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Under A Shadow Of Doubt, Self-Driving Cars Shift Into High Gear

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 Under A Shadow Of Doubt, Self Driving Cars Shift Into High GearIn 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 Under A Shadow Of Doubt, Self Driving Cars Shift Into High GearHow 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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Digitalist Magazine

Putting A Shoulder Back Into Proper Place

 Putting A Shoulder Back Into Proper Place

Watch the joint pop back into place.

“Relocating Shoulder.”
Image courtesy of https://imgur.com/gallery/i6Xj9.


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How The Cloud Merged Into The Mainstream

mainstreamcloud How The Cloud Merged Into The Mainstream

As first appeared on ComparetheCloud.net.

While the case for the cloud has always been compelling, perceptions over complexity have remained a persistent deterrent for businesses preferring the security blanket of their on-premise solution. We’re well versed in the dialogue that has long surrounded the subject: how the detractors routine countered the promise of greater efficiencies and cost savings with concerns over privacy and security, fearful of the lack of physical control.

But perhaps most prevailing of all, was how the technical know-how needed for successful deployment and integration continued to preclude many from reaping the benefits, leaving business process management on premise and the heavy lifting firmly with IT. As a result, this innovative and shapeshifting technology all too often remained divorced and siloed from wider business operations and teams, unable to reach its full transformative potential.

Fortunately, 2017 was a year of more meaningful change in this area, as the hype and predictions finally came to fruition, and the cloud became a more mainstream reality. A number of factors conspired, notably innovation that made its integration and deployment simpler and accessible to more people within an organization. Additionally, the starring role the technology has played in the rising trend for mergers and acquisitions has driven even wider use.

Indeed, the number of these transactions snowballed this year with $ 52.4 billion (£31.60 billion) in deals conducted across the globe between April and June, representing a 57 per cent year-over-year increase, according to professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst and Young). Amid intense competition, businesses have looked to consolidate their core strengths and focus on their most profitable activities, offloading some of the less well-performing facets of the operation onto other businesses through global deals.

Cloud cemented its status as a ‘go to’ platform for underpinning these transactions. It provided the kind of speed, flexibility, and easily scalable infrastructure needed when contending with the challenge of consolidating disparate systems, users and infrastructure, particularly during the post deal transition period. In doing so, the technology helped to shift the perception of IT as a hindrance in the process of mergers and acquisitions, to one that can drive and facilitate the seamless convergence of cultures and operating systems.

Amid soaring application needs, solution developers have responded by offering low-code development platforms, better suited to a business operating environment. An environment that demands pace and agility to solve problems and respond to opportunities with minimum disruption.

Here, the game changer has been the new wave of solutions which harness visual, intuitive instructions for app building, as opposed to pure programming. This empowers a far wider range of business users to get involved, from a click from a mobile or laptop.

The move translates to greater efficiencies and productivity benefits, as applications are built quicker, changes are made more easily for a faster and cheaper operating environment, while organizational culture is improved through better alignment between business and IT.

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The TIBCO Blog

Will You Turn Your Body into a Human Smartphone?

Human Smartphone Mobile Device Will You Turn Your Body into a Human Smartphone?

Are you ready to turn your body into a human smartphone? And if you are, how will you secure the data your body transmits?

These are a couple of the thought-provoking question raised by the ‘Future of Mobile Life’ report that O2 issued in the UK just before the holiday period. Some of the more eye-catching predictions pose questions such as “What if we replaced mobile devices with a mobile tech enabled body?” The report describes how “sensors embedded in the skin and augmented reality visors worn at all times will provide wearable tech to make humans a walking version of everything the handheld device is to us in 2017”.

In what sounds like the lead-up to a Black Mirror episode, 56% of the consumers surveyed for the research said they would consider augmenting their bodies in such a way if there were practical convenience benefits such as health monitoring, foreign language translation or unlocking doors.

Forget Google Glass — O2 suggest augmented reality visors or contact lenses will be worn by almost everybody on a permanent basis so that simple activities such as walking down the street will provide overlays which “share common interests between passers-by, showing information such as their favourite TV show or music choice”. Given the social media driven world we inhabit today, it isn’t too difficult to imagine such a world, even if it does conjure images of Tom Cruise being bombarded with personalised augmented reality pop-up adverts in Minority Report (one day, marketers, one day).

Regardless of whether visions of a human smartphone are borne out, it is likely that some form of mobile device will continue to play an increasingly intrinsic part as our gateway to daily life and being central to everything we do. And with that come the concerns around how personal data is regulated, stored, used and accessed.

Securing Your Augmented Body

The theory of being able to connect with like-minded individuals or companies as they walk past one another sounds like an extension of privacy settings on today’s apps (imagine how long-winded the terms and conditions might be), but security and identifying potentially fraudulent behaviour will become more important than ever, particularly if criminals were able to see everything you see or feel everything you feel by accessing your visor and sensors. Or track your real-time vital signs.

With the report suggesting that physical security credentials (keys and passes) and documentation (passports, visas, insurance certificates) could disappear in the next decade, there will be some fundamental questions for organisations and individuals to consider when it comes to protecting themselves and their customers. Cybersecurity protections and fraud monitoring systems will continue to evolve and take advantage of the vast amount of real-time streaming data generated, and artificial intelligence will continue to adapt and spot abnormalities in the data that can be used to identify threats.

Furthermore, the predictions throughout the report are centred around consumers trading convenience against an ever-increasing reliance on tech. So, it isn’t a difficult leap to conclude that industries and companies offering services through emerging mobile technology will continue to need to make instant, data-driven decisions at scale in order to personalise the experience for each customer.

Prescriptive analytics coupled with artificial intelligence and machine learning technology are already helping organisations to build competitive advantage by unlocking new sources of value creation. As mobility continues to turn science fiction into fact though the coming decades, and even the potential era of the human smartphone, powerful data analytics and decision management platforms will underpin business innovation.

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Q&A Blog Series: Prophet – The Strategic Consultancy Turns An Issue Into Profit

By Evan Heby, Advertising, Media and Publishing Industry Marketing Lead

After talking with Jeani Vance, CIO of consultancy Prophet, we discovered that the company who helps its clients find better ways to grow through brand & experience, digital transformation and growth acceleration, needed help of its own. Headquartered in San Francisco with 350 employees across 10 different offices around the world, Prophet’s previous financial systems just couldn’t keep up at the pace the company needed.

 Jeani%20Vance,%20CIO%20of%20Prophet Q&A Blog Series: Prophet   The Strategic Consultancy Turns An Issue Into Profit

Q: Can you describe the biggest technology challenges that were holding the company back? 

A: We had an extremely old financial system from Sage which had not been updated. It was archaic, slow and cumbersome. Each month we had to pay a professional services team to do month-end close and were dependent on an outside contractor. It was painful, expensive and time-consuming to do month-end close and we still had no real-time visibility into the business or our financials. We had a small, disjointed IT team that lacked transparency. We needed to build IT support in every major office so that we would not need to fly resources in.

Q: How did you go about seeking out a new solution to support Prophet’s growth?

A: We conducted a comprehensive search for the best fit for our requirements. Our high-level requirements included the need for project and resource management, timesheets, expense management and also the ability to support multiple entities and currencies around the world. It also needed to support our core business processes, including quote-to-cash. As part of the evaluation, we did extensive client interviews. We started the RFP in April 2014 and spent about six months going through the selection process. We chose NetSuite based on functionality and price, and started the implementation in March 2015. We replaced seven legacy systems including Sage, Projector, Concur, Ganttic, Fixed Assets and timesheets.

Q: How are you currently using NetSuite?

A: We use NetSuite for financials, multi-currency and multi-entity accounting, and NetSuite OpenAir for time and expense management and resourcing. We also engaged with NetSuite Professional Services throughout the project, including the testing of the system before we went live. NetSuite has helped us all the way from requirements through to implementation and integration. We now have over 300 consultants who are inputting their time and expenses in NetSuite in addition to several resource managers for design, strategy and corporate projects.

Q: What are some of the benefits realized since going live on NetSuite? 

A: The biggest benefit was the opportunity to roll-up all of our legacy systems into a single, cloud-based system with integration with our award-winning intranet. The time required for month-end close has been significantly reduced and we are no longer dependent on an outside contractor. Our entire leadership team uses the system and has been amazed at the amount of maturity we’ve gained with our business processes. Finance can quickly generate actionable reports and everything is faster because we have real-time view across the entire business, financials, and resourcing. Another huge benefit for us is the ability to easily convert our newly acquired companies over to NetSuite, making it much easier to grow, expand and continue to acquire additional companies.

Q: Looking back at the entire project, what would you say were your keys to success? 

A: Executive commitment is critical and we were lucky to have had executive support throughout the entire process with our CFO involved every step of the way. Communication was also a key success factor. Our steering committee consisted of representatives from all areas of the company so we were able to leverage our subject matter experts and our award-winning intranet to ensure user adoption.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, what would Prophet do differently? 

A: When it came to specific requirements, we should have taken a deeper dive into our core financial processes. Due diligence and business process mapping are key.

Learn more about NetSuite for the advertising industry.

Posted on Tue, December 19, 2017
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Putting The Customer Into Context

customercontext Putting The Customer Into Context

As first appeared on Business Computing World.

Customer-centricity may have dominated the business narrative in recent years, but things are set to go up a gear as context is added to the mix, bringing us to the cusp of a truly transformative operating model. The rule book has been ripped up. The search for a relevant audience to fit with an existing service offering no longer cuts it in an era in which the customer is driving the scope of the proposition at their convenience. More than ever before, businesses must adjust and react to consumer demands to deliver an engaging experience if they are to compete and drive revenue and profitability.

Crucially, this means being able to pick up on even the most subtle changes in customer behavior and make the timely interventions needed to deliver on these heightened expectations. Maintaining optimal service through a preferred channel at a preferred time must be offered as standard to secure customer loyalty.

Getting to this point ultimately starts with having far better knowledge of the customer, so they are seen as individuals, rather than a segment to place into convenient categories. Only then can we understand their personal motivations behind the purchase journey, from what keeps them on a particular web page to establishing why they haven’t renewed a subscription. Here, the value of customer intelligence and the speed with which it can be collated and utilized becomes the game-changer.

It is of course, an entirely logical progression. Thanks to the strides in digital technology we have a far more multi-layered and expansive pool of customer data to work with, relegating the sole reliance of focus groups and surveys that barely scratch the surface to the distant past.

Similarly, customer information is no longer confined to the parameters of a CRM database. Real-time sales feedback, peer-to peer exchanges that play out across online communities as well as call center data, can provide far more meaningful and richer insights and, when combined, a much fuller picture. The challenge therefore becomes how we centralize and integrate all the disparate strands of data and harness analytics to drive actionable insight for faster and more intuitive decision-making.

Only by interconnecting everything, from on-premises to cloud applications, microservices to APIs and connected devices, do we have the right foundation from which to introduce a more contextually-fluid approach to the customer experience. This can then consider an individual’s location, intent, community, even environment, ready to introduce far greater personalisation into the product and broader experience.

It’s a process that has brought significant transformation to the financial services industry, as it strives to meet the increasingly ‘anywhere, anytime’ service expectations with greater digital innovation and flexibility, particularly through mobile and social services.

Advanced algorithms drill deep content analysis of a customer’s financial status, objectives, risk aversion and respond to the nuances of their personality, behaviour, and even current mood with more pertinent offerings. Furthermore, intelligent apps make financial information more accessible and user friendly, so there is less need to trawl through the reams of literature and competing information, perfect for the digitally savvy but time poor.

This has reaped dividends when it comes to the consumption of investment services, an area that has long been in need of an overhaul, as perceptions around costs and complexity deter a broader audience. Services that consider the fundamental question of why someone is investing in the first place, and then link the product to their specific goals and milestones such as saving for house or tuition fees, is an example of a more personal touch.

Further tailored interventions include features that encourage socially responsible investment decisions, offering a sliding scale of ethical organizations based on set criteria as well as introducing a more conversational and collaborative approach to an investment decision by linking the customer to relevant online communities.

For the user, there may be a frictionless continuity across channels, but behind the scenes, things are working overtime to deliver it—a complex infrastructure spanning integration, event processing, analytics, and master data management, which must be both flexible and robust to prevent data loss and ensure security isn’t compromized. The connected customer necessitates a fully connected architecture, free from silos, just a common set of processes for each channel, ensuring customer interactions can be managed and tracked with total uniformity.

Today’s customer doesn’t make any allowances if latency compromises their mobile shopping experience or if their details are forgotten or mislaid as they channel hop. And businesses have no excuse—all the information is there, along with the infrastructure to integrate it.

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PowerPivotPro & a2Insight Enter into Training Partnership for Norway!

PowerPivotPro and a2Insight are happy to announce that we’ve entered a partnership agreement for a2Insight to deliver training in Norway, based on PowerPivotPro’s successful curriculum! The training will cover foundations and advanced features of Power BI, PowerPivot and Power Query, all adapted to the Norwegian market.

PowerPivotPro’s Rob Collie in Dallas with Frode Wathne and Lars A Landsnes from a2Insight

We’re thrilled to be partnering with this organization and offering our services in new markets. However we want this to be the first (of many) partnerships with other companies across the globe, to help spread our knowledge and love of business intelligence. If you have an interest in partnering with us, please contact us at empower@powerpivotpro.com. Now, onto the introduction!

a2Insight is built on the desire to utilize available data through inexpensive tools and solutions, for managers to make better and informed decisions. We, a2Insight, are really excited and honored to get the opportunity to deliver PowerPivotPro’s renowned training on the world’s best self-service Business Intelligence tool to Norwegian analysts. The training will supplement our delivery of self-service Business Intelligence solutions to the Norwegian market. We deliver and build – together with our customers in the private and public and area – financial and non-financial reports and analytics – which truly will change their performance.

For further information please contact:

Lars A Landsnes
+47 95140370

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Integrating Data Quality into your Data Governance Strategy

How do you enforce data quality best practices? A good place to start is your data governance policy, which should be designed with data quality goals front-and-center.

blog data governance unlock Integrating Data Quality into your Data Governance Strategy

To understand how data quality and data governance fit together, let’s start with some basic definitions.

Data quality is the ability of a given set of data to serve its intended purpose. If you lack data quality, it means you have data, but can’t use it to achieve your goals because the data is inconsistent, contains errors, cannot be translated into the format you need or suffers another major problem.

Data governance refers to the set of rules and procedures that you put in place to control how data in your organization is collected, stored, processed and managed.

Bringing Data Quality Best Practices in Data Governance Policy

This blog has already covered how good data quality practices can reinforce adherence to data governance policies. The relationship between data quality and data governance goes further than that, however.

blog london Integrating Data Quality into your Data Governance Strategy

Your data governance policy itself should be designed with the goals of data quality in mind. In practice, that means building policies like the following into your data governance framework:

Avoidance of manual data entry

Manual data entry is much more likely to introduce errors into a dataset that is machine-based data collection. For this reason, your data governance policy should prohibit manual data entry whenever an automated solution can be used instead.

Preference for open standards

Data that is stored in formats based on open standards, as opposed to proprietary databases, is generally easier to translate into other formats or move. Your data governance rules should require the use of open standards wherever possible to minimize the likelihood of ending up with a data set that you cannot use because of formatting or translation issues.

blog banner Data Quality Magic Quadrant Integrating Data Quality into your Data Governance Strategy

Strict data access control

The more people you have modifying a data set, the harder it is to keep data formats consistent. Inconsistent data is low-quality data. This is one reason (security is another) why you should allow only those people who need to have write access to data to have it.


Poor documentation, or failure to adhere to documented policies, clouds visibility into data, which in turn undercuts data quality. For this reason, your data governance should require anyone who works with data to adhere to documented procedures when possible. In situations where that is not possible, the procedure used to collect or analyze data should be documented clearly so that anyone else will be able to understand it if necessary. Relatedly, code that is used in data management should be written with comments explaining what it does.


Most of your organization’s employees don’t work with data. But they should still be educated about basic data management best practices. Your governance policy should require this education with the goal of turning everyone in your organization into a citizen data scientist. This will, in turn, help to ensure that data quality best practices are followed even in situations where the people working with data are not themselves data management experts.

In all of these ways, your data governance policies can reinforce data quality best practices, thereby helping to maximize your ability to derive value from the data you collect.

Syncsort’s data quality software can help you trust your data as part of your organization’s data governance best practices. Learn about why Syncsort is a leader for the 12th consecutive year in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Data Quality Tools report.

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PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Real-World Dashboard for Disaster Monitoring / Planning / Acting

Informing people is worthless.

When working with clients or students, I like to challenge them with this seemingly-controversial statement: Informing people is worthless.

Then I finish the thought: better analytics, reporting, etc. is only valuable when it translates into better actions, better decisions. And while better information is a pre-requisite for better action, it is hardly sufficient. “Better informed” very often does NOT translate into better action, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that you can give someone something that’s thought-provoking but fundamentally isn’t actionable. In my experience, at LEAST 50% of all reporting today has that problem, but there isn’t room to go into it here – check out our thoughts on Verblike Reports for more.

The other way that “information” fails to translate into action? When you lack a clear or convenient action PATH. If I see something that’s screaming for correction, for instance, if it’s not clear to me HOW I correct it (ex: who do I talk to? Which system do I need to adjust? Do I even have the right permissions to do so?), well, I’m dead in the water.

Taken that one step further, even if it IS clear to me where/how to take action, but it isn’t convenient – if it takes too much effort, or isn’t part of some overall systemic workflow, well, I can still be as “stuck” as above.

That’s why I’m so excited for Brad to share his recent project experience with us. Two new amazing tools from Microsoft – Flow and PowerApps – make it MUCH more achievable to quickly build relevant action paths and integrated workflows. They do for the “take action” part of the loop what Power BI does for the “inform and advise” portion.

[Flow and PowerApps] do for the “take action” part of the loop what Power BI does for the “inform and advise” portion.

image thumb PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

This is One Sample Workflow of Integration Power BI with Flow and PowerApps to Produce an Action Loop


(The workflow for the disaster center solution described in this article is different, and diagrammed later)

Over to Brad…

PowerApps, generally available since November 1, 2016, is a platform to rapidly build web and mobile business applications without coding. Currently, PowerApps can only be shared inside an organization. I hear that sharing with users outside an organization is on the road map. Touted as “No-Code”, PowerApps enables building data driven apps that are device agnostic and can access a multitude of data sources, both cloud and on premise. What took months a couple of years ago, can now be accomplished in weeks. If your organization has Office 365 then you have PowerApps.

Microsoft Flow, released the same time as PowerApps, is a platform that enables automation of business processes through simple configurations. Things such as notifications, data collection, execution of stored procedures from apps, Twitter posts and Active Directory functions can be accomplished without writing code.There are dozens of pre-built templates to choose from that make adding Flows to your Power App solutions a breeze. Again, if you have Office 365 then you have Microsoft Flow.

flo web PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Not “Flo.” It’s “Flow.”

And Power BI Needs No Introduction

But if you want one, this one is a great place to start. Short story, it is fast becoming the best and most popular BI tool on the planet and getting better every month. You *should* know that all these tools fit together. Here’s the Microsoft-required infographic which I kind of love – Measure, Act, Automate – pretty cool.

Measure, Act, Automate

And since we know you love stick figure diagrams, here’s another example of integrating the Power Trio (Power BI, Flow, and PowerApps) into a cohesive action loop:

image thumb 1 PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Here’s Another Sample Workflow Using the “Power Trio.”


(Imagine this kind of workflow for YOUR business – this kind of need is EVERYWHERE)

One of our clients had a need to improve their disaster response process that was very manual and included phone calls, Excel lists and PowerPoint. This client has facilities spread across the eastern half of the U.S. When a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster happens, they go into “war room” mode for days to triage any damage to their facilities. Prioritizing issues so that these locations will be back up and open for business as soon as possible is key. Power outages, roof damage and flooding are tracked so that generators can be deployed or emergency work orders can be created to get things back up and running as quickly as possible.

It is often helpful to start at the end, so let’s do just that. Before we’re through, you’ll see how we created these Power BI Dashboards to provide the disaster response team immediate and up-to-date information on the status of properties affected by a major storm:

Power BI Dashboard to monitor storm damage and the status of their properties

As potentially dangerous weather events are forecast, the disaster response team keeps a close watch on the situation. When it seems imminent that a major storm is going to threaten areas where they have properties, the disaster response team begins preparation. They setup mission control and raise the alert status to Orange. This means the event is likely to impact their business.

There’s a storm a-comin’!

The first of three PowerApps is now put to use. This app allows the disaster response team to setup the event and select what areas will likely be affected. When the team selects the states and counties in potential danger, this app uses Microsoft Flow to kick off background SQL processes that gather data from their enterprise systems and moves the key information into an Azure SQL database.

Power App to select areas likely affected

In situations like this, commercial power may be unavailable, leaving their properties in a closed condition. Generators need to be moved close enough to the disaster area where they can be deployed quickly. The second Power App allows the generator team to stage and track the fleet of generators and, when these generators are deployed, it helps them keep up with what properties they are supplying power to.

Power App to help manage fleet of generators

As soon as the storm passes, field agents begin the process of assessing damage to their properties. Some of the key questions are:

  • Is the location open or closed?
  • Is commercial power available?
  • Any flooding or roof damage?

They use the third Power App to do these assessments via their phone or tablet. As they update information about each property, the results are reflected real time back at mission control via the Power BI Dashboard. This enables the team to make quick, informed decisions.

Power App used by field agents to update status of properties

Step Five: Monitor and Make Informed Decisions

The disaster assessment team can now make timely and informed business decisions using the Power BI dashboards and reports that are updated real time. This team now spends their time intelligently working to bring locations back online instead of spending their time assimilating information that is old by the time they report it.

image thumb 2 PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Finally, THIS Diagram Illustrates the Real-World Disaster Response Solution Described in this Article

Utilizing the “Power Trio”, this organization now has near-real time information at their fingertips from locations hundreds of miles apart, and they spend their valuable time in a much better way: getting their business back up and running as fast as possible! Power BI, coupled with Flow and PowerApps are poised to do some great things.

Power BI Embedded Dashboard

You can close the loop and get action-oriented analytics developed a LOT faster than you’d expect. We’ll take you from zero to sixty and then some. Let’s get started.

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Creating an HR System Weaved into the User Experience

websitelogo Creating an HR System Weaved into the User Experience

Posted by Trevor Vollet, Product Marketing, New Products Introduction

Disconnected, departmental applications have always created barriers for front line employees, but there is perhaps none more frustrating than the HR system.

While a sales rep may occasionally need to get into the transactional system to check on a customer’s outstanding balance or a senior executive may be drilling into sales figures, that’s not where they spend most of their time. And, with few exceptions, no one spends most of their time in the HR system. The end result has been HR systems that are rarely accessed and when they are its wholly disconnected from the user’s workflow. Need to get approval for a purchase order but the approver is on PTO and you need to know their manager? Better log out, move over to the Employee Org. Chart, find the person’s name, title and email, then back into the PO system. Need to request time off? Better check the deliverables schedule in the project system. What’s needed is a system that lets people perform their employee-related tasks without going out of context or disrupting their train of thought.

With SuitePeople, NetSuite has built a system on the NetSuite platform from the ground up, that works the way work is actually done and creates HR functions and processes that are “weaved into their everyday user experiences.”

Available now with the 17.2 release, SuitePeople includes a number of features designed for people, not the HR department. It features:

Employee Center that minimizes the steps it takes for an employee to conduct an action, with an intuitive and user friendly interface and behaves the way other applications in the suite operate, making work quicker and easier.

Employee Directory that minimizes the time and effort it takes to find key information about employees. Often, employees need to contact co-workers outside of their usual context, or other employees with whom they would not normally interact. Connecting with the right person can be very difficult, especially in large or extremely geographically-distributed organizations. The Employee Directory provides a quick and easy way for employees to find the needed information to contact the right person at the right time.

Org Browser, an interactive way for employees and human resources to browse the organization. More than an org chart, which are traditionally updated manually and can very quickly become out of date, the Org Browser updates automatically whenever related information is changed. Employees, jobs, and positions are connected graphically through formal reporting relationships. Users can easily navigate the organization to understand how individuals or teams fit within its structure. This helps users to find the right person to reach out to, especially in mid to large organizations where people don’t all know each other, and it is hard to find the right person to help solve a problem.

Payroll, a complete, full-service solution for managing U.S. payroll. It is tightly integrated with NetSuite accounting features so employees’ time entry, attendance, and commission data translates directly to their payroll with no manual data re-entry. It handles compliance issues, with all federal, state, and local jurisdictions supported and includes a “No Penalties Guarantee” that promises that deposits and filings will be accurate and on time.

Time-Off Management that automates tracking employee time off with easy-to-customize time-off plans, removing what has traditionally been a manual burden for the HR department. The user-friendly, self-service process gives employees, managers and HR the power and flexibility to easily request, approve, track, and report on time off activities through a centralized system, without the need for manual entry. The Time-Off Management integration with NetSuite Payroll and Services Resource Planning (SRP) also accurately tracks and reports employee time-off activities for the organization. It automatically accrues time off based on rules for eligibility, entitlement, accrual frequency and carryover. Rules can also be configured to update with an employee’s tenure.

Job Management to help organize and streamline Jobs within the organization. It includes functionality to manage jobs within the org with tie-ins with Job Requisitions, Job Classifications and Levels, competencies and job requirements etc.

Job Requisition to help organize and streamline jobs within the organization. It manages jobs within the org with tie-ins with Job Requisitions, Job Classifications and Levels, competencies and job requirements.

Workforce Analysis which lets HR personnel easily visualize the headcount, growth and turnover trends of the organization, segmented by departments, locations, employee class, and subsidiaries. HR can also apply filters to view specific groups of employees. When business leaders ask for headcount trends, the tool can automatically aggregate the information most relevant to headcount changes (hires, turnovers, trends). HR can now spend more time in understanding the headcount trends, and performing analysis by drilling down to specific employee segments.

Compensation Tracking that allows organizations to track compensation details from the Employee Offer Letter such as earnings (wage/salary), pay frequency, overtime rate, start and hire date. Variable compensation such as bonuses, Restricted Stock Units awarded, Stock options, are also tracked.

Learn more about the other new features in 17.2.

Posted on Mon, November 20, 2017
by NetSuite filed under

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