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Five9 President Dan Burkland: Leveraging Tech for Great Customer Experiences

Dan Burkland is president of
Five9.

In this exclusive interview, Burkland talks about using the latest cloud-based contact center technologies to create better customer experiences.

85117 300x265 Five9 President Dan Burkland: Leveraging Tech for Great Customer Experiences

Five9 President Dan Burkland

CRM Buyer: What are some key trends in the world of contact centers and customer service?

Dan Burkland: We’re seeing a digital transformation take place, where companies are moving their contact centers to the cloud. There are two key criteria for a contact center — there’s the CRM and the contact center infrastructure, and those two really go hand-in-hand.

You bring a call, chat, text or email into the center, and you have to look for an agent who’s available and properly skilled to handle such an interaction. Once you make the decision about where to send the call, that triggers the CRM so it can answer all the questions about that customer and that type of caller and interaction.

There needs to be integration between CRM, where the customer data lives, and the contact center. That’s all done as CRM moves to the cloud, and it’s much easier for companies to have their contact center infrastructure in the cloud.

CRM Buyer: Why is the cloud such a revolutionary force in contact centers?

Burkland: There are a few reasons. One is the most basic: There’s all the IT and other required staff needed to serve a large enterprise with multiple data centers, and also the need to keep the software at consistent levels and pay for the upgrades in order to stay current. When you move that same infrastructure to the cloud, there’s zero footprint for a data center for the client.

The second is as that takes place, you have a central place for phone calls to land and be distributed throughout the world.

A third area is integration. By having a single instance of CRM and contact center, we have the ability in real time to see all the resources that can handle an interaction, on the fly, at a moment’s notice.

Finally, a fourth area is innovation. When you’re with a cloud, the company keeps the software always current, and when a new innovation or feature is developed, it gets pushed out immediately without any infrastructure demands on the customer.

CRM Buyer: What is intelligent routing, and why is it important?

Burkland: The first step is identifying, and the next is deriving intent. If we can do those two things, the better we can make a match with the proper agent and deliver the proper information to that agent so they can handle the call.

I want to ping my database for an identifier, where I can then hit my CRM database and do a search for that customer, to pull up their information. I can determine what type of customer they are and why they could be calling.

The more information we receive from our database and from the caller right when the call is beginning, the more an intelligent routing decision can be made.

CRM Buyer: Why is CRM integration important for contact centers?

Burkland: Let’s look at the example I just described. If I receive a phone call, I could ask if they’re calling for sales or service, and then route that call. But that’s all I would know. I wouldn’t know if they’re an existing customer or new customer.

CRM not only helps with routing, but it also helps me to equip the agent so they’re not asking the customer to re-explain who they are. When the call is delivered, the CRM system will pop up on the screen, so an agent can greet a caller with a lot more information.

It’s about creating a better customer experience for those consumers, and in today’s world, the customer experience is key.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the latest trends and innovations in mobile customer engagement?

Burkland: A perfect example is visual IVR. When a caller reaches a contact center, it answers and prompts the caller for information. With visual IVR, I can use an app on a phone and be able to press one button on my keypad and communicate with a company. It can give me my result right there on my phone, without my ever having to call or use my computer.

If I do reach out for an agent, I can see the queue time, or I can ask the company to call me back in 15 minutes and place me in a virtual queue.

That’s one example of many that allows us to use the intelligence of mobile devices to allow consumers to contact companies. It gives mobility to both consumers and supervisors, who can see in real time the queue times and calls they’re handling, and they can do all of that from anywhere in the world.

CRM Buyer: What’s in the future for call centers? How are they evolving?

Burkland: The biggest trend we’re seeing is a lot of interest around AI and machine-learning, and using bots to handle some of the human elements that are now handled manually. As an industry, we’re looking at how we leverage AI for a contact center use-case.

Bots can alleviate some of the labor for mundane or repeatable questions that get asked, and they can get customers the answers that they need. They can search a database using natural language processing, looking at a text message, for instance, and giving a response.

Also, if a customer has a question, a bot can interrogate a database and give the agent suggested or likely responses based on what the system thinks the question was. This kind of assistance helps agents provide better service.
end enn Five9 President Dan Burkland: Leveraging Tech for Great Customer Experiences


Vivian%20Wagner Five9 President Dan Burkland: Leveraging Tech for Great Customer ExperiencesVivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

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Expert Interview (Part 3): Katharine Jarmul on Women in Tech and the Impact of Biased Data in Both Human & Machine Learning Models

At the recent Cloudera Sessions event in Munich, Germany, Paige Roberts, Syncsort’s Big Data Product Marketing Manager, had a chat with Katharine Jarmul, founder of KJamistan data science consultancy, and author of Data Wrangling with Python from O’Reilly. She had just given an excellent presentation on the implications of GDPR for the European data science community. Part 3 dives into the position of being one of the women in tech, the challenges of creating an inclusive company culture, and how bias doesn’t only exist in machine learning data sets.

In the first part of the interview, we talked about the importance of being able to explain your machine learning models – not just to comply with regulations like GDPR, but also to make the models more useful.

In part 2, Katharine Jarmul went beyond the basic requirements of GDPR, to discuss some of the important ethical drivers behind studying the data fed to machine learning models. A biased data set can make a huge impact in a world increasingly driven by machine learning.

Paige Roberts:I know, I’m probably a little obsessive about it, but one of the things I do is look around at every event, and calculate the percentage of women to men. And I must say, the percentage at this event is a little low on women.

Katharine Jarmul: Yeah.

So, do you find yourself in that situation a lot? Do you get that, “I’m the only woman in the room” feeling?

I would say that one of the biggest problems that I see in terms of women in technology is not that there’s not a lot of amazing women interested in tech, and it’s difficult for a lot of really talented women in tech to get recognized and promoted.

blog banner 2018 Big Data Trends eBook Expert Interview (Part 3): Katharine Jarmul on Women in Tech and the Impact of Biased Data in Both Human & Machine Learning Models

It feels like women have to be twice as good, to be recognized as half as good.

Yeah. And I think we’re finding out now, there’s a lot of other minority groups as well, who find it difficult, such as women of color. Maybe you have to work four times as hard. We see this exponential thing, and when you’re at an event where it’s mainly executives, or people that have worked their way up for a while, then you just tend to see fewer women, and that’s really sad. I don’t see it as a pipeline problem. I know a lot of people talk about it as a pipeline problem, and yeah, okay, we could have a better pipeline.

Yeah, we need a few more women graduating, but that’s not the problem. The problem is they don’t get as far as they should once they graduate.

Exactly, and maybe eventually they leave because they are tired of not being promoted, having somebody else promoted over them, not getting the cool projects so they can shine.

And some of it is just cultural in tech companies. You get that exclusionary feeling. I had a conversation recently, somebody I was talking to… Oh, I was talking to Tobi Bosede. She’s a woman of color, and she’s a machine learning engineer who did a presentation at Strata. She said something along the lines of, the guys I work with say, “Let’s go play basketball after work.” And everybody on the team does. She’s thinking, “I don’t even like basketball. I don’t really want to go play basketball with the guys after work, but I still feel left out.”

Yeah, I get that. It’s difficult to make a good team culture that’s inclusive. I think you must really work for it. I know some great team leads who are doing things that help, but I think especially if say, you’re a white guy that didn’t grow up with a lot of diversity in your family or your neighborhood, it might be more difficult for you to learn how to create that culture. You must work for it. It’s not just going to happen.

It’s almost like a biased data set in your life. You don’t recognize bias in yourself, until you stop and think about it. It doesn’t just jump out and make itself known.

Of course.

Jarmul pt3 quote women in tech Expert Interview (Part 3): Katharine Jarmul on Women in Tech and the Impact of Biased Data in Both Human & Machine Learning Models

I did an interview with Neha Narkhede, she’s the CTO at Confluent, and she was talking about hiring bias. Even as a woman of color herself, when hiring, she catches herself doing it, and must stop and think, and deliberately avoid bias. It’s in your own head. You think, I should know better.

Yeah, yeah. And I think these unconscious biases are things that we have, as humans. We all have some affinity bias, right? So, if somebody is like me, I’m going to automatically think that they’re clearer. They think like me, so I can more easily see their point. That’s fine but, one of the things that helps teams grow is having arguments, …

Having different points of view, and accepting that, “Okay, this guy thinks completely different from me, but maybe he’s got a point.”

I find myself doing the thing where I think, “Why did they disagree with me? How could they?”

They’re wrong, obviously. [laughing]

[laughing] Especially when I notice that I’m doing it like that, I say, “Okay, I need to sit down and think through this. Is there perhaps a cardinal truth here? Or something that bothers me because it doesn’t necessarily fit into my world view? And should I, perhaps, poke at that a little bit, and figure it out?”

Stop and think, introspect.

Yeah [laughs].

That’s a good word. I like that.

We have our own mental models, and we need to question the bias in them, too.

Be sure to check out part 4 of this interview where we’ll discuss some of the work Ms. Jarmul is doing in the areas of anonymization so that data can be repurposed without violating privacy, and creating artificial data sets that have the kind of random noise that makes real data sets so problematic.

For a look at 5 key Big Data trends in the coming year, check out our report, 2018 Big Data Trends: Liberate, Integrate & Trust

Related Posts:

Neha Narkhede, CTO of Confluent, Shares Her Insights on Women in Big Data

Yolanda Davis, Sr Software Engineer at Hortonworks, on Women in Technology

Katharine Jarmul on If Ethics is Not None

Katharine Jarmul on PyData Amsterdam Keynote on Ethical Machine Learning

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Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing Today

Businesses share something important with lions. When a lion captures and consumes its prey, only about 10% to 20% of the prey’s energy is directly transferred into the lion’s metabolism. The rest evaporates away, mostly as heat loss, according to research done in the 1940s by ecologist Raymond Lindeman.

Today, businesses do only about as well as the big cats. When you consider the energy required to manage, power, and move products and services, less than 20% goes directly into the typical product or service—what economists call aggregate efficiency (the ratio of potential work to the actual useful work that gets embedded into a product or service at the expense of the energy lost in moving products and services through all of the steps of their value chains). Aggregate efficiency is a key factor in determining productivity.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image2 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing TodayAfter making steady gains during much of the 20th century, businesses’ aggregate energy efficiency peaked in the 1980s and then stalled. Japan, home of the world’s most energy-efficient economy, has been skating along at or near 20% ever since. The U.S. economy, meanwhile, topped out at about 13% aggregate efficiency in the 1990s, according to research.

Why does this matter? Jeremy Rifkin says he knows why. Rifkin is an economic and social theorist, author, consultant, and lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education program who believes that economies experience major increases in growth and productivity only when big shifts occur in three integrated infrastructure segments around the same time: communications, energy, and transportation.

But it’s only a matter of time before information technology blows all three wide open, says Rifkin. He envisions a new economic infrastructure based on digital integration of communications, energy, and transportation, riding atop an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that incorporates Big Data, analytics, and artificial intelligence. This platform will disrupt the world economy and bring dramatic levels of efficiency and productivity to businesses that take advantage of it,
he says.

Some economists consider Rifkin’s ideas controversial. And his vision of a new economic platform may be problematic—at least globally. It will require massive investments and unusually high levels of government, community, and private sector cooperation, all of which seem to be at depressingly low levels these days.

However, Rifkin has some influential adherents to his philosophy. He has advised three presidents of the European Commission—Romano Prodi, José Manuel Barroso, and the current president, Jean-Claude Juncker—as well as the European Parliament and numerous European Union (EU) heads of state, including Angela Merkel, on the ushering in of what he calls “a smart, green Third Industrial Revolution.” Rifkin is also advising the leadership of the People’s Republic of China on the build out and scale up of the “Internet Plus” Third Industrial Revolution infrastructure to usher in a sustainable low-carbon economy.

The internet has already shaken up one of the three major economic sectors: communications. Today it takes little more than a cell phone, an internet connection, and social media to publish a book or music video for free—what Rifkin calls zero marginal cost. The result has been a hollowing out of once-mighty media empires in just over 10 years. Much of what remains of their business models and revenues has been converted from physical (remember CDs and video stores?) to digital.

But we haven’t hit the trifecta yet. Transportation and energy have changed little since the middle of the last century, says Rifkin. That’s when superhighways reached their saturation point across the developed world and the internal-combustion engine came close to the limits of its potential on the roads, in the air, and at sea. “We have all these killer new technology products, but they’re being plugged into the same old infrastructure, and it’s not creating enough new business opportunities,” he says.

All that may be about to undergo a big shake-up, however. The digitalization of information on the IoT at near-zero marginal cost generates Big Data that can be mined with analytics to create algorithms and apps enabling ubiquitous networking. This digital transformation is beginning to have a big impact on the energy and transportation sectors. If that trend continues, we could see a metamorphosis in the economy and society not unlike previous industrial revolutions in history. And given the pace of technology change today, the shift could happen much faster than ever before.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image3 1024x572 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing TodayThe speed of change is dictated by the increase in digitalization of these three main sectors; expensive physical assets and processes are partially replaced by low-cost virtual ones. The cost efficiencies brought on by digitalization drive disruption in existing business models toward zero marginal cost, as we’ve already seen in entertainment and publishing. According to research company Gartner, when an industry gets to the point where digital drives at least 20% of revenues, you reach the tipping point.

“A clear pattern has emerged,” says Peter Sondergaard, executive vice president and head of research and advisory for Gartner. “Once digital revenues for a sector hit 20% of total revenue, the digital bloodbath begins,” he told the audience at Gartner’s annual 2017 IT Symposium/ITxpo, according to The Wall Street Journal. “No matter what industry you are in, 20% will be the point of no return.”

Communications is already there, and energy and transportation are heading down that path. If they hit the magic 20% mark, the impact will be felt not just within those industries but across all industries. After all, who doesn’t rely on energy and transportation to power their value chains?

That’s why businesses need to factor potentially massive business model disruptions into their plans for digital transformation today if they want to remain competitive with organizations in early adopter countries like China and Germany. China, for example, is already halfway through an US$ 88 billion upgrade to its state electricity grid that will enable renewable energy transmission around the country—all managed and moved digitally, according to an article in The Economist magazine. And it is competing with the United States for leadership in self-driving vehicles, which will shift the transportation process and revenue streams heavily to digital, according to an article in Wired magazine.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image4 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing TodayOnce China’s and Germany’s renewables and driverless infrastructures are in place, the only additional costs are management and maintenance. That could bring businesses in these countries dramatic cost savings over those that still rely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy to power their supply chains and logistics. “Once you pay the fixed costs of renewables, the marginal costs are near zero,” says Rifkin. “The sun and wind haven’t sent us invoices yet.”

In other words, zero marginal cost has become a zero-sum game.

To understand why that is, consider the major industrial revolutions in history, writes Rifkin in his books, The Zero Marginal Cost Society and The Third Industrial Revolution. The first major shift occurred in the 19th century when cheap, abundant coal provided an efficient new source of power (steam) for manufacturing and enabled the creation of a vast railway transportation network. Meanwhile, the telegraph gave the world near-instant communication over a globally connected network.

The second big change occurred at the beginning of the 20th century, when inexpensive oil began to displace coal and gave rise to a much more flexible new transportation network of cars and trucks. Telephones, radios, and televisions had a similar impact on communications.

Breaking Down the Walls Between Sectors

Now, according to Rifkin, we’re poised for the third big shift. The eye of the technology disruption hurricane has moved beyond communications and is heading toward—or as publishing and entertainment executives might warn, coming for—the rest of the economy. With its assemblage of global internet and cellular network connectivity and ever-smaller and more powerful sensors, the IoT, along with Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence, is breaking down the economic walls that have protected the energy and transportation sectors for the past 50 years.

Daimler is now among the first movers in transitioning into a digitalized mobility internet. The company has equipped nearly 400,000 of its trucks with external sensors, transforming the vehicles into mobile Big Data centers. The sensors are picking up real-time Big Data on weather conditions, traffic flows, and warehouse availability. Daimler plans to establish collaborations with thousands of companies, providing them with Big Data and analytics that can help dramatically increase their aggregate efficiency and productivity in shipping goods across their value chains. The Daimler trucks are autonomous and capable of establishing platoons of multiple trucks driving across highways.

It won’t be long before vehicles that navigate the more complex transportation infrastructures around the world begin to think for themselves. Autonomous vehicles will bring massive economic disruption to transportation and logistics thanks to new aggregate efficiencies. Without the cost of having a human at the wheel, autonomous cars could achieve a shared cost per mile below that of owned vehicles by as early as 2030, according to research from financial services company Morgan Stanley.

The transition is getting a push from governments pledging to give up their addiction to cars powered by combustion engines. Great Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

The Final Piece of the Transition

Considering that automobiles account for 47% of petroleum consumption in the United States alone—more than twice the amount used for generators and heating for homes and businesses, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration—Rifkin argues that the shift to autonomous electric vehicles could provide the momentum needed to upend the final pillar of the economic platform: energy. Though energy has gone through three major disruptions over the past 150 years, from coal to oil to natural gas—each causing massive teardowns and rebuilds of infrastructure—the underlying economic model has remained constant: highly concentrated and easily accessible fossil fuels and highly centralized, vertically integrated, and enormous (and enormously powerful) energy and utility companies.

Now, according to Rifkin, the “Third Industrial Revolution Internet of Things infrastructure” is on course to disrupt all of it. It’s neither centralized nor vertically integrated; instead, it’s distributed and networked. And that fits perfectly with the commercial evolution of two energy sources that, until the efficiencies of the IoT came along, made no sense for large-scale energy production: the sun and the wind.

But the IoT gives power utilities the means to harness these batches together and to account for variable energy flows. Sensors on solar panels and wind turbines, along with intelligent meters and a smart grid based on the internet, manage a new, two-way flow of energy to and from the grid.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image5 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing TodayToday, fossil fuel–based power plants need to kick in extra energy if insufficient energy is collected from the sun and wind. But industrial-strength batteries and hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to take their place by storing large reservoirs of reserve power for rainy or windless days. In addition, electric vehicles will be able to send some of their stored energy to the digitalized energy internet during peak use. Demand for ever-more efficient cell phone and vehicle batteries is helping push the evolution of batteries along, but batteries will need to get a lot better if renewables are to completely replace fossil fuel energy generation.

Meanwhile, silicon-based solar cells have not yet approached their limits of efficiency. They have their own version of computing’s Moore’s Law called Swanson’s Law. According to data from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), Swanson’s Law means that for each doubling of global solar panel manufacturing capacity, the price falls by 28%, from $ 76 per watt in 1977 to $ 0.41 in 2016. (Wind power is on a similar plunging exponential cost curve, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.)

Thanks to the plummeting solar price, by 2028, the cost of building and operating new sun-based generation capacity will drop below the cost of running existing fossil power plants, according to BNEF. “One of the surprising things in this year’s forecast,” says Seb Henbest, lead author of BNEF’s annual long-term forecast, the New Energy Outlook, “is that the crossover points in the economics of new and old technologies are happening much sooner than we thought last year … and those were all happening a bit sooner than we thought the year before. There’s this sense that it’s not some distant risk or distant opportunity. A lot of these realities are rushing toward us.”

The conclusion, he says, is irrefutable. “We can see the data and when we map that forward with conservative assumptions, these technologies just get cheaper than everything else.”

The smart money, then—72% of total new power generation capacity investment worldwide by 2040—will go to renewable energy, according to BNEF. The firm’s research also suggests that there’s more room in Swanson’s Law along the way, with solar prices expected to drop another 66% by 2040.

Another factor could push the economic shift to renewables even faster. Just as computers transitioned from being strictly corporate infrastructure to becoming consumer products with the invention of the PC in the 1980s, ultimately causing a dramatic increase in corporate IT investments, energy generation has also made the transition to the consumer side.

Thanks to future tech media star Elon Musk, consumers can go to his Tesla Energy company website and order tempered glass solar panels that look like chic, designer versions of old-fashioned roof shingles. Models that look like slate or a curved, terracotta-colored, ceramic-style glass that will make roofs look like those of Tuscan country villas, are promised soon. Consumers can also buy a sleek-looking battery called a Powerwall to store energy from the roof.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image6 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing TodayThe combination of solar panels, batteries, and smart meters transforms homeowners from passive consumers of energy into active producers and traders who can choose to take energy from the grid during off-peak hours, when some utilities offer discounts, and sell energy back to the grid during periods when prices are higher. And new blockchain applications promise to accelerate the shift to an energy market that is laterally integrated rather than vertically integrated as it is now. Consumers like their newfound sense of control, according to Henbest. “Energy’s never been an interesting consumer decision before and suddenly it is,” he says.

As the price of solar equipment continues to drop, homes, offices, and factories will become like nodes on a computer network. And if promising new solar cell technologies, such as organic polymers, small molecules, and inorganic compounds, supplant silicon, which is not nearly as efficient with sunlight as it is with ones and zeroes, solar receivers could become embedded into windows and building compounds. Solar production could move off the roof and become integrated into the external facades of homes and office buildings, making nearly every edifice in town a node.

The big question, of course, is how quickly those nodes will become linked together—if, say doubters, they become linked at all. As we learned from Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a network is proportional to its number of connected users.

The Will Determines the Way

Right now, the network is limited. Wind and solar account for just 5% of global energy production today, according to Bloomberg.

But, says Rifkin, technology exists that could enable the network to grow exponentially. We are seeing the beginnings of a digital energy network, which uses a combination of the IoT, Big Data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to manage distributed energy sources, such as solar and wind power from homes and businesses.

As nodes on this network, consumers and businesses could take a more active role in energy production, management, and efficiency, according to Rifkin. Utilities, in turn, could transition from simply transmitting power and maintaining power plants and lines to managing the flow to and from many different energy nodes; selling and maintaining smart home energy management products; and monitoring and maintaining solar panels and wind turbines. By analyzing energy use in the network, utilities could create algorithms that automatically smooth the flow of renewables. Consumers and businesses, meanwhile, would not have to worry about connecting their wind and solar assets to the grid and keeping them up and running; utilities could take on those tasks more efficiently.

Already in Germany, two utility companies, E.ON and RWE, have each split their businesses into legacy fossil and nuclear fuel companies and new services companies based on distributed generation from renewables, new technologies, and digitalization.

The reason is simple: it’s about survival. As fossil fuel generation winds down, the utilities need a new business model to make up for lost revenue. Due to Germany’s population density, “the utilities realize that they won’t ever have access to enough land to scale renewables themselves,” says Rifkin. “So they are starting service companies to link together all the different communities that are building solar and wind and are managing energy flows for them and for their customers, doing their analytics, and managing their Big Data. That’s how they will make more money while selling less energy in the future.”

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image7 1024x572 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing Today

The digital energy internet is already starting out in pockets and at different levels of intensity around the world, depending on a combination of citizen support, utility company investments, governmental power, and economic incentives.

China and some countries within the EU, such as Germany and France, are the most likely leaders in the transition toward a renewable, energy-based infrastructure because they have been able to align the government and private sectors in long-term energy planning. In the EU for example, wind has already overtaken coal as the second largest form of power capacity behind natural gas, according to an article in TheGuardian newspaper. Indeed, Rifkin has been working with China, the EU, and governments, communities, and utilities in Northern France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg to begin building these new internets.

Hauts-de-France, a region that borders the English Channel and Belgium and has one of the highest poverty rates in France, enlisted Rifkin to develop a plan to lift it out of its downward spiral of shuttered factories and abandoned coal mines. In collaboration with a diverse group of CEOs, politicians, teachers, scientists, and others, it developed Rev3, a plan to put people to work building a renewable energy network, according to an article in Vice.

Today, more than 1,000 Rev3 projects are underway, encompassing everything from residential windmills made from local linen to a fully electric car–sharing system. Rev3 has received financial support from the European Investment Bank and a handful of private investment funds, and startups have benefited from crowdfunding mechanisms sponsored by Rev3. Today, 90% of new energy in the region is renewable and 1,500 new jobs have been created in the wind energy sector alone.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to generous government financial support, Germany is already producing 35% of its energy from renewables, according to an article in TheIndependent, and there is near unanimous citizen support (95%, according to a recent government poll) for its expansion.

If renewable energy is to move forward in other areas of the world that don’t enjoy such strong economic and political support, however, it must come from the ability to make green, not act green.

Not everyone agrees that renewables will produce cost savings sufficient to cause widespread cost disruption anytime soon. A recent forecast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that in 2040, oil, natural gas, and coal will still be the planet’s major electricity producers, powering 77% of worldwide production, while renewables such as wind, solar, and biofuels will account for just 15%.

Skeptics also say that renewables’ complex management needs, combined with the need to store reserve power, will make them less economical than fossil fuels through at least 2035. “All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association told Bloomberg. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”

On the other hand, there are many areas of the world where distributed, decentralized, renewable power generation already makes more sense than a centralized fossil fuel–powered grid. More than 20% of Indians in far flung areas of the country have no access to power today, according to an article in TheGuardian. Locally owned and managed solar and wind farms are the most economical way forward. The same is true in other developing countries, such as Afghanistan, where rugged terrain, war, and tribal territorialism make a centralized grid an easy target, and mountainous Costa Rica, where strong winds and rivers have pushed the country to near 100% renewable energy, according to TheGuardian.

The Light and the Darknet

Even if all the different IoT-enabled economic platforms become financially advantageous, there is another concern that could disrupt progress and potentially cause widespread disaster once the new platforms are up and running: hacking. Poorly secured IoT sensors have allowed hackers to take over everything from Wi-Fi enabled Barbie dolls to Jeep Cherokees, according to an article in Wired magazine.

Humans may be lousy drivers, but at least we can’t be hacked (yet). And while the grid may be prone to outages, it is tightly controlled, has few access points for hackers, and is physically separated from the Wild West of the internet.

If our transportation and energy networks join the fray, however, every sensor, from those in the steering system on vehicles to grid-connected toasters, becomes as vulnerable as a credit card number. Fake news and election hacking are bad enough, but what about fake drivers or fake energy? Now we’re talking dangerous disruptions and putting millions of people in harm’s way.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image8 Six New Tech Trends To Start Pursuing TodayThe only answer, according to Rifkin, is for businesses and governments to start taking the hacking threat much more seriously than they do today and to begin pouring money into research and technologies for making the internet less vulnerable. That means establishing “a fully distributed, redundant, and resilient digital infrastructure less vulnerable to the kind of disruptions experienced by Second Industrial Revolution–centralized communication systems and power grids that are increasingly subject to climate change, disasters, cybercrime, and cyberterrorism,” he says. “The ability of neighborhoods and communities to go off centralized grids during crises and re-aggregate in locally decentralized networks is the key to advancing societal security in the digital era,” he adds.

Start Looking Ahead

Until today, digital transformation has come mainly through the networking and communications efficiencies made possible by the internet. Airbnb thrives because web communications make it possible to create virtual trust markets that allow people to feel safe about swapping their most private spaces with one another.

But now these same efficiencies are coming to two other areas that have never been considered core to business strategy. That’s why businesses need to begin managing energy and transportation as key elements of their digital transformation portfolios.

Microsoft, for example, formed a senior energy team to develop an energy strategy to mitigate risk from fluctuating energy prices and increasing demands from customers to reduce carbon emissions, according to an article in Harvard Business Review. “Energy has become a C-suite issue,” Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s top environmental and sustainability executive told the magazine. “The CFO and president are now actively involved in our energy road map.”

As Daimler’s experience shows, driverless vehicles will push autonomous transportation and automated logistics up the strategic agenda within the next few years. Boston Consulting Group predicts that the driverless vehicle market will hit $ 42 billion by 2025. If that happens, it could have a lateral impact across many industries, from insurance to healthcare to the military.

Businesses must start planning now. “There’s always a period when businesses have to live in the new and the old worlds at the same time,” says Rifkin. “So businesses need to be considering new business models and structures now while continuing to operate their existing models.”

He worries that many businesses will be left behind if their communications, energy, and transportation infrastructures don’t evolve. Companies that still rely on fossil fuels for powering traditional transportation and logistics could be at a major competitive disadvantage to those that have moved to the new, IoT-based energy and transportation infrastructures.

Germany, for example, has set a target of 80% renewables for gross power consumption by 2050, according to TheIndependent. If the cost advantages of renewables bear out, German businesses, which are already the world’s third-largest exporters behind China and the United States, could have a major competitive advantage.

“How would a second industrial revolution society or country compete with one that has energy at zero marginal cost and driverless vehicles?” asks Rifkin. “It can’t be done.” D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy and Natural Resources, at SAP.

Joerg Ferchow is Senior Utilities Expert and Design Thinking Coach, Digital Transformation, at SAP.

Daniel Wellers is Digital Futures Lead, Global Marketing, at SAP.

Christopher Koch is Editorial Director, SAP Center for Business Insight, at SAP.


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

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Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And Health

When members of Lowe’s Innovation Labs first began talking with the home improvement retailer’s senior executives about how disruptive technologies would affect the future, the presentations were well received but nothing stuck.

“We’d give a really great presentation and everyone would say, ‘Great job,’ but nothing would really happen,” says Amanda Manna, head of narratives and partnerships for the lab.

The team realized that it needed to ditch the PowerPoints and try something radical. The team’s leader, Kyle Nel, is a behavioral scientist by training. He knows people are wired to receive new information best through stories. Sharing far-future concepts through narrative, he surmised, could unlock hidden potential to drive meaningful change.

So Nel hired science fiction writers to pen the future in comic book format, with characters and a narrative arc revealed pane by pane.

The first storyline, written several years before Oculus Rift became a household name, told the tale of a couple envisioning their kitchen renovation using virtual reality headsets. The comic might have been fun and fanciful, but its intent was deadly serious. It was a vision of a future in which Lowe’s might solve one of its long-standing struggles: the approximately US$ 70 billion left on the table when people are unable to start a home improvement project because they can’t envision what it will look like.

When the lab presented leaders with the first comic, “it was like a light bulb went on,” says Manna. “Not only did they immediately understand the value of the concept, they were convinced that if we didn’t build it, someone else would.”

Today, Lowe’s customers in select stores can use the HoloRoom How To virtual reality tool to learn basic DIY skills in an interactive and immersive environment.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image2 Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And HealthOther comics followed and were greeted with similar enthusiasm—and investment, where possible. One tells the story of robots that help customers navigate stores. That comic spawned the LoweBot, which roamed the aisles of several Lowe’s stores during a pilot program in California and is being evaluated to determine next steps.

And the comic about tools that can be 3D-printed in space? Last year, Lowe’s partnered with Made in Space, which specializes in making 3D printers that can operate in zero gravity, to install the first commercial 3D printer in the International Space Station, where it was used to make tools and parts for astronauts.

The comics are the result of sending writers out on an open-ended assignment, armed with trends, market research, and other input, to envision what home improvement planning might look like in the future or what the experience of shopping will be in 10 years. The writers come back with several potential story ideas in a given area and work collaboratively with lab team members to refine it over time.

The process of working with writers and business partners to develop the comics helps the future strategy team at Lowe’s, working under chief development officer Richard D. Maltsbarger, to inhabit that future. They can imagine how it might play out, what obstacles might surface, and what steps the company would need to take to bring that future to life.

Once the final vision hits the page, the lab team can clearly envision how to work backward to enable the innovation. Importantly, the narrative is shared not only within the company but also out in the world. It serves as a kind of “bat signal” to potential technology partners with capabilities that might be required to make it happen, says Manna. “It’s all part of our strategy for staking a claim in the future.”

Companies like Lowe’s are realizing that standard ways of planning for the future won’t get them where they need to go. The problem with traditional strategic planning is that the approach, which dates back to the 1950s and has remained largely unchanged since then, is based on the company’s existing mission, resources, core competencies, and competitors.

Yet the future rarely looks like the past. What’s more, digital technology is now driving change at exponential rates. Companies must be able to analyze and assess the potential impacts of the many variables at play, determine the possible futures they want to pursue, and develop the agility to pivot as conditions change along the way.

This is why planning must become completely oriented toward—and sourced from—the future, rather than from the past or the present. “Every winning strategy is based on a compelling insight, but most strategic planning originates in today’s marketplace, which means the resulting plans are constrained to incremental innovation,” says Bob Johansen, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future. “Most corporate strategists and CEOs are just inching their way to the future.” (Read more from Bob Johansen in the Thinkers story, “Fear Factor.”)

Inching forward won’t cut it anymore. Half of the S&P 500 organizations will be replaced over the next decade, according to research company Innosight. The reason? They can’t see the portfolio of possible futures, they can’t act on them, or both. Indeed, when SAP conducts future planning workshops with clients, we find that they usually struggle to look beyond current models and assumptions and lack clear ideas about how to work toward radically different futures.

Companies that want to increase their chances of long-term survival are incorporating three steps: envisioning, planning for, and executing on possible futures. And doing so all while the actual future is unfolding in expected and unexpected ways.

Those that pull it off are rewarded. A 2017 benchmarking report from the Strategic Foresight Research Network (SFRN) revealed that vigilant companies (those with the most mature processes for identifying, interpreting, and responding to factors that induce change) achieved 200% greater market capitalization growth and 33% higher profitability than the average, while the least mature companies experienced negative market-cap growth and had 44% lower profitability.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image3 1024x572 Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And Health

Looking Outside the Margins

“Most organizations lack sufficient capacity to detect, interpret, and act on the critically important but weak and ambiguous signals of fresh threats or new opportunities that emerge on the periphery of their usual business environment,” write George S. Day and Paul J. H. Schoemaker in their book Peripheral Vision.

But that’s exactly where effective future planning begins: examining what is happening outside the margins of day-to-day business as usual in order to peer into the future.

Business leaders who take this approach understand that despite the uncertainties of the future there are drivers of change that can be identified and studied and actions that can be taken to better prepare for—and influence—how events unfold.

That starts with developing foresight, typically a decade out. Ten years, most future planners agree, is the sweet spot. “It is far enough out that it gives you a bit more latitude to come up with a broader way to the future, allowing for disruption and innovation,” says Brian David Johnson, former chief futurist for Intel and current futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “But you can still see the light from it.”

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image4 Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And HealthThe process involves gathering information about the factors and forces—technological, business, sociological, and industry or ecosystem trends—that are effecting change to envision a range of potential impacts.

Seeing New Worlds

Intel, for example, looks beyond its own industry boundaries to envision possible future developments in adjacent businesses in the larger ecosystem it operates in. In 2008, the Intel Labs team, led by anthropologist Genevieve Bell, determined that the introduction of flexible glass displays would open up a whole new category of foldable consumer electronic devices.

To take advantage of that advance, Intel would need to be able to make silicon small enough to fit into some imagined device of the future. By the time glass manufacturer Corning unveiled its ultra-slim, flexible glass surface for mobile devices, laptops, televisions, and other displays of the future in 2012, Intel had already created design prototypes and kicked its development into higher gear. “Because we had done the future casting, we were already imagining how people might use flexible glass to create consumer devices,” says Johnson.

Because future planning relies so heavily on the quality of the input it receives, bringing in experts can elevate the practice. They can come from inside an organization, but the most influential insight may come from the outside and span a wide range of disciplines, says Steve Brown, a futurist, consultant, and CEO of BaldFuturist.com who worked for Intel Labs from 2007 to 2016.

Companies may look to sociologists or behaviorists who have insight into the needs and wants of people and how that influences their actions. Some organizations bring in an applied futurist, skilled at scanning many different forces and factors likely to coalesce in important ways (see Do You Need a Futurist?).

Do You Need a Futurist?

Most organizations need an outsider to help envision their future. Futurists are good at looking beyond the big picture to the biggest picture.

Business leaders who want to be better prepared for an uncertain and disruptive future will build future planning as a strategic capability into their organizations and create an organizational culture that embraces the approach. But working with credible futurists, at least in the beginning, can jump-start the process.

“The present can be so noisy and business leaders are so close to it that it’s helpful to provide a fresh outside-in point of view,” says veteran futurist Bob Johansen.

To put it simply, futurists like Johansen are good at connecting dots—lots of them. They look beyond the boundaries of a single company or even an industry, incorporating into their work social science, technical research, cultural movements, economic data, trends, and the input of other experts.

They can also factor in the cultural history of the specific company with whom they’re working, says Brian David Johnson, futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “These large corporations have processes and procedures in place—typically for good reasons,” Johnson explains. “But all of those reasons have everything to do with the past and nothing to do with the future. Looking at that is important so you can understand the inertia that you need to overcome.”

One thing the best futurists will say they can’t do: predict the future. That’s not the point. “The future punishes certainty,” Johansen says, “but it rewards clarity.” The methods futurists employ are designed to trigger discussions and considerations of possibilities corporate leaders might not otherwise consider.

You don’t even necessarily have to buy into all the foresight that results, says Johansen. Many leaders don’t. “Every forecast is debatable,” Johansen says. “Foresight is a way to provoke insight, even if you don’t believe it. The value is in letting yourself be provoked.”

External expert input serves several purposes. It brings everyone up to a common level of knowledge. It can stimulate and shift the thinking of participants by introducing them to new information or ideas. And it can challenge the status quo by illustrating how people and organizations in different sectors are harnessing emerging trends.

The goal is not to come up with one definitive future but multiple possibilities—positive and negative—along with a list of the likely obstacles or accelerants that could surface on the road ahead. The result: increased clarity—rather than certainty—in the face of the unknown that enables business decision makers to execute and refine business plans and strategy over time.

Plotting the Steps Along the Way

Coming up with potential trends is an important first step in futuring, but even more critical is figuring out what steps need to be taken along the way: eight years from now, four years from now, two years from now, and now. Considerations include technologies to develop, infrastructure to deploy, talent to hire, partnerships to forge, and acquisitions to make. Without this vital step, says Brown, everybody goes back to their day jobs and the new thinking generated by future planning is wasted. To work, the future steps must be tangible, concrete, and actionable.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image5 Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And HealthOrganizations must build a roadmap for the desired future state that anticipates both developments and detours, complete with signals that will let them know if they’re headed in the right direction. Brown works with corporate leaders to set indicator flags to look out for on the way to the anticipated future. “If we see these flagged events occurring in the ecosystem, they help to confirm the strength of our hypothesis that a particular imagined future is likely to occur,” he explains.

For example, one of Brown’s clients envisioned two potential futures: one in which gestural interfaces took hold and another in which voice control dominated. The team set a flag to look out for early examples of the interfaces that emerged in areas such as home appliances and automobiles. “Once you saw not just Amazon Echo but also Google Home and other copycat speakers, it would increase your confidence that you were moving more towards a voice-first era rather than a gesture-first era,” Brown says. “It doesn’t mean that gesture won’t happen, but it’s less likely to be the predominant modality for communication.”

How to Keep Experiments from Being Stifled

Once organizations have a vision for the future, making it a reality requires testing ideas in the marketplace and then scaling them across the enterprise. “There’s a huge change piece involved,”
says Frank Diana, futurist and global consultant with Tata Consultancy Services, “and that’s the place where most
businesses will fall down.”

Many large firms have forgotten what it’s like to experiment in several new markets on a small scale to determine what will stick and what won’t, says René Rohrbeck, professor of strategy at the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences. Companies must be able to fail quickly, bring the lessons learned back in, adapt, and try again.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image6 Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And HealthLowe’s increases its chances of success by creating master narratives across a number of different areas at once, such as robotics, mixed-reality tools, on-demand manufacturing, sustainability, and startup acceleration. The lab maps components of each by expected timelines: short, medium, and long term. “From there, we’ll try to build as many of them as quickly as we can,” says Manna. “And we’re always looking for that next suite of things that we should be working on.” Along the way certain innovations, like the HoloRoom How-To, become developed enough to integrate into the larger business as part of the core strategy.

One way Lowe’s accelerates the process of deciding what is ready to scale is by being open about its nascent plans with the world. “In the past, Lowe’s would never talk about projects that weren’t at scale,” says Manna. Now the company is sharing its future plans with the media and, as a result, attracting partners that can jump-start their realization.

Seeing a Lowe’s comic about employee exoskeletons, for example, led Virginia Tech engineering professor Alan Asbeck to the retailer. He helped develop a prototype for a three-month pilot with stock employees at a Christiansburg, Virginia, store.

The high-tech suit makes it easier to move heavy objects. Employees trying out the suits are also fitted with an EEG headset that the lab incorporates into all its pilots to gauge unstated, subconscious reactions. That direct feedback on the user experience helps the company refine its innovations over time.

SAP Q417 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image7 1024x572 Empower People With Health Wearables: Mixing Tech And Health

Make the Future Part of the Culture

Regardless of whether all the elements of its master narratives come to pass, Lowe’s has already accomplished something important: It has embedded future thinking into the culture of the company.

Companies like Lowe’s constantly scan the environment for meaningful economic, technology, and cultural changes that could impact its future assessments and plans. “They can regularly draw on future planning to answer challenges,” says Rohrbeck. “This intensive, ongoing, agile strategizing is only possible because they’ve done their homework up front and they keep it updated.”

It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the future, but companies can help to shape it, says Manna of Lowe’s. “It’s really about painting a picture of a preferred future state that we can try to achieve while being flexible and capable of change as we learn things along the way.” D!


About the Authors

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

Kai Goerlich is Chief Futurist at SAP’s Innovation Center Network.

Stephanie Overby is a Boston-based business and technology journalist.


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

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Google’s top tech searches in 2017: iPhone 8, iPhone X, Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X

 Google’s top tech searches in 2017: iPhone 8, iPhone X, Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X

Just like every other tech company interested in playing the holiday PR game, Google puts together end-of-year lists for its various properties. Google may have a ridiculous number of these properties, but the one best associated with the company is still Search.

Google today released the 17th installment of its year-end zeitgeist meter. You can dive deep into all the categories to satisfy your various curiosities. Year in Search results are provided by analyzing Google Trends data to see what the world was searching for throughout the year.

First and foremost, let’s start with the overall winners. Here are the top 10 global trending searches for 2017:

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. iPhone 8
  3. iPhone X
  4. Matt Lauer
  5. Meghan Markle
  6. 13 Reasons Why
  7. Tom Petty
  8. Fidget Spinner
  9. Chester Bennington
  10. India National Cricket Team

For reference, the top trending searches last year, in order, were: Pokémon Go, iPhone 7, Donald Trump, Prince, Powerball, David Bowie, Deadpool, Olympics, Slither.io, and Suicide Squad.

The category we really want to see is, of course, technology. Google pulled from the global list and offered the top 10 consumer tech searches for 2017:

  1. iPhone 8
  2. iPhone X
  3. Nintendo Switch
  4. Samsung Galaxy S8
  5. Xbox One X
  6. Nokia 3310
  7. Razer Phone
  8. Oppo F5
  9. OnePlus 5
  10. Nokia 6

Unsurprisingly, eight of the top 10 were searches for phones. Consoles grabbed the remaining two spots.

Again for reference, the top consumer tech searches last year, in order, were: iPhone 7, Freedom 251, iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 7 Plus, Note 7, Nintendo Switch, and Samsung J7.

More broadly, here’s this year’s list for global news:

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. Bitcoin
  3. Las Vegas Shooting
  4. North Korea
  5. Solar Eclipse
  6. Hurricane Harvey
  7. Manchester
  8. Hurricane Jose
  9. Hurricane Maria
  10. April the Giraffe

For fun, this year’s top searched-for memes:

  1. Cash Me Outside Meme
  2. United Airlines Meme
  3. Elf on the Shelf Meme
  4. What in Tarnation Meme
  5. Spongebob Mocking Meme
  6. Romper Meme
  7. IT Meme
  8. Joe Biden Meme
  9. Game of Thrones Meme
  10. Hot dog meme

Let’s do one more: the top “how to” searches of 2017:

  1. How to make slime
  2. How to make solar eclipse glasses
  3. How to buy Bitcoin
  4. How to watch Mayweather vs McGregor
  5. How to make a fidget spinner
  6. How to watch the solar eclipse
  7. How to freeze your credit
  8. How to play Powerball
  9. How to screen record
  10. How to lose belly fat fast

Interestingly, all of the “how to” searches in the above video were searched at least 10 times more this year than ever before, Google found. “These questions show our shared desire to understand our experiences, to come to each other’s aid, and, ultimately, to move our world forward,” the team concluded.

The other Google property that has interesting end-of-year lists is YouTube — my colleague Chris O’Brien covered the 2017 installment here.

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The big 4 tech companies — my musings on two, Microsoft and Salesforce

A few weeks ago, I unveiled a part of the Watchlist evolution with the Emergence Maturity Index (EMI) (more on that coming) and at the same time was able to identify a near-breakout candidate with the EMI prototype (subject to change without notice) — Cogito.

As you probably also noticed, I spoke of four companies that I thought were “re-breaking out.” Now as a brief call it, year end effort, I’m going to give you a short summary of the state of the Big Four — and there will be some inclusive info about the 0.5 addition to it — Adobe — which remains 0.5, not at the level of a Big 5 yet.

what’s hot on zdnet

Today, I’m covering two Salesforce and Microsoft. Also two other smaller but as important parts. First, the announcement of yet another (but very different) award for 2017 that will be expanded upon in 2018 and then something else that I’m going to be up to next year that you may or may not be interested in. See this this post for those things.

Following this post, a post upcoming on a piece of work that Brian Solis just released on change and change agents, called “The Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto” that I think is both fascinating for its framework and important for its purpose — and within its covers, goes through some things I have literally never seen anywhere else and yet, are kind of duh, how can they not have been taken into account — and wow, he made the point of accounting for this. I’ll leave you in suspense about what the hell I’m talking about until the post comes out but in the meantime, follow the link above and read the thing and see if you can figure out what I’m saying.

Following that post will be part III of this post — the final part — which will cover SAP and Oracle, and a couple of other not-random subjects that I want to make sure you’re thinking about as we go to the new year — one full year into my four-years-&-out-plan. That post will round out 2017 in fine style.

Here we go, readers.

Salesforce continues to meteorically rise, incrementally improve

Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference is their annual bellwether. This is the place that Salesforce trots out its vision, mission, technology announcements and the underlying themes for the coming 12 months or so — at least for the foreseeable future. Sometimes its huge, sometimes not so big, almost never subtle yet even though not subtle, it can be sandwiched between the cracks.

Most of the time, my colleagues tend to (rightfully) focus on the announcements of the conference including what is coming in technology and what Salesforce is doing in the world of corporate philanthropy or social good — and all of this is good information. I do the same. I listen to the announcements and then assess what I think according to what I heard and sometimes what I saw.

But this year is different. While I am sticking to my promise of not writing a tome about Dreamforce or any conference or for the most part anything lengthy on any vendor, what happened at this Dreamforce between the cracks is significant enough to be a part of my actual discourse on company in these pages. So, I will do something here and how. Get ready for the not-as-obvious.

There is a reason why Salesforce consistently remains the market leader and retains mind share year over year. It isn’t their technology — which is very good but there are several competitors who are equally as good. It isn’t their sales teams — they are at times, far, far too many times, hyperaggressive in ways that lose them deals and thus can be a lot more irritating than helpful — and even damaging to the brand. It isn’t their thought leadership — though they are true thought leaders, SAP in a classic sense, has superior business specific thought leadership content production and distribution. It isn’t just their marketing — though, to their great credit, they not only have the best marketing machine I’ve ever seen, but also one that is, more often than not and certainly more often than anyone else, attuned to the customers’ needs, desires, wants, triggers and demands — without selling short their own contributions to the market either.

It is their culture — their ability to implement a “greater good” outlook at a company of their magnitude. No company — and I mean NO OTHER COMPANY on this planet that I’ve ever seen or found — has a stronger more positive active outlook on the world — and makes the attempts to actually turn that outlook to something actionable and as part of that inculcates it into their culture in a way that activates their own employees to do the good that they look to do. Without getting too effusive, it is a culture that, with some gaps here and there, supports the better nature of human beings.

That’s a huge statement but its also a true one. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have blinders about any company of their size or Salesforce’s ambition to get to, I think the latest iteration is, $ 20 billion faster than any company in history. There are some not so wonderful things that kind of velocity tends to encourage. Nothing’s perfect.

However, Salesforce makes more than just a perfunctory attempt to be a company that is of value to the world and values the world too. They were built with a foundation of a force for social good as well as a company that does what all companies do — makes money. They are undergoing constant redesign to retain that status in a world that transforms by the minute. They have designed and more importantly, evolved their culture so that it encompasses the Good (with a deliberate capital G) as part of its mantra.

It started years ago with Mr. Benioff’s 1:1:1 philanthropical approach and his book in 2004 on what he called Compassionate Capitalism, was the announcement that it was meant to be more than something that just Salesforce did. It also reflected one other aspect of the Salesforce culture that drives the company to this day — its evangelical (in a non-religious) way — its desire to spread the idea of corporate social Good.

That was reflected in a somewhat overzealous statement that wasn’t reported on (until now) and was stated at one of the smaller (but significant) events at Dreamforce this year — the Trailhead Trailblazer Awards breakfast. Brent Leary and I had the honor of being two of the four judges for the awards, so we attended the breakfast where the winners were announced and honored. It was a truly nice small event with an enjoyable vibe.

But in the course of it, one of the senior executives of Salesforce who presented there said “Trailhead is a movement,” which I made note of far more “loudly” than it was actually meant to be heard. While I think that’s more than a bit of hyperbolic stretch — I’ve been a participant very actively in movements over my life and Trailhead and all that’s being done around it doesn’t even come close to qualifying as a movement — the sentiment and the thinking behind it is important to understanding the current psyche of Salesforce and its business culture.

If you were at Dreamforce, think of the environment. The built-for-the-conference architecture including the entrance arches, the atmosphere, the scenery, the artwork, the tone were all geared toward a strongly-contemporary-fun-to-be-part-of-and-with-a-true-mission-in-life, culture. The net effect and the network effect is that any person attending the conference, employed by Salesforce, or observing from afar felt what was effectively a cool rhythm with a purpose. That purpose was both making Salesforce a successful business and equally as important, making Salesforce a successful company.

Salesforce spends as much time working on their culture as they do selling stuff. They are in this for the long haul, have a proven record of major success, have become the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, but its an 800-pound gorilla who can dance with determined abandon. This leads to buy in from internally and externally facing human beings in the orbit of the company — and it is why they, unlike any other company in the industry are as close to a force of nature as a company can be.

It’s all about the culture — and how that culture makes the people associated with it feel. And, man, Salesforce does that really, really well. Do they have problems to address? Oh yeah, they do — see the earlier parts of this — but all in all, they are on a path to long term success — and mindful all the way along it.

Microsoft remains a puzzle unsolved but at least the pieces are now clearly in focus

Tech Pro Research

I spent a full day (not counting travel) in early October at Microsoft’s Business Forward event in Chicago to try and get a handle, which to be honest, I had lost, on what Microsoft thought it was doing with Dynamics 365 in particular and of course, to see at least a portion of whether or not it was executing on the company’s rather expansive vision.

I came out with some idea and some answers — all in all I felt it was tentatively not too bad — but, due to the lack of any subsequent either interactions with them or even seeing any announcements or hearing anything via the grapevine or finding much new about them that I hadn’t seen for months preceding or following, I’m now back to the level of “I’m really not very clear on where in the world Microsoft (a.k.a. Waldo) is.”

So please be aware that what I am about to say is actually inconclusive but the best I can do with a lack of communication and little news in the Dynamics 365 universe — at least news of any real significance. Given that, I’m going to let you know what I do know, and you can draw your own conclusions.

To frame all of this. I have been an retained adviser to Microsoft for the last 14 years — which is not the same as being an analyst. I bifurcate the two roles. My role as an adviser, as it is with other clients in the same world Microsoft is, is to help them be better than they are or were even if they are good or even great.

I’m not there to expose their competitors’ weaknesses — due to both an ethical repulsion to the idea of tearing down another company as an advantage and also, on a more practical level, there is a VERY likely chance that their competitors — at least some of them — are my clients as well.

So, I work to build strengths — which sometimes means tough love. I’ve had nothing but respect for Microsoft all this time but at the same time saw some things that I was clear, at least in my opinion needed to change. All of those suggestions were kept in house. There was no need for the public to be aware of them.

As an analyst, my mission is different. I need to present to the world at large — or at least that very small piece of the world that gives a crap about what I think of things — what I think is the status of a company — client or not — in the customer-facing technology markets and the value of their technology and their company to its potential buyers. That means that I sometimes have to say things that aren’t terribly nice about companies that might well be my client — and I will say them despite the possible onus to me — i.e. the loss of a contract. There is enough of a body of work out there to support that I’m not just blowing hot air about this.

As an analyst I do expect some things that I don’t expect as an adviser — chief among them regular (to whatever extent that means) interactions with the company based on what they feel — and this is entirely up to them — I need to know. Getting that regular information gives me the ability to make some judgments that I can present to those who read my posts, articles, stuff all in all.

To be clear, thus, in this post, I’m speaking as an analyst and as of this post, I have no contract of any kind with Microsoft. Also, caveat here, because I have limited knowledge, I’m musing, not providing any kind of solid guidance or direction. So call this a disclaimer.

So, what does this mean in terms of my assessment of Microsoft? To be entirely candid, I’m not clear on where Microsoft stands when it comes to Microsoft Dynamics. I’ve heard repeatedly from them they are deeply committed to it. I’ve heard this from two people who work there that I truly trust and a few that I know are supposed to tell me that so they do. Because of the people I trust, I’m inclined to believe them, but not absolutely certain, either.

When I was at Business Forward, I saw Microsoft via the new Dynamics 365 chieftain, James Phillips show what was a very capable suite of sales and especially customer service applications and, during the same presentation, saw Adobe Digital Marketing Suite highlighted as the Microsoft Dynamics 365 offering, with literally no mention of what used to be Marketing Pilot — all in all a move that I can’t say was the wrong one — in fact, let me be more positive — it’s the right one.

What was noticeable was the lack of any demos of back end Dynamics e.g. Nav or AX at all. What I saw was Dynamics 365 CRM or Intelligent Customer Engagement as they used to call it — or maybe still do, I don’t know for sure. Which I find interesting if not particularly conclusive. From what I gather, what I saw was the last iterations of what Jujhar Singh built before his departure to Salesforce. Which is fine. Doesn’t really matter. I just find it interesting.

I also saw the evidence of an extraordinary partnership in the making with Adobe — one that goes both very deep in the joint go-to-market efforts but even deeper in the technical integration of the Adobe Marketing associated stack with Microsoft from Azure as the infrastructure down to the architectural nooks and crannies. It was so prevalent it makes me think that someday Microsoft will entertain acquiring Adobe though I heard nothing about that nor have I any evidence of even a discussion about it. But it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Just my two cents or 2+ billion dollars.

I also saw evidence that Satya Nadella’s vision of making Microsoft the centerpiece for all 21st century business infrastructure is still intact. This wasn’t overt on the stage — after all this was a discussion of Microsoft business applications. But his vision was intact with the peripheral (to the event, not to the company) evidence of the growth of Azure as a trusted business cloud infrastructure at the enterprise level, the bulking up of PowerBI, which is now more competitive than it had been with some of the larger analytics suites such as SAP’s (from the outgrowth of Business Objects and HANA), though probably still not quite there yet; and with the evolution of Office 365 from a productivity suite to an industry leading unified communications hub — with the subsequent integration of multiple products in and around the suite.

It also was in evidence with the extension of the ecosystem with the Adobe partnership and several other smaller partnerships It also became evident with the release of several products geared to the consumer business market such as the hardware in the Surface line such as the Surface Studio and the Surface Pro hybrid, both of which received giant kudos for their work power and their style in 2017. Plus multiple other things that are not the subject of this post.

But business applications, with the Adobe Digital Marketing component added and the completed integration of Parature as the core customer service component, while eminently capable of standing alone and competing with anyone, seem to be the bastard child probably because it’s a small piece of Microsoft’s overall business. It doesn’t get more than a lot of lip service and assurances that there is a commitment to it. Business Forward was valuable to me because it showed me that they have those capable apps, but the followup and subsequent lack of visibility since them makes me think that the commitments are just not there.

The reason I find this distressing is that how can you be an integral part of all of 21st century business infrastructure without a commitment to business apps beyond a lot of chapped lips?

As I stated in the beginning of this piece, and in the title of the post, this is a musing, not a piece of deep analysis. The reason? I don’t really have any interaction with Microsoft, for reasons that I thought I had the answer to, but as it turns out, I remain unaware of. I had some hopes that, post-Business Forward, that I’d be part of their analyst cadence again, but apparently I’m not, since my interaction since that event is once again back to none. I’m not complaining really. That’s their choice. But it does leave me with a lack of information that I would otherwise need.

Thus, this Microsoft discussion not does rise beyond more than my speculative observation. That said, I think I’m pretty sound in my thinking. I’m simply not claiming to as be definitive as I ordinarily am — but until I hear or see otherwise, this is and will be my working hypothesis. Business applications for Microsoft are seemingly being reduced to a peripheral piece of their business despite their protestations — and whether they intend that to be the case or not.

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that they are smart enough to see that they have a highly competitive product suite at highly competitive pricing — and with Adobe in the mix can compete with anyone — and that their vision isn’t ever going to be complete without not just a reversal of their reduction of business apps importance, but an elevation of it as a mission critical part of the ecosystem needed to complete their vision.

But then, what do I know?

The Best and Favorite Personality Awards, Part Deux

For a long time, forever in fact, I have been dealing with senior management at multiple companies, most of whom I have found to be standup human beings — partially because I get to choose who I want to deal with, partially because most people are fundamentally good, not venal and it is not dictated by their position. What is somewhat dictated by their position, however, is the kudos, the lauding over their goodness, because they have such visible public postures and faces. And that’s fine and dandy. They are public, they have earned their position more often than not, though occasionally not and they have maintained their good nature in a broad public market, to their credit.

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However, there is a much larger group of human beings who are equally as good — or even better in individual cases — who don’t get any recognition because they are not senior executives in the public eye. This group isn’t limited to a single job description or type of person. It is all those, the vast bulk of the human population who aren’t senior executives and who in specific aren’t necessarily public figures.

Yet, they work every bit as hard and are every bit as good in their own ways as the senior execs are. The difference is that nobody really publicly recognizes them for that.

Nine years ago, I did something about that to some degree and began what I called “The Best and Favorite Personality Awards” on my “other” blog, Pgreenblog (both here and here if you’d like to see who actually won) It recognized people who were either flying under the radar or simply didn’t get the good wishes they deserved and were (and are) truly good human beings for their warmth, kindness, empathy and also their business acumen. It recognized people in such categories as:

  1. Greatest Customer Advocate at Any Vendor (HOF-level)
  2. Best Interacting with Media & Analysts
  3. Most Gentlemanly Marketing Person
  4. Most Exceptional Executive Assistant
  5. The Secret Vendor IntellectualMost Under-the-Radar Exceptional Person at a Vendor
  6. They Get “It” Most Under-the-Radar Senior Management – Large Company
  7. They Get “It” Most Under-the-Radar Senior Management – Small Company
  8. Best Marketing Real Person
  9. The Incredible Decency Award (Vendor Version)
  10. Best Independent Analyst
  11. Best Corporate Analyst
  12. Analyst Who Walks the Walk
  13. Best Under-the-Radar Analyst
  14. Best Thought Leader in Her Own Right/Best PR Person to Deal With
  15. “Goodest” CRM Practitioner
  16. The “Charitable Heart” Award
  17. Best CRM Person in Academia
  18. Smartest Guy in CRM
  19. Most Under the Radar Good at What He Does

I spent a lot of time thinking through folks I knew and had worked with before and who really were great to work with and to know. And then… I didn’t really do much with it anymore and didn’t annualize the way that I intended.

So, starting in 2018, once again, I am bringing this back at the year end. Who are the good people that I know (and perhaps that you do) and who are the folks that can be publicly acknowledged to be the wonderful human beings they are. How I handle it is still TBD — only people I know; accepting nominations; working with a group of influencers/analysts to make the determinations?

I’ll figure all that out. But I have one person that I’m going to give the award to this year because I think that they (see how I keep you in suspense by making it gender neutral, though grammatically incorrect) truly should be applauded due to their exceptional work that goes noticed at their employer but is not known outside.

To do that and as a foretaste of things to come in 2018, I’m going to use the same three-judge panel I used in 2008. They are, in no particular order, but in conjunction:

  • My head
  • My heart
  • My hands

All eminently capable individually but are most capable when judging as a unit. So, as a taste of things to come, I’m announcing…

The Best and Favorite Personality Award for 2017 for Executive Assistant of the Year

Why this one? Because, as a group, executive assistants are perhaps the most underappreciated people — not usually at their place of employment — they tend to be recognized for the work they do there — but beyond that, not recognized at all — and that’s just wrong. Analysts like me, and all others who are involved in the outreach from vendors and others are always in touch — ALWAYS — with the EAs of many of the senior executives that we have to deal with. They are the lynchpin more often than not for the success or failure of a relationship between the analyst/influencer/journalist and the senior exec they serve — and often, thus, the company. That means that they are often the front office face of the company — behind the scenes — if that makes any sense.

There are a lot of very competent executive assistants. In fact, the bulk of those I deal with in a given year with any regularity — which means about 40-50 perhaps — are eminently capable of doing their job as well as the next person doing it. They all have ambitions too — most to be more than an executive assistant, which, they, in conversation, see as a stepping stone to their career ambitions.

But what makes the executive assistant who even qualifies for this award special is that they already exhibit enough maturity, skills, personality, knowledge, experience, and confidence to go beyond the job right away and already function in a capacity more like a chief of staff than the typical job description of an executive assistant. Meaning they stand head and shoulders above all those already very capable people who were among the candidates for this award.

It was a tough decision. There were three all in all, who showed me a lot more than being just excellent at their jobs — which is an achievement in itself. Of the three though, one stood out for their (see, still keeping it gender neutral but grammatically incorrect so I don’t give away the gender of the winner. How clever am I? (He stands patting himself on the nearly bald pate).

The one thing that they had that the other two candidates did not — a commanding presence and a level of confidence that smacked of “CEO of a company someday.” This person has all the chops to not only serve as an EA, not only be a chief of state, but could be, if that is their career interest, the leader of a company, because of the leadership qualities they exhibit in the role that they currently have.

So, without any further ado, the winner of this year’s Best and Favorite Personality Award for 2017 Executive Assistant of the Year is:

Kimberley Maddock of PROS!

While it might have been a tough race, Kimberley ultimately won hands down. What she (suspense over) does day to day at PROS is function well beyond her job description — more as a chief of staff than an executive assistant. That means that not only is she able to take care of what she is designated to be responsible for, but she also is able to take command in situations that demand it, be confident in her ability to tell the CEO, her boss, what he needs to hear and do — and engender the CEO’s trust to the point that he hears it and does it.

She also does this with grace, charm and good humor in a highly social position with responsibilities that tend to run to real time rather than long term — and thus have a constant pressure to have the tasks completed in the here and now — not an easy demeanor or workload to maintain day in and day out.

It goes beyond that though. She is responsible for the CEO office’s logistics which means the logistics and tasks that involve the entire ecosystem around the CEO, Andres Reiner. For example, that means that when PROS puts on Outperform, their user conference, she is responsible for my logistics or any other analyst who deals with the company. At Dreamforce, because PROS is a Salesforce partner, she is responsible for the scheduling of the CEO’s meetings but also, in conjunction with others, the success of their Dreamforce-related events — something that goes well beyond the scope of the job description.

Andres and the rest of PROS senior staff are well aware of it. I asked a couple of them for a quote about her for this post and here is what I got:

PROS SVP Tim Girgenti: “Kim is an outperformer in every sense of the word. She helps ensure everyone around her is successful, while making her own job seem effortless. Kim genuinely has the best interest of others at heart. I couldn’t be happier for her as she wins this well-deserved award.”

PROS President & CEO (and Kim’s boss) Andres Reiner: “Kim is incredibly deserving of this recognition, and I’m pleased to offer my sincerest congratulations for this extraordinary award. Kim serves as an example for all of us and for PROS core values when it comes to creating positive experiences for people both inside and outside our company. Her passion and commitment to innovation and ownership in her role guide all she does to make PROS great. I’m honored to work with her. “

See what I mean. It was no problem getting those quotes. I had them without any hesitation on their part. They get her value.

In my dealings with her, when something needs to be relative to me as an analyst or as retained adviser to the company, the stuff gets done in time and never needs to be fixed ex post facto. And always with good cheer and a strong personal interaction.

But finally, another distinguishing feature, she has a future in mind that takes her to another level — meaning the kind of ambition that requires great character prior to achieving it. I’ll leave it to her to tell you what that is if she wants to but all in all, Kim is worthy of being singled out as the Best and Favorite Personality Award Executive Assistant of 2017, because she deserves to be known by more than those from PROS. So, I’m telling you.

CRM Watchlist Status and Media Plans

Finally, I want to close this post with a status report on the 2019 CRM Watchlist and some big plans that I have moving forward through the next 3 years. I’m going to be brief since this, as always, is a long post.

Here they are in brief:

CRM Watchlist 2019 Status

  1. New criteria that separate out the Watchlist qualifiers (mature companies) and the Emergent Maturity Index Award qualifiers (emerging companies) are now completed. Watch for them 1/2019.
  2. A couple of twists will be surprising but positive for the Watchlist submitters. Though not necessarily obviously there, trust me, they are.
  3. The questionnaire revamp is underway but not complete yet. It also will come out 1/2019 when the new registration forms are made available.
  4. Registration opening for the CRM Watchlist 2019 and the EMI 2019 will be most likely the last week in January not the first week as originally planned.

Digital 2018 Game Plan

I’m planning on opening up the 56 Group site. The game plan which may change dramatically by the time I actually do this is:

  1. Two blogs — one devoted to business stuff that wouldn’t be on ZDNet; the second will be anything at all — literature, consumer reviews, sports, science, art, pop culture, music, food reviews. Whatever I want.
  2. A community
  3. Forums
  4. Most interestingly — a learning management system (LMS) with courses on customer engagement. Based on the book, I’m looking into actual certification and what it requires — not just a claim that I am certifying you.
  5. A paid member only area
  6. A built-in loyalty program
  7. A marketplace
  8. The revival of my podcast which was called Experience on the Edge (EOTE) and may be that again but may not
  9. A home for CRM Playaz

Is this all definitely going to come to pass? Not necessarily. We shall see. I have to see what kind of time this will demand of me and also what it takes to build it in WordPress which is not an existing skill I have, though I’m learning. I have one offer of some help which may make this easier. More on this coming later. Launch looks to be midyear. Or some other time before or after that.

So, this is post 1 of 3 that will end 2017 and usher in a great 2018 which I am excited for. Very excited for and thankful for — that I get to do this for three more years. I’m a lucky person. That I am.

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Georgia State University receives grant to train underrepresented students in IoT tech

 Georgia State University receives grant to train underrepresented students in IoT tech

Georgia State University (GSU) has received a $ 300,000 Digital Economy Initiative grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the largest community foundation in the world, in collaboration with Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility, to propel students, especially those underrepresented in the tech scene, to pursue a technology career.

“One of the biggest challenges facing technology organizations is finding talent to successfully navigate the next digital revolution, with new technologies such as the Internet of Things transforming the globe,” Phil Ventimiglia, GSU’s chief innovation officer, told Hypepotamus. “To be successful, students need to be able to effectively communicate, collaborate, and solve problems digitally.”

The three-year grant will fund a new Digital Learners to Leaders program, an initiative to encourage students to use IoT technology — from data sensors and machine learning to smart city software — to create solutions for challenges within their community.

“At Georgia State, we have been working to incorporate digital literacy skills and competencies throughout our core curriculum. This grant allows our students to augment in-class learning with exposure to professional problem-solving that will prepare them for the careers of today, and for future careers that do not even exist yet,” says Ventimiglia.

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) will lead the program and will host and pair high school students with university students to look at pain points across Atlanta’s educational, business, government, and nonprofit community. Through workshops, online activities, an annual conference, and internships, students will identify more effective solutions for those issues.

“It is part of CETL’s mission to provide innovative learning opportunities for Georgia State’s students,” says Julian Allen, senior director of learning innovations at CETL. “This program encourages students from diverse backgrounds to engage with leading technology experts to create real technology solutions that will benefit the local community.”

The program aims to help develop the state’s future technology-focused workforce and bring diversity to a growing field in need of new perspectives for problem-solving, says Tiffany Green-Abdullah, manager of learning community development at CETL. Georgia State, which is located in downtown Atlanta, has a diverse student body and connections to local businesses and community partners, and thus makes an ideal hub for this program.

“As technology transforms the way we live and work, Cisco believes educational institutions and organizations focused on emerging entrepreneurs can be a powerful force for change for local economic development,” says Tae Yoo, senior vice president of Cisco Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility, in a statement.

“Public universities such as Georgia State University not only have the capacity to meet industry demand for a digitally skilled workforce in the Atlanta area, but also play a leading role in shaping entirely new ideas and industries to fuel the local economy and create the jobs of the future.”

This story originally appeared on Hypepotamus.com. Copyright 2017

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Big Data – VentureBeat

Microsoft acquires cloud startup Cycle Computing, will integrate HPC tech into Azure

Microsoft today announced it has acquired cloud orchestration startup Cycle Computing. The company said it plans to integrate the startup’s high-performance computing (HPC) technology into Azure. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Cycle Computing simplifies the process of deploying high performance computing on internal grids, virtualized environments, and in the cloud by helping clients quantify, manage, and improve utilization. Founder and CEO Jason Stowe noted that his company’s products have been used to help customers fight cancer and other diseases, design faster rockets, build better hard drives, create better solar panels, and manage risk for people’s retirements. The company’s flagship product, CycleCloud, supports Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, and internal infrastructure.

We asked Microsoft what will happen to Cycle Computing’s non-Azure customers. “We will continue to support Cycle Computing clients using AWS and/or Google Cloud,” a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat. “Future Microsoft versions released will be Azure focused. We are committed to providing customers a seamless migration experience to Azure if and when they choose to migrate.”

 Microsoft acquires cloud startup Cycle Computing, will integrate HPC tech into Azure

Had it not been for the acquisition, Cycle Computing was on track to manage 1 billion core-hours this year, growing at 2.7x every 12 months, with a customer base that spends $ 50-100 million annually on cloud infrastructure. In explaining why joining the Azure team makes sense, Stowe cited Microsoft’s global cloud footprint and market reach but also pointed to the tech giant’s Big Compute/HPC team as having “delivered pivotal technologies, such as InfiniBand and next generation GPUs.” Cycle Computing’s technology for managing Linux and Windows compute and data workloads will become part of Microsoft Azure’s Big Compute team.

Microsoft describes Cycle Computing as “a leader in cloud computing orchestration” that has “years of experience with the world’s largest supercomputers.” The acquisition is part of the company’s strategy to make HPC and other Big Computing capabilities accessible to more companies by putting them in the cloud, letting companies run massive workloads at scale without the overhead. Microsoft says it wants to make Big Computing more readily available (the expensive technology has traditionally only been accessible to the most well-funded organizations) so that “your compute power is no longer measured or limited by the square footage of your data center.”

In this vein, Microsoft hopes Cycle Computing will help customers accelerate their movement to the cloud and take advantage of the cloud’s most performant and compliant infrastructure available. Specifically, Microsoft cites Cycle Computing’s “depth and expertise around massively scalable applications” and its technology that can “enhance our support of Linux HPC workloads and make it easier to extend on-premise workloads to the cloud.”

Cycle Computing was founded in 2005. The startup was bootstrapped, meaning it did not take on VC funding (apparently its journey began with an $ 8,000 credit card bill). In his announcement, Stowe thanked Cycle Computing’s existing customers and employees, as well as the company’s advisors, supporters, vendors, ISVs, and partners.

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Spike Lee Developing Comedic TV Series Inspired By ‘Young Black Mark Zuckerberg’ Tech Entrepreneur

 Spike Lee Developing Comedic TV Series Inspired By ‘Young Black Mark Zuckerberg’ Tech Entrepreneur
LEE: MATTEO PRANDONI/BFA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK; SANDERS: JONESWORKS

Spike Lee is gearing up to shop around a new TV series with tech entrepreneur and multi-hyphenate rising star Chad Sanders, according to sources.

The series, titled “Archer,” is a dark comedy and sociological thriller capturing the life of a 20-something African-American coding genius and iconoclast living in Brooklyn who has developed a dating app that reads sexual chemistry. The central character is described as a “young, black Mark Zuckerberg-like protagonist,” and the story will travel between New York, Silicon Valley, and Berlin’s famously sexual environment.

The project is loosely based on the life of Sanders, a tech entrepreneur who formerly served as a partner and head of business development at Dev Bootcamp, an intensive coding school that was eventually sold to Kaplan for double-digit millions. Sanders spent the first four years of his career with Google. He recently founded the business development agency Archer Genius Management, which is the basis for the title of the series.

Sanders is the creator and star of the series, in addition to serving as executive producer, writer, and director. Lee is on board to direct the pilot episode and will executive produce through his 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks production banner. Sanders and Lee, who both coincidentally graduated from Morehouse College, first met through a mutual family friend.

The series will be pitched to a wide variety of networks, and no particular platform is being eyed at this point.

For Lee, “Archer” marks the filmmaker’s latest television project, following his upcoming Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” which launches this November.

Sanders is repped by WME and managed by Oronde Garrett at Headshell Management. Lee is repped by ICM.

Source: Variety

On This Day In Comedy… In 2002 ‘Undercover Brother’ Was Released

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The Humor Mill

Consumers Are Ready to Embrace 'Futuristic' Payment Tech

As many as 80 percent of U.S. residents support frictionless payment methods and technologies, suggests a survey of 1,000 consumers
Viewpost published this week.

Among its other findings:

  • Nearly 51 percent of survey participants were paid electronically through direct deposit;
  • Eighty-three percent of respondents believed paper checks would be eliminated completely within the next 20 years, and one-third expected their demise in just five years;
  • Only 11 percent thought companies would continue to use paper-based billing;
  • Fifty-four percent believed companies would use automatic billing via customers’ bank accounts or credit cards;
  • Fifty-two percent believed payments would be made via mobile apps; and
  • Twenty-one percent saw bitcoin becoming a viable currency within the next 10 years.

“New technologies in the payment arena continue to bring more digitization and simplification, great security, and collaboration, as well as notification and faster availability of funds,” said Pat McMonagle, director of payment operations at Viewpoint.

“For example, a payment through the Zelle network is much faster and more secure than a paper check,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Keeping Payments Secure

The advent of faster payments has led to an increase in security and controls to reduce the probability of payment fraud, McMonagle said.

Based on the survey results, many consumers expect advanced technologies to keep them safe:

  • Fifty percent of respondents believed fingerprint technology would be used for payment authentication within the next 10 years;
  • Thirty-five percent saw facial recognition becoming a key payment authentication technology within the next 10 years;
  • Thirty-two percent trusted facial recognition for securing electronic payments;
  • Thirty-one percent considered retinal scanning as a viable payment authentication technology; and
  • Eighteen percent expected to be using voice technologies to make payments by 2027.

Tomorrow’s Payment Tech

Virtual payments make business travel more efficient, compliant and fraud-resistant, according to
Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Virtual payments can replace corporate travel cards, the firm suggests in a recent white paper. They provide more security than travel cards as they can’t be lost, stolen, cloned or misused. They also can help companies manage costs.

Virtual payment transactions use a unique ID, so it’s easy to identify and track a transaction. All required reporting is captured as the virtual card is created, so reconciliation is not a problem. Virtual card settings can limit transactions to those that are compliant with company policy.

Carlson Wagonlit’s virtual payment offering connects to 26 banking partners worldwide, and the number of virtual cards it has created has gone up by 35 percent in the past 12 months.

Contactless payments can be made not only using cards, but also with wearables such as wristbands or rings, according to Gemalto, which offers a range of products for the purpose.

Influencers can sell directly to their viewers through various social media icon inline shop Consumers Are Ready to Embrace 'Futuristic' Payment Tech channels with Primo’s solution. Merchants and retailers using its payment infrastructure dynamically generate unique Primo QR tags that influencers can embed in photos and videos. Consumers can view and purchase items directly from their mobile devices.

That’s a good thing, as mobile payments will experience a 20.3 percent compound annual growth rate through 2021, Forrester analyst Shaurya Priya
has predicted.

The Opportunity in Voice

A chatbot engine that sits on a user’s device and doesn’t have to access the cloud is the approach taken by
Sensory.

“This embedded [artificial intelligence] chatbot solution runs completely on devices utilizing the applications processor within a smartphone or tablet, for example,” noted Bernie Brafman, Sensory’s VP of business development.

“It runs at the [operating system] level on the applications processor,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “No back-end servers are required.”

Chatbots “are expected to be a multibillion-dollar industry in the next few years,” Brafman noted.

Sensory targets apps and kiosks for financial services, retail, healthcare, and the travel and hospitality markets, among others.
end enn Consumers Are Ready to Embrace 'Futuristic' Payment Tech


Richard%20Adhikari Consumers Are Ready to Embrace 'Futuristic' Payment TechRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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