by IBA Group for IBA Group
Posted on February 25, 2016
Big Data is one of those buzzwords everyone is talking about, but as I have been saying for some time now, most companies are performing some kind of data analysis on their customers or suppliers and have been doing so for years without ever calling it Big Data.
There does come a time when the data being analysed is so huge and fast changing that specific Big Data tools are required, but the reality is that many organisations are already performing some kind of data analysis that could be termed Big Data – without them even realising it.
A new study from Dresdner Advisory Services backs up my observations. When asked specifically if they use Big Data, just 17% of companies responded yes on this survey. 47% said that it might be used in future. However, 59% of the respondents also claimed that Big Data is “critically important” to their business. Something is wrong?
The survey shows that the definition of Big Data is perhaps one of the problems here. Most companies don’t have petabytes of data to analyse and they therefore are performing data analysis, but not thinking of it as Big Data analysis. If the manager doesn’t think of the problem as big enough then they don’t use the term Big Data.
However there are many areas of industry where this is about to change, largely driven by technologies such as mobile and the Internet of Things. Think of an example such as a retailer needing to create the same customer experience for an in-store customer, as that same customer would receive online.
These problems require data. They also need it to be analysed fast. While a customer is in-store and tracked using their mobile device, decisions can be taken about whether to give the customer a discount code based on their profile. During payment, recommendations for other products can be made based on sales history.
All these processes are easy to imagine, some retailers are getting this sophisticated now, but to make it happen it needs the IT system to be joined-up with data that can be analysed in real-time – allowing the system to take decisions itself.
Another easy to imagine examine is with automobiles. Cars are increasingly connected to the Internet via smart phones and wi-fi. They will increasingly diagnose problems and communicate with the manufacturer without the driver being aware that the car is fixing itself. The amount of data captured and exchanged for this to work is enormous, yet in most cases the customer is entirely unaware of the processes taking place.
So how big is big might still be a question for many, but I think that we are on the cusp of an explosion in data use – analysing this much information will certainly be a part of the bigger picture for Big Data.
by IBA Group for IBA Group
Posted on February 10, 2016
The debate over nearshoring and more remote offshore outsourcing has rumbled on for years in Europe. The debate over voice contact centres was fairly conclusively resolved a while back, with it becoming clear that most clients prefer their contact centre to be closer to home, but the broader IT and IT services market has still embraced all kinds of outsourced model.
However in all the outsourcing predictions for 2016 I have seen the resurgence of the European offshoring model several times. For example, a recent report by the analyst Global Remote Services says:
“Nearshoring will continue to gain momentum in Eastern Europe – nearshoring is fast becoming an option which is seen as being more skill specific for businesses with a mixture of complex, high-end projects as they realise the value in keeping outsourced work close to where the business generally is. Nearshoring in Eastern Europe will continue to grow as it becomes attractive and competitive to the UK market, and also much ‘nearer-to-final-customer’ and ‘easier-to-manage’ versus far-shoring.”
We all know the typical arguments when comparing Eastern Europe to a more remote location, such as India, but I think it’s important than advisors are now focusing heavily on skills availability.
Outsourcing has long been considered a “lift and drop” business strategy, which is how it got the reputation for being all about saving cash. Let’s take a process, lift it out of the business and drop it completely into a supplier and get the same work done for less. That’s the old approach, but times have changed.
The boundary of organisations has become more blurred, particularly when expert skills are needed. Organisations are hired to provide those skills, but they work in the office of the client, with the client team. The client and supplier merge together to create a solution today, rather than the client firing an entire department and dropping those processes offshore.
Outsourcing has become a more mature business strategy and with a greater value placed today on skills and partnership, it’s no surprise that nearshoring is returning to the boardroom agenda.
One of the trends for 2016 that is certain to only increase in importance is the use of data analysis across many different types of organisation. Big Data and the real-time analysis of data in general is reshaping many industries, redefining how companies build a relationship with their customers.
The fact that this change is applicable across all industries is the most important aspect of this trend. Almost every company in every industry is exploring how a better use of data can give them the edge in 2016. Three specific areas I see as being really important for the year ahead are:
1. The Internet of Things (IoT); tech commentators like talking about the smart fridge that knows you need more eggs, but this is going to be a much more serious trend. If every electric device you own is networked then some incredible new possibilities are created from cars that can self-diagnose and fix problems without you even being aware of it to being able to control anything in your home remotely.
2. Machine Learning; many contact centres have been exploring how robots equipped with product knowledge can handle simple customer service enquiries. As they learn more about what customers want they will get far better and eventually even be able to anticipate what the customer needs. This ability to learn and apply knowledge with physical or virtual robots will be really important. It’s 5 years now since the IBM Watson system beat the TV game show Jeopardy, now doctors are training Watson in how to recognise and diagnose illnesses.
3. Data Security; the weak spot in all systems that need customer data is that the customers become too scared to share their information – scared of data leaks and hacker attacks. The Ashley Madison attack in 2015 was an example of how hackers can even threaten the existence of a company, just by stealing data.
Big Data, and data analysis in general, will certainly be more important in 2016 because it is now affecting so many companies, but this final point is important. As customers share more data there is the danger of more leaks and more attacks. The only thing that will prevent the benefits of enhanced data analysis becoming a reality is if people become wary of sharing information.
Technology outsourcing has changed dramatically in the past few years, but what are the key changes ahead in 2016? A new report in CIO magazine lists their view on the ten key trends to watch for. In my view, from those ten, these three are really worth your attention:
1. Cloud and as-a-service infrastructure; services are being built in a far more flexible way allowing software and infrastructure to all be located in the cloud and to scale up or down as required. Companies only pay for the systems and software they use today, not licenses for software that needs to be installed or rooms full of servers.
2. Vendors get more flexible; contract times are getting shorter and payment schedules are changing, but this is mostly because the idea of the client and supplier is changing. IT experts are becoming true partners, becoming a part of the team and contracts are starting to reflect this change in the relationship.
3. Automation; a lot of what we considered to be processes that needed to be performed by humans can be learned by robots now. Robotic Process Automation will allow robots (can be just software rather than physical robots) to learn processes and repeat them, then to learn with experience.
Despite all these suggestions from CIO magazine, one of the most critical changes is the way that IT services are purchased. With more systems available as a service or via apps there is a greater disconnect between the CIO and the business managers. Many IT projects can be commissioned directly by the business team without any need to interact with the CIO of a company. That’s a big change as the CIO used to retain control over all technology systems.
What outsourcing trends do you think will be really important this year?
Last month I was in London giving a keynote address to the Engage Customer audience focused on the customer experience in 2020. This event is focused on the entire industry that surrounds customer service and how it can be delivered.
You can click here to see my slides, but I thought it was worth mentioning this presentation to a more IT-focused audience because the biggest change that is taking place in the customer service industry is the introduction of various technologies that are improving how customers can be managed.
Look at the list of six technologies that I believe will be making a big change to the customer experience in the near future:
· Virtual reality; with Facebook investing heavily in Oculus and their Rift system, this will be a far more common technology in the near future.
· Augmented reality; as Google creates a version of Glass that does not look like a computer on your face this will return.
· Wearables; already common for fitness and health, they will eventually replace the telephone.
· Internet of Things; tech that can diagnose and fix problems without the human being involved – imagine if your car could fix itself?
· Automation / Robots; replacing mundane tasks with robots, even in contact centres.
· Location Awareness; retailers able to send you a one-hour offer because they know you are near to a store.
Many of these technologies are in the process of being adopted and others will become more important in daily life in the near future, however, as you can see from the presentation slides, I mention various other technologies that will soon change how customers interact with brands.
· Omnichannel; companies are connecting together all those channels that customers are using and creating new opportunities to win business. The L’Oreal virtual make-up app is a great example of changing the way that beauty products are sold.
· Fintech; banks are finding that new start-ups are picking individual banking services, creating them online or on an app, and winning customers. Entire full-service banks are now being launched using the app as the central point of interaction.
· Communication; every communication from shopping to politics to finding a new partner is changing and becoming electronic – how does this change in the way people communicate everyday change the way your business operates?
What is clear to me is that the customer experience is a great consumer of new and innovative technologies. More people in IT and IT services need to consider how they can work with experts in the field of customer experience because managing customer interactions is about far more than managing a contact centre today – it’s a business area that is entirely driven by technological change.
Big Data is growing up – finally. That’s the conclusion of new research published recently by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The research details how corporate attitudes to data have changed in the past four years – with many organisations now seeing data itself as a corporate asset.
Instead of constantly seeking more data, companies are asking the right questions. They are seeking the right data that can help decision support, rather than measuring and capturing everything regardless of use.
This strategic alignment with a more intelligent approach to data often comes with the elevation of a data manager to the executive board. Either the role sits with the CIO/CTO or a new Chief Data Officer role is created to ensure that there is always a view on data value at the top table.
What is particularly interesting for managers who are asked to invest in Big Data projects is that there is a link between a well-defined data policy and financial success. Not only does a well-defined data policy correlate with business success, but also the effectiveness of being able to resolve real business problems through more effective data use.
Commenting on the EIU research in Forbes magazine, Bernard Marr, author of the book “Big Data”, said:
“As technology continues to improve, the ‘bigness’ of big data will become less and less of a factor. Companies are becoming more comfortable with the idea that they will need to scale up to allow the value of data initiatives to reach all sectors of the business, and so they are becoming more comfortable with approximation, agility and experimentation.”
I agree with Marr. We can see from this EIU research that more companies are exploring how to use Big Data, but importantly more are finding a genuine business reason or use. As more companies find these reasons to get more engaged the use of Big Data will explode in size – all over the world.
On November 15, the IBA Group team won the first place at the 12th IT Spartakiada sport competition. The multi-day event included matches in basketball, volleyball, karting, bowling, table tennis, and kicker.
Nineteen teams from various IT companies participated in IT Spartakiada, with the first competitions starting in September. IBA Group won gold in karting and bowling, as well as bronze in kicker and volleyball. The table tennis and basketball teams finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Winners of IT Spartakiada are determined by the minimal sum of points scored by teams in their top five sports.
Later on November 28, Miss IT 2015 was held a part of the IT Spartakiada. Evgenia Sudakova, a software engineer from IBA Gomel represented IBA Group. Her choreographic piece impressed the audience and jury by its plasticity and artistry.
The originality of Evgenia’s image, her erudution, and ability to present herself were praised by the jury, which named her the winner of Miss IT 2015 and awarded the young woman a well-deserved crown. It was the first crown for a contestant from Gomel.
We congratulate the IBA Group team and Evgenia on their titles and wish them more success in the future.
This year, IBA CZ has successfully delivered two projects that became another step forward in the area of portals. The projects were implemented for the government sector and included solutions to manage the objects of cultural heritage.
Although library portals are our new skills, we are not first-timers in the area of digital cultural heritage. Since many years, we have gained a profound experience of working with records of digital cultural heritage, for example, during the project implemented for the Police of the Czech Republic. It was the portal of the artworks’ registry system and implied the processing of information about stolen and found objects of cultural value. So we had a good knowledge of cultural valuables and a deep knowledge of police systems. The extension to another specific area was just the next logical step.
Currently, only a few companies work in the area of library systems. The information systems they were deploying for quite a long time in all institutions, libraries, and museums are rather static and are viewed as legacy systems today. Considering our deep knowledge of portals and previous experience in similar systems we brought some fresh air into the world of library information systems. And we succeeded.
In a situation when we were providing proof of our experience in the sector, it was important to understand what the library systems are. Therefore, within the partnership with Masaryk University in Brno we worked with external experts to understand better the specific requirements and characteristics of these systems.
In fact, every institution that owns a collection of books, museum showpieces or any other collection is trying to catalog them. But everyone is doing it in its own way. Figuratively, we can say that at first there was a clay tablet, then came a papyrus followed by a parchment, paper, and finally by a digitized information system.
There is no need to say that the uniformity of data is at a “very low level”. Special purposed protocols and standards were supposed to improve the situation but they are past their prime.
For now, nothing better is available yet. (Please forget about web services). In addition, the institutions want to exchange the information about their collections.
As soon as we understood and learnt by experience what library systems were about, it was enough to cope with the existing implementations of these non-traditional technologies and to integrate the whole thing with the portal. It was not easy but thanks to the dedication of the whole team we came to a successful end.
The web portal of historical collections is currently running on the Liferay platform providing the search through 50 castle libraries and ten other large-scale library institutions. To see, please visit https://histfondy.npu.cz/.
The portal of digitizing the cultural heritage literally displays the collection of books and collection of items from the Vysocina region. To see, please visit http://digitalizace.kr-vysocina.cz/.
For example, the above mentioned project is called PSEUD and is based on the IBM WebSphere technology.
These two projects were for all members of the team of a great benefit both from the technological and project point of view. We proved ourselves and demonstrated to our customers that we are able to work with the records practically about anything from books, paintings, sculptures, and clocks to weapons and jewelry.
We were able to create and configure the portal so as to provide easy search not only for scholars and museum keepers but for police, ministry officials, and general public as well. And certainly, no one can get illegal access to the information belonging to others. In addition, we were able to integrate the portal with the databases of ministries, Interpol, the National Library, as well as the municipal museum “somewhere in the mountains.”
If you are interested to obtain more information on the portals of digital cultural heritage, please contact Jan Schuma (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Concerns have been mounting in the Internet of Things (IoT) recently. Equipment manufacturers have been tussling over standards prompting some to believe that a ‘Betamax’ situation may be created where some devices cannot connect to the IoT grid.
If such a situation occurs it could seriously impact the adoption of Big Data projects. Big Data does not depend on the IoT – there are many other types of large database – but the constant flow of IoT data means that most IoT projects will also require a Big Data element.
However there is some good news from the analyst community. New data from IDC suggests that the growth rate for spending on Big Data between 2014 and 2019 will be just under $50bn – that’s compounded growth of 23.1% each year.
The real elephant in the room for the Big Data market is the security of collected data. There have been several damaging data leaks by major organisation in recent months. The danger for companies that are collecting large amounts of data is that leaks of private data will cause brand damage so serious that companies could even face an existential threat.
IDC believe that large companies are aware of this danger and are planning their Big Data infrastructure with security in mind.
“The ability to leverage big data and analytics to develop an integrated view of customer activities and business operations will provide competitive differentiation to companies across industries,” said IDC programme director Jessica Goepfert.
“However, in addition to the huge opportunities, big data presents some significant risks and liabilities to organisations. Line of business and IT executives will need to approach these ongoing challenges with awareness, flexibility, adaptability, and responsibility.”
This is an area of the technology business that is growing by around one quarter every year right now. There will need to be some big mistakes to derail this market, but it is possible. The constant stream of security stories in the media shows that the public are more aware than ever of the dangers ahead. Companies adopting Big Data need to ensure they are always one step ahead of the data thieves.
The industry analyst Gartner Group has issued a list of ten technologies to watch for 2016. These are the trends that the analyst firm believes will be shaping the digital agenda next year.
You can click here to go to the Gartner newsroom where they list all of their predictions, but here I want to comment on what I see as their top three.
Adaptive Security Architecture
If a CEO today is not aware of the importance of security then their board should be asking how they got the job. Major companies are now facing existential threats because technology systems were hacked. Consumer companies with personal data on millions of customers are particularly at risk and one hack can destroy many years of trust in a brand. Making security smarter, tighter, and more able to adapt to changing attack methods will be an enormous trend in 2016.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Despite recent suggestions the IoT is stalling because there is still no single agreed standard, I believe that there is enough momentum in this trend to start creating a significant amount of work. Naturally this connects to an increased need for expertise in Big Data analysis if IoT is creating enormous amounts of data.
Machine learning is getting smarter. People laughed at Apple Siri when it was first launched, but have you tried it recently? Intelligent agents have improved enormously. The Amazon Echo system replicates Siri in the home, allowing a user to ask questions from anywhere in the home. Similarly machine intelligence is set to revolutionise customer service operations as the most common enquiries are recognised and handled by robots – Robotic Process Automation.
As always, the Gartner predictions are interesting, but after checking the complete list of ten, which would you pick as your top three?