When I stumbled across Bitcoin (or Bit-O-Coin, as my wife likes to call it) a few years back, my spidey sense started tingling. Since that time, I’ve made a few off hand remarks about the future of crypto-currency and received the expected “it’s another Dutch Tulip thing”. While I’m not an expert on the financial markets, I do have an excellent track record for identifying disruptive technology changes and I’ve concluded that crypto-currency is here to stay.
It looks like the beginning of a new technology hype for artificial intelligence (AI). The media has started flooding the news with product announcements, acquisitions, and investments. The story is how AI is capturing the attention of tech firm and investor giants such as Google, Microsoft, IBM. Add to that the release of the movie ‘Her’, about a man falling for his virtual assistant modeled after Apple’s Siri (think they got the idea from Big Bang Theory when Raj falls in love with Siri), and you know we have begun the journey of geek-dom going mainstream and cool. The buzz words are great too: cognitive computing, deep learning, AI2.
For those who started their careers in AI and left in disillusionment (Andrew Ng confessed to this, yet jumped back in) or data scientists today, the consensus is often that artificial intelligence is just a new fancy marketing term for good old predictive analytics. They point to the reality of Apple’s Siri to listen and respond to requests as adequate but more often frustrating. Or, IBM Watson’s win on Jeopardy as data loading and brute force programming. Their perspective, real value is the pragmatic logic of the predictive analytics we have.
But, is this fair? No.
First, let’s set aside what you heard about financial puts and takes. Don’t try to decipher the geek speak of what new AI is compared to old AI. Let’s talk about what is on the horizon that will impact your business.
New AI breaks the current rule that machines must be better than humans: they must be smarter, faster analysts, or they manufacturing things better and cheaper.
In this modern world - where everything is in the age of the customer, I was looking for advice on which vendor I should engage in my strategic Bathroom Portal Modernization (BPM) program. So, I reached out to my friendly CIO Analyst Consultant, outlining my need for advice and guidance and this is what he came back with.
“Apple do a very attractive and shiny iDoor for showers but it only fits their own bathroom series – looks pretty, sort of works but they’ve only got part of the bathroom modernized. Google produce a huge range of doors designed by rank amateurs. Depending on which training school they went to, you’ll get either the framed, or frameless, shower door. While cheaper than the Apple door, once they’re fitted, they become brittle, require ongoing customization and can fall off without warning.
It’s a tough choice – you could also punt for the Microsoft variant. It doesn't really fit anything and requires upgrading annually at a significant cost. However, there are thousands of MS Doors consultants who will come in and rejig your measurements and overall bathroom design and sell you new mirrors, cupboards and shower mats, which are all color coordinated. Only problem is that each entails separate service agreements and you could end up with water all over the floor.
Investment in clean energy in South Africa increased more in 2012 than in any other country, rising 206-fold to $5.5 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. South Africa generates 85% of its electricity from coal, but chronic power shortages may have been the catalyst to look to solar (a low point in 2008 closed mines for five days). It’s making up for that gap with solar energy — and now it’s the only African nation among the top 20 solar markets, with installations comparable to South Korea, Thailand, and Israel.
The 360 days a year of sunshine certainly help, and it’s great to see the clean energy push work so well. But what is interesting to me is the amount of change in the overall economy the solar boom has caused. Wages are up, new jobs are available; hotels are adding more rooms, restaurants are changing menus to be more suitable for Europeans, and sales volumes are increasing. So I’m adding “changes to the energy infrastructure” to my list of events that require business agility. Changes in customer expectation, digital disruption, and shortening product life cycles get the most attention as change events that drive the need for companies to be agile, but as shown here change can rapidly come from infrastructure shifts. And South Africa is just starting its transformation. There are plans to invest in other forms of renewable energy: wind, concentrated and photovoltaic solar, landfill gas, and biomass power. And it looks like South African businesses are up to the challenge and are responding to the market. For more info, click here.
When it comes to data investment, data management is still asking the wrong questions and positioning the wrong value. The mantra of - It's About the Business - is still a hard lesson to learn. It translates into what I see as the 7 Deadly Sins of Data Management. Here are the are - not in any particular order - and an example:
Hubris: "Business value? Yeah, I know. Tell me something I don't know."
Blindness: "We do align to business needs. See, we are building a customer master for a 360 degree view of the customer."
Vanity: "How can I optimize cost and efficiency to manage and develop data solutions?"
Gluttony: "If I build this cool solutions the business is gonna love it!"
Alien: "We need to develop an in-memory system to virtualize data and insight that materializes through business services with our application systems...[blah, blah, blah]"
Begger: "If only we were able to implement a business glossary, all our consistency issues are solved!"
Educator: "If only the business understood! I need to better educate them!."
IBM launched on January 9, 2014 its first business unit in 19 years to bring Watson, the machine that beat two Jeopardy champions in 2011, to the rest of us. IBM posits that Watson is the start of a third era in computing that started with manual tabulation, progressed to programmable, and now has become cognitive. Cognitive computing listens, learns, converses, and makes recommendations based on evidence.
IBM is placing big bets and big money, $1 billion, on transforming computer interaction from tabulation and programming to deep engagement. If they succeed, our interaction with technology will truly be personal through interactions and natural conversations that are suggestive, supportive, and as Terry Jones of Kayak explained, "makes you feel good" about the experience.
There are still hurdles for IBM and organizations, such as expense, complexity, information access, coping with ambiguity and context, the supervision of learning, and the implications of suggestions that are unrecognized today. To work, the ecosystem has to be open and communal. Investment is needed beyond the platform for applications and devices to deliver on Watson value. IBM's commitment and leadership are in place. The question is if IBM and its partners can scale Watson to be something more than a complex custom solution to become a truly transformative approach to businesses and our way of life.
Forrester believes that cognitive computing has the potential to address important problems that are unmet with today’s advanced analytics solutions. Though the road ahead is unmapped, IBM has now elevated its commitment to bring cognitive computing to life through this new business unit and the help of one third of its research organization, an ecosystem of partners, and pioneer companies willing to teach their private Watsons.
There is a great deal of wildly divergent and sometimes seemingly fabricated information on the size of the US and global healthcare market. For 2014, here are the numbers that I will be using, with my sources, and assumptions and notes.1
CPG companies are a great example of what Business Agility really means in “The Age of the Customer”. They produce tissues, disinfecting wipes and cold remedies are finding new ways to predict and chase outbreaks around the country.
Forrester is putting significant effort into Business Agility – what it is, how it relates to the success of companies within industries, and what foundations business agility is built on. Our recent study of agility and performance found that high-performing companies were building agility into their core business. (see recent Agility PerformanceReport)
No where does this seem more true than CPG industry. CPG has been innovating in - Market Responsiveness - one of forrester's 10 dimensions of business agility. This means simply understanding what’s going on in your market and shifting strategies and resources to respond. In the CPG context, it means to figure out when people are getting sick and ramp up marketing, and then reduce expenditure when people are well.
The way we deploy software is changing. Our research and others shows that enterprises are moving away from on-premise apps. and moving to private and public cloud offerings. But here is the basic question that is seldom asked. When a company deploys to the cloud does that boost revenue and returns to stockholders? Are high performing companies separating from low performers by their knowledge of and use of cloud technologies? Our recent Business Agility study says clearly that they are not.
Let me give some context for this statement. Forrester is putting significant effort into Business Agility – what it is, how it relates to the success of companies within industries, and what foundations business agility is built on. We’ve identified the three types of agility that companies must develop -- Market, Organizational, and Process agility – and evaluate ten separate dimensions that make them up. We found out which of the ten dimensions were the most important, defined as driving growth in revenue and profit (see the Agility Performancereport).
And here’s the point. Infrastructure Elasticity – which is our agility dimension for all things cloud, accounted for almost no difference in enterprise performance. Enterprises aggressively embracing cloud solutions did not perform better than their peers. In fact in some industries, they performed worse.
What's the value of being able to operate at the peak of fitness and health? Is it less stress? Is it longer life? In an organizational sense, is it being able to change and adapt more easily? Is it being able to outperform your competitors in a race? Is it being able to set appropriate expectations for projects? Does organizational health lead to better longevity?
A recent crop of customer conversations prompted this line of thought. One customer asked how to prove the case for cultural change. Another wanted to quantify the value of successfully introducing a new set of IT systems. Another wanted to develop a solid business rationale for getting organizational functions to work together - to stop playing silo-oriented games where the chiefs fiercely protected their fiefdoms at the expense of the overall enterprise. Others have asked about project failure rates.
This prompted me to draw the analogy of trying to prove a negative. In one of those conversations, I found myself challenging the client to answer the question of quantifying not having functions work together; of not implementing change in a robust fashion. To be honest, this could have easily been any number of conversations over the last 6 months.
Really, these questions were about proving the ROI disciplined change. We have become so besotted by cost reduction, that we fail to see the value side of the equation (if productivity=value/resources). And while we might all agree it’s blatantly obvious that having organizational functions that work well together, and having successful projects … it’s quite hard to put figures around that.