Wipro to deploy AI platform Holmes to do the job of 3,000 engineers

Wipro Ltd will use its artificial intelligence platform Holmes to automate several aspects of its so-called fixed-price projects, saving up to $46.5 million and freeing around 3,000 engineers from mundane software maintenance activities.

The move is part of Wipro’s larger plan to generate $60-$70 million in revenue by selling the platform to new and existing clients in the current financial year.

A Wipro spokesperson declined comment.

About 30,000 of Wipro’s workforce of 110,000 work in fixed-price projects.

New chief executive officer Abidali Neemuchwala has set an ambitious target for Wipro— more than tripling its revenue growth to 12-14% for fiscal 2017.

“Hyper-automation is one of the six themes Abid has outlined. We will move out 1,300 engineers on on-site (fixed price contracts) and about 2,000 people from off-site this year,” said an executive briefed about the development.

The person did not want to be named.

“We have seen good traction from Holmes and across industries, we are seeing early benefits,” said the executive, adding that automation is one of the central pillars of Neemuchwala’s vision of making Wipro a $15 billion firm by 2020 with an operating margin of 23% (versus 20.5% currently).

In fixed-price projects, a client and IT vendor agree on a price, with the outsourcing firm having the final word on the number of people to be deployed on a project.

Wipro’s push to monetize Holmes and use it to save costs, and thereby arrest falling profitability, comes more than a year after it launched the platform.

The move also comes at a time when Indian IT vendors’ traditional approach of outsourcing work to cheaper locations is under pressure, as automation platforms and cloud computing erase the labour arbitrage enjoyed by these firms.

“The suggestion on the large number of personnel being freed up by the emergence of intelligent automation underlines the disruption that is about to hit the supply side,” said Thomas Reuner, managing director of IT outsourcing research at HfS Research.

Wipro’s larger rivals Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Infosys Ltd are also relying on their intelligent platforms, Ignio and Mana, respectively, to improve their profitability and revenue per employee.

TCS is looking to increase by 20% the revenue per employee in its IT infrastructure division by automating tasks previously done by engineers. Infosysexpects the productivity boost tied to automation and artificial intelligence to reflect in a meaningful way from April 2017.

Holmes, or “heuristics and ontology-based learning machines and experiential systems”, is an intelligent platform which promises to bring efficiency for clients by reducing errors. Additionally, it helps Wipro save on wage costs by deploying fewer people to complete a task.

For instance, Wipro is using Holmes to help large banks approve and process loans quickly. The platform extracts a new customer’s information, performs a cognitive search comparing the credit history with the bank’s other customers, authenticates and validates the loan process.

However, don’t expect Holmes to change things for Wipro overnight, cautioned some Wipro executives and experts.

“Freeing a few people in the delivery side of business will be easy than, say, generating more business from selling Holmes,” said another executive on condition of anonymity.

“Most service providers still don’t have clear ideas as to what will happen to those people being freed from current tasks: will they be re-skilled, re-badged or will there be even redundancies?” asked Reuner. “In all likelihood, it will be a mixture of the three.”

While automation has started to feature prominently in the earnings calls of many Indian IT services firms, most of them, including Wipro, remain tight-lipped about the details.

“We need a more honest and open debate about the transformation of knowledge work. Many tasks and jobs will disappear while new jobs, often highly analytical, will be created,” Reuner said.

His worries aren’t unwarranted.

For the first time in over two decades, two of India’s five largest software services firms, Wipro and HCL Technologies Ltd, reported a net decline in direct hiring. Meanwhile, Tech Mahindra Ltd saw a decline in its existing workforce in the January-March period.

Source: Livemint-Wipro to deploy AI platform Holmes to do the job of 3,000 engineers

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Software Robots Are Transforming Old Guard Industries

Automation shows no sign of slowing down, says Blue Prism CEO Alastair Bathgate in an article for Xconomy. This is especially true in ‘old-guard’ industries like financial services and insurance, where robotic process automation helps enterprises become more competitive through the automation of slow, laborious back-office work. Read Alastair’s full article for Xconomy here or below:

Software Robots Are Transforming Old Guard Industries

Everyone’s talking about robots and automation. Do you imagine having a “Rosie” cleaning your home, or the next industrial revolution of automation putting millions out of work? Neither is quite reality, but there is a highly valuable virtual workforce of “software robots” working in today’s offices. They aren’t rolling around like BB-8 delivering the mail, but they are putting the “human” back into a lot of jobs, saving companies money and making them more competitive.

Software robots mimic humans, but live in the cloud or in the data center. They are the ethereal versions of their machine cousins – following business rules to execute processes within and across systems. Their people managers can configure software robots to drive any application – without code. And unlike traditional computer software, they teach the machines how to complete tasks. Any rules-based procedures – administrative, repetitive processes – are fitting work for a virtual workforce of software robots.

Surprisingly, the use of software robots is growing fastest not in slick tech companies but in old-guard industries like financial services and insurance, where robotic process automation (RPA) can help them be more competitive by taking over slow and laborious back office operations and supporting digital transformations and mobile applications, allowing human employees to have a more significant impact on customer experience and loyalty.

These early adopters of automation and software robots have a lot in common: large customer bases they want to protect, complex product portfolios, and a history of burdensome regulatory environments. They are also under immense pressure from new market entrants: agile startups that aren’t saddled by legacy systems to slow them down.

Back-office operations for these companies are ripe opportunities for software robots. They can quickly realize the benefits of RPA in back office transactions like insurance claims, invoice processing, and others where high volumes of transactions can be processed faster without human error, increasing speed and accuracy. Take for example The Co-operative Bank, a Blue Prism customer that deployed a virtual workforce of software robots to manage its excess queue procedure. Previously, eleven individuals worked eight hours per day to manually process 2,500 high-risk accounts each day. With RPA implemented, nine of these team members have taken on proactive account management positions – engaging with customers to discuss account issues before they arise.

Perhaps most significantly to IT, there is no need to abandon or add layers to legacy platforms. This last bit is important: banks and insurers have hundreds of legacy (and often proprietary) systems they don’t want to replace, nor should they. The right software robots are built to be non-invasive and don’t require customization of existing IT systems.

But efficiency is only one driving force for companies today: 74 percent of insurance companies surveyed by Forrester in North America, for example, said improving the experience of their customers is their number one initiative in the next 12 months. With that in mind, we’re beginning to see companies making more sophisticated decisions about what business functions are automated: while insurance providers can use software robots to process insurance claims behind the scenes without human intervention, consumers expect to have a real person answer the phone when they call a hotline. Automating straightforward tasks that are done the same way every time allows humans to handle the jobs that require improvising in a way that robots can’t handle.

The next wave of massive software robot adoption will happen in the healthcare industry, where driving down costs and improving patient experiences and care are paramount. Like in other old-guard industries, healthcare is burdened by legacy systems, complicated regulatory environments, and huge pressure to drive down costs. The efficiencies to be gained without adding IT burdens is tremendous. Alsbridge, a global sourcing, benchmarking, and advisory firm, recently predicted that RPA in claims processing alone could save the healthcare industry more than $1 billion. But imagine the possibilities in healthcare – from the back-office administration (claims processing, patient record reconciliation, pharmacy stock controls) to customer service improvements (self-service check-ins, appointment scheduling). Who can imagine a better place than a hospital to take out unnecessary burdens of red tape and enable people to focus on people?

Technology has always changed the way we do business, and that trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. The opportunity before us is to use automation smartly, in a way that allows us to be more human in our jobs. We have emotional and intellectual intelligence that software robots can’t replicate or automate, so let’s put it to better use.

Source: BluePrism-Software Robots Are Transforming Old Guard Industries

Say goodbye to the hype, Robotic Process Automation enters maturity

It feels like there is less and less time these days to pause and ponder what’s going on inside the RPA market. Things are moving so fast and transforming so briskly that it seems hard to pinpoint where we’re at. Clearly, RPA has permeated a visible portion of the business world. There is general consensus of this, with actual numbers – sparse as they may be – to fall back on.

While many organizations are already climbing the RPA tree after having harvested its low hanging fruit, the reality is also that just as many, if not more, potential buyers are still barely becoming familiarized with the technology.

If we look to assess RPA’s current status by examining the standpoints of vendors, buyers, outsourcers, analysts, and media representatives, the perspective inherently varies. Even the definitions and nomenclature lay out a rather protean landscape. The marketing behind RPA keeps adding different terms to the technology, often leaving a trail of confusion for everyone to feed on.

Despite the difficulty in obtaining an accurate snapshot, there are several questions we could ask to help us identify what cultivates RPA’s maturescence.

Is RPA product-ready?

Virtually all technologies follow an S-shaped growth path in which accelerating advances ultimately mature into a plateau. RPA product acceleration has mainly been driven by sustained improvements in information technology and by the intensive competition in the business environment.

From the early days of ERP systems back in the 90’s, the historical path followed by business automation technology has been to keep specializing so that more and more transactional work instances can be addressed.

Automation operating at task-level, otherwise called desktop automation or single point automation, was where RPA stationed for several good years and built its case by helping employees to rapidly automate specific repetitive tasks.

But something was missing. Robotic efficiency was not being leveraged optimally. Work volumes could still be maximized even more, and business activities could be more successfully streamlined in an end-to-end fashion, across the entire organization, with security and compliance in check.

This is where RPA’s S-curve made a significant leap by moving off the desktop onto server-based platforms. And this is where RPA technology is now at its most mature.
No longer just about automating work, RPA has become the means to automate more efficiently in large volumes and with centralized solutions for the entire organization, both back and front office.

A full scale automation product should deliver unlimited scalability, uncompromised precision in integrating with other systems, centralized robotic management, full monitoring, and complete governance protocols for security and compliance. Anything less than that would not pass the maturity test.

For buyers, it’s crucial to be able to cut through the marketing sophistry to find an RPA product that does what it says and is implemented without headache. And the good news is that most vendors are finally starting to align their discourse with their products, ready to deliver on the promise.

Does it have enough traction with BPOs and service providers?

According to a Mindfields report from 2015, 90% of surveyed service providers intended to invest in robotic technology during 2016. More than half of them (64%) were already involved in partnerships with RPA vendors.

After having been labeled as menacingly disruptive to the BPO and shared services market, RPA became part of a genuine ambition, especially for large service providers with global delivery capabilities, to not only adapt and maintain competitive advantage but also to evolve strategically. BPOs and shared service providers are currently transforming their service models and embedding RPA into their engagements, determined to exit the linear growth model. And by building dedicated RPA Centers of Excellence and establishing governance frameworks for managing, implementing, and measuring RPA efforts, they are pushing forward the development of RPA and helping the market advance.

Is it positively endorsed by analysts and validated by the media?

This is an easy one. After many proof of technology projects and sufficient RPA implementations, embedded both within early adopters from the BPO and shared service markets as well as by standalone organizations, analysts and advisors are ready to acknowledge that RPA has gained sufficient heat. Not only that but that RPA is now quickly proliferating across an extending array of industries beyond the several already consecrated like Finance & Accounting and Insurance. Forrester actually predicts that by 2019, 25% of tasks across every job category will be automated.

Less conflated and more nuanced, the media discourse has managed to move past the prologue about what RPA is and what benefits it delivers. Instead, the tendency is now to address the more practical concerns that organizations have, like how to build an RPA project from scratch, how to choose the right vendor, whether to develop the solution in-house or partner up with third parties, and so on.

What next?

There is still massive growth potential for RPA, and a lot of it will come from the increasing adoption by large organizations. These will serve RPA a significant variety of business processes to feed on and build its muscles. Right now, there is a lot of work underway to settle another hype, the one involving the cognitive and artificial intelligence S-curve. We’re not quite there yet, so don’t let the marketing fool you. But it won’t be long before all of these digital technologies will ripen and reach maturity, complementary to each other. Let’s imagine the possibilities. And think of the responsibility that comes with maturity.

Source: sourcingfocus-Say goodbye to the hype, Robotic Process Automation enters maturity

C-suite roles in reducing the risk of innovation

While vendors are very excited about the amazing possibilities of the huge tsunami of new technology, executives who lead organisations need to balance embracing the new technology with the realities of the risks they may be running. Most organisations will have to embrace the new technologies to drive their organisations forward or to defend them from competitors so a level of risk is unavoidable.

The desire to use new technologies is often expressed as the need to innovate, or with a question about cloud, the internet of things (IOT) or one of the other marketing terminologies. We have a unique confluence of opportunity:

· An eye-watering amount of new technology opening up new business opportunities

· Cloud based services are changing the outsource model cost profile, allowing organisations to move faster but also reduces the capital requirement barrier for new business entrants

· A tidal wave of new providers

· A change in the risk as technology is now an integral part of every organisation.

The ultimate success, like so much in business, is a combination of foresight, planning, hard work with an element of luck and good timing. In summary:

The Digital Strategy is owned by the CEO and changes the way the business operates.

· Innovation won’t just happen; it needs to be an integral part of the organisation.

· Leverage the risk assessment process to support innovation and the digital strategy implementation.

· Outsourcing arrangements must support the customer-centric digital strategy.

Innovation Wanted

There is so much opportunity now, the risk is that we will place our bets, or invest our innovation budget on the wrong things. Senior executives are asking the CIO for a Digital Strategy. In those cases, it’s often thought that the Digital Strategy is just the IT Strategy under another name. The most successful organisations in this space recognise that the Digital Strategy is a business strategy, owned by the CEO and implemented by the CIO, CFO, CMO and other C suite executives depending on the industry.

The Digital Strategy will change the way the organisation operates. It demands that the organisation be customer centric rather than product centric. It will change the organisation structure to reduce silos and to become much more collaborative. That will require a change of accepted behaviours by leaders and staff. These are not minor changes, but necessary if the organisation is to leverage the opportunities and prepare itself for disruption. Travelex has talked about the journey of change it is on. Thinking like a start-up is the battle cry.

The Digital Strategy will also be under regular review. In the strategy, there must be a roadmap of technologies under research, ready to be abandoned if they prove ineffective, or irrelevant. Here, having a realistic assessment of the vendors and their ability to execute is really important. We also recommend that there is a second technology roadmap of technologies to watch.

Those that are further away, but may prove useful when they are developed enough to test. In this case, both these roadmaps are at the organisation level and the evaluation team is made up with relevant business and technical interests. These are our suggestions for the two roadmaps:

Trialling Technology

  • Cloud
  • Software Defined Architectures & Networks, Network Virtualisation
  • Agile
  • DevOps
  • Software Defined Storage
  • Advanced 3D printing Materials
  • Analytics
  • Adaptive Security Architectures

Watched Technology

  • The Device Mesh
  • Cognitive, AI & Advanced Learning Systems
  • Ambient User Devices
  • IoT & IoT Platforms
  • Quantum Processing

Most organisations are entering this field for the first time. So how can we ‘de-risk’ this approach?

Innovation Derisked

Organisations have risk assessment and auditing of risk functions. Rather than being seen as the ‘policeman’ of the organisation, this is a chance to re-constitute them as an enabler of great decisions.

As this is a paradigm shift in technology with many ‘start-up’ companies, there is a greater need to assess the vendors as part of the risk assessment. We were last at this level of new opportunities around 1999; so many managers have not experienced this level of risk. Tenured CIOs deal with it regularly. Understanding the organisation’s risk appetite, as is applies to a particular initiative, is important. A particular concern is that many well respected IT players who would not normally be subject to an in depth risk assessment are themselves entering new markets and so provide potentially a larger risk now. They may fail, or change direction. So past reputation is no guarantee of future success.

An organisation’s change of direction, of reorganisation, of opening up new markets need to be subjected to reasonable risk assessment, particularly for public companies with share prices and public reputations to protect and investment analysts to satisfy. Engaging the PR people, to work with the risk people and the technology leaders, would be a sensible approach to explain the new direction and its benefits to investors.

Cyber security and information security are really hot topics these days. While the assumption in many organisations this is well managed, research and public embarrassment indicates that it’s not. Some technologies such as the IOT are particularly vulnerable at this stage of their development. Technologies may be used to reduce risk incidences by better managing the process. Intelligent Network Solutions promise to give far greater visibility and control but more importantly they will enable automation of functions thereby reducing the chances of outages due to human error.

Whether the vendor is a provider of software or platform as a service, applications or wide ranging cloud services, the ultimate success of delivering the strategy will be the quality of the services, the business outcomes they deliver and the time to market that drives the business initiatives.

Innovation Delivered

Outsourcing in some form or other in IT had been around for many decades, but there are still far too many instances where it has not delivered on expectations. The need to be flexible, to innovate coupled with the fact that many organisations have fully outsourced their technology, a customer-centric digital strategy adds another layer of complexity over an already complex situation. Some organisations, such as Astra Zeneca have re-insourced.

Traditional IT outsourcing companies are increasingly cancelling and renewing contracts at the moment to bring forward or secure future revenue. This gives their customers a better negotiating situation, as the Outsourcer, who wants to protect or increase revenue, negotiates with the customer who wants to change direction.

As the vendor becomes more of an integral part of the business, it is important to establish a strategic partner relationship with key vendors. The vendor wants to increase revenue, the customer needs the vendor to stay in business. The vendor is also developing the product or service that the customer hopes will bring some innovative solutions for the business. Some leading organisations have supplier strategy conferences where they open up their business strategy to strategic vendors and learn what the vendors have planned.

Most outsourcing contracts want innovation. Innovation adds risk to the outsourcer as any change, affects the cost model. One way of approaching this is innovation is on a shared benefit basis. This requires a sensible relationship and an element of trust with both parties, but is well worth the effort. Mandating a number of innovative ideas per month or per year often does not generate ideas of quality because the vendors usually do not understand enough about the customer’s business or future plans to provide enough real innovation.

One of the notable situations, is that efficiencies found in the rest of industry are not yet common in the outsourcing industry. It is well worth looking much closer at the potential outsourcing vendor to see whether they are using some of the newer efficiency techniques such as Software Defined Networks, Network Virtualisation, Agile Development, Cognitive Systems and ‘End-to-End’ Management tools. Many of the countries where labour costs are lower are not using efficiencies as they can put more staff on an activity. While this is a cost savings to the vendor, one of the key drivers for outsourcing is time to market – to be able to do things quicker with the vendor than an organisation can do on its own.

Whether the outsourcing partner is a traditional or cloud supplier, most are talking about their cloud solution and the path to the future. Traditional outsourcing contracts are often too long, and inflexible when the business changes. So shorter contracts with clear, business or outcome oriented Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) are required. Certainly, no-one signs the vendor contract without agreeing how the performance will be governed and measured. With a cloud contract, it’s more difficult. Contract financials are more flexible as customers only pay for the resources required and resources can be stood up or removed in a very short time frame. Organisations are opting more for a Hybrid solution utilising Public and Private Cloud and typically will use between 2 to 4 vendors to supply the services so strong Governance, Transparency, and Performance measurement are more difficult to achieve. The customer’s risk is increased.

The C level Trinity that runs most organisations has different priorities but must come together for success. The CEO provides the vision and direction to drive the organisation forward. The CFO reviews the investment potential of new initiatives and manages the risks to the organisation. The CIO delivers on the innovative vision from the technology standpoint and is often the futurologist for the organisation. Others are involved, but for sustainable success, these three roles need to be fully engaged.

Source: enterpriseinnovation.net-C-suite roles in reducing the risk of innovation

CROWDSOURCING HAS REAL POTENTIAL IN INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION

In discussions with stakeholders in the evolution of Intelligent Automation (IA), HfS is constantly on the lookout for new technology providers that could add innovative and complementary approaches to automating service delivery. As part of these discussions, we were briefed by executives of WorkFusion on how combining crowdsourcing and machine learning is offering new capabilities to the continuum of Intelligent Automation solutions.

While the key value proposition of IA is to get higher levels of automation by shifting service delivery from labor arbitrage people based solutions to delivery through innovative automation tools, WorkFusion’s approach (at least in parts) is to break up processes into micro tasks which can be completed through automated systems and crowd sourced staff. It is achieving that through a platform approach that is combining business process microtasking and machine learning (ML) through BPM functionality.

Looking the value proposition in more detail, WorkFusion breaks up complex processes into microtasks and delegates each task to either a machine tool (e.g., RPA, scrapers, OCR, text analytics) or a person depending on the complexity of the work. For tasks that require human judgment, the platform integrates internal employees, contingent workers, outsourced contract workers, and cloud workers. WorkFusion has APIs with global on-demand cloud talent markets, which is useful for increasing scale and language coverage for human tasks. The platform provides interfaces, which guide analyst through the day-to-day work of unstructured data categorization and extraction. As analysts perform the tasks, WorkFusion applies statistical quality control to ensure data accuracy and uses this high quality data to train ML to automate predictable work. The result is a hybrid workforce of robotic process automation (RPA), learning algorithms, and human talent for exceptions that together represent the continuum of process automation, including RPA and cognitive capabilities.

The service provider’s sweet spot are processes that are both high volume and high complexity. Examples are reference data, know your customer (KYC) processes, gaps in anti-money laundering (AML) standards, trade operations, supply chain and marketing research. Consequently, the vertical focus is on financial services and in particular on information providers. In KYC and AML WorkFusion’s approach competes with other IA propositions while in other processes it could sit on top of RPA or other automation tools.

WorkFusion is providing an additional innovative instrument for the IA toolbox available to enterprises and service providers. It is another example of the interdependent and often overlapping approaches on the continuum of IA. This approach breaks up processes into micro tasks is augmenting automation with labor. By expanding lower level RPA capabilities and Machine Learning it is augmenting business analysts with deeper insights.

Many organizations as well as service providers are building out a portfolio of IA tools. Therefore, given the nascent, albeit maturing state of the market, there are many opportunities for technology startups. HfS would welcome discussions with other organizations that can add distinctive approaches on the journey toward the As-a-Service Economy.

 

Source: HFSresearch-CROWDSOURCING HAS REAL POTENTIAL IN INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION

Q&A: The rise of the virtual CIO in SMBs

The role of chief information officer has become entrenched in large organisations, but smaller businesses often can’t afford to employ one. This means that they miss out on the expertise a CIO can bring, but also lack representation of IT at board level.

In some cases businesses are getting around this by outsourcing the role to a ‘virtual CIO’ who may only be needed for one or two days a month, so they can also work across multiple organisations, and from different locations. We spoke to Dean Coleman, head of service delivery at service management specialistSunrise Software to find out more about this trend.

How does the role of virtual CIO work?

It’s being taken up by small and medium companies where they don’t have the opportunity to appoint someone internally. They often have an IT manager and an operational team, but a virtual CIO allows them to have IT represented at board level, something they may not have the budget for full time. They’re often charged on a daily rate or held on a retainer.

We’re seeing this more and more and several of our customers have employed someone in this role. They get someone with expertise in technology but who is also boardroom savvy and aware of the strategic way forward for IT.

Are these people in a sort of consultant role working across several companies?

Yes, they hold a portfolio of customers and they’re able to use their experience and knowledge of the industry to benefit a number of companies. It also means a more varied role for them as consultants.

Is this part of a more general outsourcing trend?

It’s outsourcing that one particular function and it can actually lead to outsourcing of other services. What we’ve seen recently is that organisations that bring in a virtual CIO role are also getting them involved in the operational delivery of services. For example they may have issues around a service desk that’s been outsourced and they want to bring it back in house, or they might be looking to outsource functions.

It gives them the opportunity to work with multiple vendors and have the expertise to allow them to get good deals and to manage the surrounding risk and issues. It’s then the CIOs responsibility to manage those service contracts.

There are also now service providers who now have this service as part of their wider offering alongside project management, support services and so on. It helps enable service integration and management (SIAM) strategies.

So it allows business to afford a better level of expertise than they would otherwise be able to?

Yes, definitely because you can have someone in the organisation just one day a week or a couple of days a month just providing governance and high level overview. The amount of time may increase when they’re doing strategic planning or bringing in new suppliers for example.

It also ties in to the use of cloud services, often businesses struggle to implement these and need the additional expertise that a virtual CIO can provide to understand the different charging models and so on..

Does this have a knock on effect in other areas, do you end up virtualising other roles too?

It can do, we’ve seen a case where someone was brought in to look at the overall IT and technology side of the business because it had an under performing service desk. They’ve ultimately outsourced the operation and were able to deliver a more up to date, modern service.

Is this along term thing or people being brought in just for specific projects?

For the smaller organisation it can be a long term arrangement. They can manage their budgets by not having somebody full time on the board, but can have someone with expertise to fill the role without the overhead.

Source: itproportal.com-Q&A: The rise of the virtual CIO in SMBs

IT operations pros must adapt with new DevOps skills

The intersection of DevOps with IT operations is a two-way street — even as developers increasingly take on more of operations, IT Ops pros must think more like app programmers.

 The technical changes that come with establishing a DevOps culture affect the IT infrastructure even if separate IT operations teams still manage day-to-day matters. New application development practices such as containerization, microservices and release automation, as well as new infrastructure management techniques that require programming skills, mean IT Ops pros must learn new tricks to keep that infrastructure running smoothly.

As DevOps evolves, greater collaboration between devs and IT Ops will be the order of the day, according to Nirmal Mehta, senior lead technologist for the strategic innovation group at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a consulting firm based in McLean, Va., who works with government organizations to establish a DevOps culture.

“The roles are just going to be more about operators taking on more responsibility in terms of automating the deployment and their change processes,” Mehta said. “They’re going to transition into taking on more of the security roles, since infrastructure as code and configuration management have a huge impact on compliance.”

Instead of meetings that temporarily assemble representatives of separate IT functions — storage, networking, security, operations and application development — this evolving DevOps/IT Ops collaboration will be “a team where … they have access to the same information, and they’re responsible for the same user stories and other Agile workflow elements,” Mehta said.

Eventually, employment contracts will call for specific skills around microservices or service delivery and become less focused on filling disparate roles within the team structure, he said.

IT automation crucial among DevOps skills

In the meantime, programming skills will be relevant even to IT pros in a strictly operational role, as release automation makes infrastructure as code and configuration management de rigueur. This means learning tools like Puppet, Chef, Ansible and others that enforce infrastructure management in an automated way to keep up with rapid and automated application release cycles.

Some operations people are resistant to learning the inner workings of the application and that becomes a problem, according to Dan MacDonald, architect and principal technical lead for a New York City agency whose developers are transitioning to Agile development methods.

“Now, with the pace of development, you have to get a lot more involved in the early stages because it goes so fast,” he said.

Along with infrastructure as code, technologies used by developers such as containerization will mean less variation in server configurations and instance types under IT operations management, and de-emphasize skills such as scripting and manual configuration of servers.

“[As an IT Ops person] I don’t have to [Secure Socket Shell] SSH onto some box, and tweak it for this special snowflake thing, because there’s a cookbook that actually handles that for me,” said Caedman Oakley, DevOps evangelist for Ooyala Inc., a video processing service headquartered in Mountain View, Calif.

IT operations pros will have to look higher up the stack for opportunities to add value to an organization.

“It’s like being a violinist or a piano player, and then transitioning into becoming more of a conductor,” Mehta said. “You’re overseeing a larger amount of responsibilities and trusting the automation to do most of that workload that you used to do.”

But while it’s beloved by developers, container technology is still tricky for IT Ops pros to deploy to production, and requires a new set of skills.

“Developers are using containers, but Ops is deploying code to VMs, and so creating parity between them is tricky,” said Chris Riley, DevOps analyst at Fixate IO. “If you’re transitioning from monoliths to microservices, you’re almost forced to start over … and managing that change is really hard.”

Distributed applications based on microservices will put more of an emphasis on networking skills, added MacDonald.

Microservices also rely a lot more than monolithic applications do on coordination between different hosts, MacDonald pointed out.

“Let’s say you want to deploy to both Amazon and Google at the same time,” he said. “Not many developers really get into the finer points of those networks — that’s where you get the benefit of operations.”

 

Source: searchdatacenter.techtarget.com -IT operations pros must adapt with new DevOps skills

12 Ways AI Will Disrupt Your C-Suite – InformationWeek

McKinsey & Company estimates that as much as 45% of the tasks currently performed by people can be automated using existing technologies. If you haven’t made an effort to understand how artificial intelligence will affect your company, now is the time to start.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining momentum across industries with the help of companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft. McKinsey & Company estimates that as much as 45% of the tasks currently performed by people can be automated using current technologies — not only low-level rote tasks, but high-level knowledge work as well.

“Our point of view is that there is no function, no industry, almost no role that won’t potentially be affected by this set of technologies — not just every occupation, but every activity within each occupation,” said Michael Chui, a partner with McKinsey Global Institute, in an interview. “It’s not just automating the labor that’s being done, but the work people do will have to change as well. Understanding how to take advantage of these technologies is going to be critically important.”

Even if your company isn’t actively experimenting with it, AI is finding its way in via online transactions and modern cyber-security systems, among other examples. As AI technologies and their use-cases start to take hold across industries, it’s time for the C-suite to pay attention.

If you haven’t made an effort to understand how AI will affect your company, now is the time to start.

The attitude of C-[suite] executives should be to add AI as a top strategic priority,” said George Zarkadakis, digital lead at global professional services firm Willis Towers Watson and author of In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence, in an interview. “This time, technology will move faster than ever, and the laggards will pay a hefty price.”

Of course, the impact of AI is not limited to technological change and innovation. It also involves cultural evolution and, in some cases, revolution.

“Today’s leaders have time, as well as a responsibility, to understand what’s ahead of them before acting,” said Deborah Westphal, CEO of strategic consulting and advisory firm Toffler Associates, in an interview. “It’s important to ask the hard questions, and then, using those insights, determine the best action for an organization.”

In short, AI is going to affect a lot of things in the near future, some of which have not yet been anticipated. In the meantime, consider the following points. Once you’ve reviewed our list of the ways Ai will change business as we know it, tell us about your own AI experiences in the comments section below.

Organizational Intelligence Explodes

Organizations are using AI to solve problems at scale. Michele Goetz, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, estimates that most organizations only take advantage of 10% to 30% of their data, with most of that still being structured, transactional information.

“There’s a difference in what AI technology is going to bring to the organization compared to what other technologies have brought,” said Goetz, in an interview. “[The C-suite executives] will have better visibility into market opportunities and [become aware of] threats faster. Because they can see their environment more holistically and clearly, they’ll understand partners and customers better. It’s [also] going to change the way employees work.”

First-Mover Advantage

The seeds of what some are calling The Exponential Age were planted long ago, manifesting themselves as exponential increases in processing power, storage capacity, bandwidth utilization, and — as a result of all of that — digital information. The same rule applies to machine learning.

“True AI learns at an exponential rate, evolves and sometimes even rewrites better versions of itself,” said Walter O’Brien, founder and CEO ofScorpion Computer Services, in an interview. “Because of this factor, the first company to market can also be the first to gather the most training data material — for example, Google’s Voice recognition on cell phones. The lessons learned can be encoded as heuristics or subtle guidelines which become the IP of the company — for example, the definition of Google’s relevance scores. This all creates a barrier to competition.”

Imagine cramming 250 years of human thinking into 90 minutes. Scorpion Computer Services’ AI platform does that.

Employees May Lead The Charge

AI is creeping into organizations in various ways, online and embedded in enterprise applications. The trend is accelerating, necessitating the C-suite’s attention, since it will at some point noticeably affect corporate culture and business strategy.

“The tipping point for the acceptance and widespread application of AI will not come from the C-suite, but from employees seeing the benefits of AI in their daily lives through applications like intelligent personal assistants and smart devices,” said Robert DeMaine, lead technology sector analyst at global advisory service company Ernst & Young (EY), in an interview. “Like the [bring your own device] trend, employees will begin to use their own ‘smart’ personal productivity applications in the office, challenging the organization to reassess its policies. AI will change corporate culture from the bottom up, not the top down.”

Organizational Structures Will Shift

Hierarchical organizational structures adversely affect business agility and the ability to drive value from data. Similarly, the lingering barriers between departments and business units limit a company’s ability to derive additional types of value from data because data remains trapped in silos.

“Projectized” organizations, which operate in a matrix environment, are better positioned to take full advantage of AI systems [than] vertical organizations are,” said Armen Kherlopian, VP of analytics and research at business process transformation company Genpact, in an interview. “This is because these so-called projectized organizations can more readily gain access to resources and key business channels across the enterprise. Additionally, the levers associated with [business] value do not fit neatly into vertical groups.”

Genpact estimates nearly $400 billion of digital investments were wasted globally in 2015 because of a failure to align expected results throughout organizations.

AI Requires Context

AI systems need a lot of input to produce the appropriate output. Since each company, its culture, and its objectives are unique, AI systems need to be trained on those details in order to assist employees effectively, and to serve the needs of the organization accurately. Unlike traditional analytics systems, which can be built without regard to some of the softer organizational issues, AI requires organizations to be aware of the information they’re bringing in and why they’re bringing it in.

“There is a clear trend towards machines becoming more intelligent so that humans can work more intelligently with them,” said George Zarkadakis. “Although machines will increasingly gain more autonomy, they will do so within the human space and within human norms and ethics.”

Organizations Have To Adapt

AI automates some tasks and assists with others, both displacing and complementing the work employees do. The C-suite needs to think about how the shifting division of labor can influence the way a company is managed and how it’s organized.

“AI is impacting many aspects of the business, from workflow management to advertising strategy. It can enable executives to make better, faster, and more accurate business decisions to streamline operations, allocate resources, understand market trends, and connect with customers,” said Robert DeMaine, lead technology sector analyst at EY. “As a result, executives will need to be prepared to address a number of business issues, including reassessing internal operations, a changing workforce, sales and marketing strategies, and shifting investment priorities.”

It’s Not All About Technology

AI is gaining momentum as entrepreneurs, industry behemoths, and companies in-between bring AI products, tools, APIs, and services to market. However, as always, the successful application of technology isn’t simply about technology. It’s about technology, people, and processes.

“A company will be distinguished by how well it works using AI, and increasingly human-digital convergence, rather than by which specific AI technologies it chooses to deploy,” said Deborah Westphal, CEO of strategic consulting and advisory firm Toffler Associates. “If a company only addresses the technological elements, without addressing the organizational people and process aspects, it may see a short-term gain, but will suffer in the longer term and likely be [sur]passed by those companies that addressed the internal questions first.”

Employee Empowerment Is Necessary

Companies have worked toward democratizing the use of data analytics, enabling managers and employees to make better decisions faster. As the velocity of business continues to accelerate at scale with the help of AI, even more employee empowerment will be necessary.

“AI and greater human-digital convergence magnify the strengths and weaknesses of an existing corporate culture, particularly with respect to how much autonomy is afforded to an organization’s people,” said Deborah Westphal of Toffler Associates. “Given a faster rate of change and near real-time environment in which to make decisions, an organization’s people who don’t have the necessary autonomy will find that its processes, no matter how good, will break down quickly and its ability to serve its customers [will be] compromised.”

Learn By Doing

Companies successfully using AI make a point of investing in people and talent. They also actively encourage innovation and experimentation so they can learn quickly from mistakes and capitalize on opportunities, hopefully faster than their competitors.

“Hire talent that knows how to do this. Start experimenting with it and learn how to use it,” said Michael Chui, a partner with McKinsey Global Institute. “I don’t think this is something you plan for five years and then get started. It’s something you learn by doing. When you see something working, the ability to scale is important.”

Expect The Unexpected

AI should not be viewed as simply another technology acquisition, because different things are required to get it up and running successfully. Because the purpose of AI is to provide a superhuman analytic or problem-solving capacity, its training cannot be limited to executing mindlessly on a task.

“You can’t assume that how you train these systems is going to produce the results in the context you want them to be produced,” said Michele Goetz, a Forrester principal analyst. “There has to be an emotional element [because] if you’re introducing AI in your call center, you don’t want to offend your customers.”

Because AI learns from itself, as well as from its human trainers, unexpected circumstances can arise which may be positive or negative.

Pay Attention To Possibilities

Data-driven companies, including IBM, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Netflix, are constantly pushing the envelope of what’s possible in order to accelerate innovation, differentiate themselves, and, in some cases, cultivate communities that can extend the breadth and depth of AI techniques and use-cases. It’s wise for C-suite executives to understand the kind of value AI can provide, and how that value might help the company achieve its strategic objectives.

“Machine learning techniques are what make a company like Amazon truly successful. Being able to learn from historical data in order to recommend to a given shopper what [she] may buy next is a key differentiator. Yet, the real ‘Deep Learning’ techniques are still just emerging,” said Mike Matchett, senior analyst and consultant at storage analysis and consulting firmTaneja Group, in an interview. “Google will not just win ‘Go’ championships, but will drive cars with [AI], optimize their data center with [AI], and in my opinion, will try to own the global optimization clearing house for the Internet of Things.”

Change Is At Hand

The composition of the C-suite is changing to take better advantage of data. Data-savvy executives are replacing their traditional counterparts, new roles are being created, and leaders generally are finding themselves under pressure to understand the value and impact of data, analytics, and machine learning.

“As the C-suite becomes increasingly filled with analytical minds and more data scientists are hired, a cultural shift naturally takes place. Some of the new, fast-growing executive roles [include] chief data scientist, chief marketing technology officer, [and] chief digital officer. All are aligned with the growing demand and anticipation for AI,” said David O’Flanagan, CEO and cofounder of cloud platform provider Boxever.

At many levels, non-traditional candidates are displacing traditional roles. For example, the Society of Actuarial Professionals is actively promoting the fact that although most actuaries work in the insurance industry, there are non-traditional employment opportunities, including data analytics and marketing. O’Flanagan expects more members of the workforce to have backgrounds in fields of study such as econometrics.

Source: InformationWeek- 12 Ways AI Will Disrupt Your C-Suite

IoT to play a part in more than a quarter of cyber attacks by 2020, says Gartner

More than 25% of cyber attacks will involve the internet of things (IoT) by 2020, according to technology research firm Gartner.

And yet, researchers claimed IoT would account for less than 10% of IT security budgets and, as a result, security suppliers would have little incentive to provide usable IoT security features.

They also said the decentralised approach to early IoT implementations in organisations would result in too little focus on security.

Suppliers will focus too much on spotting vulnerabilities and exploits, rather than segmentation and other long-term means that better protect IoT, according to Gartner.

“The effort of securing IoT is expected to focus more and more on the management, analytics and provisioning of devices and their data,” said Gartnerresearch director Ruggero Contu.

“IoT business scenarios will require a delivery mechanism that can also grow and keep pace with requirements in monitoring, detection, access control and other security needs,” he added.

According to Contu, the future of cloud-based security services is, in part, linked with the future of the IoT.

“The IoT’s fundamental strength in scale and presence will not be fully realised without cloud-based security services to deliver an acceptable level of operation for many organisations in a cost-effective manner,” he said.

Gartner predicted that by 2020, at least half of all IoT implementations would use some form of cloud-based security service.

Read more about IoT security

Although overall spending will initially be moderate, Gartner predicted that IoT security market spending would increase at a faster rate after 2020, as improved skills, organisational change and more scalable service options improved execution.

Gartner predicted global spending on IoT security would reach $348m in 2016 – just 23.7% up compared with 2015 – $433.95m in 2017 and $547m in 2018.

“The market for IoT security products is currently small, but it is growing as both consumers and businesses start using connected devices in ever greater numbers,” said Contu.

“Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up by 30% from 2015, and will reach 11.4 billion units by 2018. However, considerable variation exists among different industry sectors as a result of different levels of prioritisation and security awareness,” he said.

Source: computerweekly.com – IoT to play a part in more than a quarter of cyber attacks by 2020

The importance of thoughtful customer support in the age of IoT | The Enterprisers Project

If you think customer support is tough now, just wait until consumers get their hands on more of those Internet of Things (IoT)-equipped goodies.

Michael Ringman, CIO of TELUS International, a 21,000 employee global unit of Canadian telecommunications services provider TELUS Corp., envisions an increasingly complex customer care environment as consumers connect growing numbers of IP-enabled devices in the home.

Gartner projects four billion consumer IoT devices will be in use in 2016, growing to 13.5 billion in 2020, far outpacing business IoT devices. But who are you going to call when something in that connected world isn’t working right?

Ringman provides a real-world example: “Recently I purchased a Logitech remote control to control a bunch of my home devices. It’s got its own Wi-Fi hotspot enabled, so I can control my thermostat, even my LED lights potentially, and all of these other features I wasn’t necessarily aware of. If I want to control my thermostat and it isn’t working, do I call Logitech, do I call my home DSL provider, do I call the product manufacturer for that thermostat?”

IoT opportunities … and challenges

Ringman’s organization provides contact center outsourcing and business process outsourcing services, primarily to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. As such, the consumer IoT-connected world represents opportunities and challenges.

“I see it as a great opportunity, a great catalyst for growth, because the standards aren’t necessarily 100 percent defined on how those communications are supposed to work,” he says. “There will be be a lot of IP-connected devices in that environment, and consumers all want to be able to use it easily and effectively, so how do you provide great customer support around that? The contact center now, rather than being able to answer generic, basic questions, like ‘how do I turn on my Internet connection?,’ suddenly has to evolve to answer more difficult and deeper questions,” he explains.

At TELUS International, the internal IT team is closely engaged with making its contact center and outsourcing services a competitive differentiator for the business. In addition, IT is a revenue center, providing IT outsourcing services to external clients. Over the past decade, Ringman’s organization has absorbed contact center companies in the Philippines, Central America and eastern Europe, building private cloud-based services for internal clients, and public cloud-hosted services for external customers.

“As we’ve consolidated and adapted to move at the speed of business, we’ve made decisions to leverage the cloud internally, so our critical IT resources can truly focus on what helps differentiate us in industry, in the eyes of our customers” he says.

Consolidation of services silos

Meeting growing expectations will require consolidation of typical customer support and services silos, such as customer relationship management, e-commerce, mobile apps and so forth, says Ringman. “The retail storefront technology and in-store support, for example, is usually very separate from what you do on the contact center side, which is very separate from what you’re doing in most organizations from your mobile and web interface.”

But at many enterprises, customer service is not at the forefront of strategic thinking, he says. “At the C-suite level, they can tell you in detail what it takes to get their particular product to market and up to speed, but what they often can’t tell you about is what their customers are doing,” Ringman says. “Our view is that great customer service doesn’t start with the customer service arm, it starts at the top.”

He believes enterprise thinking in this area is changing, though, adding that just as a business wouldn’t settle for a sub-standard system for its financial reporting, they’re now increasingly recognizing the importance of investing in customer service. “If a company is truly thoughtful and driven around how they want to provide customer support, they can help guide that end user to the appropriate sources,” Ringman says. And as the IoT increases the complexity of supporting consumers, that thoughtfulness is essential.

Source: enterprisersproject.com-The importance of thoughtful customer support in the age of IoT | The Enterprisers Project