The Future of Technology: Will Everybody Benefit?
A conference entitled ‘The future of technology: Will everybody benefit?’ was organized on the fourth day of the Web Summit 2017, during which guests were invited to discuss their arguments for and against the thesis that technology development is beneficial to the entire human population. Among those taking part were:
Pat Gelsinger – CEO, VMware, presenting the arguments for.
Ross Mason – Founder, MuleSoft, presenting the arguments in rebuttal.
Jeremy Wilks – Presenter, Euronews, moderator of the debate.
Pat Gelsinger started off with the fairly obvious statement that technological progress cannot be held back, so we just have to learn to live with it. The world is still developing, and at this point in time four major trends can be identified:
- Internet of Things (IoT),
- mobile technologies,
- Artificial Intelligence (AI),
- cloud solutions.
Leaving aside the fact that progress in these areas cannot be stopped, it turns out that we are no longer able to live without it – yet these are relatively new solutions, and we can all remember the world without them. But technology makes life so much easier for us that we have become addicted to it. Sometimes it’s good, as in the case of healthtech, where technology helps to treat patients more effectively, and we can detect and prevent disease faster thanks to more accurate diagnostic techniques.
The same is true in other areas such as smart houses or smart cars – these technologies greatly enhance the comfort level of our everyday lives. With these solutions we can not only live more comfortably, but also safer. We control what happens at home when we are not around, as the sensor system will let us know if someone is trying to break in, a window is open or the washing machine has been left on. Meanwhile, a smart car will take us from Point A to Point B, and then park automatically, reducing the risk of a collision or a dangerous accident.
The CEO of VMware also referred to specific numbers that undermine the oft-repeated belief that technology and automation take jobs off humans. According to him, paradoxically, technology has in fact created more jobs than it has eliminated. In addition, the jobs that have been rendered obsolete are the most dangerous, the hardest and even the most pointless ones (like street lamp lighters, or ice suppliers, which used to be very common occupations), creating space for more creative professions. People are the source of technology and innovation. Technology cannot reproduce or improve completely by itself – someone needs to create, supervise or repair it. New areas of the economy are also developing, because technology creates demand for completely new services, and allows us, and our products or services, to reach places we would not have been able to get to in the past.
The technology of exclusion
In countering these arguments, Ross Mason, the founder of MuleSoft, presented a far less optimistic perspective of the impact of technology on social development. He focused on the dangers of technology above all, such as exclusion, information chaos and cyberterrorism.
In contrast to Pat Gelsinger’s enchantment with the development of healthtech, he pointed out that many people and entire families are living in poverty in the world today, on less than a dollar a day, so they can’t – and in the near future still won’t be able to – afford treatment based on modern technologies. As with smart houses and smart cars, the technologies used in medicine increase the quality of life for people whose quality of life is already relatively high. On the other hand, the poorest people are excluded from these benefits, nor do they usually have the chance to get jobs generated by technological development. Such jobs are primarily for highly skilled professionals, which requires an expensive education. Technology is so conducive to inequality that it can itself be regarded as a threat to communities on the periphery of the global economy.
Politics constitutes another threat, as we saw in the recent US elections which Russia is highly likely to have been involved in. In fact, after recent events in the US and around the world, we will never be sure whether elections are truly democratic. This example makes it very clear that modern technology can lead to us being controlled from the outside. Political deals are made to the benefit of those that have enough resources and a clear goal to achieve, but for whom the good of John Q. Citizen is not necessarily the most important priority. Technology can be a terrible, powerful weapon, and a lethal threat in the hands of the wrong people.
Automation, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence
We create new, intelligent solutions which we are proud of. But we must be careful not to create something that will come back to threaten us in the future. We cannot predict all the potential effects of creating artificial intelligence, yet we strive to create the most intelligent machines in our own image. Brilliant minds are working on AI, robotics and other powerful technologies, but we do not know what all this will lead to. And we can’t turn back the clock.
Of course the counter-argument here is that everything is a matter of proper regulation and legal provisions.
“Let’s shape the future but in a sustainable way” – concluded Pat Gelsinger.
We should not be afraid of progress, because otherwise we would never have emerged from the Stone Age. We need to engage in political discussions on technology, in order to have some control over the direction in which technology is headed. Most importantly, we should focus on how to use technology in the best way, focusing on the benefits: for the planet, for health, for the economy.
HealthTech – Which Technologies Are Behind The Medical Revolution?
Wearables and Bluetooth Low Energy
The smartphone has made us unable to function without that little computer which we carry with us essentially 24/7. In terms of medicine, it is also a very useful tool for monitoring the condition of the patient and responding in the shortest possible timeframe, which can often be a matter of life and death. However, from a physician’s point of view, the smartphone is only an intermediary, whereas devices placed directly on the patient’s body are of more importance. Help is at hand here from the so-called wearables: watches, fitness bands or glasses, equipped with sensors that monitor the work done by the human body. This data is then sent to an application installed on a smartphone, which analyzes it and takes action accordingly.
The Bluetooth Low Energy standard has proven to be a breakthrough in the use of such sensors, due to its low level of power consumption and fast access to data. Devices with BLE sensors are up to 100 times less energy-intensive than traditional Bluetooth devices. Such devices provide data from measurements to the master device (such as a smartphone) and can work for up to several months without the need to replace batteries. A great example of this technology is the hearing aids manufactured by one of my clients, which can adjust the device’s parameters to the surroundings thanks to the use of sensors (the device is muted in noisy surroundings, eliminates noise and interference, etc.). The device can also be regulated through a dedicated app, and the user can even carry out a hearing test without leaving home.
Another example of wearables would be smart patches that can painlessly apply a precise dose subcutaneously, control blood sugar levels or monitor heart rate, and also detect breast cancer at a very early stage. There are also systems that monitor the movement of the elderly around the home, as well as teddy bears that track the health of children and infants. Hospitals also use patient monitoring systems that automatically monitor the selected parameters so that the administrative workload can be significantly reduced, meaning more time at the patient’s bedside.
From a technological point of view, wearables are part of the wider Internet of Things, the concept of which has been made possible primarily because of the miniaturization of processors, which allows for the production of microcontrollers. Built-in microcomputers with embedded software control the operation of everyday items from the inside. With the help of solutions such as BLE they can also communicate with each other, with users and with doctors as well.
Embedded software is, however, a completely different dimension of programming capabilities. This is so-called low-level programming, which requires the developer to be familiar with the equipment, especially microprocessor architecture. As well as that, vast experience is needed, as creating such software is time-consuming and prone to errors. However, it is low-level programming that allows for the furthest–reaching code optimization, in terms of both the speed and volume of the program.
Another area to be developed by medical engineering is augmented reality, a system that connects the real world with the computer-generated world. In augmented reality, the image from the camera is superimposed on a real-time, 3D-rendered image which can be displayed on a computer screen or phone, but also with customized VR goggles specially designed for this purpose. So far, this technology has gained the most popularity through the Pokémon game, but the potential of this solution is enormous in medicine as well. It is possible to imagine medical imaging in which the doctor uses such glasses to see the structure and functioning of the patient’s internal organs. Tools of this type can also be used to support surgical operations, allowing for greater precision during the operation.
Data analysis is undoubtedly another important area that supports progress in medicine. The enormous computing power of today’s computers makes it possible to analyze medical data at an unprecedented level. IBM Watson Health is a great example here. IBM Watson is a supercomputer with 2880 processor cores and 15 terabytes of operating memory, combining algorithms for natural language processing, searching for information, knowledge representation, automatic inference and machine learning. Watson Health is equipped with medical knowledge based on 600,000 test results, more than 2 million pages published in scientific journals and 1.5 million patient records. The system specializes in the diagnosis of cancer and boasts 90% efficacy in detecting cancerous lesions, which is a highly impressive statistic. Not only does the system make the diagnosis, but it also recommends treatment based on information pertaining to what has been the most effective treatment for people with similar illnesses in the past.
The abovementioned technologies are by no means exhaustive in terms of solutions and their possible use in medicine, but at the moment they are the most widely used in the field. Of course, it is expected that new technologies, new ideas, and new tools will appear in a very short time. In the context of health care, perhaps more than anywhere, this is obviously very good news and it is worth keeping an eye on these trends, as they affect all of us.
Data Analysis Shaping Business – Interview with Samsung’s Andrzej Czechowski
What are the main goals which you set in terms of business analytics?
Andrzej Czechowski: At this point, all of the companies we work with, regardless of the industry, are gradually becoming analytical and IT companies. As Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, once said, we are waking up to a new reality and can no longer run a business without business analytics. So we spend more and more time analyzing data and trends, because it makes it much easier to make decisions. And because of that, these decisions become more accurate, and we can avoid a lot of mistakes, thanks to an analysis of the past, and the knowledge of various phenomena that can be observed this way. If you want to run a business, you have to know the numbers. Samsung’s strategy here might not be unique, but we most certainly would like to be a mature company and aware of these numbers, the ways in which we want to develop, competition, and internal and external conditions.
Companies are increasingly becoming aware of the potential which data has, but most still associate it with Excel spreadsheets. How do modern business analytics work for such a traditional approach to data?
Andrzej Czechowski: Here are some trends that I myself also try to reinforce and implement. First, we can see that visualization is becoming the language of analytics. Good visualization, meaning that it is consistent and facilitates the so-called drill down, that is, delving deep into an analytical area, is a very useful tool for contemporary analytics. On the other hand, there is also self-service BI that allows you to discern a lot from the data yourself, without the need to send endless inquiries to IT teams, and without the need to have a professional-level knowledge of databases. At the moment, analysts are on hand for almost anyone, which is as it should be. And the next thing which we can observe is the change in technology itself. This means that data can already be read in real-time, servers are ever stronger, and cloud solutions are available, so technologically advanced analytical solutions are much more widely available than ever before. All that shows that business analysis itself has changed greatly.
In terms of visualization, you use Qlik products – I have QlikView and Qlik Sense in mind here. What do you think is the greatest value of these tools?
Andrzej Czechowski: We use many tools, including self-service data integration. We integrate data earlier so that it is easily accessible in the visualization layer. Everything is managed in such a way that the data is always available and well-visualized. With visualization tools, the data can be read well and I have to admit that there is a lot of pleasure to be derived from using all these possibilities. This makes it very fast and easy to independently set a variety of different dimensions. They can of course also be set by default, e.g. through bookmarks, meaning the constant reports which we use, but the greatest value lies in the fact that you can select a given area and view it from various perspectives and explore it deeply, to understand this data better.
How do employees utilize these tools? Are the primary end users of these visualizations top management, or can every employee use these tools at their operational level?
Andrzej Czechowski: Here, the aspect of customized analysis is very important at every level of access. Data should be available, but not everything for everyone. A Product Manager has different needs than an Account Manager, and the needs of a division head or president are different still. The level of knowledge, the level of information that a person would like to have, varies in scope and in detail. As a result, we also have a variety of tools to meet these needs.
Is there a need for employees to ‘drill down’? Are these tools sufficient? Do they make suggestions for how to change things?
Andrzej Czechowski: Habits are an important aspect of it. And of course you have to change these habits if it can bring benefits for your organization. On the other hand, from experience, I know that you should not change visualization tools too often. The user is used to them, knows them well, and it is precisely the use of proven, well-known tools that produces results and improves efficiency. Of course, new visualizations are still emerging, and there are plenty of additional features we add, such as campaign analysis and marketing promotions, which also require good visualization, making it much easier to understand and plan. Yet there are some elements that we created some time ago, let’s say a year or two ago, which work all the time, look good and should not be changed. As I said, business is growing, new areas are emerging, and it’s there where we add new functionalities.
Which areas of business do you most benefit from using these tools in? Of course, we know that they should be used everywhere, but which areas are fastest to see discernible results?
Andrzej Czechowski: As you mentioned, all areas of the company can benefit by analyzing data and gaining information, but the biggest beneficiary is usually the sales department, as there they need to analyze their activities on a daily, mainly quantitative basis. The Product Manager will also see results quickly, for example, if they analyze the price from the point of view of how market trends have changed and add an analysis of market and marketing trends to their data, such as market research agency data. Another such area is Supply Chain Management, where you have to deliver the product optimally, so you also need the relevant reports. On the other hand, the managers of teams and divisions are an important group of beneficiaries, because they must constantly analyze and review key KPIs from their own point of view.
And the areas that still have some developing to do in this respect? Those that still don’t take advantage of these opportunities 100%?
Andrzej Czechowski: In general, analytics are still developing in all areas. On the other hand, the one in which it is particularly visible, in our company too, is the digital sphere and above all e-commerce. I see the potential for a truly huge revolution in this area, from an analytical standpoint as well. Because we have more and more data here. These areas are still learning how to operate. Opportunities and needs in these terms will certainly grow. Soft information is becoming increasingly important, meaning what the customer thinks, likes, dislikes, an analysis of what is happening on discussion forums or vlogs. It certainly opens up vast possibilities for text analysis and analytics in general.
What do you think are the most important technological trends in Business Intelligence?
Andrzej Czechowski: Mobility is definitely at the forefront. Let’s admit that most of Samsung’s tools, such as phones, are already small computers. The mobility of analytical solutions goes hand-in-hand with the development of the devices we use, which have ever-increasing amounts of computing power, virtually unlimited resources. The devices that we carry with us become the centers of management and it is certainly clear that there are almost no analytical solutions that would not be suitable for mobile devices. Analytics are becoming more and more popular. At the moment you can have a really good, really cheap application that can handle most analytical challenges.
On the other hand, more advanced tools are also emerging. Self-learning systems are becoming popular and offer even greater opportunities, such as reliable sales forecasts and anticipation of sales trends. Cognitive systems are generally a highly fashionable and media-driven topic, sparking the imagination, because we can already see that cars are slowly starting to drive themselves. Which raises the question: where is it heading? Will it be like “2001: A Space Odyssey” where ‘Hal’ takes over the business? One thing is certain, cognitive systems are developing, and decision-making is increasingly automated because it is certainly more reliable than any analyst. And of course, technology will take over more areas of our lives and business, so more and more data on these activities will be analyzed. We can see it today, for example in cloud services, and IoT. It’s already happening.
Could you tell us more about the Samsung Business Consulting service?
Andrzej Czechowski: At Samsung we have seen everything mentioned here, the strength of analytical solutions, and how they change the organization. And since Samsung cooperates very closely with B2B partners, the concept of supporting our partners from the analytical side arose, so as to share the experience we have gained with them. This is a “practitioners for practitioners” format. We have gained experience, we see the pros, cons, and we know which solutions work and how quickly they can be implemented in the organization. For us it is also a very big advantage because firstly, we are building a long-term business relationship with a partner, and secondly it is also a much simpler platform of communication. It’s highly convenient to work on the same set of numbers. We go to our partner and talk about e.g. sales data, trends in the market, and we see the same numbers because we work on the same data systems and our knowledge is convergent. Only 18% of larger companies in the Polish market have a mature BI system. So we see that the demand for such systems, as well as the knowledge of how to use them, is great – among our partners too. This is why the Samsung Business Consulting concept, which will support them not only through tools but also through analytical solutions services, was created.
You cooperate with JCommerce in the areas of Custom Development and BI. Could you tell us more about these joint projects?
Andrzej Czechowski: We have been cooperating with JCommerce for several years now – I think that this cooperation is really effective and I hope we can continue to cooperate. We always set ourselves specific requirements and goals which are achieved, and long may it continue.
OK, that’s all the questions I have. Thank you very much, it was great to hear your insights.
Andrzej Czechowski: Thank you very much.
Why ERP and BI Systems Come in Handy for Startups?
It seems that the answer is no. Startups are ventures which are burdened with considerable risk, so their origins are normally associated with minimal financial outlay, and investment in areas that are not crucial to the running of the business is usually postponed for later. The creators of startups forget, however, that apart from the idea itself, strategy is most important from the perspective of success. So if a startup is not designed for success from the outset, there is a risk that it will never come to pass.
Advantages of the implementation of IT systems
The implementation of ERP and BI systems gives you the opportunity to organize business processes – both in the case of developed organizations and those in the initial stages of development. In the latter case, an additional advantage is that there is no need for reorganization. An entrepreneur can organize his business enterprise around the selected tool, without losing sight of any relevant elements. It is worth remembering that such systems were created to optimize the operation of enterprises, so they are supported not only by technology, but also by decades of experience in business management.
An important step in the implementation of any system is the pre-implementation analysis stage. The Implementation Partner is able to locate the weak points of the organization, as well as indicate the place where the system will achieve the best results. In the case of a startup, the analysis phase can turn out to be groundbreaking for the entire business, and innovative ideas can lead to equally innovative technological solutions that will ensure effective implementation and success.
It is also a good idea to take the implementation of appropriate IT systems into consideration even at the stage of business plan creation. For potential investors, it is a clear signal that the start-up is built on firm foundations, and not just good intentions. In other words – the project gains credibility in their eyes.
It is also worth taking into account the fact that the ERP system gives the company a comprehensive solution that eliminates the need to implement specialized systems, some of which are required by law, as in the case of accounting software. This means reducing the cost of implementation and licensing. A BI system, on the other hand, allows users to control the effects of the company’s operations and enables a rapid response to the rapidly changing external circumstances.
Costs of implementation
The implementation of IT systems may involve considerable costs – especially in the case of highly developed organizations with complex business processes. However, in the case of start-ups, costs need not be so large. First of all, the design of system functionality in parallel with the organization of the company itself can help to reduce implementation costs. Secondly, users can easily select tools whose price will be within the realms of budgetary constraints.
What to choose?
ERP systems facilitate modular design, which means that they consist of functionalities serving different areas of the company. These modules are fully integrated (i.e. the data from each module is available in one place), but do not all have to be implemented immediately. At the beginning, you can successfully focus on the key functionalities, while others may be implemented later, or you can also leave them out completely.
ERP solutions available in the cloud are also a good option for start-up owners, as they are very flexible in terms of costs. They allow you to adjust the price to specific requirements, as well as facilitating full scalability in case those needs change.
Even completely free tools can be used for business intelligence, as such tools will handle basic analytical tasks even at the early stages of the company’s operations – they are primarily self-service applications and the like. Another advantage of tools of this type is that they allow for the evaluation of the benefits of data analysis within the company, before the implementation of a more advanced system.
It is also worth remembering that most companies already operate basic tools which make use of analytics – we are talking, of course, of the ubiquitous Excel, as well as SQL Server, which has built-in analytical functions for the fully licensed versions at least. It’s also a good idea to check if the selected ERP system provides such functionality.
As we can see, the range of possibilities in terms of the selection of tools is broad and does not require companies to immediately invest large sums in complex tools. Of course, in the case of a brand-new, startup adventure with business, such a choice will not be easy for entrepreneurs. So it’s worth taking up the option of a consultation to help you make the right strategic decisions. Such assistance can mean turning to organizations that support businesses, such as a platform for startups, or to a professional company which deals with the implementation of IT systems. This initial consultation is generally free of charge.
Fintech – Financial Technology Changing the Banking Sector!
The world of startups and the sharing economy
The era of classical globalization of the 1990s was a matter of concern for its opponents due to the growing dominance of international corporations. The Internet and digital technology have done much to change this situation. Today, every company can have worldwide reach. Corporations must therefore compete not only among themselves but also with startup unicorns (tech startups which have reached a value of at least $1 billion) and a huge number of small, local projects, which take their clients and profits.
But the problems don’t end there. Thanks to universal access to the Internet, many services which were previously monopolized by large institutions with vast resources can now be successfully provided by the community of users. Crowdfunding makes it possible to raise funds for any selected project, where funds are provided by those who are interested in the project. So young entrepreneurs, who are potential clients of banks (though often with poor credit ratings), are able to access alternative sources of financing for their projects.
Thanks to digital technology, we are also better equipped to cope with common threats posed by on-line services. The risks associated with loans given out based on the social lending model can be successfully solved with the help of the mechanism traditionally used for sharing files on P2P networks. In practice, one borrower receives funds provided by many lenders, so that financial risk – even in cases in which the recovery of funds is problematic – is spread out and thus relatively low. In addition, intermediary services may use different kinds of security, allowing for the verification and identification of potential cheats and assisting in risk estimation based on data from public sources (such as a register of debtors).
What does this mean for financial markets? Using fintech applications, it is not only possible to obtain funding, but also to exchange currency (not to mention the possibility of allocating funds and conducting transactions using digital currency) and to invest. And all this outside the traditional business circulation – and often without the tax burden as well.
The digital revolution is not only a question of new tools. It is also a huge change in the business operations of traditional companies and institutions, which need to come to terms with a completely new model of services and competition from players to whom regulations or tax do not apply. The Americans have calculated that for each car rented according to the C2C model, as many as 13 fewer new cars are sold, meaning less profit for producers and salesmen, subsequent job losses in the automotive industry and lower tax revenues. Banks are also affected by such issues. In the era of universal online banking and aggressive competition, supported by modern technology, it is already apparent that operating a traditional network of branches is no longer the way forward. And that also means a reduction in the workforce.
Polish banks are a global leader in innovation
It is also clear, however, that banks have no intention of giving up so easily. While the digitization of the Polish economy is progressing rather reluctantly, and is more associated with spectacular failures such as unsuccessful attempts to computerize public institutions or the failure of systems which support the counting of votes in local elections, the situation in terms of the banking industry is quite the opposite. Polish banks are perceived worldwide as role models when it comes to the use of technology and innovative solutions. Not only that, but such innovative solutions are created in Poland and are tested in Poland on millions of customers, and later transferred to foreign markets.
We asked Tomasz Chmielewski, a manager in the Next Generation of Banking program at ING Bank Śląski, about digitalization and his vision for the future of banking.
JCommerce SA: As a manager in the Next Generation of Banking program, you work on innovative solutions for the banking industry. What exactly is worked on in such projects?
Tomasz Chmielewski: In our program, we build a new generation of banking – as the name says. This means not only creating web and mobile applications using new technology, but also a change of approach to creating such solutions. The ‘My ING’ system was created and is being developed in cooperation with business processes, IT and User Experience specialists. Functionality, the way it is used and the visual elements of the front layer of the application at the design stage are the result of broad consultation with selected groups of customers. Hundreds of hours of research have assured us that the end result of our work is customer-friendly, understandable and intuitive.
The development of this kind of application also requires the creation of many new modules in the banking system and the modification of existing ones. This allows us to take advantage of new technologies and optimize processes, so that the means of communication with the customer, the data communicated to him and the presentation of it, were specifically adapted to his needs and were universal across all channels of communication with the bank.
Mobile applications for electronic banking are highly popular in Poland, and as for electronic payments, contactless payments, and payments by smartphone, Poles use these solutions readily and often, eclipsing even those from Western societies. But tough competition means that “gadgets” alone won’t attract customers. What is the strategy of digitization of the banks and what can a big bank base its competitive advantage on, in terms of technology?
Tomasz Chmielewski: In the case of ING Bank Śląski we have been heading towards full digitization for years now. We are not just a bank with traditional branches, but one that is seen as modern and innovative. Our web and mobile applications have long been among the most popular on the Polish market.
We are open to all kinds of cutting-edge developments, both in customer service processes, the choice of IT technology, and in work methodology. We work with many suppliers, not just buying ready-made solutions, but above all co-creating them, combining workgroups comprised of specialists from the banking and IT sectors. Our priority is long-term cooperation, because only then can partners get to know the specifics of the business and respond effectively to the current challenges. Here I also have JCommerce in mind, as their specialists have been participating in the development of our solutions for over 8 years now.
In the first phase of creating solutions, we use models and prototypes of solutions. Just like ‘fintechs’, we are not afraid to introduce new technologies and implement functionalities which we have not previously used, keeping in mind the quality and security of our applications. We learn by building our products on strong foundations, but develop them iteratively, placing great emphasis on the repeatability of the production process, which allows for conclusions to be drawn in retrospect and thus continuous optimization.
We also take advantage of the fact that we are part of the ING Group. That means we can use solutions developed in other countries in which the group operates, and share our own. Such cooperation is not only the invaluable exchange of knowledge and experience, but also reduces costs due to the sharing of certain modules, data processing engines, or even entire applications.
Big data, data analysis and reporting, and data mining are hot topics right now. How are they used in the banking industry?
Tomasz Chmielewski: By creating a database of customer activity and analyzing the way they navigate – for example on a web application – we can draw conclusions and optimize our processes. This enables the preparation of personalized offers for customers, the development of a more transparent service model, and finally more effective advice for our customers.
It’s a vast amount of knowledge which we are still learning to make optimal use of. The reporting of these data sets online, in place of monthly summaries which are often received late, allows for a faster response to change and means that we can be highly proactive in our activities.
At the same time, the more we know about the client, the more we can support him. The ‘My ING’ application gives users a new perspective on their products and the expenses which they generate. They can be analyzed both in a daily, monthly or annual summary, and according to category. In turn, the newly introduced Financial Trainer solution plays the role of a friendly adviser. There would be no such solutions without the possibility to obtain large amounts of data and use it skillfully.
Electronic banking is also unfortunately the dream target of cybercriminals. How are banks coping with the threat?
The fight against cybercrime is nothing new in banking. Since the inception of web applications, security is unquestionably a key aspect taken into account in the process of creation. While hackers are creating new tools that allow them to attack banking systems or customers’ computers, we cooperate with specialized suppliers to run tools and systems to counter such threats. Banks and other organizations cooperate with each other in detecting this type of hazard and trying to prevent it.
When creating an online banking application and mobile apps, we take care of safety at every stage of production. Tools are used to control the code which has been created in terms of its accuracy and lack of susceptibility to various kinds of attacks. The application is subjected to a variety of tests, using both automated tools and manual activities undertaken by IT security experts.
Another element of the fight against cybercrime is the continuous analysis of customer activities, which aims to capture abnormal behavior, or gives rise to the suspicion of fraud. Online monitoring can prevent the vast majority of adverse events and makes customers feel secure.
The education and awareness of clients as to the risks that they may encounter when using the Internet is another important aspect. For example, in cases of data phishing, as vital as effective safeguards and tools are, the responsible and proper behavior of users is just as important.
Along with the increasing use of Internet technology in our daily lives, we will modernize the mechanisms to counter attacks and fraud, so that the applications that we provide to users are both user-friendly and secure.
Digitalization is a huge challenge, but is also a great opportunity for both innovative fintech initiatives and for banks, if they are able to take advantage of it. So who does the future belong to? Fintech startups certainly have the potential to revolutionize the market, but the advantage of large financial corporations is the economies of scale – both in terms of access to resources, and constantly refined technology.
We will most probably see a synergy effect, because startups are still in need of funding, and banks have the means to benefit from new technologies, and so can afford to take over these more promising fintech companies. The digital banking revolution can currently be observed, so it is probably just the start of a very interesting story in which AI computers are the heroes, and it’s a real opportunity to shake up the market – and not only in terms of financial services.
Skanska about Cooperation with JCommerce – Interview with Péter Béres
530,000 m2 of office space completed, 170,000 m2 under construction and 320,000 m2 planned, according to data from 2015 for Central and Eastern Europe. This makes a total of over one million square meters of existing and planned offices spread over several cities. Managing such a rich portfolio must be a huge challenge?
Indeed, we realized that without a sophisticated controlling application it is not feasible to prepare high quality timeliness forecasts, as we are not only dealing with huge areas in terms of square meters, but the hundreds of assumptions behind every project. In our business we need to look a minimum of 5 years ahead in every forecasting period for each project, preparing several scenarios with different assumptions and combining such project scenarios in different project plan versions, resulting in huge complex calculations which are almost impossible to follow in Excel. Shifting forecasting into such an application clearly saved time without compromising on quality.
How did cooperation between Skanska and JCommerce come about?
Our cooperation started off with a project to optimize the ERP Microsoft Dynamics AX system in the Polish branch of the company, Skanska Property Poland. The system which was previously in use within the company no longer met expectations, and so, in 2012, JCommerce specialists became involved in the development of the system and its adaptation to the needs of the company. After this initial modernization of the system, JCommerce also proposed the creation of a Web application using .Net technology, which has enabled our users to enter and view data without licensing restrictions to access. This solution was highly popular, and from there new ideas came up for additional modules, such as Rent Roll, a list of lease agreements, and Gain on Sales Calculation, which is a tool for recording the profits associated with these projects.
The system implemented at the Polish division of our organization by JCommerce was presented in such form during the CEE Commercial Property Development meeting, and received wide acclaim. The decision was therefore taken to extend its operation to other markets in the region and integrate it with our internal Korab II system. JCommerce specialists have also assumed responsibility for those stages of the project.
What is Korab II?
Korab II is our own ERP system, which Skanska uses in the CEE (Central / Eastern Europe) countries. Its integration with the solution created by JCommerce enables the flow of data between systems, both in terms of vocabulary data, such as country names or service codes, and financial data. Changes made in one system will be automatically updated in the other.
What were the main problems which you wanted to solve?
Before the implementation of the system we had huge issues with the consistency of the data: the lack of a unified data structure, different units, different currencies and different formulas for calculating the same parameters, depending on the methodology in use in that country. In individual countries, the same parameters or indicators often differed greatly from one another, due to legal, tax, or economic differences. As a result, the company had problems with standardizing indicators that are vital for development project management, such as the market value of the project, the value of land, costs, inflation, or lease profitability.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that data was entered into a number of different systems simultaneously, and was therefore often different – errors came up, and we sorely lacked a singular database for analytical processes. The preparation of reports was highly onerous under such conditions.
Can you give us the main advantages of the system and the benefits which have resulted from its implementation?
The system records all leases, rents, discounts, and annual profits, using the data warehouse. With a significantly improved speed of data entry, users do not have to enter data in different databases; we have direct access to current information and transparent reports. With the web application data being available in all locations at the same time, information is consistent and orderly, without errors resulting from incorrect data entry. Scalability is also a considerable advantage, as is the ease of adaptation to the increased needs of our company, thanks to the technologies used as well as licensing models.
Are you able to name any key performance indicators which you have managed to improve by implementing the system? Can you give us any specific numbers?
I can’t talk about financial KPIs, but can confirm that we have already reduced the reporting consolidation process by one day, which we can “give back” to the operating countries so they now have an extra day before the deadline of their reporting process. It results in better quality that can be seen in the number of questions that need to be asked and the number of revisions that any of the countries need to submit. We foresee that the forthcoming new modules which connect the application directly with HFM, the consolidation tool used by Skanska worldwide, will result in a similar saving of one extra day in 2017.
Skanska and JCommerce continue to work together on the development of the system. What is the current priority?
At this point we are working on the addition of other data grids which we would like to process and analyze; and we plan to extend the range of functionality of the system, for example the Land Valuation tool which analyzes changes in the reported book value of land compared to market value. We also plan to connect up our new CRM system and are considering storing some external market data.
What is the future of the system?
The system has been presented in all of Skanska’s business regions, meaning Scandinavia, the UK, and the United States, and there is a desire to roll out the system in all locations. This is obviously another big challenge that requires the adaptation of the system to local conditions, such as different accounting systems, or changing the metric system to the imperial system in the United Kingdom and the United States. But before that happens, we want to tidy up all processes and implement all planned functionalities in the system currently operating in the CEE region, using it as something of a pilot study.
The Future of New Technologies
During the inauguration lecture of our hackathon, you said that over the next 20 years the world will change more than it did over the previous 200 years. If so, then for sure a lot of professions that we know today will disappear. So which do you think will carry on or will develop anew? Which profession is the best choice, for ourselves or our children?
First, you need to have an open mind, there is no point deluding oneself that common patterns will work in the future. I think everything will change ever faster. Perhaps those young people who have come here today to take part in the workshops and competition represent the last generation for whom driving will be a common skill. For the next generation it might just be a hobby like horseback riding for us, and most people will have cars which will drive themselves to the destination point. And that means you have to be very open to change. The most valuable professions, the most prospective, will be all the jobs that are associated with data – that’s for sure. So the job of a statistician, an analyst, but also an engineer. There will also be some professions which are strictly related to the humanities, such as a psychologist, who will lend us an ear, or the arts, so the professions which either cannot be or which we will not want to be computerized.
So then which jobs will become obsolete?
All those in which humans had to learn some rules and now apply them, such as, for example, primary care physician, lawyer and translator. These are professions in which computers have now taken over from humans. How many of us are treated by Dr. Google? In the future, instead of blindly pestering Google, we will have a computer equipped with artificial intelligence, which actually studied medicine which means that it learned on real cases – what the symptoms are, what the causes are, what happens to a person during illness, and how to treat it. And such a computer, just as it plays chess today, will someday be able to diagnose patients – perhaps even more effectively than a human doctor.
So apart from programmers, not many of us can sleep soundly?
Not necessarily, because on the other hand, there are also jobs that can be computerized, but have not been. Some time ago I worked on a project for a garbage truck that gets around without a garbage man or a driver. And indeed several such garbage trucks were produced. It was a pretty good prototype, actually went round in the morning without human involvement, and the computer and sensors controlled the mechanical arm which gathered up the trash, and the garbage truck continued on. But in the end the project was abandoned. The arm didn’t always manage to pick up the trash, or the garbage bins were not always in the right place, or someone had forgotten to put them out, or they were hidden somewhere. Probably it could have been figured out, but in the end it was definitely cheaper to just hire people to do the job. And it is quite distinctive. Once upon a time in fantasy books or science-fiction movies, it was machines or robots that twisted the screws and did the worst jobs, and people functioned as managers. But now it turns out that it is often quite the opposite. In shopping centers, logistics centers and loading bays, the computer tells the worker where to go, and a man with a speaker in his ear hears: six steps to the left, two steps to the right, the third shelf, raise your hands … These roles can be completely reversed.
It’s a bit like in the Matrix…
It could turn out in one of many ways, as computers are very good at making decisions and, increasingly often, we let them. For example, in the recent high-profile case of driverless cars, which from time to time will have to decide, for example, whether to kill a passenger or a pedestrian who forced his way onto the road.
So the most important roles will be played by the programmers, right?
Well, not quite. Because artificial intelligence is not programmed. At least not in the sense that there are sets of rules that we have input, and now the machine must abide by them. No. It works like this: at the beginning we put some data into the machine. Information, figures, some content. For example, a model of artificial intelligence, which was asked to write an essay, had previously learned the content from Wikipedia. As it read, it received the command: contribute your opinion. There were no rules which would have regulated this process in advance.
Well, but if we do not implement rules at the start, we may completely lose control of the process. As with the example of the bot which was supposed to learn how to interact with Twitter users. The result was that it turned into a racist Hitler-lover, a ‘hater’ to all around, and had to be switched off … And this driverless car which we talked about, based purely on data, would probably sacrifice the person who was older, in worse physical condition, or of less importance to society. Because such is the logic of data. But it is socially unacceptable.
I think that it will. Because data changes the way of thinking, the paradigm is changing. Today we have your beliefs, your views, so in science we have hypotheses. After they have been constructed we set out to verify them, we draw some conclusions and get to work. In this model which I am talking about, there is no initial hypothesis. Only data – text, a number, a picture. Then there’s the model, meaning that we have learned something from the data, first came the abstraction, then the generalization, we have some rules, but the rules are derived from the data. And only with these rules are we able to draw any conclusions. And because there is so much data, everything is somehow connected to each other, this model turns out to be not so terrible. We can tell it: learn from this data, then verify it using different data. And then something arises, which was missing in the approach based on one’s belief system: it conflicts with empirical evidence. This way I can very easily judge whether I was right or not.
I don’t know if you know, but it has been estimated that as many as 70-90% of scientific papers, especially in the field of medicine, are falsified. The conclusions drawn are simply untrue. Why? Because someone had their hypothesis, perhaps even somehow reached it objectively, for example, he had a group of patients, he found something noteworthy. On this basis, he developed a hypothesis, then generalized it to all of us. But without the support of the data. Because really the result came first, and the data was adjusted to fit later. Because the data can easily be juggled, if we already have our conclusions before we even start.
Okay. But people have a tendency to impose rules. Just as medicine has bioethics, which prohibits certain tests and treatments, purely because of convictions, there may be a need for such regulation in computer science, the creation of infoethics …
I don’t know what it would look like, but it would be very interesting. Perhaps it will turn out this way, but at this stage, however, it is still science fiction.
Well, yes, because we are talking about artificial intelligence, which is also still just science fiction. But now let’s focus on something that is more real. The analysis of Big Data. Is it ethical to analyze all the data on network activity, payments, GPS positions? Theoretically we are able to connect all this data to a particular person, say, a Social Security number and know almost everything about him, even the most personal, intimate details.
That’s true. And it actually happened some time ago. There’s a book, Dataclysm, or data cataclysm, about how much computers know about us. The book was written by an American who ran an online dating site. It’s a specific kind of site where you can lie about certain issues, but you can’t, for example, lie about your preferences, because you want to meet a person who you find interesting, not the opposite. So there are aspects of your privacy which you have to tell the truth about, and yet these are things that you wouldn’t want to read about yourself in the paper. It’s amazing how much people are willing to tell you about themselves after all. The analysis of such data allows us to build a complete profile. As being off-line is slowly becoming a kind of luxury, so privacy is already a luxury nowadays.
That’s why we’re starting to see regulations come into effect. The European Union ratified the ‘right to be forgotten’ last year – so these are the first steps to giving us back the rights to our data.
That’s true. But on the other hand, we know that the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese and others are also listening to and recording all the telephone calls in the world, all emails, anything you have ever said or written. There are people who analyze and archive it for some reason. The technology already allows it – the storage and processing of data is now so cheap that governments are able to do it. Being anonymous is really a luxury, but it seems to me that people don’t really want it. They are able to put a lot about themselves out there online. It’s true that if we want to enjoy the benefits of the Internet, we need to share data. The system needs to know about us. And that’s okay. However, in using our data, we must take into account the benefits and drawbacks. We sell our data for tangible benefits. And the problem lies in the fact that in reality we sell data for below its true value. Or even for a song.
Okay. We’ve gone off topic a bit. Since there are so many unknowns and so many threats, what decisions about the future can we make to minimize this risk, even a little? Even if only in a professional sense, where to start?
The key word is data. There’s more and more and there’s going to be more still. We generate it, devices generate it, and soon we will process it on an even greater, unprecedented scale. So, people who deal with this data, plus those who have an open mind, will be increasingly indispensable. Anyway, for now there is a lack of them, good professionals are always lacking in these developing fields. In a year’s time they’ll be lacking even more, and in two years more still.
But won’t it be another ‘golden direction’? Twenty years ago, parents dreamed that their children would become doctors or lawyers. Nowadays management is most fashionable. And everybody has a tertiary degree. And now they have nowhere to work. Isn’t it going to be the same all over again? What if a machine ends up taking the place of this analyst?
That’s true. After twenty years it might actually turn out that these professions related to information technology which we know today will no longer exist. Today, however, universities are not able to turn out as many graduates as the labor market needs. Information technology today is changing the world and drives development in its entirety. It changes the scientific approach; it affects all areas of the economy and human activity. Twenty years is not all that short-term a perspective. It seems to me that during these next twenty years, the outlook in terms of IT specialists won’t worsen. And what comes next? After that, we simply don’t know, nobody can predict what will happen.
Customer Communication Management (CCM) – What is It?
The image of CCM has changed in the modern era. Electronic channels of communication are now hugely important, as many companies have moved away from snail mail as the main channel of communication with customers. Depending on the organization, between 50% and 95% of documents nowadays are delivered electronically. The primary reason for this change was, of course, massive savings on postage. For many companies electronic communication means cheap communication. Apart from cost optimization, on the other side of the coin is the matter of increasing revenues, here marketing is playing an important role. Well, in terms of correspondence we talk about direct contact with the customer, and modern marketing must support this area, just as with other areas in which the client comes into contact with the brand. Traditional correspondence may be of great importance in such cases.
All contact with clients is part of the marketing campaign
The marketing paradigm has changed. The existing perception of the customer through the sales funnel (AIDA) is a thing of the past. We have to recognize the importance of customer loyalty and the needs and potential of the client as a prosumer. This means that contact with the customer must be carefully planned so as to support its involvement at every stage of its relationship with the brand. But this is easy to say, harder to do. Customers are inundated with an avalanche of information and avoid ads, or are merely indifferent. It is increasingly difficult to get their attention. What tools we should use to build engagement?
Crossmedia, multichannel, omnichannel
Modern CCM no longer focuses only on the end result: an invoice, a statement, a policy, a ticket. Such a document, from a marketing point of view, is a very valuable communication channel, which can be used to present additional offers (cross-selling / up-selling). On the other hand, there is no reason that the customer should be deprived of all the benefits offered by modern data management systems, such as personalized messages, based on demographic data or the transaction history of a customer. In CCM systems such capabilities have been detected, that in reality have always been there, and so data, enabling deep customization and easy handling of multiple channels.
Use each piece of information
If we want to arouse the interest of the recipient, we should get the message across in a way that he will respond to, by adapting the content, phrases, and graphics. Messages should take into account factors such as the interest of the client, the previous activity, the value for the company, and the relationship with the customer. In its simplest form we apply customer segmentation. Such a process should not be strictly limited to rigid divisions of a base – each campaign can have a different target group. Immediately, it will recognize a segment and match the campaign, which leads to the creation of individualized and engaging documents. We can successfully use the data collected through CRM or ERP. But are systems used in the organization the only source of information? Of course not. We can also draw from public statistical data, we can even use the weather – it all depends on the creativity of marketers. For example, if in a particular city a billboard and in-store campaign is launched, we can standardize the rest of the communication addressed to clients in this area, which will bring about a synergy effect. CCM allows us to use the extensive logic of creating documents. Due to personalization we will gain a response rate anywhere from 2 to 10 times better, depending on the industry.
Be where your client is
CCM systems provide the ability to support multiple communication channels: SMS, email, post, social networking, and customer portals. Data is processed in packages, on-demand or interactively. We send messages in the way that the client prefers to receive them. If we base our actions on previous dealings with the client and have studied his reaction, it may even turn out to be unnecessary to send him a request to complete a survey regarding his preferences. Let’s learn about customer preferences ourselves. Let’s accumulate information which will allow us to adopt a more customer-friendly approach. Choosing the optimal communication channel not only increases the response rate, but at the same time increases the cost-effectiveness of communication.
A marketing campaign is a series of interactions
An engaging campaign should have several stages. A single display is not enough, but on the other hand you can not overdo the intensity. The campaign should be planned, its course carefully charted, adjusted during its period of operation, and with a mix of different channels of communication. Process automation supported by the CCM allows for the simultaneous operation and control of complex processes across multiple campaigns. In fact, CCM systems are primarily efficient systems of mass information processing.
CCM within the organisation
A CCM system is a tool that is best suited to a large, dynamic organization. Other systems in use within the company should be integrated to maximised the potential of the data which is processed. This approach lets you correlate information sent to the client, independently from various departments. The structuring of all channels facilitates a greater level of control over the content of communication and any changes to it.
We achieve another significant advantage with the implementation of CCM – namely, we get the opportunity to build a consistent brand image. A consistent form, the properly used label, the appropriate vocabulary. Even if we give business users the freedom to create content in documents, the key elements for us related to the visual identification of a firm remain uneditable.
The effects of CCM systems are not only found in letters sent by post, but also smartphones and interfaces of customer service portals. The connecting and the processing of data collected and presented in different places are growing in importance. Customers are no longer anonymous, as companies allow each one to feel special. So a valued customer, if he considers the product to be valuable, will pass on his recommendation and thus will be an ambassador for the brand.
How Not to Come Unstuck When Implementing a Business Intelligence System – Part 2
So how do you avoid mistakes in the process of implementing a business analytics system?
Identify your needs
Even during the pre-implementation analysis, it is vital to determine the specific problems and questions to which Business Intelligence systems will help us find the answer. A failure to clearly define these issues may mean that the system will contain all the data, but in actual fact will be of very limited use. Each company has different characteristics, different issues which must be dealt with, and analytical reports must respect this uniqueness. To make this possible, the system must be implemented so as to optimally fulfill the needs of a particular customer.
Make sure that the correct needs are identified
The incorrect identification of needs is also a major issue in implementing a BI system. The most common reason is the desire to have all the data and analyze all the areas that are redundant (in a previous article, I wrote why having all the data available in the BI system is inefficient). A faulty analysis means that in theory all the data that we wanted to have is available in the system, but in practice we are unable to gain full benefit from it.
Give yourself enough time to analyze
Business and pre-implementation analysis is one of the most important stages of each implementation of Business Intelligence. Customers may seek to reduce the time for analysis to a minimum or accelerate the individual phases. Unfortunately, errors or omissions at this stage can be very costly in later phases, and often result in delays in the completion of the project as a whole.
Get to know the tools
Each new system is useful insofar as the people who use it can derive benefit from it. If the end-users are not able to use BI reports and analyses effectively, the system will be of limited use. Unfortunately, customers often overestimate their knowledge of the tools and sacrifice time spent on training, which ultimately means that the system is not utilized to its full potential.
Above all, the final results of the implementation of Business Intelligence, from the perspective of the end-user, are the reports and the managerial cockpit. Due to the huge number of different specialists (even within a single company) who can reap the benefits of BI tools, as well as the diversity of their tasks, we cannot ignore the fact that they have different reporting needs. Any lack of appropriate visualization methods, tailored to the needs of specific groups, means that although reports show the correct data and the desired information, they are unattractive or ineffective for end-users, who therefore use them reluctantly or rarely.
Use only the essential tools
Depending on the choice of technology and software provider, some systems offer a wide range of different reporting tools, data presentation methods, and access points to information in the Business Intelligence system. However, there is a risk that too much equipment can cause a sense of distraction or confusion among end-users. So use only those tools you really need in choosing a certain, proven, developed and scalable solution to last “for years”, because changes are expensive and cause confusion, reducing the efficiency of the company as a whole.
How Not to Come Unstuck When Implementing a Business Intelligence System – part 1
The problem of “dirty data” refers to virtually all Business Intelligence implementations, regardless of the size of the data. In every natural environment, every computer system, there are errors and omissions in the data. This includes the problem of so-called dark data, or data which is not used, both due to the fact that it is useless, and because it is poorly organized and therefore cannot be effectively processed. It is therefore important to devote sufficient time to eliminating inconsistencies and to determining their origins, as well as to the arrangement of the data that is valuable in the analytical process. The “cleansing” of the data is very important, because all incorrect or incomplete information will affect the quality or even the correctness of the results of reports and analyses in the BI system.
Too much data
The amount of data stored and generated daily by companies is very large and constantly growing. However, this doesn’t mean that all this data will be useful for the implementation of the BI system. A difficult but necessary task is the selection of appropriate data – even at the stage of pre-implementation analysis. The integration of other data will result in prolonging the analysis and implementation processes unnecessarily (and thus also increase the cost), but does not bring any real analytical or business benefits.
Nobody to take responsibility for the processes and data
During the pre-implementation analysis it often turns out that there is nobody who is clearly responsible for some of the key processes. This just goes to extend and complicate the analysis and the subsequent implementation of the system, due to the fact that these “orphan” areas are very difficult to verify, clean and implement.
Differences in data during migration
During the implementation process, within which the migration of a current solution to another tool takes place, it often turns out that the data in the new system is different in relation to the previously used solution. This is a fairly typical situation and results from changes made to the system during use, and as a result the guidelines connected with the starting point and adopted for the migration may differ from the existing condition of the system. In such situations, cooperation between the developer and end-users is vital to identify the source of the problem and make it clear that the new solution is trustworthy.
Lack of openness to change
Even the best system would barely be worth having if there were nobody to use it. A Business Intelligence system must be based on real needs and the actual interest of potential end-users within the company. In a situation where employees are resistant to change, it is essential to ensure that they come to trust the new tools, and that in turn their needs and objectives are met in full.