated world, AR layers computer-generated information such as graphics, sound, or other data on top of our view of the real world. In the case of Pokémon Go, players venture through the physical world using a digital map to search for Pokémon characters.

The game’s instant global acceptance was a surprise. Most watching this space expected an immersive headset device like Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard to steal the headlines. But it took Pikachu and the gang to break through. Pokémon Go capitalized on a generation’s nostalgia for its childhood and harnessed the latest advancements in key AR enabling technologies such as geolocation and computer vision.

sap Q416 digital double feature1 images8 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High SpeedJust as mobile technologies percolated inside companies for several years before the iPhone exploded onto the market, companies have been dabbling in AR since the beginning of the decade. IKEA created an AR catalog app in 2013 to help customers visualize how their KIVIK modular sofa, for example, would look in their living rooms. Mitsubishi Electric has been perfecting an AR application, introduced in 2011, that enables homeowners to visualize its HVAC products in their homes. Newport News Shipbuilding has launched some 30 AR projects to help the company build and maintain its vessels. Tech giants including Facebook, HP, and Apple have been snapping up immersive tech startups for some time.

The overnight success of Pokémon Go will fuel interest in and understanding of all mediated reality technology—virtual and augmented. It’s created a shorthand for describing immersive reality and could launch a wave of technology consumerization the likes of which we haven’t seen since the iPhone instigated a tsunami of smartphone usage. Enterprises would be wise to figure out the role of immersive technology sooner rather than later. “AR and VR will both be the new normal within five years,” says futurist Gerd Leonhard, noting that the biggest hurdles may be mobile bandwidth availability and concerns about sensory overload. “Pokémon is an obvious opening scene only—professional use of AR and VR will explode.”

sap Q416 digital double feature1  3 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High Speed

Blockchains, the decentralized digital ledgers of transactions that are processed by a distributed network, first made headlines as the foundation for new types of financial transactions beginning with Bitcoin in 2009. According to Greenwich Associates, financial and technology companies will invest an estimated $ 1 billion in blockchain technology in 2016. But, as Gartner recently pointed out, there could be even more rapid evolution and acceptance in the areas of manufacturing, government, healthcare, and education.

By the 2020s, blockchain-based systems will reduce or eliminate many points of friction for a variety of business transactions. Individuals and companies will be able to exchange a wide range of digitized or digitally represented assets and value with anyone else, according to PwC. The supervised peer-to-peer network concept “is the future,” says Leonhard.

But the most important blockchain-related news of 2016 revealed a weak link in the application of technology that is touted as an immutable record.

In theory, blockchain technology creates a highly tamper-resistant structure that makes transactions secure and verifiable through a massively distributed digital ledger. All the transactions that take place are recorded in this ledger, which lives on many computers. High-grade encryption makes it nearly impossible for someone to cheat the system.

In practice, however, blockchain-based transactions and contracts are only as good as the code that enables them.

Case in point: The DAO, one of the first major implementations of a “Decentralized Autonomous Organization” (for which the fund is named). The DAO was a crowdfunded venture capital fund using cryptocurrency for investments and run through smart contracts. The rules that govern those smart contracts, along with all financial transaction records, are maintained on the blockchain. In June, the DAO revealed that an individual exploited a vulnerability in the company’s smart contract code to take control of nearly $ 60 million worth of the company’s digital currency.

The fund’s investors voted to basically rewrite the smart contract code and roll back the transaction, in essence going against the intent of blockchain-based smart contracts, which are supposed to be irreversible once they self-execute.

The DAO’s experience confirmed one of the inherent risks of distributed ledger technology—and, in particular, the risk of running a very large fund autonomously through smart contracts based on blockchain technology. Smart contract code must be as error-free as possible. As Cornell University professor and hacker Emin Gün Sirer wrote in his blog, “writing a robust, secure smart contract requires extreme amounts of diligence. It’s more similar to writing code for a nuclear power reactor, than to writing loose web code.” Since smart contracts are intended to be executed irreversibly on the blockchain, their code should not be rewritten and improved over time, as software typically is. But since no code can ever be completely airtight, smart contracts may have to build in contingency plans for when weaknesses in their code are exploited.

Importantly, the incident was not a result of any inherent weakness in the blockchain or distributed ledger technology generally. It will not be the end of cryptocurrencies or smart contracts. And it’s leading to more consideration of editable blockchains, which proponents say would only be used in extraordinary circumstances, according to Technology Review.

sap Q416 digital double feature1  5 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High Speed

Application programming interfaces (APIs), the computer codes that serve as a bridge between software applications, are not traditionally a hot topic outside of coder circles. But they are critical components in much of the consumer technology we’ve all come to rely on day-to-day.

One of the most important events in API history was the introduction of such an interface for Google Maps a decade ago. The map app was so popular that everyone wanted to incorporate its capabilities into their own systems. So Google released an API that enabled developers to connect to and use the technology without having to hack into it. The result was the launch of hundreds of inventive location-enabled apps using Google technology. Today, millions of web sites and apps use Google Maps APIs, from Allstate’s GoodHome app, which shows homeowners a personalized risk assessment of their properties, to Harley-Davidson’s Ride Planner to 7-Eleven’s app for finding the nearest Slurpee.

sap Q416 digital double feature1 images6 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High SpeedUltimately, it became de rigueur for apps to open up their systems in a safe way for experimentation by others through APIs. Technology professional Kin Lane, who tracks the now enormous world of APIs, has said, “APIs bring together a unique blend of technology, business, and politics into a transparent, self-service mix that can foster innovation.”

Thus it was significant when Apple announced in June that it would open up Siri to third-party developers through an API, giving the wider world the ability to integrate Siri’s voice commands into their apps. The move came on the heels of similar decisions by Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, all of which have AI bots or assistants of their own. And in October, Google opened up its Google Assistant as well.

The introduction of APIs confirms that the AI technology behind these bots has matured significantly—and that a new wave of AI-based innovation is nigh.

The best way to spark that innovation is to open up AI technologies such as Siri so that coders can use them as platforms to build new apps that can more rapidly expand AI uses and capabilities. Call it the “platformication” of AI. The value will be less in the specific AI products a company introduces than in the value of the platform for innovation. And that depends on the quality of the API. The tech company that attracts the best and brightest will win. AI platforms are just beginning to emerge and the question is: Who will be the platform leader?

sap Q416 digital double feature1  4 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High Speed

In June, Swiss citizens voted on a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all of its citizens, as reported by BBC News. It was the first country to take the issue to the polls, but it won’t be the last. Discussions about the impact of both automation and the advancing gig economy on individual livelihoods are happening around the world. Other countries—including the United States—are looking at solutions to the problem. Both Finland and the Netherlands have universal guaranteed income pilots planned for next year. Meanwhile, American startup incubator Y Combinator is launching an experiment to give 100 families in Oakland, California, a minimum wage for five years with no strings attached, according to Quartz.

The world is on the verge of potential job loss at a scale and speed never seen before. The Industrial Revolution was more of an evolution, happening over more than a century. The ongoing digital revolution is happening in relative hyper speed.

No one is exactly sure how increased automation and digitization will affect the world’s workforce. One 2013 study suggests as much as 47% of the U.S workforce is at risk of being replaced by machines over the next two decades, but even a conservative estimate of 10% could have a dramatic impact, not just on workers but on society as a whole.

The proposed solution in Switzerland did not pass, in part because a major political party did not introduce it, and citizens are only beginning to consider the potential implications of digitization on their incomes. What’s more, the idea of simply guaranteeing pay runs contrary to long-held notions in many societies that humans ought to earn their keep.

Whether or not state-funded support is the answer is just one of the questions that must be answered. The votes and pilots underway make it clear that governments will have to respond with some policy measures. The question is: What will those measures be? The larger impact of mass job displacement, what future employment conditions might look like, and what the responsibilities of institutions are in ensuring that we can support ourselves are among the issues that policy makers will need to address.

New business models resulting from digitization will create some new types of roles—but those will require training and perhaps continued education. And not all of those who will be displaced will be in a position to remake their careers. Just consider taxi drivers: In the United States, about 223,000 people currently earn their living behind the wheel of a hired car. The average New York livery driver is 46 years old, according to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and no formal education is required. When self-driving cars take over, those jobs will go away and the men and women who held them may not be qualified for the new positions that emerge.

As digitization dramatically changes the constructs of commerce and work, no one is quite sure how people will be impacted. But waiting to see how it all shakes out is not a winning strategy. Companies and governments today will have to experiment with potential solutions before the severity of the problem is clear. Among the questions that will have to be answered: How can we retrain large parts of the workforce? How will we support those who fall through the cracks? Will we prioritize and fund education? Technological progress and shifting work models will continue, whether or not we plan for their consequences.

sap Q416 digital double feature1  2 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High Speed

In April, a young man, who was believed to have permanently lost feeling in and control over his hands and legs as the result of a devastating spine injury, became able to use his right hand and fingers again. He used technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles, bypassing his injured spinal cord. Doctors implanted a computer chip into the quadriplegic’s brain two years ago and—with ongoing training and practice—he can now perform everyday tasks like pouring from a bottle and playing video games.

The system reconnected the man’s brain directly to his muscles—the first time that engineers have successfully bypassed the nervous system’s information superhighway, the spinal cord. It’s the medical equivalent of moving from wired to wireless computing.

The man has in essence become a cyborg, that term first coined in 1960 to describe “self-regulating human-machine systems.” Yet the beneficiary of this scientific advance himself said, “You’re not going to be looked on as, ‘Oh, I’m a cyborg now because I have this big huge prosthetic on the side of my arm.’ It’s something a lot more natural and intuitive to learn because I can see my own hand reacting.”

As described in IEEE Spectrum, the “neural-bypass system” records signals that the man generates when thinking about moving his hand, decodes those signals, and routes them to the electric sleeve around his arm to stimulate movement: “The result looks surprisingly simple and natural: When Burkhart thinks about picking up a bottle, he picks up the bottle. When he thinks about playing a chord in Guitar Hero, he plays the chord.”

sap Q416 digital double feature1 images5 Integrated Planning And Simulation: Delivering New Insights At High SpeedWhat seems straightforward on the surface is powered by a sophisticated algorithm that can analyze the vast amounts of data the man’s brain produces, separating important signals from noise.

The fact that engineers have begun to unlock the complex code that controls brain-body communication opens up enormous possibilities. Neural prostheses (cochlear implants) have already reversed hearing loss. Light-sensitive chips serving as artificial retinas are showing progress in restoring vision. Other researchers are exploring computer implants that can read human thoughts directly to signal an external computer to help people speak or move in new ways. “Human and machine are converging,” says Leonhard.

The National Academy of Engineering predicts that “the intersection of engineering and neuroscience promises great advances in healthcare, manufacturing, and communication.”

Burkhart spent two years in training with the computer that has helped power his arm to get this far. It’s the result of more than a decade of development in brain-computer interfaces. And it can currently be used only in the lab; researchers are working on a system for home use. But it’s a clear indication of how quickly the lines between man and machine are blurring—and it opens the door for further computerized reanimation in many new scenarios.

This fall, Switzerland hosted its first cyborg Olympics, in which disabled patients compete using the latest assistive technologies, including robot exoskeletons and brainwave-readers. Paraplegic athletes use electrical simulation systems to compete in cycling, for example. The winners are those who can control their device the best. “Instead of celebrating the human body moving under its own power,” said a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum, “the cyborg games will celebrate the strength and ingenuity of human-machine collaborations.” D!

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

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PowerObjects Proudly Presents: A Closer Look at our Integrated Solution for Housing

25 300x225 PowerObjects Proudly Presents: A Closer Look at our Integrated Solution for Housing

PowerObjects, an HCL Company is excited to be putting on our first EVER webinar presented in the United Kingdom! In case you hadn’t heard the exciting news, PowerObjects has landed in the UK! We are expanding our business to the United Kingdom, working closely with our parent company HCL Technologies to bring Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions to UK-based businesses. This webinar is the perfect kick-off to those efforts.

Join us Tuesday, September 27, for a webinar showcasing our recent presentations at the 2016 Housing Technology and Microsoft In-depth events. Get a closer look at the Integrated Housing Solution built on Microsoft Dynamics technology by PowerObjects, an HCL Company. PowerObjects and HCL Technologies sponsored two major events in the UK—”In-Depth 2016″—jointly hosted by Microsoft and Housing Technology. These events took place in London at the Emirates Stadium on July 6, and in Manchester at Old Trafford on July 21, and covered the latest technology trends in the social housing sector.

Presenting jointly with Microsoft, the PowerObjects UK team will take a look at what the roadmap of technology within the Public Sector looks like as well as focus on PowerObjects’ services and experience with business transformation within the housing market specifically. REGISTER TODAY!

If you can’t make the webinar, don’t worry! A recording of this webinar will be published on our website for anyone who can’t attend. Register for the webinar and we’ll send you a follow-up email with a link to the recorded presentation. That way you can watch it when it’s convenient for you!

Happy CRM’ing!

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Introducing Integrated Workspace Mode for SQL Server Data Tools for Analysis Services Tabular Projects (SSDT Tabular)

When you work with the model designer in SSDT Tabular, you are working with a temporary Analysis Services database that SSDT Tabular automatically loads on a workspace server. During the initial project creation, you must point SSDT Tabular to the desired workspace server, which must be a tabular Analysis Services instance that you can control with full permissions of a SSAS Administrator. In a typical configuration, you would deploy a workspace server on the local computer running SSDT Tabular. Yet, having to run SQL Server Setup in order to deploy a full SSAS instance in Tabular mode just for development purposes is burdensome. Now there is a better way—Integrated workspace mode!
The following screenshot shows the Tabular Model Designer dialog box displayed when creating a new tabular project by using the SSDT September release. Note the Integrated Workspace option. If you select it, SSDT Tabular no longer requires an explicit workspace server. Instead, it relies on its own internal Analysis Services instance.
integratedworkspace Introducing Integrated Workspace Mode for SQL Server Data Tools for Analysis Services Tabular Projects (SSDT Tabular)

In integrated workspace mode, SSDT Tabular dynamically starts its internal SSAS instance in the background and loads the database so that you can add and view tables, columns, and data in the model designer, and if you add additional tables, columns, relationships, and so forth, you are automatically modifying the workspace database, as well. Integrated workspace mode does not change how SSDT Tabular works with a workspace server and  database. What changes is where SSDT Tabular hosts the workspace database.

For existing tabular projects that currently use an explicit workspace server, you can switch to integrated workspace mode by setting the Integrated Workspace Mode parameter to True in the Properties window, which is displayed when you select the Model.bim file in Solution Explorer, as highlighted in the following screenshot. Note that the Integrated Workspace Mode option does not let you configure any other workspace settings. SSDT Tabular uses default values for Workspace Database, Workspace Retention, and Workspace Server.

connecting to workspace 1024x644 Introducing Integrated Workspace Mode for SQL Server Data Tools for Analysis Services Tabular Projects (SSDT Tabular)

The Workspace Database and Workspace Server settings let you discover the name of the temporary database and the TCP port of the internal SSAS instance where SSDT Tabular hosts this database. By using this information, you can connect to the workspace database with SSMS or any other tool—as long as SSDT Tabular has the database loaded. The Workspace Retention setting, on the other hand, specifies that SSDT Tabular keeps the workspace database on disk, but no longer in memory after a model project is closed. This ensures a good user experience while consuming less memory than if the model was kept in memory at all times. If you want to control these settings, set the Integrated Workspace Mode property to False and then provide an explicit workspace server. An explicit workspace server would also make sense if the data you are importing into a model exceeds the memory capacity of your SSDT workstation. You can continue to use your existing workspace server and this is still fully supported.
The integrated workspace server is basically equivalent to the Developer edition of SQL Server Analysis Services, so you can try out advanced features, such as DirectQuery mode, which are typically only available with the Enterprise edition. Also note that SSDT Tabular will ship the latest version of the Analysis Services engine with every monthly release, so you automatically get the latest updates and new capabilities. However, keep in mind that the ultimate deployment target in your production environment must support the capabilities you use in the model. For example, if your production server runs Standard edition, then you will not be able to deploy a model that uses Enterprise-only features. If you use integrated workspace mode, make sure you test the deployment on a reference server early on to ensure your model is compatible with your production servers.

Another aspect worth mentioning is that the integrated workspace server is a 64-bit Analysis Services instance, while SSDT Tabular runs in a 32-bit environment of Visual Studio. Hence, if you are connecting to special data sources, make sure you install both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the corresponding data providers on your workstation. The 64-bit provider is required for the 64-bit Analysis Services instance and the 32-bit version is required for the Table Import Wizard in SSDT Tabular.

And that’s it for a brief introduction of Integrated Workspace Mode. We hope you find this new capability useful. Give it a try, send us your feedback through Microsoft Connect, community forums, or as comments to this blog post, and let us know what other capabilities you would like us to add to SSDT Tabular. As always, stay tuned for even more improvements in upcoming monthly SSDT releases.

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Microsoft CRM Voice of Customer integrated with Dynamics Portals

Microsoft CRM 2016 online comes with free Voice of the Customer survey to gain valuable feedback from your customers about the products and services your company provides. The survey solution is installed from Microsoft Office 365>Manage all CRM Online instances>Solutions.

Dynamics Self-Service Customer portal comes with free integration to the Microsoft Survey. The Survey can be automatically triggered when the customer logs on Dynamics Portal to submit a new incident, view case status or view invoices or when the customer logs off the Portal.

Click here to download Dynamics Portals or try it live at: do-portal.azurewebsites.net

To add survey to the portal is very simple.

Go to CRM>Settings>Portal Settings.

Click to open the Voice of Customer Tab

Message to client is the text that comes up offering the client to take a survey.

URL label is the text the client clicks to open the survey URL

Survey URL is the URL generated by Microsoft where the Voice of Customer survey is hosted on Azure.

Voice Customer 1 625x320 Microsoft CRM Voice of Customer integrated with Dynamics Portals

…. and here is how it looks on portal:

Voice Customer 2 625x176 Microsoft CRM Voice of Customer integrated with Dynamics Portals

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by Dynamis Objects

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The Benefits of CRM Integrated versus Stand Alone Project Management Software – Part 2

In part one of this post we talked about the limitations of a simple CRM system as well as a dedicated stand-alone project management system for managing project delivery. Now let’s share the good news about the advantage of an integrated solution.

Advantages of integrated Project Management solutions

How well any Project Management (PM) software does its job depends on many factors, but one in particular is crucial: that the correct information is input by users. That is one reason PM software that’s integrated into a CRM system makes so much sense. It has all the main advantages of stand-alone PM software with the added advantage of having much of the information already available through the CRM; it doesn’t have to be input again. That saves time, increases efficiency and greatly reduces the risk of error.

In practice, it means that once a sale is confirmed, the related implementation project can be initiated immediately using the same software suite and the same data that was gathered during the sales cycle. The only new information that has to be input is the particular project’s unique data. Typically, that data and any updates are entered by the customer’s project team leader in consultation with key team members. That maintains data integrity while ensuring that the whole team remains fully aware of customer expectations, as well as the project’s progress in term of tasks, scope, milestones, budget estimates and fulfillment dates.

Another important advantage of an integrated PM system is that throughout the project cycle, as deliverables are being worked on, the project team can obtain much of the nitty-gritty information it needs by directly consulting the data that was recorded in the CRM system during the sales cycle. That should include notes made by the salespeople, emails exchanged with the customer, records of phone calls and meetings and quotes provided prior to the sale. That direct access to customer-contact history increases the project team’s efficiency by reducing how often they need to directly contact the sales team or the customer.

An integrated solution suits many types of businesses

CRM integrated PM is of value to a broad range of businesses whose common characteristic is that they sell services or products the delivery of which is project based. Their services or products have an overall budget, are produced separately or as individual blocks and their production has a definite start and end time and can be broken down into related but discrete tasks. Integrated software ensures that deliverables are produced within those parameters and that the entire project is completed on schedule. In addition to keeping the project and the individual tasks on schedule and within budget, the software’s time-entry component keeps track of hours for billing and cost accounting purposes.

The CRM integrated PM system works because it’s an easy to use, highly efficient end-to-end solution – one system manages the whole customer relationship from first lead contact to completion of deliverables. It doesn’t require a project management qualification to use it – a new user becomes proficient after just a few days because of its uncluttered, intuitive interface and its timesaving inline editing which enables users to quickly edit data while checking the project’s tasks and milestones in the data grid view without having to open individual records.

Significant benefits after projects are completed

In addition to the advantages during a project, the benefits of AbleBridge’s integrated solution extend beyond the end of a project. Here are three principal ways:

  1. The data in the CRM system and the PM module, which concerns every stage of the customer relationship from first contact to project completion, is easily accessible to both the sales and the project teams. So, if a repeat customer instigates a new project, it can be set in motion very quickly. Indeed some systems allow a project to be saved as a template so that a new project, which uses most of the parameters of the completed project apart from project-specific data, can be started very quickly.
  2. Integrated Project Management for Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives the company a potential competitive advantage because one customer’s project often serves as a useful template for the project of another customer in a similar business, enabling faster completion of a new customer’s sales cycle and faster initiation of the project cycle.
  3. The integrated system gives a business full visibility into all of its customers’ projects, both current and completed, enabling the company to fine-tune its practices and procedures, thus leading to overall higher efficiency and lower costs.

AbleBridge Project Management for Microsoft Dynamic CRM

To maintain a competitive edge, a business must give its key employees tools that do more than just solve a problem; they must inspire their users. AbleBridge is a committed design leader in CRM and Project Management solutions. The company’s project management module Project Management for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, is an innovative solution with broad functionality, yet is easy to use and requires little training. By leveraging the customer data in your CRM system, AbleBridge’s integrated real-time PM module provides clear, linked visibility across the sales and project functions and its intuitive interface contributes to user satisfaction to deliver increased productivity and reduced overhead.

For more information about Project Management for Microsoft Dynamics CRM contact AbleBridge at 877-600-2253 or [email protected]

By AbleBridge, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Gold Partner, www.AbleBridge.com

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Project Management Systems Compared – Stand-alone or Integrated

How do you manage projects?

Many companies have outgrown the basic systems used in the past to manage the delivery of professional services.  It is time to look at Project Management software.

Should you choose a stand-alone system like Microsoft Project or one that is integrated with your Dynamics CRM software? The answer depends in part on the size and type of projects you manage.

Stand-alone Project Management software helps streamline projects with its tight control and focus on the tasks involved. It makes all the data your team needs easily available, significantly reducing errors in processing and scheduling. Because the stand-alone systems are so competent, they increase team confidence and efficiency.

On the other hand, the complexity of many of the stand-alone systems and the advanced skills needed to use them, make them better-suited for very large companies working with highly complex projects such as highway construction or large-scale heavy-equipment manufacturing. And because the systems are stand-alone, data collected from CRM software has to be in-put again. Double entry always increases the chance of error.

For most businesses, an integrated solution is more logical. Integrating your Project Management solution with your CRM software ensures seamless handling of customers and their projects from beginning to end. All the information is in one place and more people are able to access the project data thus cutting down on time spent searching and asking others for information.

For a fuller discussion of the strengths of stand-alone compared to integrated PM software, download the White Paper:  CRM Integrated Project Management Software.

By Ryan Plourde, www.AbleBridge.com

Twitter: @AbleBridge

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