Our cover story this month reveals how Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Stripe in Southeast Asia, and her team are driving financial inclusion across the region and supporting SMEs with end-to-end services putting users first

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This month’s cover story reveals how Stripe’s payments platform is driving financial inclusion across Asia.

Welcome to the latest issue of Interface magazine!

Opportunities for innovation and growth via the adoption of new technologies are everywhere. However, organisations are faced with a bewildering array of choices to help them transform and choosing the best option to drive positive disruption is a tough call. We take a look at some of these fascinating journeys…

Read the latest issue here!

Stripe: increasing the GDP of the internet

Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Southeast Asia, Stripe
Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Southeast Asia, Stripe

This month’s cover story explores the genesis of fast-growing payments platform Stripe. Sarita Singh, Regional Head & Managing Director for Southeast Asia, leads a team driving financial inclusion across the region, supporting SMEs with end-to-end services putting users first.

“We’re building products and the financial infrastructure to help our users go cross-border, beyond their domestic boundaries, to widen their markets and drive efficiencies within their financial services infrastructure. With Stripe under the hood, businesses  are able to focus on what they do best without wasting time researching, purchasing, integrating, and maintaining dozens of payment technology point solutions because Stripe is a platform that offers all of them, and is already integrated.”

IAG: tech procurement linked to purpose

We speak with IAG’s CPO & VMO Claire Ledder, who reveals the transformative approach to technology procurement being deployed by an Australian market leader home to several leading insurance brands. “We’re now able to tackle sourcing and contracting with an end-to-end approach capable of measuring the value delivered.”

IAG’s CPO & VMO Claire Ledder
Portrait Photography

U.S. Department of State: facilitating diplomacy with tech

Todd Cheng Director of IT Customer Service at the U.S. Department of State, talks about the ever-evolving relationship between technology and diplomacy. “We’ve been through the process of updating the IT model at State to a new, more customer centric version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).” By his calculations, these changes have benefited the organisation by reducing network disruption by some 400,000 hours of diplomacy every month.

Afni

Afni’s CISO Brent Deterding explains how breaking down the traditional and perceived barriers between security and the boardroom can transparently position cyber effectiveness as a critical enabler of improved business outcomes.

Afni’s CISO Brent Deterding
Afni’s CISO Brent Deterding

Also in this issue, we hear from Zoom on the future of work and report again from London Tech Week where an expert panel gave advice for businesses on anticipating and preparing for cyber risk against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

EyeCare Partners works in partnership with clinicians and healthcare leaders to achieve the best patient and business outcomes and this…

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EyeCare Partners works in partnership with clinicians and healthcare leaders to achieve the best patient and business outcomes and this has had dramatic results, such as a 1,500% revenue growth since 2015.

EyeCare Partners is growing through acquisitions, by providing strategic capital and operational support to its network of partner practices in 680 locations across 18 states. In February 2020, this growth was boosted when Swiss private equity firm Partners Group acquired a controlling stake in EyeCare Partners. “They’re a very interesting group,” he says. “They’re very heavy on investment, plus they have a very, very impenetrable and robust sustainability platform too, which is very near and dear to my heart through my time at Unilever,” This level of growth is fuelled significantly by increasing demand for eye care over the longer term, driven by an ageing US population and an increased incidence rate of eye diseases. But this level of growth requires an agile and resilient operational enterprise.

Ericsson organised a dedicated virtual event, Ericsson Digital Unboxed 2021, for Jazz Pakistan, to share its thoughts on industry leadership…

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Ericsson organised a dedicated virtual event, Ericsson Digital Unboxed 2021, for Jazz Pakistan, to share its thoughts on industry leadership and discuss digital infrastructure.

Ericsson’s global and regional experts and thought leaders showcased the latest insights, use cases and technologies tailored to Jazz Pakistan.

During the virtual event, Ericsson shared its technology vision and updates, and also discussed the possibilities for consumer and enterprise segments. It delved into several topics revolving around creating a differentiated user experience for sports, spectrum strategies, and dedicated networks with a focus on B2B segments.

As part of the event, the latest Ericsson ConsumerLab reports were also presented and discussed. Several demos were also part of the event like Edge Compute Gaming, where low latency access can enable a better gaming experience, and Ericsson Industry Connect, a channel-ready cellular network for factories and warehouses, built to streamline ordering, installation, and management for Enterprise IT.

Abdul R. Usmani, VP of Network, Jazz said: “Digitalisation is everywhere and is now part of our daily lives. At Jazz, we aim to provide state-of-the-art end-to-end services to our customers, focused on data-driven networks as well as the need to accelerate technology advancements in the areas of AI, FinTech and digital content.

“The Ericsson Unboxed event showcased several valuable insights which will accelerate the next phase to meet the evolving demands of connectivity. We are looking forward to more insights and are confident in the next step of the digitalisation journey.”

Ekow Nelson, Vice President of Ericsson Middle East and Africa and Head of Ericsson Pakistan added: “Ericsson’s partnership with Jazz spans over many years with several recent wins and shared successes in the areas of network rollout and digital services. Our world is witnessing challenging times due to COVID-19 and connectivity has never been more critical than ever.

“At Ericsson, we endeavor to automate and accelerate our networks and technology to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. We are working closely with Jazz to provide the best possible connectivity, ensuring that Jazz networks run optimally as demand grows and the need for digitalization expedites.”

UtterBerry, a tech giant whose innovations have been used on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, is…

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UtterBerry, a tech giant whose innovations have been used on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, is bringing some of its operations to Leeds, Yorkshire, creating 800 jobs – as reported by the Yorkshire Post.

The business’s primary objective is producing sensors which monitor the movements of infrastructure – for example, bridges and tunnels – in real time. It allows those working on the infrastructure to be warned in advance if anything’s wrong, preventing potential accidents.

The new Leeds hub will also design and manufacturer contactless COVID-19 symptom scanners. UtterBerry is aiming to roll these out across the globe.

Heba Bevan, founder and CEO of UtterBerry, is keen to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic find meaningful work again, and to attract more women into a typically male-dominated industry.

“What attracted me to Leeds was I knew there was a huge amount of talent around Yorkshire because you have got amazing universities,” she said.

“There is a huge pool of undergraduate and graduate talent.

“Engineers want to do good and provide sustainable developments. The pandemic showed us just how much we are lacking in manufacturing.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said that the investment was “fantastic news for Leeds”.

As reported by DroneLife, Verizon has launched a Robotics Business Technology Division in a bid to involve itself further in…

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As reported by DroneLife, Verizon has launched a Robotics Business Technology Division in a bid to involve itself further in the unmanned sector.

Verizon states that it “expands enterprise solutions for drones and ground robotics”.

It acquired Skyward, a drone management company, in 2017 and has since used drones for emergency response and the maintenance of its own network.

It has also worked closely with businesses like UPS or delivery projects, and to leverage the power of 5G.

The new division will continue to enable autonomous solutions for Verizon.

“Enterprises in many industries are adopting drones and ground robots to gather data, survey and monitor infrastructure, and automate logistics operations,” says Mariah Scott, Head of Robotics Business Technology.

“By integrating these fleets with one operational platform, and leveraging Verizon’s advanced connectivity solutions, businesses can speed up time to insight, increase automation of their operations and deliver greater value.”

“Robots are a critical aspect of the 5G future. The formation of this new business unit will accelerate the symbiotic relationship between humans and machines, paving the way for Verizon to transform the way businesses approach innovation and the future of work,” adds Elise Neel, VP of New Business Incubation.

“Our talented team of roboticists will leverage the power of Verizon’s network, paired with the sophistication of next-generation software, to orchestrate and unify robotic experiences. This work will help deliver on the promise of making the fourth industrial revolution a reality.”

According to a new study, technology could create a way for indigenous communities in the Amazon to curb deforestation in…

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According to a new study, technology could create a way for indigenous communities in the Amazon to curb deforestation in a major way, as reported by the BBC.

Conservationist groups have supplied indigenous citizens of the Peruvian Amazon with satellite data and smart phones to allow them to monitor the removal of trees. As a result, tree losses have been halved in the first year of the project.

The researchers wanted to see if putting information directly into the hands of those living in the forests themselves could make a difference to the rapid deforestation that has plagued these areas for decades – with great success.

The controlled study was randomised, using 76 remote villages in the Amazon, with 36 randomly-assigned people participating.

Thirty-seven other communities served as a control group, where normal forest management resumed.

When suspected deforestation was picked up by satellite information, coordinates and photos were loaded onto USB drives and delivered up the Amazon river. Then, the data was downloaded onto apps which would show the participants the locations.

It could then be confirmed whether or not the deforestation was unauthorised, and community members would decide on the best approach. If drug dealers were involved, they could decide whether to report to law enforcers. Otherwise, they would intervene directly.

“It’s quite a sizeable impact,” said Jacob Kopas, an independent researcher and an author on the paper. “We saw evidence of fewer instances of tree cover loss in the programme communities compared with control communities.

“On average, those communities managed to avert 8.8 hectares of deforestation within the first year. But the communities that were most threatened, the ones that had more deforestation in the past were the ones pulling more weight and were reducing deforestation more than in others.”

Indigenous groups welcomed the research. “The study provides evidence that supporting our communities with the latest technology and training can help reduce deforestation in our territories,” said Jorge Perez Rubio, the president of the Loreto regional indigenous organization (ORPIO), where the study was carried out.

A global shift to remote working has accelerated digital transformation and prompted a higher degree of focus on cybersecurity, according to Kaspersky’s latest report.

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A global shift to remote working has accelerated digital transformation and prompted a higher degree of focus on cybersecurity, according to Kaspersky’s latest report.

Transitioning from a corporate office environment to working from home, coupled with financial restraints due to economic recession, has seen challenges presented to cybersecurity experts not many had seen before.

From February to March 2020, a 569% growth in malicious website registrations was detected and reported to INTERPOL, including malware and phishing. In April, there was a huge spike in ransomware attacks by multiple threat groups that had been previously dormant for months.

Cybercrime threats are expected to rise as more opportunities present themselves in the coming months. Fake vaccine registration websites will aim to steal data, whilst business email compromise schemes aim to take advantage of the economic downturn and shift in the business landscape.

Protecting the perimeter of a company is no longer enough: there is a desperate need now for home office assessment with tools to scan the level of security. Discouraging poor internet practices such as connecting to an unprotected Wi-Fi hotspot should be top of the list, with VPNs and multifactor authentification systems being offered as a solution.

With an increased reliance on cloud technology and services, dedicated management and protection measures are now a necessity for businesses. Around 90% of employees use non-corporate software and cloud services, such as messaging apps, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.

To ensure that any corporate data is kept under control, better visibility over cloud access will be necessary. IT security managers will need to align themselves with this cloud paradigm and develop skills for cloud management and protection.

This is why, according to Kaspersky, the quality of protection is “no longer up for discussion.”

“Quality protection is now a must have,” report Alexander Moiseev, Chief Business Officer at Kaspersky.

“Another major trend is that deep integration between various components of corporate security, ideally from a single vendor, now plays a bigger role. For instance, there was a long-held belief in the industry that various specialised solutions from various vendors can help create the best combination for protection.

“Now, organisations are looking for a more unified approach with maximum integration between different security technologies.”

You can read Ksapersky’s “Plugging the gaps: 2021 corporate IT security predictions” report in full HERE.

Data revealed as Tech Nation and Dealroom launch the Impact & Innovation database…

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New research from Tech Nation and Dealroom reveals that investment into UK impact startups increased 9.5x between 2014 and 2019. UK impact startups have raised €1.4B so far in 2020 with Cleantech and Climate tech companies raising the most capital of all UK impact startups. 

The biggest rounds for UK impact startups in 2020 include Octopus Energy, Arrival, Connexin (Hull), Tokamak Energy (Abingdon), Compass Pathways, Cera, Highview Power, FiveAI (Cambridge), The Meatless Farm Company (Leeds).

It comes as Tech Nation and Dealroom launch the  Impact and Innovation database, that catalogues 4,939 startups and scaleups, 7,472 funding rounds, and 232 exits of innovative companies addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. 

George Windsor, Head of Insights at Tech Nation, commented: “UK impact tech firms have come on leaps and bounds over the last six years – with nearly 10x more investment made into groundbreaking companies in 2020 than 2014. UK tech must continue to play a key part in tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges, including  climate change. This revolution is happening right across the country. Tech Nation is pleased to work with some of the leading companies in this space through our world-first Net Zero programme – ensuring that companies working in this sector can scale to have the greatest impact.”

The data also reveals that European startups are more impact-focussed than their global peers. €6B was invested into European impact startups in 2019, making up over 15% of all VC investment in the region. This research shows that what was once fringe investment and innovation activity is finding traction and proven success in Europe, becoming a core part of European innovation ecosystems.

Climate tech startups, which includes electric vehicles, have attracted the most investment within the Impact sub-sector, with European players emerging as global market leaders. European companies working to tackle climate change and its impacts have attracted €9.8B in VC investment in the last five years. 

Impact innovation startups are also fueling growth and job creation. Crucially, these startups are actively hiring, the Impact & Innovation database lists over 2,100 jobs in impact startups that are currently hiring in Europe – over 390 of these are in the UK. 

The Impact and Innovation platform will bring together startups, investors, non-profits, governments, and corporates in one open-access data-driven platform. The new mapping of the global impact and innovation ecosystem will facilitate data-driven policy and decision making, the sharing of cross-industry knowledge, and will foster the partnerships required to help next generation innovators succeed on the global stage.

A new study from Business Fibre reveals the best cities to be a tech student around the world

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A new index by Business Fibre has analysed 34 of the world’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) capital cities to find 2020’s best cities to be a tech student. The index has analysed each city according to metrics such as the number of universities offering technology and engineering courses, total tech companies and employees in each city, the monthly living cost and the top cities investing in tech-related research. See the index here

The top 10 cities to be a tech student

To find the world’s top cities to study technology, we have ranked each city according to a series of metrics to find the overall winners for those looking to start their career in technology. 

The metrics explored include budget spent on tech-related research, the number of people employed in professional, scientific and technical sectors, tech companies, monthly living costs as well as the number of top universities offering technology and engineering courses.

Introducing the top 10 cities to be a tech student…

  1. London, UK
  2. Berlin, Germany
  3. Jerusalem, Israel
  4. Bern, Switzerland
  5. Seoul, Korea
  6. Stockholm, Sweden
  7. Paris, France
  8. Canberra, Australia
  9. Rome, Italy
  10. Tokyo, Japan

Top cities contributing to tech research

Exploring Technology research spend, the study also finds the top cities who are consistently investing in technology research. This has been calculated by looking at the % of the total GDP spent on research.

RankCityResearch Spend (% of total GDP)
1Jerusalem, Israel4.8
2Seoul, Korea4.3
3Bern, Switzerland3.4
4Stockholm, Sweden3.4
5Tokyo, Japan3.2
6Berlin, Germany3.1
7Copenhagen, Denmark3.1
8Vienna, Austria3
9Helsinki, Finland2.7
10Brussels, Belgium2.7

The highest-ranking city is Jerusalem, which ranks high across all metrics and is the 3rd best city for tech students overall. The top three cities for tech-related research also include Seoul, spending 4.3% of the GDP, followed by Bern at 3.4. All three cities also rank high for the best universities and overall top cities for tech students. 

Top 10 universities to study technology worldwide

Based on the top 10 cities to be a tech student, we wanted to find the best universities in each city for aspiring students. To find the best universities BusinessFibre looked at metrics such as the total number of students, faculty staff and the number of international students. This alongside each universities global subject ranking for Engineering and Technology make up the top 10 tech universities in the world. The monthly cost of living has also been included so that students can be sure they’re studying at the best overall tech university.  

RankUniversityWorldwide ranking (Engineering and Tech 2020)City
1Imperial College London7London, UK
2Technical University of Munich25Berlin, Germany
3Technion – Israel Institute of Technology179Jerusalem, Israel
4ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology4Bern, Switzerland
5Seoul National University22Seoul, Korea
6KTH Royal Institute of Technology30Stockholm, Sweden
7Ecole Polytechnique57Paris, France
8The Australian National University71Canberra, Australia
9Sapienza University of Rome127Rome, Italy
10The University of Tokyo21Tokyo, Japan

Comment from Ian Wright: “With technology arguably being the fastest growing and most profitable industry in the world, we wanted to find the best cities in the world to be a tech student as well as the top cities funding technology-related research.  

It’s clear from the research that London, Berlin and Jerusalem are the best cities for students, while Seoul and Bern join Jerusalem at the top for investing in technology-related research. 

For those who don’t want to spend a ton of money on their education, Seoul National University is a great option that offers a lower living cost while still having a good global university ranking.”

Resellers will have a central role to play in helping IT leads manage ‘hybrid’ workforces as employee demand is split between working in the office and at home, according to Brother UK.

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A study of almost 300 office-based employees reveals a divide in appetite for returning to work, with 53% of respondents saying they feel safer working from home in the current climate.

The office commute is the top concern for two thirds of respondents (66%), followed by sharing toilets and bathrooms (65%) and using communal kitchen areas (61%). Almost half (49%) are also worried about the cleanliness of other colleagues, according to the findings.

On the contrary, 37% say they are looking forward to getting back to the office. Many miss seeing colleagues (77%), collaborating face-to-face (62%) and having a ‘proper’ workspace (45%). A quarter (25%) are also missing the office gossip.

The business says this split in demand for office and home working will create a productivity and safety challenge for many organisations – and resellers will have an opportunity to provide a range of solutions, including labelling devices, higher-end print devices for home offices, and compact scanners, to tackle it.

Andy Johnson, Head of Product and Solutions management at Brother UK said: “Understandably, many people in the UK are still concerned about returning to the office. But businesses also recognise that some employees are struggling to work from home and want to offer them the opportunity to resume some sense of normality.

“Companies must cater for both and this hands IT leads the challenge of not only managing a mix of office and home working technology on a longer-term basis, but also making sure they can operate productively while keeping employees safe.

“To do this, businesses will need their reseller partners on hand to help them with a range of challenges, from ensuring they have the right printing and scanning devices so people can work in the office safely, to providing remote working tools so those at home can operate securely at distance.

“We’ll be at the side of partners with our full print range, with devices suited to home and office use, as they help customers to meet the needs of the hybrid workforce.”

Isabelle O’Keefe, Principal of Sure Valley Ventures, explores the ways in which technology companies have adapted and overcome.

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The pandemic has prompted unparalleled uncertainty and disruption for businesses and economists alike. But, as 49% of employees shift to working from home, and consumers move online and adapt to living in lockdown, technology businesses have responded rapidly to fill the void, providing effective solutions for businesses and communities looking to navigate the post-pandemic world.

Throughout lockdown, we have seen a rapid adoption of online and digital services and a shift in spending, with 44% of consumers using contactless or digital payments more and 34% set to do more shopping online. Many of the online behaviours that have been adopted during the outbreak will continue after the pandemic, and this subsequently cultivates the right environment for certain segments of the tech industry to thrive.

A switch to online grocery shopping

UK customers are forecast to spend an estimated £16.8bn on digital grocery shopping during 2020, an increase of around 33%, according to the latest research by Mintel.

Before COVID-19, demand for same-day delivery services was already on the rise. But, as consumers avoid retail outlets in order to minimise the risk of exposure, the pressure on brands to offer a seamless delivery system has become much stronger. Mastercard recently reported that card-not-present transactions made up 50% of April’s volumes, up 10% year on year, demonstrating the significant shift in consumer spend trends in recent months.

The shift in spending habits can be seen through the growth of online supermarket Ocado in the FTSE 350, whose share price has almost doubled since the start of lockdown. Buymie, Ireland’s leading same-day grocery delivery company, which has strategic partnerships with Lidl and The Co-op, has successfully raised a total of c.$9m since the start of the year. The company has seen a surge in demand on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic due to its ability to fulfil grocery delivery orders in as little as one hour. On-demand grocery delivery has emerged as a high growth segment of the tech and retail markets during this extraordinary period.

Advertisers eye in-game ads as audiences rise in lockdown

Advertising is another industry which is rapidly evolving in the current climate. While digital advertising spend is predicted to drop, recent research by ResearchAndMarkets.com indicates that the global in-game advertising market is poised to grow by $10.97bn during 2020-2024, progressing at a CAGR of 20%.

Throughout the lockdown, gaming has experienced rising online audience figures, with telecommunications provider Verizon estimating that video game usage in the USA during peak hours had risen by 75% from the previous week, just one week into lockdown. Games Workshop has had much success by switching to online sales, seen through its current market value of £2.7bn. With audiences rising, Mastercard and Alienware have become the first to sponsor Riot Games, which announced in May that it would offer in-game arena banners for the first time for League of Legends Esports.

Admix, which brings ads to games, esports, VR and AR, is benefitting from this hyper-accelerated digital trend. It is working on a unique technology to support game advertising at scale, where advertisers can bid programmatically through traditional ad-buying platforms, rather than relying on an ad agency model. Non-intrusive in-gaming advertising presents a significant opportunity in today’s market.

Educators and events companies move online

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated efforts to improve remote working and learning as lockdown prohibits the gathering of pupils and professionals around the world. Zoom has achieved global success and Microsoft Teams recently became the 10th most downloaded app in the app store. However, virtual reality is now transforming how training and educational content is delivered and consumed globally.

Immersive VR Education provides a ground-breaking alternative to video-conferencing providers like Zoom. It allows users to immerse themselves fully in a virtual environment, making hard to visualise concepts much easier to understand. In 2020, they have also partnered with the global giant HTC which agreed to invest €3m in the company in May. This evolving partnership in the current pandemic shows how IVR Education is in a strong position to take advantage of the new ways to work and learn in a post-COVID-19 world.

An even stronger demand for robust cybersecurity solutions

The recent surge in online activity has meant that protecting critical data is more important than ever. A report by Centrify highlights that 71% of UK-based business decision makers believe the shift to 100% remote working during the COVID-19 crisis has increased the likelihood of a cyber-breach. With these concerns echoed by management teams around the world, the global cybersecurity market is predicted to grow from $173bn in 2020 to $270bn by 2026.

The recent data protection requirements announced in June for all US Department of Defence suppliers have increased the demand for AI security companies, like Getvisibility, which leverages AI to discover, protect and classify critical data. The company has seen revenues rise by 50% month-on-month since the start of 2020. In the current climate, there is much value in a company that gives users visibility of data.

The current environment has allowed certain tech companies and the transformative digital solutions they provide, to become even more attractive. From our perspective, these emerging tech trends will continue to accelerate in a post-COVID world.

Frances Sneddon, Data Scientist and CTO at Simul8, explores how digital simulation can provide the crystal ball that businesses need.

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How do you loosen a lockdown? It is a challenge that governments across the globe are grappling with as they attempt to balance the necessity of kick-starting economies with the necessity of protecting people and productivity from the coronavirus pandemic. Digital simulation tools could be a crucial piece of the puzzle, helping businesses to rapidly test out the effects of different alterations to their workflows in a risk-free environment before putting them into practice.

Organisations will need to revisit their risk assessments and carry out an entirely new set of analyses to consider how previously run-of-the-mill processes and practices might need to be updated. While containing the further spread of COVID-19 is non-negotiable, opening things up again will require compromises at every turn, finding a workable balance of safety and productivity.

Social distancing, cleaning and hygiene practices, the number of staff on the premises at any one time, shift patterns – this is where the list of new considerations begins. What happens in the event that we reach a point where everyone entering the workspace needs to be tested for coronavirus symptoms? Add to this the wider interconnectivity of daily working needs, from customer interactions to managing supply chains, sharing workspaces with other businesses, controlling the flow of people against transport and infrastructure dependencies, and suddenly the ramifications of any changes begin to multiply.

Simulating possible outcomes

With so many possible knock-on effects when implementing the guidelines necessary to control the spread of the virus, finding the optimum work-arounds to continue any semblance of business-as-usual will likely need some experimentation. Experimentation, however, comes with risk.

By eliminating the risks involved in trial and error, simulation lends itself perfectly to adapting to the new world order where COVID-19 remains a threat. This rapid, predictive technology will offer a new level of preparedness.

Process simulation software uses animated, interactive models to replicate the operation of an existing or proposed production system. It enables organisations to analyse system efficiency and safely test process changes to improve throughput and profitability. It is used for evaluating things such as a manufacturing plant layout, setting up or reconfiguring production lines, routing calls through a complex contact centre, optimising staffing resources, or perhaps evaluating the benefits of new Industry 4.0 improvements.

It offers powerful capabilities to positively influence and streamline the continuity of the customer journey and experience. Marginal gains in processes such as systemised warehousing, seasonal stock levels and delivery infrastructure management can all be simulated to achieve greater cumulative advantages in competitive sales environments.

Using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly build a virtual representation of an existing or proposed system, similar to drawing a flowchart. The simulation can then be used to highlight problems, experiment with process changes and run a range of ‘what-if’ scenarios. This allows you to find solutions that will deliver the best results without risk to current production output or capital investment. Decision making confidence will quickly rise as risk factors decrease.

For example, a production line may need to be elongated to allow enough space between stations for safe work practices. Where will this additional space requirement impose and what will be the impact on throughput? Perhaps less storage space, or perhaps it requires other machinery to also be reconfigured. Warehouses, including picking and logistics processes may also need to be restructured.

Simulations can answer questions you didn’t ask and provide solutions you didn’t know you needed. They can teach you how to learn from mistakes you haven’t yet made and optimise processes in ways you never imagined.

Once reconfigured, how about disruptions that will slow down the production process? Equipment will need to be cleaned more frequently, for example. Certain tasks requiring simultaneous input from more than one worker may need to be rearranged, or they may simply take longer than normal. Simulation is more accurate and flexible than traditional process modelling methods, like spreadsheets, as it incorporates the random events and variability that can impact day-to-day factory flow and throughput. This might include equipment downtime in the event that an engineer cannot be reached to resolve a maintenance issue, or perhaps staff absence if an employee is required to self-isolate with immediate effect.

Data-led decision-making

In order to make appropriate decisions around these issues – decisions that will strike the right balance between productivity and safety – organisations need to work with tangible data. But at a time when whole new precedents are being set, past data will have its limitations in informing the decisions of this new world order – and incorrect decisions will pose actual threats to human life. There is little room for trial and error.

This is where digital simulation tools can be truly invaluable. These AI-driven systems learn quickly with cumulative predictive data facilitating a powerful feedback loop.

Digital simulations offer means of testing multiple different possible outcomes quickly, cost-effectively – and crucially, without risk. Questions about staff resourcing, stock controls, waiting times, supply chain management – anything where you can create a flow chart to analyse different outcomes is suitable for digital simulation.

Every business can benefit from testing the viability, sustainability and ultimately profitability of a proposed change or improvement. Typically, modelling occurred after a build, now it’s possible to predict productivity advances and advantages before. Decision making processes are empowered by an improved level of realism and predictability.

Case study

Setting a new throughput target to meet an increase in production demand – when launching a new model car, for example – will require an audit of current lines to see where the daily production rate can be increased. Chrysler did just that, using simulation software to study its line speed when it was tasked with improving one of its plants’ daily production rate from 930 to 969 vehicles.

Reviewing the full production line manually, and then testing different ideas to see the impact of changes on throughput, would have taken time. It would also run the risk of becoming a costly experiment. Instead, by building a digital simulation of the production line, the team at Chrysler were able to remove this risk and discover a quick route to understanding the full picture, testing different scenarios to identify the most effective plan before implementing.

Chrysler’s simulation revealed that two specific stations were causing bottlenecks and slowing throughput. Attention could now be focused on correcting and optimising those stations to speed up the lines without disrupting the rest of the process. The result of this focused optimisation enabled Chrysler to meet its target of producing an extra 39 units per day, which equated to an extra $1million revenue per day. The simulation provided the evidence needed to fast-track this critical decision, in the end with a relatively simple solution.

While this example demonstrates the benefits of proactively optimising production lines under normal circumstances, the elimination of risk, especially where safety is concerned, makes the use of simulation even more vital as a tool to help navigate to more normalised services in a COVID world.

James Hall, Commercial Director, Striata UK, explores the threats customers face and how to combat them.

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With cybercrime escalating in volume and sophistication every year, consumer trust is a bigger challenge for organisations than it’s ever been. And while legislation such as the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have made things simpler by setting minimum standards for organisations to adhere to, they need to do more to truly guarantee trust.

They should not, for instance, assume that their responsibility is over once a document has been delivered safely to the customer. If a customer’s personal devices are unsecured, there is still a risk that one gets hacked or stolen. This means that confidential information sent by the organisation could find its way into the public eye, or worse, get exploited for criminal purposes. Even if the organisation’s own security protocols are watertight, it could still end up shouldering the blame or have its reputation tarnished.

Fortunately, organisations can (and should) do everything they can to ensure that customer communications are protected throughout the information cycle.

Customers face multiple threats

When considering why it’s so important for organisations to protect customer communication even once it’s on the end device, it’s worth remembering just how many threats customers face.

The millions of mobile phones stolen every year alone represent a massive danger of identity theft. That’s before even getting to the number of people every year who fall victim to phishing scams or who have their information compromised after inadvertently installing malware.

According to Kaspersky Labs, the number of unique malicious objects detected by its web antivirus solution reached 24,610,126 in 2019. Some 85% of web threats detected were malicious URLs making the risk of a customer unwittingly clicking on a URL an ever present threat to data protection.

In short, while organisations have never been more aware of the need to keep their customer data safe internally, the threat to that data once it’s on the customer’s device continues to increase.

Data protection by design

One solution to mitigate these threats is for organisations to bake data protection into the design of their customer communications. Data protection by design is about considering data protection and privacy issues upfront in everything the organisation does, especially when it comes to customer communication. This not only ensures compliance with relevant legislation, it can save the organisation reputational damage and, ultimately, revenue.

But what does data by design look like practically?

Well, encryption and password protection should be non-negotiable for starters. Encrypting and protecting important documents ensures that even when it resides on the customer’s smartphone or laptop, the information cannot be easily accessed if the device is stolen or hacked.

Encryption is a process that encodes a message or file so that it can only be read by the intended recipient. Encryption scrambles, or encrypts, data which the receiving party can only unscramble, or decrypt, using a key (a string of values or an application).

Password protection, meanwhile, means a document cannot be opened without entering a shared secret known only to the sender and recipient. Requiring a password to access a secured document not only adds another layer of protection, but has other benefits. In the unlikely event that a document is sent to the wrong person, the incorrect recipient cannot open the document (personal information remains private) thereby avoiding a data breach.

Customer education is key

While it’s obviously important that the organisation does everything in its power to protect and encrypt information, customer education remains the most powerful weapon in its arsenal. Cybercriminals can find their way around new technologies, but tech-savvy customers are much harder to crack.

If an organisation can help its customers avoid risky behaviour and protect their personal information, no matter where it sits, they’re much less likely to fall victim to cybercrime. That, in turn, means reduced reputational and financial risk.

A new study found that a wide range of streaming services fail to connect with consumers on an emotional and psychological level.

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TV subscription brands consistently show ‘narcissistic’ tendencies, which can erode subscriber trust and ultimately make them disloyal, according to a report launched by Singula Decisions.

The new study – ‘The Psychology of a Subscriber’ – found that a wide range of streaming services, in both entertainment and sports, fail to connect with consumers on a deeper emotional and psychological level, by:

  • Not understanding the fundamental drivers motivating a subscriber’s behaviours and interactions
  • Invading their boundaries when asking for financial commitment too soon
  • Insufficiently tailoring the service to meet the moods and mindset of each customer
  • Creating ‘avoidant’ or ‘ambivalent’ attachments to subscribers that do not build loyal relationships
  • Ineffectively providing subscribers with the ability to share more about themselves and to listen to their feedback

Psychology of a Subscriber

The qualitative study, conducted and authored by Qualitative Researcher, Accredited Psychotherapist and Director of QualiProjects, Jennifer Whittaker, and Business Psychologist and Researcher, Katharina Wittgens, explores subscriber attitudes towards TV brands in the UK and US, gaining a deep understanding of how consumers think, feel and behave throughout the customer journey. 

Whittaker, says: “Many brands do not listen to subscribers, nor do they create a safe enough space for subscribers to come forward and give more. In fact, brands often have unconscious narcissistic tendencies and are blinded by the belief that customers are only there to serve, by giving ‘strokes’ to the ego – aka money to the account – and helping to build a good reputation. Unfortunately, brands cannot know subscribers until subscribers give more. But subscribers will only give more if they trust, and they’ll only trust if they don’t feel forgotten.” 

Part 1: Acquisition

This first report in a three-part series covers the acquisition phase of the customer journey. The research found that dissatisfaction and suspicion can begin from the moment a subscriber ‘joins’ a service, if asked to hand over financial information or commit to the brand too soon. While subscribers are at their most enthusiastic in the first months of engagement, brands rarely take advantage of their potential to become advocates. 

Commenting on the findings, Bhavesh Vaghela, CEO of Singula Decisions, adds: “We recognise how tough it can be to build a strong brand and grow a TV subscription business as consumers continue to dip in and out of services every month. We have seen strong consumer brands being created in other sectors such as retail, ecommerce and banking; consumers are loyal to these brands and TV subscription businesses are behind this curve.  Brands must think differently about how they build a service and experience that best suits the needs of their customers – and do a better job to emotionally connect with their customers to build trust and loyalty.”

Death of the demographic?

Bucking the trend of demographic differences, the study found that at the acquisition stage there weren’t huge variations in needs and experiences between age groups. From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, subscribers of all ages said they felt a sense of being ‘pushed by TV brands to commit to the platform financially or share private information. Both UK and US consumers also emphasised the need for a variety of content; American respondents search for unique content that is frequently updated, while British viewers seek value for money based on choice and options for the whole family. After joining the platform, subscribers felt brands were nowhere to be seen, without guidance on how to use the service or how to connect accounts with friends. 

Best practice opportunities

The findings do indicate, however, that brands willing to listen and take time to truly understand their customers, can build trust and loyalty. The report sets out nearly 40 best practice recommendations that can help brands to offer a simultaneous sense of both freedom and connection that subscribers crave in order to feel comfortable to share more of themselves.

Building a relationship that goes beyond a transactional one will have a huge impact on consumers who are faced with more choice than ever. brands that take a lead from other industries, such as retail, ecommerce, and banking, and seek to connect with their customers on a more emotional level, can emerge much stronger.

For more information and to download the full report, visit https://psychologyofasubscriber.com.

Wazoku is preparing for future growth through an additional injection of £1.25M, on top of its latest acquisition.

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Wazoku has announced a new funding round of £1.25M, led by Calculus Capital, supported by other shareholders and members of the Wazoku management team.

Wazoku is also continuing its expansion with the acquisition of US open innovation firm, InnoCentive’s, assets, creating the world’s most comprehensive and powerful innovation platform and community. Following a partnership earlier in 2020, it quickly became clear that the combination of platform and network had huge value to innovation-focused businesses and was a unique proposition in the market.

“Adding such a remarkable and proven external crowd to our existing platform means that no other organisation in the world has our reach and experience when it comes to open innovation, crowdsourcing and idea management,” said Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku.

“This is a significant step for Wazoku – further funding and a strategic acquisition mean we are better positioned than ever and have a strong and established US presence. Workplaces are becoming inherently open and collaborative and we can offer the tools, services and collective expertise to help global businesses of all sizes solve problems and create opportunities.”

InnoCentive has grown a global network of almost 500,000 expert problem-solvers, comprising CEOs, PhD students, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, retired technologists and business leaders. This combined brainpower has helped address thousands of the world’s most complex innovation and bid data challenges, for organisations such as AstraZeneca, NASA and Enel. InnoCentive has a 75% success rate in solving challenges and Wazoku customers – which include John Lewis & Partners, Barclays and the Ministry of Defence – now have full access to this service.

Wazoku now provides the world’s biggest innovation community and broadest innovation offering. It allows the crowdsourcing of solutions to any pressing business challenge, all supported by the features and functionality already found in the Wazoku platform, Idea Spotlight.

“Our customers have long demanded a platform that integrates internal idea management with external crowdsourcing,” said Alpheus Bingham, CEO and co-founder of InnoCentive. “This enables multiple modes of innovation within the same workflow and on the same digital backbone and the combination of Wazoku and InnoCentive capability offers precisely that. No other firm has the experience and capability of crowdsourcing, idea management and open innovation that this combined proposition brings. The possibilities and potential are hugely exciting.”

Wazoku’s latest investment round brings the total amount raised to £7.35M and recognises the increasing demand for innovation in business. COVID-19 saw both an increase in business and a change in the way in which organisations were using Wazoku, with the quarter during lockdown (April-Jun 2020) Wazoku’s best ever from a new business perspective and overall platform activity level.

“The rapid shift to remote working and the need for engaging dispersed networks as well as the on-going need to innovate and solve problems, has seen a significant increase in demand for both our idea management and open innovation services,” said Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku.

“We will continue to invest in new talent in both Europe and the US, and in product development, but our main focus is on continuing to build awareness of the power of open business models for driving cost-effective and highly impactful business change.”

Peter Ruffley, Chairman at Zizo, discusses how the promise of AI…

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The promise of AI

At present, the IT industry is doing itself no favours by promising the earth with emerging technologies, without having the ability to fully deliver them, see Hadoop’s story with big data as an example – look where that is now.

There is also a growing need to dispel some of the myths surrounding the capabilities of AI and data led applications, which often sit within the c-suite, that investment will give them the equivalent of the ship’s computer from Star Trek, or the answer to the question ‘how can I grow the business?’ As part of any AI strategy, it’s imperative that businesses, from the board down, have a true understanding of the use cases of AI and where the value lies.

If there is a clear business need and an outcome in mind then AI can be the right tool.  But it won’t do everything for you – the bulk of the work still has to be done somewhere, either in the machine learning or data preparation phase.

AI ready vs. AI reality

With IoT, many organisations are chasing the mythical concept of ‘let’s have every device under management’. But why? What’s the real benefit of doing that? All they are doing is creating an overwhelming amount of low value data. They are expecting data warehouses to store a massive amount of data. If a business keeps data from a device that shows it pinged every 30 seconds rather than a minute, then that’s just keeping data for the sake of it. There’s no strategy there. The ‘everyone store everything’ mentality needs to change.

One of the main barriers to implementing AI is the challenges in the availability and preparing of data. A business cannot become data-driven, if it doesn’t understand the information it has and the concept of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is especially true when it comes to the data used for AI.

With many organisations still on the starting blocks, or having not yet entirely finished their journey to become data driven, there appears to be misplaced assumption that they can quickly and easily leap from being in the process of preparing their data to implementing AI and ML, which realistically, won’t work. To successfully step into the world of AI, businesses need to firstly ensure the data they are using is good enough.

AI in the data centre

Over the coming years, we are going to see a tremendous investment in large scale and High-Performance Computing (HPC) being installed within organisations to support data analytics and AI. At the same time, there will be an onus on data centre providers to be able to provide these systems without necessarily understanding the infrastructure that’s required to deliver them or the software or business output needed to get value from them.

We saw this in the realm of big data, when everyone tried to swing together some kind of big data solution and it was very easy to just say we’ll use Hadoop to build this giant system. If we’re not careful, the same could happen with AI. There’s been a lot of conversations about the fact that if we were to peel back the layers of many AI solutions, we’ll find that there is still a lot of people investing a lot of hard work into them, so when it comes to automating processes, we aren’t quite in that space yet. AI solutions are currently very resource heavy.

There’s no denying that the majority of data centres are now being asked how they provide AI solutions and how they can assist organisations on their AI journey. Whilst organisations might assume that data centres will have everything to do with AI tied up. Is this really the case? Yes, there is a realisation of the benefits of AI, but actually how it is best implemented, and by who, to get the right results, hasn’t been fully decided.

Solutions to how to improve the performance of large-scale application systems are being created, whether that’s by getting better processes, better hardware or whether it’s reducing the cost to run them through improved cooling or heat exchange systems. But data centre providers have to be able to combine these infrastructure elements with a deeper understanding of business processes. This is something very few providers, as well as Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are currently doing. It’s great to have the kit and use submerged cooling systems and advanced power mechanisms but what does that give the customer? How can providers help customers understand what more can be done with their data systems?

How do providers differentiate themselves and how can they say they harness these new technologies to do something different? It’s easy to go down the route of promoting that ‘we can save you X, Y, Z’ but it means more to be able to say ‘what we can achieve with AI is..X, Y, Z‘. Data centre providers need to move away from trying to win customers over based solely on monetary terms.

Education and collaboration

When it comes to AI, there has to be an understanding of what the whole strategic vision is and looking at where value can be delivered and how a return on investment (ROI) is achieved. What needs to happen is for data centre providers to work towards educating customers on what can be done to get quick wins.

Additionally, sustainability is riding high on the business agenda and this is something providers need to take into consideration. How can the infrastructure needed for emerging technologies work better? Perhaps it’s with sharing data between the industry and working together to analyse it. In these cases, maybe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The hard bit is going to be convincing people to relinquish control of their data. Can the industry move the conversation on from being purely technical and around how much power and kilowatts are being used to how is this helping our social corporate responsibility/our green credentials?

There are some fascinating innovations already happening, where lessons can be learnt. In Scandinavia for example, there are those who are building carbon neutral data centres, which are completely air cooled, with the use of sustainable power cooling through solar. The cooling also comes through the building by basically opening the windows. There are also water cool data centres out there under the ocean.

Conclusion

We saw a lot of organisations and data centres jump in head first with the explosion of big data and not come out with any tangible results – we could be on the road to seeing history repeat itself. If we’re not careful, AI could just become another IT bubble.

There is still time to turn things around. As we move into a world of ever-increasing data volumes, we are constantly searching for the value hidden within low value data that is being produced by IoT, smartphone apps and at the edge. As the global costs of energy rise, and the numbers of HPC clusters powering AI to drive our next generation technologies increase, new technologies have to be found that lower the cost of running the data centre, beyond standard air cooling.

It’s great to see people thinking outside of the box on this with, with submerged HPC systems and full, naturally aerated data centres, but more will have to be done (and fast) to meet up with global data growth. The appetite for AI is undoubtedly there but for it to be able to be deployed at scale and for enterprises to see real value, ROI and new business opportunities from it, data centres need to move the conversation on, work together and individually utilise AI in the best way possible or risk losing out to the competition.

Ranjit Rajan, a thought leader on the impact of digital transformation on economies, business, and the tech industry with a specialization in the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa is also the co-author of Digital Nation: How the United Arab Emirates is building a future based on tech innovation, along with Dr Saeed Aldaheri…

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How does a company go about defining exactly what digital transformation means?

I think digital transformation is one of those buzz words that comes up in every conversation you have these days. Not just with CIOs and technology leaders but with any business executive. And I think a lot of the traditional IT work is now being rebranded as digital transformation. But in reality, digital transformation actually refers to significant receptive transformation in business courses and models. It entails the use of advanced technologies, such as AI and blockchain, cloud and big data analytics and so on to disrupt business to redesign customer experiences. To develop new revenue streams and business models and to monetize organizational and eco-system data to drive change within industry. So, it means quantum improvements and step changes in customer experiences, in operational efficiencies and in business models.

Once upon a time digital might’ve been left to an IT guy or a tech division and now it seems everybody needs to have an understanding on it…

Business leaders have become much more aware of the possibilities that technology can offer and so they are able to look at technology from the prism of business outcomes. And then on the other, the advancement of technology and the emergence of technology such AI, blockchain, robotics and 3D printing have created such new youth cases which were not possible before. And because of that, these cases are largely industrial and business use cases, and so therefore, it now gives an opportunity for the technology leaders to reach out to business and tell them that they can leverage these technologies.

At the same time, from the business’s point of view, from the line of business executive standpoint, he or she can now is much more aware of what is possible with technology. And therefore, he or she’s now proactively reaching out to the technology leaders and asking them for ideas and suggestions. So, it’s working both ways now and there’s alignment between the CIO and the IT department and the line of business executive, which is absolutely critical for success of digital transformation.

Jobs have been essentially redefined through technology, so how do you go about navigating that change and ensuring they are brought along on these journeys?

So, what is happening within organizations has been greatly influenced by how employees use technology in their personal lives or how technology has been impacting the personal lives of employees as individuals. Our personal lives have been transformed by technology such as smart phones and mobility, by the use of social media. By these applications that we use and how we interact with our service providers, with your consumer services organizations, the government, etc. Now, because of that, employees now, when they go to their workplace, they are looking at technology differently. They want to have the same experiences they have in their personal lives at the workplace as well. So now they are demanding that they have similar kinds of experiences at the workplace. And that is increasing pressure on the technology departments and senior executives to transform policies and services within the organization. And of course, the customers of the organization are also demanding greater use of technology in their services and products.

And of course, customer expectations of that journey are changing too…

The pressure on organizations today is tremendous. On the one hand you have customers demanding more; their needs are constantly changing, they are heavily influenced by technology. And so you have to step up and offer services which are augmented by technology. And you have to offer them at the service level that is being offered by the large digital services companies and social media networks like Facebook and Google. So, you have to offer services on a par with those; at the same time your employees are also consumers of these technology augmented services. On both sides you are under pressure.

How do you stay abreast of exactly what that customer wants?

It is indeed challenging. Your customer needs are constantly changing and the way a customer uses technology and how they utilise a service is also constantly changing. And so therefore, organisations need to be very agile, very flexible, and constantly on top of what those customers’ needs are. And this has to be done at the level of single, individual customers. You have to look at your hyper-personalisation and offer individualised services. And that is now possible with technology. It is possible by leveraging technology such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence. You’re now able to understand the needs of a customer as an individual, at an individual level and offer hyper-personalised services to that customer. The question is, how many organisations are really doing that? And how many of them have a strategy to do that?

As a business looking to embrace this digital innovation curve and digitally transform, how do you go about understanding what the right technology is?

I think there has to be a long-term strategy to look at the business overall. Look at those customer touch points that create the maximum level of friction for customers. And then try to make them frictionless. So what progressive organisations are doing is looking at their customer life experiences and creating customer journeys. So, it’s not just about providing an individual service to a customer, it’s about tying those services together to address a particular customer life experience. And therefore, creating a customer journey. Once you do that, then you kind of look at which technology makes sense in order to create less friction at various customer touch points. Now in some cases it might be AI, that could work, in some cases it could be some other technology. But then you build your technology’s story from the customer experience story.

What other challenges does a company face as it looks to begin and embrace a digital transformation journey?

Well there are several challenges for organisations that have been around for a while and play the legacy systems. And not just legacy systems, but also legacy processes, the organisation culture, mindset of the employees; all of them are hurdles to transformation. Often times, organisations are having to be built in certain ways because they have silos of innovation, they have data silos, each department has its own data sets that are not shared across the organisation. They have old technology that is perhaps not amiable to change and transformation. And so there are a number of hurdles that organisations need to overcome while they transform. It can’t be done overnight and they have to start working on each of these issues along the way.

But, in terms of technology itself, I think it’s important for organisations to consider developing a single unified architecture, wherein they can then plug in various new technologies that they want. And that architecture will need to enable flow of data across departments and businesses within the organisation. It should also enable the augmentation of their data with intelligence using AI, machine learning and all of that. And should also be able to integrate customer experience applications and services, easily.

And the other thing that’s important when you look at this is that organizations, which no longer exist in silos within industries, are part of larger ecosystems. And it is really the power of the ecosystem that matters to the end of the day. And so therefore, organisations need to have a technology strategy or technology architecture, to which other entities within the ecosystem can easily integrate and seamlessly transfer data and do transactions. And so therefore, for organisations which have legacy systems, it would take time for them to move and overcome these hurdles.

Obviously, you’re not just going to progress in a straight line, and there are going to be hurdles…

I think organizations need to understand that digital transformation is not a single project. It is not something that can be done within a few months. For medium to large size organisations, digital transformation will probably take years. And it is an ongoing process. And so, organisations need to have a longer-term strategy for digital transformation. So, the CEOs and the CXOs and the other members of the board need to outline a longer-term strategy and then kind of break it down into shorter term flexible goals. It is important for organisations to have the strategic agility when they have these longer-term goals and visions. But at the same time, have shorter term projects and initiatives. But the most important thing is to communicate this effectively.

Now you have specialisation and you’re very knowledgeable and experienced in the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa. I want to zoom in a little bit in terms of the innovation and digital curve of the UAE…

Well the story of the UAE is a fascinating one. UAE is a fairly, relatively young country. It was formed in 1971 with the unification of various Emirates as states within the religion. Originally the UAE depended heavily on oil resources, so a large part of the GDP of the UAE was driven by oil earnings. But over the years, over the decades, the UAE has been very strongly focusing on on diversifying its economy away from oil. So, the UAE kind of realises that one day it will run out of oil and that they have to develop other resources.And so over the years the UAE has come out with several strategies to diversify. I just published a book called The Digital Nation, which kind of traces and monitors the development of the digital transformation within the UAE. And what has happened is that over the last decade or so, the UAE has been increasingly focused on developing its digital capabilities.

We had the vision 2021, which was launched in 2010 and that increasingly focused on developing the UAE as a knowledge economy, diversifying it away from oil. Right now, the UAE has about 70% of its economy is based on non-oil revenues. And so, it wants to further diversify and sees this opportunity. It sees this opportunity to leverage this destruction that we see around the world. That it can leverage that to create a mark for itself in the world. And so, a lot of strategies that have emerged over the last decade or so, have been focused on leveraging technologies such as AI, blockchain, IOT, etc, to drive these facets of the economy Including, transforming the public section and driving better citizen experiences and services but also transforming from the private sector. And also making the UAE an attractive destination for foreign investment, attracting talent from all over the world, driving innovation etc.

Tell me a little about Vision 2021, and how far along that journey the UAE is, currently?

It focused on several key areas, including education, health care, economics, etc. But, as I said, there has been a great focus on building knowledge industries. And as part of that, technology has been a core pillar or underlying foundation for that Vision 2021. The leveraging of technology has been one of the key elements of the vision. You see the focus on exploring technology to drive education, enable health care, better citizen services and supporting the private sector.

So technology has been at the core of Vision 2021. And as we get close to the end of the Vision 2021 strategy, we see a lot of developments that have happened which have technology at the centre of them. You see the launch of a number of technology related strategies and so we have the UAE AI strategy 2031, which aims to reduce government costs by 50% by leveraging AI and also fostering the development of AI within the UAE across sectors, and the use of AI across sectors. We see the launch of the UAE IOT strategy, the UAE fault and revolution strategy, blockchain strategy, etc. This hue of technology strategies have been launched by the government, which essentially focused on leveraging these technologies to drive government services, also supporting private sector and running innovation within the country.

The UAE’s leaders have been very effective in communicating their digital vision to the senior executives within the government and the private sectors and also to the citizens. It’s as if this is a personal quest for these leaders. When these strategies are launched, for example, the AI strategy, the UAE AI 2031 Strategy, which I spoke about earlier, the UAE immediately appointed a Minister of AI. So, it’s coming right from the top. They appointed a Minister of AI and that ministry now oversees the roll out of AI across public sector organisations. It oversees the education and wellness building around AI. It focuses on driving innovation around AI, etc. So, that’s just the example of AI.

Similarly, the UAE has known strategies related to the fourth industrial revolution: blockchain, IOT, etc. Now for each of these strategies, the communication of the vision comes right from the top. It’s the senior leaders of the country, the prime minister of the country, for example, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid, who’s been very vocal, in terms of telling the government, the businesses and the citizens and residents of the country that this is something that we have to leverage. This technology disruption is something that we can harness to create a better country, to offer better services. One of the things that has been brought together to focus upon is happiness. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid, the prime minister, has been talking about making UAE the happiest nation in the world. And a lot of these technology strategies kind of come together and focus on the happiness agenda of the country. So, it’s a national agenda for happiness and wellbeing and technology and the UAE has been very effective in doing that.

The Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) and the Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology (SWITCH) will come together for the first…

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The Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) and the Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology (SWITCH) will come together for the first time as SFF x SWITCH.

Running from 11 to 15 November, this event will gather the global innovation and business community in Singapore. There will be over 400 speakers, more than 900 exhibitors, 41 international pavilions, and about 60,000 participants from 130 countries.

Sustainability and climate change are the overarching themes of the combined conference this year, given the growing calls for the technology and financial sectors to be enablers and change agents for sustainability.

This theme is reflected in the content of the conference, the design of the event space at the Singapore Expo and through the provision of food from sustainable sources, with a sustainable dining menu featuring the Impossible Beef rendang pizza.

The inaugural SFF x SWITCH will feature innovative technologies across five key sectors – FinTech, Urban Solutions and Sustainability, Health and Biomedical Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, and Services and Digital Services – to catalyse cross-industry exchange and learning in technology adoption, application of R&D, and commercialisation of new solutions.

Debuting this year is the Sustainability, Finance and Tech Summit (11-13 November), featuring over 50 speakers who will take the stage to discuss how they are paving the way for a more sustainable future in the world of finance and beyond.

The annual Global Investor Summit (11 November) will bring together 17 venture capital, corporate venture capital and family office investors from San Francisco to Tokyo, to share their strategies for unlocking growth, impacting inclusion, and delivering long-term value creation in the FinTech and Deep Tech ecosystems.

Leading the Deep Tech conference, the Global Access to Innovation track (11 November) will feature perspectives from a myriad of movers and shakers in Asia’s innovation ecosystem. From founders of tech unicorns to senior leaders from both the private and public sectors, conference participants can look forward to finding out more about the opportunities in market access, innovation and investment, in Asia and beyond.

A new summit created this year to spotlight key issues faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is SME Digitalisation and Platforms – Business sans Borders (BSB) (13 November). The sessions in this track will cover pertinent issues such as ‘SME Financing Reimagined’, the ‘Impact of Trade Wars on SMEs and Platforms’ as well as the ‘Roadmap for BSB Beyond 2020’. The discussions will take place at a new Coral Triangle stage, which is designed for more intimate and interactive conversations.

By Alistair Sergeant, CEO, Purple Consultancy Businesses are increasingly having to create and modify their organisational capabilities to adapt and keep…

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By Alistair Sergeant, CEO, Purple Consultancy

Businesses are increasingly having to create and modify their organisational capabilities to adapt and keep up with the ever changing and evolving digital technology which surrounds them. 

For many, their digital projects are failing; the speed of digital transformation is alienating the essential human interaction and cultural change required to make the projects a success.

Bring back the humans

According to the latest statistics, 88% of digital transformation projects fail and there is a reason for that.

The speed of digital change is something that no business can ignore but most try relentlessly and largely unsuccessfully to keep up with. We are surrounded with disruptive business models coming to market with new technology rapidly changing and it is easy to get so wrapped up by technology that we forget to consider that without the human element, the transformation process will fail. 

This rapid change has resulted in a serious skills gap from a business and technology prospective for most UK organisations. As a result, both large corporations and SMEs UK wide are not as agile as they should be, not only affecting growth, but also impacting customer experience and employee engagement.

We know that (most) cars, no matter how technologically advanced they are, need a human to drive them and this is just the same when implementing digital change in your business.

Meaningful change starts with people, not technology. Your team needs to adapt to keep up with the pace by making changes to the way they have worked in the past but none of this can work successfully unless we encourage a chance in culture.

The role of the leader

To implement an effective digital transformation strategy, leadership is not only vital but critical for success. In so many cases, those implementing the strategy haven’t taken the time to understand what needs to be changed, what the strategy should aim to deliver and when, and more importantly how to correctly communicate change with staff or other company stakeholders.

It’s time to remove the digital-first approach as this method requires your entire team to buy in to it and almost forces them into a corner. To work on a new team culture in the business, which encourages your staff to embrace the changes and understand the reason for the changes, takes time. As a digital leader you need to guide and support your employees, encourage them and give them time to grow with the transformation process. 

Understanding how they work, how they think and playing to their strengths is time consuming but will ultimately help to grow your successful ‘human-first’ approach.

Get to know your customers

Customers are human too. They are not just numbers on a sheet. It is vital you get to know them, get to the bottom of what they like, what they want and also what they don’t want. You are aiming to promote a human-centric approach so that you give them the solutions they actually want and not what you assume they want. 

You can maximise the success of your product or brand by taking the time to get to know who your target market is and allowing them to see that there are humans behind the brand who actually care about what they want and are prepared to talk to them and listen to them. 

No matter how advanced technology is becoming, in certain situations there is simply no replacement for the human touch. Empathy plays a large part in positive company and team growth as well as social skills, the power of persuasion and negotiation, and these are all done better by humans and is what your customers will relate to.

Be patient

Building a system within your business, where humans and technology can work together with more of a balance, is where successful digital transformation will be most successful. One can’t work without the other but in your quest to beat off the competition, don’t overlook the heart of your business, which is the human element and ensure you invest as much in them as the technology you use. Take time to let a new company culture evolve and ensure that your employees understand the new structure and most importantly your vision as you are the ‘human’ who is implanting the change.

Borislav Tadic, Vice President BMS & Transformation DRC, explores how a major digital transformation of Deutsche Telekom has enabled greater…

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Borislav Tadic, Vice President BMS & Transformation DRC, explores how a major digital transformation of Deutsche Telekom has enabled greater customer experience and significant technological advancements.

This interview featured in August’s issue of Interface Magazine – read now!

Tell us what your role is and how it fits into the wider Deutsche Telekom strategy?

I’m Vice President at Deutsche Telekom, responsible for board member support and transformation of the board area, data privacy, compliance and legal, working here in the Bonn headquarters of Deutsche Telekom Group. We as Deutsche Telekom Group are present in 50 countries and I would say are definitely a leading European telecommunications brand. We hope, after our mergers and acquisitions in the United States that we’ll become an even bigger player on a global level.

How important is it in your position to continue to learn?

That’s a fantastic point. One thing I try to do is constantly improve on an individual level. That includes formal education. I have at least 10 internationally recognised certifications and I’m currently working on my PhD in parallel to my work and I use numerous non-formal opportunities to expand my knowledge, both in the formats offered in the company and outside as well as through reading and keeping up to date with the latest developments every day, every morning.

That attitude is something I try to include in our transformation programs. For example, during the past two years, we’ve up-skilled more than 1000 employees off this board area, both in Germany and internationally, in several ways. First, offering them online learning content on our intranet platform, creating awareness about the different digital courses we have in the context of Deutsche Telekom, which are focused on their profession. We also continue to learn about global technological developments, so they can understand the new trends and developments in the industry so that they can better advise and/or support their customers.

From there we went a step forward and decided not only to offer them in a digital format, which is easy to implement and easy to offer and cost-efficient but also to enable a knowledge transfer. This is through our Digital Future Campuses in Athens and here in Germany. Several hundred people and experts from different functions of our board area were brought together and we educated them in areas such as broadband development, 5G, agile working, international collaboration, diversity and many other topics which directly or indirectly contribute to their performance and to their daily jobs. Satisfaction rate on the company level was one of the best in the recent history of Deutsche Telekom, with 96 to 99% participant satisfaction with the program.

Deutsche Telekom AG

A transformation of any kind breeds challenge, what are some of the challenges you have faced?

It is a challenge indeed. The first aspect of the challenge is that you have to give or convey as much knowledge as possible in a relatively short time and of course to make the knowledge current because if you prepare a course around blockchain and you prepared it two years ago, today you would need a completely different base. The pace of change with regards to the content, which you create to educate someone, is very high. It’s important that you stay up to date in the preparation and delivery of these courses.

Even that aside, you have a limited budget and this limited budget has to be approved and/or aligned with our human resources area. We are working with them closely because of course they have way more transparency about the needs of every individual employee and we have of course our professional view and vision where we want to be as a group. We basically worked with our colleagues from HR and with our expert groups in identifying which areas we need to focus on because you have hundreds of areas, especially in our fast-changing, fast-paced business around digitisation and technology.

After we finalised that, we created a program and then the next challenge was how to get the best possible lecturers and best possible experts to share the knowledge, because of course, their time is limited. There are of course budget limitations and numerous other restrictions including language barriers. We tackle that by trying to find the best in-house experts in some areas and external partners for others. They have more experience in some domains that are relevant to us. Then there is the delivery.

Even if you organise a format that consists of online courses as well as the physical presence of a course for several hundred people, that’s not an easy task. It sounds like an easy task; it’s just an event with a couple of hundred people but no, this is multi-partner, multi-party interactive session with numerous choice options because not everyone gets the same program. The people choose the modules and you have to fit all of that together. These are some of the challenges we’ve hopefully successfully tackled.

How do you ensure that your transformation is done so with the customer experience in mind?

That was the essence of our program and it’s a great question. First, we understood that we cannot only assume what the customer wants, we need to know what the customer wants and the only way to do that is to talk to the customer. As a governance function, we went and talked to the customers. We went out and spoke with actual private customers and business customers of Deutsche Telekom and asked them: what can we, from security, from privacy, from legal, from compliance, do differently in order to make your life better and easier?

We got our feedback. It was extremely good feedback, in the sense of many concrete, actionable points we can implement. For example, one of them was to simplify terms and conditions. When you sign a contract anywhere, for any mobile service, TV service or anything else we offer, you need to read through the pages of the contract documentation. This document is written mostly with the small letters, small font, explaining what will happen in case of some emergency escalation or conflict etc. It’s written in a language that no one understands but it was always the intention of Deutsche Telekom to make it fully understandable to our customers. We were doing our own efforts but when you speak directly to the customers, he can explain to you, which paragraphs are not easily understood or interpreted.

We used that feedback to simplify the terms and conditions for our major products. We did that within a couple of months and now we have one of the best, if not the best terms and conditions document, which is now standard. This raised the trust with our customers because they know that Telekom is fully transparent and wants them to understand what they are signing and what they are changing with their contract situation. This is only one example of numerous changes we did to the direct discussions with external customers.

How important is transparency to a company like DT?

When you look at how you can make it more transparent and when you simplify the processes and the policies, the documents, when you’re directly communicating your goals and why you are doing certain things, this raises the trust of the customers. But of course, many digital tools can also help you to raise that transparency. For example, you can do it for ethical reasons. We have been very successful in advancing customer demands through a chatbot. It became so good that some of the customers didn’t even know that they were being served by the chatbot. Because it answered all their questions in the manner that they would expect from a live person, but we still, from an ethical perspective, decided to include the sign notification saying: “You’re speaking with our digital assistant, not with a real person.”

We’ve also introduced specialised tools both internally and externally. As an example, we have a data privacy cockpit that enables you to log in as a customer of Deutsche Telekom and basically see which data you have approved or are sharing with both Deutsche Telekom and you can also click and approve or disapprove with us sharing that data with other parties. We are very strict with that. This is one of the parts of our unique selling proposition; we’re extremely careful with the data of our customers. What we want to achieve is for customers to no longer need to call or send an email to understand which data of theirs is in the system and which can be shared, but they also can log in with their mobile or fixed device and look and choose and change the categories at any time, through a very useful and user friendly interface.

Around 10 years ago, through internal experiences, we realised that this could become something we are known and recognised for, and so we decided to really invest internally into data privacy, security, compliance to strengthen our legal functions, to strengthen our audit functions. We did this in order to create a system that not only gives assurance to our shareholders but also to all of our customers. We don’t do it because we must; we believe that there is clear value in data being handled in an ethical and responsible manner for our customers.

How difficult is this with regards to DT’s presence across 50 countries?

First is that we look at all of our footprints holistically where, if we have a high standard which is not producing a significant change in the product pricing or service pricing, we look to apply it throughout the whole footprint. In the area of compliance, security, privacy and risk management, we are applying the highest standards worldwide.

The challenge here is that you have certain local changes which happen and which of course demand us to stay on the ball in that we are always in contact with our local counterparts which are responsible for these areas where the board area is active and not only upscale them, not only to make them aware of the customer demands both locally and internationally, but also to always make sure that they’re applying the latest, leanest standard and the process to keep the high levels of these services.

How will you continue to grow and transform? Can a transformational journey ever really end?

There is no endpoint. You’re absolutely right; the transformation will never stop and should never stop. It’s a process of continuous improvement of the organisations and individuals and customers’ demands, markets. Everything is changing, so we need to keep changing constantly. I think it’s very important to say in the sense of the role you mentioned is that you also lead by example, not only me but also my colleagues and other senior executives. They need to be aware that if we are promoting a tool to be used or a process to be simplified, we have to start with ourselves.

They’re extremely important, these change processes, because it’s not sufficient only to upscale, to implement the customer demands and to digitise and introduce digital tools. If you want the whole organisation to have a sane and a good mix of agile projects and waterfall projects, I need to show that some of my projects in the digitization context are being run agile.

What do the next 12 months look like for DT?

We’re going to focus on new skills. Let’s say that we are going to further explore what the blockchain is bringing. We are going to further explore what the changes are, not only technologically, but also the social changes related to 5G. In addition to that, we want to further explore AI and also further explore digital ethics. We are going to be active in the corporate digital responsibility domain where we, as Deutsche Telekom, are very much pioneering some of the elements here in Europe, so this is definitely going to happen.

What makes a successful CTO?

I would say surround yourself with extremely diverse people because diversity is not only diversity in the context of having different people with different backgrounds around yourself or different religions, different genders, different ages, etc., but also diversity in the opinion context, and the context of thoughts. And when you’re surrounded by such people, try to be like a sponge.

Try to take as much input as you can to process this and put it into the context and to continue changing because if I would apply what I learned at let’s say in the university or what I’m learning now for my PhD, that might be okay for a certain period of time, but the world, technology and the market is changing with extreme pace. So, you have to be fully aware that this will continue changing so your adaptability is the key. Your curiosity is the key and if you keep that, I’m sure that you’re basically ensuring that you’ll be successful today and tomorrow.

The latest edition of The Digital Insight podcast is out now! Frank Konieczny, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Air…

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The latest edition of The Digital Insight podcast is out now!

Frank Konieczny, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Air Force, talks about how the role of the CTO is changing in a bid to add stability and assurance throughout organizations.

“What you will find in the field, especially in the Air Force is that we have a lot of officers moving around every two years or so because that’s the normal pattern,” said Konieczny in the podcast.

“They are now depending more upon looking at the CTO as the person that understands the mission and what they need to continue with. That’s the way we established it.

“We have CTOs and all the major commands out in the field and a few of the functional commands as well. We have established a foothold, if you will, throughout the organization, because that’s a dependency. A lot of the officers depend upon the CTO to tell them, ‘Is this a good idea or not?'”

Listen to the full, in-depth interview with Frank Konieczny only on The Digital Insight!