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Digital Future Council seeks to unite creative, media, and tech industries

 Digital Future Council seeks to unite creative, media, and tech industries

The Digital Future Council, a first-of-its-kind think tank, has been formed by a collection of leaders across the creative industries with the aim of bridging the gap between media and technology.

The council will host quarterly events around the globe, with each event centered on the impact of a different emerging technology. The goal of these events will be to ignite meaningful debate and conversations, formulate tangible advice, and promulgate best practices for the global marketing and advertising communities when integrating new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and blockchain.

Founding members of the Digital Future Council include top media and creative industry executives such as Jason Jercinovic, global head of marketing innovation at Havas Media; Mark Adams, vice president of innovation at Vice Media; Cory Haik, publisher at Mic; Sheel Shah, executive director at Hearst Digital Media; James Poulter, head of emerging platforms and partnerships at the Lego Group; Danni Murray, vice president of media, digital and marketing partnerships at Warner Bros.; Martin Schönberger, vice president of partner development at Sony Music; Joshua Burke, vice president of brand partnerships at Universal Music; Adam Boita, head of marketing at Pernod Ricard; Mary Keane Dawson, founder of Truth Media Agency; Ben Sutherland, chief digital officer at Diageo; Kate Cox, vice president for Europe Middle East and Africa at GoDaddy; and conceptual artist and photographer Kevin Abosch.

Additionally, Rob Dembitz, former global head of innovation at Cannes Lions, has joined as a founding member and advisor to the Digital Future Council.

“The collision of technology and creativity has the potential to drive increasing returns for all stakeholders, but too often this outcome is undone purely because of a lack of understanding on either side of the table,” Dembitz said in a statement. “Bringing together the best of brand communications, media, and technology to expedite this joined-up narrative is an exceptionally exciting prospect.”

GoDaddy’s Cox said in a statement: “GoDaddy is constantly scanning new digital technologies that will both drive our own marketing efforts forward and in turn help power our 17 million-plus small business customers’ online presence and enable their business success. The DFC offers us a chance to keep on top of developments in the industry in order to feed our marketing experimentation and testing program and drive our business growth. It also offers a forum for senior marketing and creative technologists to debate future management frameworks of new technologies.”

The Digital Future Council will officially launch at Cannes Lions, June 18-21, with a series of events focused on blockchain technology, based on demand from creative communities.

Through a series of town hall-style talks, roundtables, and dinners, leading C-suite executives across media, advertising, and consumer brands will explore how blockchain technology will impact audience interaction, distribution of content, and monetization, in addition to advising creative leaders on blockchain’s role in empowering consumers to understand the true value of their data, particularly as it pertains to advertising dollars.

A number of key executives in the blockchain space have also joined as founding members of the Digital Future Council and will help lead the conversations throughout the launch event. These leaders include Jarrod Dicker, CEO of Po.et; Elena Zavelev, founder of New Art Academy; Tom Graham, founder of TLDR; James Tabor, CEO of Media Protocol; Kayla Sanders, founder of Remy.co; Andy Tian, CEO of Gifto; and David Wachsman, founder and CEO of Wachsman, among others.

Tabor at Media Protocol said in a statement: “As someone who’s been heavily involved in both tech and media for nearly a decade, I’ve seen firsthand how eager businesses are to implement essential tech but struggle due to a lack of knowledge in the hands of decision makers. The Digital Future Council is an open forum where creatives and the tech savvy collide to ask the questions that haven’t been asked yet. The names on the roster thus far are incredible, and we can’t wait to see how this quarterly gathering can drive constructive innovation for all involved.”

Additional members of the Digital Future Council will be announced in the coming weeks.

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Expert Interview (Part 3): Tobi Bosede on Being a Double Minority in a High Tech Field

At the Strata Data Conference in New York City in the fall, Paige Roberts of Syncsort had a chance to sit down with Tobi Bosede, Sr Machine Learning Engineer.

In part 1 of this blog series, Bosede spoke on what goes into being a Machine Learning Engineer as well as some of the projects she is currently involved with. For part 2, Bosede described predicting trade volumes and the correlation between volume and volatility.

In this part Roberts and Bosede discusses Bosede’s perspective of being a “double minority” in the tech world.

Expert Interview Part 3 Tobi Bosede on Being a Double Minority in a High Tech Field banner Expert Interview (Part 3): Tobi Bosede on Being a Double Minority in a High Tech Field

Roberts: As a woman of color in a male dominated field, how has your experience been? Has it affected you in any way?

Bosede: Do you mean like as a black woman or…?

Yeah, I’ve got a friend, who works over at Hortonworks, Yolanda Davis, and she was very involved in Black Girls Code. I also interviewed Neha Narkhede who is the CTO of Confluent and a woman of color. You don’t see a lot of women of color as the CTO of companies, and she talked about what it was like to be different from others in her field, especially at her level. My own CTO is from Turkey. At Syncsort, I live in a world where there’s a lot of women in our area, but it’s almost like it’s an isolated world. It doesn’t seem like it’s that way in a lot of other places.

Yeah, I have worked on teams where I the only woman or only black person on my team. The lack of diversity worsens as you become more senior in tech.

Yeah, I’ve been the only woman on my team many times and it’s very odd. I always feel this pressure to be, sort of, one of the guys.

I don’t actually try to be like one of the guys, I intentionally stay true to myself. Because, first of all, I’d be unhappy doing that. And then secondly, the team will never accept me as one of the guys, because I mean, they go out, they play basketball, they never invite me [laughs]. And sometimes I’m like, “Aww, I wish,” but I don’t even like basketball, you know? I don’t even want to play basketball. I just want to be…

You just want to be included.

I just want to be invited.

Yes, I get that.

So, in terms of just going back to the main question, that’s what I tell other people who are trying to break into the field. You don’t have to change yourself, just do what you are there to do. Do what they hired you for. I have had experiences where people doubt or people underestimate you, and you have to just prove them wrong, and keep it moving.

I know it’s tough emotionally, especially if you are just joining a team or you are new, but I also like to seek out sources of emotional support or positive influences. If you are only getting a lot of negativity, that’s going to affect you, so you have to balance it with encouragement.

It hasn’t been easy for me to navigate dynamics that favor certain demographics over another in my career, but I know the value I bring to the table and have been able to thrive because I look for opportunities to showcase my strengths.

Well said. Is there anything that you have going on at the moment that you want to let us know about?

I have actually written a blog post with Pearson about being what I call the double minority in technology, as well as an O’Reilly blog which is basically tips and tricks for someone working with Spark.

I’ll be sure to include links to those! Well thank you, Tobi. It has been great speaking with you.

Thank you.

Download our free eBook, “Mainframe Meets Machine Learning“, to learn about the most difficult challenges and issues facing mainframes today.

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3 lessons your company can draw from AI implementations outside the tech sector

 3 lessons your company can draw from AI implementations outside the tech sector

It’s clear: Artificial intelligence has transformed the way we live. According to PwC, 55 percent of consumers would prefer to receive new media recommendations from AI — a development that illuminates how much we’ve integrated the technology into our lives.

Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are just a few of the obvious innovators embracing bot-powered business functions, but others are also taking notice. Artificial intelligence’s ability to synthesize and analyze data can easily improve business operations for many industries, including hospitality, restaurants, and travel. Such markets experience success when they revise their customer experience or marketing strategies with machine learning and chatbots.

Smaller companies can also adopt AI with the right strategy by looking to larger enterprises for insights into understanding business AI. Rather than mimicking the latest trends, however, your smaller organization should consider taking small steps to success. The following showcases how three large “non-tech” companies are embracing AI — and how to follow their lead.

1. Lemonade Insurance: Chatbots simplify business processes

New York-based startup Lemonade Insurance claims to disrupt the insurance industry with its flat-fee home, renters, and life insurance policies. Unlike its industry peers, Lemonade turns to machine learning and chatbots to deliver services, handle insurance claims, and reduce paperwork when generating quotes. Its customers benefit from shorter claims processes and supportive customer experiences that help them understand how insurance works.

Lemonade acknowledges that AI is ready to change the insurance industry. Its CEO and cofounder Daniel Schreiber recently shared how Lemonade uses chatbots to prevent the loss of useful data in the application process. He said that insurance companies have already taken note of how AI technology “transforms the user experience, appeals to younger consumers, and removes costs” and that the industry will take those innovations even further in the coming years.

Try it: Lemonade employs chatbots to simplify complex business processes (such as applying for an insurance quote) and clarify esoteric information. Consider building or outsourcing a chatbot platform to collect and communicate data to or from your customers.

2. United Airlines: Virtual assistants provide support

The third-largest U.S.-based airline became the first of its kind to integrate with Amazon Alexa in 2017. The United skill application enables customers to interact with Alexa and get answers to common questions about United’s domestic flights: Just say, “Alexa, ask United [your query here].” Encouraged by its success, United Airlines later announced integrations with Google’s Home Assistant, allowing customers to access updates from their smartphones.

Smart devices and virtual assistant platforms affect how customers connect with notable brands. The virtual assistance trend has penetrated 56 percent of U.S. households, and United Airlines capitalized on the technology’s ubiquity. Any company willing to adapt to the ever-changing pace of customer behavior can meet evolving customer expectations.

Try it: Avoid reinventing the wheel. Take advantage of Amazon and Google’s AI infrastructure with tools like Alexa Skills and Actions on Google. Amazon and Google even offer professional support teams to guide companies through the integration process to make it as simple as possible.

3. Marriott Hotels: Branded apps improve data collection

The hospitality and event planning industries have started using intuitive, branded digital experiences to improve customer interactions. Artificial intelligence allows leaders like Marriott to oversee event management with digital applications. When event planners book at a Marriott hotel, the luxury chain presents them with the Marriott Meeting Services App to assist with planning, launching, and monitoring their event. Planners receive real-time updates on their event locations, catering, and hotel services. Event attendees can also interface with Marriott’s in-app chatbot for critical information, such as parking availability and itineraries.

Artificial intelligence implementations like this can build positive branded experiences. When customers trust their favorite brands to create enjoyable interactions, businesses benefit from the helpful data generated by better customer engagement. The data you gather can help you further improve the customer experience and your targeted marketing campaigns.

Try it: Marriott uses branded event apps to track and analyze digital engagement. Outfitting your own digital or mobile application with machine learning or a chatbot function can improve data collection while offering insights into your brand reputation.

Artificial intelligence revolutionizes how the world’s leading companies conduct business. Smaller brands can join industry leaders by adopting popular AI technology such as chatbots and voice assistants. When done strategically, your business can use AI to simplify complex functions, collect more data, and discover key insights into your digital brand.

Darina Murashev is a digital journalist who contributes to Benzinga, Scoop.It, and Business Woman Media.

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Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in Technology

Even as the tech industry continues to grow as new technologies and data are applied to traditional industries, women in tech remain underrepresented. But there are signs of hope that the gender diversity gap is closing.

Over the past year, women have found their voice to raise awareness around workplace issues such as sexual harassment and pay inequality. Women have been empowered to push for change by banding together and stepping up into leadership roles. Will the tech industry be next to see a surge in female leadership?

We want to take a moment to reflect on the current state of women in tech and celebrate those who are leading the way for the future female STEM workforce.

The State of Women in Tech

While women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, they remain significantly underrepresented in the tech space – holding less than 20% of U.S. technology jobs.

Employing women in tech benefits both women workers and their employers. According to a 2018 McKinsey study, companies in the top quarter for gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to have better financial returns.

Closing the Gender Diversity Gap

While many companies have implemented diversity hiring initiatives, there’s still more that can be done to retain female tech talent. Globally, the percentage of women in senior IT leadership roles remained at 9 percent in 2017, the same as the year prior.

But progress is being made. Salaries for women are rising faster than male colleagues thanks at least in part to organizations making concerted efforts to review and adjust pay inequities. Also, the number of women studying computer science is on the rise.

Recognizing Syncsort’s Female Technology Leaders

Tendu SQUARE 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyFirst, we’d like to recognize Syncsort CTO Dr. Tendü Yoğurtçu who has recently been named a finalist for the Women in IT Awards 2018 Data Leader of the Year!

Yoğurtçu is a dedicated advocate for STEM education for women and diversity. “There are two important ways that technology leaders can help drive greater participation by women in STEM. First, they can engage young people and educate them on the benefits and opportunities for women if they focus their education on pursuing a career in technology. Second, as I have tried to do at Syncsort, mentor up-and-coming women and create an environment in your company that empowers women to succeed and to take on leadership positions.”

Yogurtçu was a featured speaker at the Strata Data Conference 2018 in San Jose and also made an appearance on SiliconANGLE’s theCUBE where she spoke about trends in data science, streaming & Cloud, and their impact on data governance.

Of Yoğurtçu’s eight direct reports within Syncsort’s technology group, three are women. These leaders are also worthy of recognition.

Mary Lieser 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyMary Lieser, Director of User Experience, started out in tech as a programmer at IBM in the late ’80s. She later joined Lakeview in 1994, which was later acquired by Vision and then merged with Syncsort last year. “So, I’ve been with the company for over 23 years. I have always had a passion for user experience even when I was working in the IBM i native interface called 5250. Through organic opportunities, I became a designer in addition to my management responsibilities. And now I have been given the opportunity to be the Director of User Experience for all of Syncsort. It is an exciting opportunity in a time when creating positive experiences for our users can have a real impact on their interactions with our company and our software. Making complex topics consumable to users is always a fun challenge.”

Fernanda Tavares 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyFernanda Tavares, Vice President of Data Integration R&D, offers her thoughts as a woman in tech. “To me it’s about reaching your full potential, and being fully supported in an environment where we get to do what we love and the first thing that people notice is not that you’re a woman. Men and women working together to support each other and helping each other do what we love is what it’s all about.”

Maggie Li 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyMaggie Li, Chief Architect of Mainframe R&D, has found success in the industry by focusing on doing her job well. “You cannot deny that there are more men than women in the technology industry. From my 19 years of experience working at Syncsort, I feel it is important that you perform your job well regardless of gender. If you can prove to your coworkers that you are the best at what you do, they will respect you for that. They will trust you and empower you to succeed whether you are a woman or man.”

Mentorship, Allies and Increased Cooperation

Paige Roberts 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyPaige Roberts, Senior Product Marketing Manager, shares her thoughts on the importance female mentorship. “Back when I was just getting started doing data management software support and engineering in a little twenty-person startup, my mentors were women. Without their help and encouragement, I seriously doubt that my career would have taken off like it did. I learned so much from them. Most of all, the confidence they instilled in me to take on new challenges is the one thing that has benefitted me the most in my twenty years in this business. I owe them a great debt.”

webcast keeping data in sync Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in Technology

Roberts recently co-hosted a webcast, Keeping Data in Sync with Syncsort, with Ashwin Ramachandran, Product Manager of Data Integration, where they discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various change data capture strategies.

Roberts notes that support from male leaders and colleagues has been just as vital. “While we’re celebrating women in tech, I also want to say thanks to the men who support women in tech. I notice, and I think most women notice, when we’re treated with respect and encouraged to shine. As a woman in a technical field, I’ve faced my share of unpleasant experiences, but that just makes the men who are steady allies that much more appreciated.”

Aurélie Godec 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyAurélie Godec, Syncsort Business Development, has also felt respected and supported in the male-dominated field, and believes gender diversity is a benefit to tech teams. “As a woman in tech, I’m used to working in a man’s world most of the time. In 15 years, I’ve always felt true respect and parity – what matters is what a team can achieve using the available brainpower, whether onsite with clients or partners, or inside the company structure. The diversity I bring as a woman helps leverage the organization and the communication within the teams for greater efficiency and cooperation. I would encourage women to consider tech jobs as a fair and rewarding opportunity to be part of our constantly changing world.”

Managing Daily Tasks in Any Environment

One challenge faced more often by women in the workforce is balancing the task of raising children while also advancing their careers.

Jill Tatler 150x150 Women in Tech: Recognizing Female Leadership in TechnologyJill Tatler, Syncsort International Renewals, is a self-described “returner” to the workforce in 2011 after having left in 1986. “What was clear is that all those skills I used in my first career when managing a busy workload, I had also used when organising my life with my children, you know, 3 kids doing 3 different things at the same time… day after day.  When you return to work you still have that – you just apply the same skills to the new job.  I always have this idea that whatever you need to fit into your day you can – you just need to plan it out – no difference there. Once you return to work (and the Voluntary work I did for a few months really helped) you realise you still have ‘it’ – and actually you didn’t lose it – you just applied elsewhere.” As with any life change, she notes, “You do need to be brave, and this is where other people who have made the jump can help.”

Tatler reflects on the last part of her career journey, “In our company I have been given the opportunity to manage, to travel and to work with inspiring men and women and where there is no glass ceiling.  The world of tech appeals to my kids – the younger generation – but how cool that their ‘returner’ mum is also engaged in this industry – I couldn’t be happier.” She adds, “I would say also – my kids are so proud.  They see me in a completely different light, and I am really happy with that.”

Highlighting the Work of Women in the Wider Tech Community

Roberts has published a series of expert interviews here on the Syncsort blog, including these amazing women in tech:

Be sure to watch our on-demand webcast, Keeping Data in Sync with Syncsort, co-hosted by Paige Roberts and Ashwin Ramachandran, Product Manager of Data Integration. They discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various change data capture strategies.

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This Week In Tech: The Apple Watch And Site Outage, Uber Hires Women, And Facebook Feels Stuffed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Think in Systems

Q118 Feature3 img1 Jump This Week In Tech: The Apple Watch And Site Outage, Uber Hires Women, And Facebook Feels StuffedA lot of businesspeople are used to seeing their organization as a series of loosely joined silos. But in the world of digital business, everything is part of a larger system.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Work in Diverse Teams

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

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

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

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

3. Become a Consultant

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

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

4. Learn Horizontal Leadership

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

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

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

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

Q118 Feature3 img3 rock This Week In Tech: The Apple Watch And Site Outage, Uber Hires Women, And Facebook Feels Stuffed5. Understand Process Design

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

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

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

6. Learn to Keep Learning

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

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

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

7. Fail Smarter

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

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

Q118 Feature3 img4 fail This Week In Tech: The Apple Watch And Site Outage, Uber Hires Women, And Facebook Feels StuffedTo learn how to do it better, take your lead from IT, where many people have already learned to work in small, innovative teams that use agile development principles, advises Ross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Every CIO Is Ready

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

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

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

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

Q118 Feature3 img6 CIOready This Week In Tech: The Apple Watch And Site Outage, Uber Hires Women, And Facebook Feels StuffedAs a result, in some companies, the most interesting tech developments are happening despite IT, not because of it. “There’s an alarming digital divide within many companies. Marketers are developing nimble software to give customers an engaging, personalized experience, while IT departments remain focused on the legacy infrastructure. The front and back ends aren’t working together, resulting in appealing web sites and apps that don’t quite deliver,” writes George Colony, founder, chairman, and CEO of Forrester Research, in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors

Thomas Saueressig is Chief Information Officer at SAP.

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist at SAP.

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

Bennett Voyles is a Berlin-based business writer.


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Jen Cohen Crompton – Digitalist Magazine

Five9 President Dan Burkland: Leveraging Tech for Great Customer Experiences

Dan Burkland is president of

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.

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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.

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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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